Review: Son of Khyber

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 8, 2010

Son of Khyber
(Thorn of Breland, Book II)
Keith Baker

An Eberron Novel

Keith Baker’s latest novel, Son of Khyber, will appeal to you if:

  • You’re a fan of the Eberron setting
  • Your D&D campaign takes place in Eberron
  • You’re fascinated by the Dragonmarked Houses and political intrigue
  • You’re interested in learning more about the mysterious House Tarkanan and the aberrent dragonmarks its members possess.

So in other words if you’re a die hard Eberron fan, this book is an absolute must-read.

The novel begins three months after the events in The Queen of Stone, book 1 in the Thorn of Breland series. We join Thorn in the worst areas of lower Sharn, where she’s apparently living on the streets after being expelled from the King’s Dark Lanterns – her manifestation of an aberrent dragonmark making her a social outcast. But we quickly learn that this is just a cover for her latest mission. She’s to infiltrate House Tarkanan.

Until recently the self-proclaimed thirteenth dragonmarked house had been a minor nuisance to the powers of Khorvaire. But when the house’s new leader, and man calling himself the Son of Khyber, takes charge things begin changing. The Son of Khyber plans to strike against the twelve recognized dragonmarked houses. Thorn’s mission is to locate this new leader, determine if there’s a legitimate threat and if there is, to stop it – killing the Son of Khyber if necessary.

I’ve always like the Rogue class in D&D and reading Thorn’s exploits reminded me of just how cool Rogues are. She demonstrates her versatility by performing a wide variety of tasks. During one encounter she’s a dangerous melee combatant and during another encounter she’s the stealthy Rogue who has to break into the fortified home of a Dragonmark heir. Her wit and social graces make it clear that she’s both smart and charismatic as well.

As a Dark Lanter she’s been equipped with a magical, intelligent dagger called Steel. Steel is a cool magical item, but I found myself disliking him as a character more and more. The dagger seemed to know too much too often. It always seems to have the answer Thorn requires or an ability that gives Thorn an edge she desperately needs. I understand why this kind of item helps from a storytelling point of view, but it got really tiresome really fast.

I really liked how Thorn struggles with her mission objective. House Cannith asked Breland to have the Dark Lanterns investigate the Son of Khyber and House Tarkanan. Thorn has to constantly remind herself that what’s best for Breland may not be what’s best for House Cannith. Seeing this conflict through Thorn’s eyes was certainly one of the high-points of the story for me.

As Thorn is accepted into House Tarkanan and learns more about who they are, we get to see Keith Baker’s take on the thirteenth house. These details are subtle and provided as background, but it’s still fascinating.

I enjoyed Son of Khyber, but I don’t think this book is for everyone. I didn’t like it as much as The Queen of Stone. If you meet the criteria I listed above then you won’t be disappointed if you pick this up. If you’re not part of that niche group you’ll probably find this book typically average and full of fantasy clichés and stereotypes. They didn’t bother me at all, but I’m a pretty forgiving audience.

I’ve read all five Eberron novels Keith Baker has released to date. They’re all filled with great details about the world of Eberron including the people, places and politics. As a DM who plays in Eberron every week I love all of these little details, but as an avid reader I have to admit that these are far from the best Eberron stories out there. I’ll continue to read Keith Baker’s stuff and I genuinely look forward to reading The Fading Dream (coming in Fall 2010) which is the next book in the Thorn of Breland series. However, if you’re not a hardcore Eberron fan you’ll probably find the Son of Khyber just on the good side of average.

Son of Khyber: 7 on a d10
The Queen of Stone: 8 on a d10

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristian January 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

I enjoy good fiction as much as the next person, but I hate having to glean RPG setting information from a lengthy story. It’s one reason why I prefer reading setting books. I get all the details of a world, which can fuel my imagination enough, without the task of reading through a moderately decent story.

For example, my only reason for reading Keith’s original series was to get a better sense of life in Sharn (the Sharn: City of Towers supplement had facts, not feeling), The Dreaming Dark (still rather vague topic at the time), Xen’drik/Stormreach (also vague at the time), and the drow. Secrets of Xen’drik and Secrets of Sarlona, hadn’t been published yet; had they been, I would have probably skipped over the novels. After reading The Gates of Night, I desperately wanted a v3.5 Planes of Eberron book, but that ended up being slated for a series of articles on the Eberron web site, which was cancelled when 4e was announced along with DDI. (I’d still love to see some sort of v3.5 compatible Planes of Eberron material. Not a fan of the 4e cosmology for Eberron.)

In the case of this book, I would have preferred to see the background information of House Tarkanan in the Eberron supplement Dragonmarked. Additionally, I’m a bit of a completist (it’s a sickness), and I’d feel compelled to read the first book before reading Son of Khyber, which means an even longer journey to get the background info I’d want. :P
.-= Kristian´s last blog ..Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco Available for Preorder =-.

2 Ameron January 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

@Kristian

The way I look at it is that the novels provide a new perspective on how the world works. The Eberron novels in particular have been helpful. There’s lot of information about the political relationships of the nations and the Dragonmarked houses, but it wasn’t until I’d read a few of the novels that I really “got” it.

I suspect that the reason we don’t always get this information in a sourcebook before the novel comes out is because the author makes it up as he goes along. Then Wizards says “We can use this information and make another sourcebook.”

I can relate to your completeist nature (I too have this sickness). But in this case I think you’ll enjoy reading Queen of Stone first. It’s a good book and it really paints an excellent picture of Droaam.

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