Review: Wizards of the Coast – The Godborn (The Sundering, Book II)


The Godborn
The Godborn is part of The Sundering series of novels for Forgotten Realms, written by Paul S. Kemp and part of the Dungeons & Dragons upcoming new edition launch.
By Cape Rust
Paul S. Kemp's The Godborn - Cover Image

Godborn is part of The Sundering, a multi-author series that takes place in the The Forgotten Realms. Erevis Cale the chosen of Mask had a son; a son that inherited all of his father’s shadowy traits and none of his father’s shadowy tendencies. Complicating things is the inclusion of Mephistopheles and his need to erase anything Cale at any cost and his constant desire to rule the Nine Hells. Lucky for Cale and his son, Vasen, Mask shielded Vasen from the archdevil Mephistopheles with none other than servants of the Lord of Light (I see what you did there Mask). These servants of the Lord of Light inhabit an Abby, hidden in the peaks of the Thunder Peaks of Sembia a country now mostly covered in shadow. Vasen never knew his father but is having dreams of him trapped in Cania by Mephistopheles and he knows that he will play a role in the Realms Sundering events that will surely soon take place; the problem is he has no idea what that role is or when he needs to play it. Adding to all of this is Drasek Riven, an old cronie of Cale’s who is almost a god himself, has come into play. He knows that Shar the goddess of darkness is poised to destroy the world forever thru her cycle of night. Riven knows that he must stop her and the only way to do it is with Vasen, but that is easier said than done.

Kemp is back in the Realms and has brought back some of his most storied and beloved characters with him. I applaud Wizards of the Coast for bringing in some of their heavy hitter authors for this series and, based on the world changing scope of the content, I think they have made the right call. I am very happy to see that Kemp and Wizards have made up and we, the reading public, can be exposed to even more Kempy goodness. This story is epic in nature; however it maintains an intimacy that keeps the reader from being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the events that are transpiring. To top all of that off, this book is much deeper than it appears. In the past some folks have dismissed books based on RPGs. These books have been treated like cookie cutter attempts to sell more product and some have lived up to that reputation, but not Godborn. This book is on the surface an action packed fantasy novel, but there is much more going on than spell-slinging and sword-swinging. If the reader takes the time to look past the well written action, several themes emerge that are profound. However, if you are not worried about themes in your Forgotten Realms novels, then they won’t get in your way.

Kemp likes Mephistopheles and likes to explore his constant struggle to try to overthrow the current ruler of the Nine Hells. I have read several novels dealing with the Nine Hells and to say that they are confusing is a gross understatement. Rather than getting too deep into the hells, Kemp focuses on the characters rather than environment, while still letting the reader know just how horrific it is down there. When I spoke of the intimacy of this novel, Kemp really did maintain it through his treatment of the characters. There were huge things going on all around the characters. However, the focus always remained on the characters and they drove the events around them, without getting lost in that maelstrom.

From an RPG standpoint, this book is a treasure chest of ideas for gamers and GMs alike. Vasen, the main character, is a Paladin who has some really powerful shadow in his bloodline. And I think it bears repeating that he is a Paladin of the Lord of Light. So here you have a man covered in shadows who is a bright beacon for the Lord of Light. A situation like this would lead most authors to make a character like Vasen angry and brooding, but not Kemp, he is above such typical characterizations. Kemp made Vasen a man of faith who has learned to deal with his dark heritage. The only anti-hero things about Vasen are physical, personality wise he is golden age all the way. Kemp did a wonderful job of portraying a paladin’s powers and their fighting prowess. There are several other characters in this story that really feel like Player Characters you might have crawled through a few dungeons with. I don’t expect this from all fantasy novels, but it is nice to see it now and then, especially from Wizards.

One other aspect of this book that was a real standout was the fight sequences. Kemp has always done these well; he knows how to convey violence of action while still painting the picture for the reader. Vasen is a sword and board kind of guy and Kemp ensured that the board got much more love and attention than it normally does. As a GM I have always found it difficult to give the shield the love it deserves, it is much more than simply an AC enhancer. Sure there are magical shields out there that are flashy and if used correctly can change the course of a battle, but what people often overlook is the way that a non-magical shield changes the way people fight, not Kemp. The way Kemp had Vasen wield his shield really made the fights feel fresh and even new. I never really realized how overlooked shields were; not only in novels but in the games that I have been a part of and run.

There is a tone of well written characters and fight scenes in this book that will appeal to fantasy fans and gamers alike. Godborn is a well crafted story and The Sundering series promises to delight as well. As a reader, you would do well to read the first installment of The Sundering as well as the other Erevis Cale books to get the most out of this book, but it is far from necessary to truly enjoy this book. With D&D Next on the horizon, books like this are really great primers.

Strap on your shields, cast daylight and dive into this tome!

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