2011; 348 pages. Full Title : Crimson Blade – The Wrath of the Gods, Book 1. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Fantasy; Quest. Overall Rating : 6*/10.
We’re off to see the Wizards! And the Warriors, and the Rangers, the Giants, and the Magic! It’s going to be a great tournament and the competition will be fierce. The stands will be packed so we should get there early in order to get good seats.
I’ll be rooting for The Crimson Tide, er, The Crimson Band, led by that legendary mercenary, Eucibous. They’re the odds-on favorites. It will be interesting to see who they get paired against in the first round. And of course, who knows which of the competitors will be favored by the gods.
But let’s not sit too close to the action. I don’t want the view to be spellbinding. I don’t want to take a chance of getting injured by flying objects. Things like bats, clubs, and fireballs. And body parts.
What’s To Like...
The above might sound like this is a sports story, but after you meet the various “players” – orcs, goblins, mages, ogres, gnomes, dwarves, elves, and a host of dead and undead beasties – you may be thinking more along the lines of LOTR.
But Crimson Blade is really a quest written in the style of an AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) adventure. There are gods, there are heroes, and there are magical, god-given artifacts dispensed by the deities to their designated champions. The three AD&D alignments – good, bad, and neutral - are also employed here, and dead characters can be resurrected. The author certainly qualifies as being the dungeon master. The only thing missing is the 20-sided dice.
The action – mostly fighting, snarling, and spellcasting – is non-stop. The gods have their foibles just as the mortals do. The fact that there are three alignments means this is not simply a “good vs. evil” storyline, and makes for some curious, if temporary, alliances. I particularly enjoyed the flashback portions, which detailed how each member of Eucibous’ band of mercenaries came to join the Crimson Band.
There is some mature language and adult situations. But nothing lurid, and the cussing is what you’d expect to hear from any band of teenage gamers. The writing is adequate, but not particularly powerful. Character-development is non-existent, but in a role-playing scenario you expect the characters to conform to their prescribed alignments. It would be a faux pas for a lawful evil warrior to suddenly start doing good deeds. And I liked that Eucibous was not a boring lawful-good hero. I prefer my protagonists to be “gray”.
Crimson Blade sells for $2.99 at Amazon. So far, this is the only e-book offered by Corey Soreff. Four years is a long time to wait for a sequel (and this is proffered as a “Book One” in a series), but it appears the author has been busy fulfilling his military service, so we’ll cut him a ton of slack.
Eucibous was thrilled to learn that he would have a chance to fight two of the best warriors in history in their prime. It was hard for him to wait this long as they grew, but they would be fights worth waiting for. He had also agreed to be Gurnac’s champion, since the God had told him he didn’t care what he did. Representing a neutral God wasn’t half bad, you just do whatever you want. (loc. 268)
Kol’thakal sat atop a large wingless black dragon as he led his army forward through the forests of Adanantus. Such beasts without wings were rare and revered in drow society. “So many trees on this damn continent. This place reeks of … life.”
Lithak rode aside his King as always, atop a fine black horse. “It won’t when we are done with it, my King.” (loc. 998)
“I am a fool. I am falling for a Goddess.” (loc. 2055)
There are weaknesses. The pacing is poor. Far too much time is spent on prepping for the tournament and its opening round. The fighting tactics and magic spells are detailed in great length, but they really have no bearing on the plotline. The whole last third of the book is devoted the chaos that arises at the tournament and a save-the-world battle going on simultaneously.
Okay fine. But then the aftermath – the fall of a kingdom, the flight of the losing side, and the shake-up in the celestial pecking order, are all just hurriedly glossed over. Should more text be devoted to these significant events?
Eucibous and his Crimson Band may be worthy foes of the gods and their select champions, but against any creature less than that, they’re simply too overpowering to create any suspense. I suppose this is okay when one is narrating a quest, but if the reader isn’t a Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, then this may become a tedious read.
In short, while we can say that the Crimson Band achieves its goal – writing an adventure that might have appeared in the magazine Dungeon – that goal will have a very narrow target audience. Corey Soreff certainly demonstrates excellent world-building skills. The next step is to go beyond the AD&D limitations and write an ambitious and innovative tale that any reader of fantasy would be drawn into.
6 Stars. Add 1 star if you still have your level-27 character’s stat sheet from all those years ago. Subtract 1 star if you think “AD&D” stands for Attention Deficit and Disorder.