The Summoning, by Troy Denning

You surprise me, elf.  I take back half the bad things I’ve ever said about you.
-Vala Thorsdotter to Galaeron Nihmedu

Well.  The back of The Summoning hypes this as the “most Realms-shaking event since The Threat From the Sea”.  Seeing as that wasn’t all that long ago, that didn’t exactly impress me.

There was a time, not too long ago, that I collected the Forgotten Realms series of novels as a matter of course.  Lately, though, I’ve found myself purchasing far less of them, grabbing only the ones that related to authors who’ve always entertained me (such as R. A. Salvatore or Elaine Cunningham).  Troy Denning has been one of the authors who I’ve been rather iffy about.  Some of his books I rather liked (such as Pages of Pain) and some that left me a little cold (such as Crucible:  The Trial of Cyric the Mad).  So when this came out, I decided to take a chance…even though it’s billed as the first book in the Return of the Archwizards.

It opens near the elven city of Evereska, where an elven patrol encounters a number of human crypt breakers led by the mysterious wizard named Melegaunt Tanthul.  The encounter becomes far more dangerous when a race of creatures called phaerimm are freed accidentally from their mystical imprisonment.  The leader of the patrol, Galaeron Nihmedu, finds himself working with the crypt breakers to find a way to defend Evereska from the assault.  However, Melegaunt’s motives include far more than simply acting against the phaerimm.

To be honest, I really couldn’t get into this novel.  Enjoyment of this book really requires extensive knowledge of Forgotten Realms lore, and some of that lore exists in the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.  Some of it really asks a lot out of a casual reader.  Denning also sneaks in a character from Crucible-and I’m not sure why he bothered putting him in-as well as a character who may have had some origins in a Dungeons and Dragons computer game (although I can’t prove it; the resemblance in character is uncanny, but on the other hand, truly original concepts are hard to come by).

I would only recommend this book for folks who have every Forgotten Realms book and every role-playing supplement.  Well, maybe not every one, but certainly with a solid backing in Realms lore.  The plot didn’t draw me in, and I consider that an important part of the book-that, and intriguing characters.  It has a couple characters that are interesting, but it’s asking a lot for just that to carry the book.  I will have to give serious thought before purchasing the rest of this series.  For folks just beginning to read Forgotten Realms books, give this one a pass.

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