Sword Of The Gods (The Abyssal Plague novel) by Bruce R. Cordell (book review).

‘Sword Of The Gods’ opens with a warrior character awakening on a stone slab, seemingly the intended victim but apparently the only survivor of some sort of ghastly cult activity. With no memories of what has happened or who he is, the warrior uses a map taken from one of the corpses scattered about and makes his way to the city of Airspur. Inevitably, one thing leads to another and through a series of minor skirmishes and lucky escapes, he falls in with a sly pawnbroker, Chant, and a talented thief, Riltana. He also finds out that he has a name, Demascus, and that what seems to have happened to him was not entirely unexpected. Indeed, it had happened before, more than once.


While the scope of the story seems to be relatively small, basically a warrior finding out who he is and how he ended up in Airspur, Bruce R. Cordell tells this story well. Keeping things moving quickly helps, but the three main characters work well together, so even the ‘downtime’ scenes set in taverns and shops are enjoyable to read. Demascus, Chant and Riltana may be stock characters at heart – a mysterious hero, a likeable rogue and an honourable thief – but their very familiarity means it’s easier for Cordell to make them memorable and engaging.

It’s probably fair to say that the basic story isn’t that original; the whole warrior-versus-demon story has been told many, many times by ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ writers over the years but Cordell gives it a unique twist by taking away the hero’s memories. So, like the reader, the hero has to pick up what’s going on as the events in the book unfold and it’s not really until almost the end of the book that there’s enough of a flashback to properly fill in the details.

The other characters in the book aren’t quite so interesting as the main trio. There’s a cleric of some sort who helps out at one point and a mad wizard earlier on who tries to kill them. There’s also a sort of B-plot going on in the background that involves the ruler of Airspur trying to uncover something evil within a group of important mercenaries. While this provides a bit of context for some of the main events in the story, the characters involved in this side of the story, like the leader of the mercenaries, Jett Var, aren’t really filled out, so what happens to them isn’t of any great significance.

But the biggest flaw is that main enemies just aren’t that dramatic. They’re demonic and powerful for sure and the demonic swarm of beetles and bugs is particularly nasty. It’s just that apart from doing bad things, there’s no reason to much care about them or what they’re trying to achieve. Possibly other books in the series will fill things out a bit, but as a freestanding novel in its own right, which it is, the main enemies of this book are simply there to make life difficult for the hero until he kills them.

With that said, though, ‘Sword Of The Gods’ is still a very readable book. The atmospherics are first rate, from the creative use of language (Cordell seems to enjoy coining his own swear words) through to the distinctly dark descriptions of sacrifices and other nasty pastimes within the heart of the demonic cult’s lair. In short, a quick, easy read with some decent action scenes and at least a few worthwhile characters.

Neale Monks

October 2013

(pub: Dungeons & Dragons. 336 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $ 8.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7869-5739-2)

check out websites: www.Dungeons&Dragons.com and www.wizards.com

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