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City of Splendors: Book review (Spoilers. Read at own risk)

It's not a horrible book, but it's not a good book, either.

First off, a tip of the hat to Greenwood and Cunningham for at least referencing the Threat From The Sea, and making its aftermath part of the background. TSR/WotC deep-sixed the Threat plotline at the last minute, after several novels had been published; no game resources ever saw print, as far as I know. It's also good to see one of the many Major Developments that have gotten dropped over the years referred back to.

However. There are problems with the rest of the book. Mainly, the Eight-Word Question -- "Do I care what happens to these people?" -- is only partially answered in the affirmative. I care about Lark, who's the only new character who really comes across as an actual person, Naoni Dyre who's stuck with the kinda-sorta-maybe redeemed asshole Beldar Roaringhorn, and Elaith, whose attachment to Waterdeep seems to go deeper than leftover noblesse oblige from his Evermeet days. The Gemcloaks? Who cares? Two of them were place-holders (I can't even remember their names), and I pegged Korvaun as marked for death as soon as he started showing niggling signs of guilt. If City were a movie, he'd be nicknamed "Goose".

The political tension between the citizens and the city's leader that led to the creation of the New Day interested me more than Lord Unity of the Amalgamation and his son Mreldar, who never forgot that Daddy didn't love him. Galkin (Gelkin? Whatever.) went from a semblance of competancy to meglomaniacal stupidity in record time, though. (Of course. It's the easiest way for the heros to win. Why bother with a challenge, after all?) And, despite the recent So Sayeth Ed commentary brought forth that no one in the Realms has any qualms about sexual exploitation ever, it seems there's still a social barrier between the nobility and the commonfolk. Wow. Whoda thunk it?!

While it was necessary to get Khelban and Laeral out of the way, the latter's reaction to the apprentice's "We can only hope" statement is incredibly bitchy and uncalled for. Your master, one of the most powerful mages in the world let alone Waterdeep, has just been struck down. What the hell are you, an apprentice,going to be able to do about it?

Speaking of uncalled for, so is Korvaun's panting after Asper. For the love of mud, Korvaun lives in a major city on top of a major dungeon, and he's never seen a hot chick in leather before? Suck(ed) to be you, my friend! It's just another example of catering to the Beavis and Butthead, looking-for-something-to-stroke-one-off-to mentality so prevalent among the fanboys.

The fate of Naoni, betrothed to Beldar now impersonating the dead Korvaun, could be verrrry interesting to read about. It's one thing to make a vow; it's another entirely to live it. Not to mention the potentiail for resentment and rage to grow. (Bets on Cyric and Shar licking their lips over this "love-match"?)

Since there won't be a sequel, we won't see any of this. I don't believe putting the book in The Cities series is to blame for the lack of sales, though. It's the book itself. Like I said at the beginning, it's not horrible, but it's not good, either. It's just sort of there.
Tags: book reviews, cunningham, fr, greenwood
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