Novel Review: Wizards of the Coast – The Herald (The Sundering)

The Herald
The Herald is an epic fantasy novel from The Sundering series, published by Wizards of the Coast and written by Ed Greenwood.
By Cape Rust

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The last book in the extremely popular Sundering series from Wizards of the Coast has arrived and with it the era of D&D 4th ed is sundered. But fear not for it Heralds the arrival of D&D 5th Edition. I have had mixed feelings about this series with each and every book. I love that Wizards of the Coast got together an all star crew of authors to advance the “timeline” of the Forgotten Realms and minus some of the actors I loved the script. The biggest problem is that all of the authors brought baggage with them, the baggage to which I refer were those actors that doth vex me so. No matter what your feelings are about this series, it ended when it should have and ended big.

The Herald starts the reader out with a scenario involving Mirt the Moneylender, former Lord of Waterdeep who was trapped in a magical hand axe then released in Suzil. Mirt has been one of those recurring and significant characters in the Forgotten Realms.  The entire Sundering series has at times felt like a bad Soap Opera or poorly thought out comic series where important characters or heroes die then are brought back by mysterious or shaky circumstances. The Herald was no exception. This book saw the return not only of Mirt but many of the heaviest hitters in the Realms. Most of Greenwood’s explanations for the absences of some of his characters kept their heads above water, but he couldn’t escape that whole “this series was as much a marketing ploy to keep long time fans happy in the knowledge that their beloved Realms characters would re-appear in D&D Next as it was a story about the Sundering.” I love many of the characters; I mean let’s face it, the Realms without Elminster is like Star Wars without Luke, Han, Leia, and the force.

This story has the epic feel that I expected it to, and Greenwood was the best of choices to conclude this series. His paternal knowledge of Realms served him very well when dealing with the manipulation magic during the story. The ramifications of this story are huge and intricate and Greenwood was able to simplify this situation into bite size digestible pieces. This story jumps around to many famous locations in the Realms and while a few of those transitions were a bit abrupt I was able to catch up within a few sentences.

Two of those locations were the hub of knowledge in the Realms , Candlekeep and the ancient forest city of song, Myth Drannor. Like the all star cast members, Greenwood went to some of the classic set pieces as well. I am familiar with both places before the Herald, but now I feel a much deeper connection than I thought possible and it is all thanks to the masterful pen of Greenwood.  Both of these locations are legendary and it was quite fitting that this six-part story culminate with them as a focus. In both locations there are some battles that I as a DM would give up my favorite set of dice to be able to recreate in a gaming session or over several gaming sessions. Greenwood was able to insert some of the most iconic denizens of D&D into these conflicts to create a grand finale.

From a DMing standpoint trying to re-create the activities in this book would be a daunting and most likely epic level undertaking.  Sticking to Greenwood’s concept of bite sized encounters, this tabletop elephant would need to be chopped up. If I was to run this game for a non-epic group, I would have the characters participate in some of the major events but on the outskirts rather than the main focus of each event. PCs should always be the focus, but focusing on them rather than making them the focus of the event are very different. The opportunity for players to encounter some of the all stars of the Realms, encounters like this can be really fun if done correctly and sparingly. Using this story as a framework for many adventures or for the basis of a campaign would provide months and months of enjoyment. Now that the series has reached its epic conclusion, incorporating the entire Sundering series into a not to be forgotten adventure.

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