Review: Word of Traitors

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 28, 2009

word-of-traitors

Word of Traitors
(Legacy of Dhakaan, Book II)
Don Bassingthwaite

An Eberron Novel

Word of Traitors is without a doubt the best Eberron novel to date. It’s book two of the Legacy of Dhakaan trilogy. If you haven’t already read The Doom of Kings, book one in the Legacy of Dhakaan trilogy then be forewarned that this review will contain spoilers.

Plot Summary

The story begins exactly where The Doom of Kings left off. Geth, relying on tradition, has ascended to the throne of the hobgoblin empire of Darguun following Haruuc’s assassination. His role as king may only be temporary, but it gives him and the rest of the heroes time to figure out what to do. Since no successor was named before Haruuc’s untimely death, the four main contenders vie for the throne of Darguun.

Geth and his allies realize that regardless of who comes to power, the Rod of Kings cannot be handed over to them. The power of the rod would force the new king to go to war with all of the countries of Khorvaire. The heroes decide to have a false rod created so that the real rod can be hidden or even destroyed. This is where we first meet the Tiefling Artificer, Tenquis who is hired to do the job.

Haruuc is mourned in the traditional manner of the hobgoblins. Part of the mourning includes gladiatorial games in which all the cities prisoners fight for their freedom. During the games an unlikely champion, a traitor sentenced to death, becomes a hero of the people.

When a new king is named, the war Haruuc declared against Valenar proceeds with full force. But the elves of Valenar weren’t content to sit idly by while their blood enemies from Darguun planned to invade. The elves struck first, taunting the hobgoblins. When the initial hobgoblin forces arrive at the border to investigate the damages, they find more than just a few ambitious elves casually attacking random villages.

A great battle between over-matched hobgoblins and arrogant elves rages on while the newly ascended king seeks the true Rod of Kings. Things go from bad to worse for the heroes as the true Rod of Kings again finds its way into the hands of another king of Darguun. The heroes try one last desperate attempt to retrieve the rod and save the new king from the influence of this cursed item, but a series of unexpected and unforeseen events lead to utter disaster.

Review

Word of Traitors is a great Eberron story and an all around great novel. If you’ve followed these characters through Bassingthwaite’s Dragon Below trilogy and The Doom of Kings then you’ll be very happy when you read this book. The story just keeps getting better and better. I’m eagerly awaiting the third novel in the trilogy, The Tyranny of Ghosts, scheduled for release in June 2010.

I found it interesting when one character, in this case Geth, imposed his own morals and personal judgment to a situation rather than follow the edicts set out by generations of tradition it led to catastrophic problems. His objections to a tradition that he doesn’t understand and does not always agree with set in motion events that shape the rest of the story. There’s a reason traditions last as long as they do. By not following the traditional actions as duty requires you’re bound to pay for it later, and boy does he pay.

One of the little details that I really liked is that at the first six pages provide a brief recap of what happened in the previous books. It’s such a minor thing, but I can’t think of any other Wizards of the Coast novels that do it (and I’ve real almost every single one of them). For someone like me who reads a lot, it’s likely that I’ll read 10-20 books between this one and the next one. There’s no way I’m going to remember every little detail from this book. It was a great novel, but I don’t have a photographic memory. The brief synopsis is tremendously helpful and reminds the reader of the high pints of the last book. It’s a like a “previously on…” commercial that you see at the beginning of a TV show when they air the season premier. I tip my hat to Bassingthwaite for inclusion of these plot summaries.

The political maneuvering, socializing, bickering, plotting and scheming between the Dragonmarked houses is superb. The politics is one of the things that make Eberron great. It’s great to see examples of these back-room dealings by powerful organizations that can (and often do) shape the world around them. Seeing these events unfurl through Ashi’s newly initiated eyes presents the situation with minimal judgment and presupposition. She simply sees what’s going on, takes it all in, and in many cases doesn’t grasp the full implications of what’s going on until it’s explained to her.

The reactions and interactions of the Dragonmarked houses when it seems that war is again underway were perfect. The cold war mentality and the political posturing completely falls away, and they all revert back to the practices and methods that they’ve all mastered yet kept at bay during peacetime. It reminds the reader that these nations may have just signed a peace treaty, but they still have 100 years of war fresh on their minds. When given the opportunity to go back to war most of these characters (and by extension their Dragonmarked Houses) are happy to do it.

If you’re new to Eberron or if you’re just new to the Eberron novels, Bassingthwaite’s work is the best place to start. If you read Word of Traitors without reading The Doom of Kings first then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. If you’ve got the time and the means I’d strongly recommend picking up the Dragon Below trilogy first. But at the very least you have to read The Doom of Kings before jumping into Word of Traitors. You shouldn’t have any problems following the story if you don’t, but you’ll be missing out on the first chapter of an excellent D&D story.

10 on a d10.

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