Monday, May 19, 2008

Book Review: Skein of Shadows by The Wandering Men

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

Here's the quick low-down on this book: do you like Dungeons & Dragons? Do you like action? Do you like reading shared-world fiction? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might want to check out Skein of Shadows. This is a novel written by The Wandering Men (there's five of 'em) and what sets them apart from other books is that this is actually five short stories (plus an epilogue) that are interconnected. Each chapter/story focuses on one character and covers one aspect of a larger storyline. I wish it could be said that each story stands well on its own but that's not quite the case. The stories end on a cliffhanger of sorts and readers need to read the epilogue to discover the fate of our protagonists. Aside from that, it's an interesting experiment showcasing different events and heroes set in the same vicinity.

Just because the Wandering Men are writing as a group doesn't mean there's no room for each individual author to shine. Each story has its own different style, technique, and voice that distinguishes itself from the other stories. Having said that, it's best to set your expectations. This is a very much a D&D novel minus the huge marketing and logo. Don't expect to see anything beyond the norms of the game so elements like dwarves, elves, magic missiles, and otyughs make it into the book. However, The Wandering Men do attempt to make the novel their own, adding their own takes on the various characters and creating their culture-rich setting, even if at times they fall into the stereotype. Skein of Shadows has lots of action scenes and the authors do handle them competently. One weakness of the book, at least for me, is how some of the supporting cast sometime seem two-dimensional at times. Other than that, Skein of Shadows accomplishes what it sets out to do: tell an interweaving action/adventure story using fantasy norms.

Overall, Skein of Shadows is not bad. As long as you know what you're getting into, you'll do fine. Fans of D&D-type fiction, action, or even anthologies like Thieves World might want to look into this novel by The Wandering Men.

Rating: 2/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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