I was rather hoping that the first series in the Realms would be of the same caliber as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's War of the Lance, saga. So far, I am deeply disappointed.
Character: There are no characters in this book. The lead character is a feckless prince named Tristan. He's apparently irresponsible, but we don't see any evidence for that, apparently he whores and drinks every night, but we only see that one night at a summer festival. And apparently, he's got a heart made of gold, and is really in love with a ward of the King, a young girl named Robyn. Who flirts with a thief, for no apparent reason, which never goes anywhere, and is completely unresolved by storie's end. SPOILER: It turns out she's in love with the prince too, and the thief flirt was a red herring. Big surprise. Still though, it's not all bad. I'm reminded that a big part of high fantasy was romantic love. A lot of modern fantasy writers, in their cynicism choose to ignore this. But Arwen and Aragorn's forbidden love was a highlight of Tolkien's saga, not a distraction, or a subplot. Readers of fantasy are romantics, and love, no matter how unrealistic, always appeals to us. Back to the facts: Tristan is the most developed character, and he's as shallow as condensation.
|Images are from Daniel Eskridge's website|
|Eskridge, Image of Tristan's home, Corwell|
Magic: As in cliche, the magic of Darkwalker is fairly limited. The Big Bad seems to be unlimited in scope, but is ultimately defeated with a magic sword. Here Niles completely abandons D&D rules. D&D is one of those games where characters die all the time. Dungeon Masters can be unflinching about killing characters, despite the vast amounts of time it takes to create one. So Big Bads are really, really hard to kill. This is why Rogue characters are so important. If you can't kill the Dragon, you need someone who can steal the famed Gem of Aranar from it! As a rule, in Darkwalker, all of the magic is clerical in nature. This is unusal for the genre, particularly in D&D where magic is an involved affair with spell memorization and spell ingredients. Clerical power is innate and based on your level, your natural abilities, and your chosen faith.)
Theme: Despite all of my misgivings about Darkwalker, it's fairly lighthearted. Something, which after the heavy fiction of Steven Erikson and others is a bit of a relief. Still, Darkwalker seems like a one off, classic swords and sorcery novel. The writing has an innocense about it that comes off as amateur rather than intentional. Since its plot based fiction, which skimps on the characters inner dramas, or treats them, again amateurly, there's really no theme to this novel. It's get in there, and get her done. Slay the dragon, save the damsel.