Saturday, April 16, 2005

[Book Review] Dissolution by Richard Lee Byers

The first novel of a six-book series spearheaded by popular Forgotten Realms writer R.A. Salvatore, one must wonder whether Richard Lee Byers is up to the daunting challenge of establishing the War of the Spider Queen series. This book, after all, will set the tone of the future books to come, even if Byers isn’t the one writing those novels.

It’s actually a tall call for Byers but thankfully, he executed a lot of things right. The first book contains many points of view as it strives to introduce the major players in this series. Some characters are familiar faces, given new insight and characterization. Others are new or haven’t seen the spotlight in Salvatore’s previous novels, but are thankfully interesting to read. Which I think is at the heart of the first book. You have a race of chaotic evil characters and these characters have played the roles of villains a couple of times. The dilemma is how do you gain reader sympathy, and what makes you root for these unreformed villains.

Another thing Byers succeeded is ending the book. Let’s face it, for a six-book series, it’s easy to end each novel with a cliffhanger ending. Dissolution strikes the perfect balance of giving a certain sense of closure, and whetting your appetite for what happens next. Because really, after everything’s said and done, Dissolution is just really the prologue of a story of epic proportions. In a typical Dungeons and Dragons party, this book gives the characters a reason to band together, and flesh out their motivations, and still being faithful to the characterization of evil drow characters.

The book was compelling for me because of the events that’s going on and the plot. Suffice to say, all the other elements are pretty standard. The writing style of Byers also tries to accommodate the gaming rules of Dungeons and Dragons, which might turn off those unfamiliar with the rules, but is a plus for veteran gamers.

Dissolution is a decent novel from the Forgotten Realms line, although because of the significance of the events happening in the book, it’s something you should read because you’re familiar with the setting or read the other books. If this is the first time you’re picking up a Forgotten Realms novel, the significance and characterization in the book might fall short of expectations. In the end, it’s a good guilty pleasure, but as can be expected from the Dungeons and Dragons line, this book won’t break boundaries for the fantasy genre.