Review: When Night Falls

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 5, 2009

when-night-falls

When Night Falls
(The Lanternlight Files, Book 2)
Parker Dewolf

An Eberron Novel

Plot Summary

Sharn, City of Towers. The rich and affluent live in the highest peaks and have views of blue sky by day and the stars by night. The poor live in the furthest reaches at the base of the towers and possess little. They live in squalor and struggle for survival. Even hope is a rare commodity in the lower levels of Sharn. The lines between classes are clearly drawn as you look up and down the towers. Few cross these lines freely. Evil does not recognize such arbitrary lines.

Three wizards are murdered in a gruesome and excessively violent fashion at Morgrave University in upper Sharn. Should the news become public it would sully the University’s reputation beyond repair; a blow the school’s masters are not willing to take. The city Watch cannot be trusted to be discrete as this crime requires a quick and quiet investigation.

Ulther Whitsun is the perfect candidate for the job. Although he goes by many aliases depending on his mood and the company he keeps, his reputation for success and discretion is well known.

Motivated by money and nothing more, Ulther begins investigating the murders, but he is not the only one. A reporter from the Khorenburg Chronicle has also taken an interest in these attacks. Forming an uneasy alliance of convenience they uncover over 20 other victims slain by the same killer. There are no discernible connections between the victims as they are of all different races and social status. No one is safe and anyone could be next.

Their investigation takes them all over Sharn, from the Dragonmarked Houses to the Cogs of Sharn. They continue to uncover clues and move closer to solving the murders despite a looming civil uprising by the lower class and the threat of an increasing body count. Even more disturbing is the knowledge that the leaders of this uprising blame the wizards of the ruling classes for the murders and don’t want to see them stop. Ulther needs to decide if his financial reward is worth the cost of the lives that hang in the balance.

Review

I really enjoyed this book. I know I read the first book, but I can’t remember it at all – other than I know I liked it. I was worried that I might be lost jumping into book two blind, but I had no problems reading this as a stand-alone story. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to go back and re-read book one.

Eberron is definitely D&D all grown up. The novels help perpetuate that idea and this one is no exception. It has many of the hallmarks that you come to expect from fantasy literature – sword fights, magic spells and exploration of hidden passageways. What makes Eberron distinctive and better than most, is that it focuses just as much on the politics and the social aspects of the world.

The protagonist, Ulther Whitsun, is clearly an intelligent character and a solid detective. He’s able to piece together seemingly insignificant details and come up with an account of what really happened. He can be charismatic or belligerent depending on what the situation calls for. One of the details I liked most about Ulther was his ability to seem nondescript. It’s not done with magic; it’s just a skill that he acquired over time and with practice. It’s an incredibly valuable skill for someone in his line of work. He deliberately takes actions so that people underestimate him, and often we as the reader get fooled by his act.

I’m looking forward to the book three of the Lanternlight Files, Death Comes Easy. It will be available in June 2009.

8 on a d10

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Questing GM March 5, 2009 at 8:42 am

Wow! This is like the epitome Sharn campaign. I’ll see if I can find this book in my local bookstore, sounds like a read that I will thoroughly enjoy.

2 Ameron March 5, 2009 at 8:55 am

@Questing GM
As an avid reader, I’ve read all the Eberron novels to date and about 75% of the Forgotten Realms novels. In addition to being great entertainment and a great way to kill time when commuting to work on the subway, I find they often proved a lot of inspiration for me as a DM. With Eberron in particular I found that reading the novels really helped me understand the social dynamic of that campaign world.

If you haven’t read many D&D novels, and if you’re interested in Eberron in particular, then I highly recommend Don Bassingthwaite’s Dragon Below series and The Doom of Kings, part 1 in his follow-up series The Legacy of the Dhaakan. Some of the best D&D fantasy I’ve read in years.

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