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First, the disclaimer: Thus, I have no prior knowledge of the Eberron gaming world, and this should be taken into account when reading the following review.
I asked to review Storm Dragon based entirely on its radical cover art. An impossibly muscular warrior, his torso curled back like a cobra about to strike, raises a burning lance over the bronze chest of a particularly fearsome dragon. A veritable storm of chains, shreds of torn cloth, and lightning surrounds them. The art-style has an Impressionist feel that gives the image a further archetypal gloss.
Things plunged rapidly downhill from there. In the first couple chapters we're introduced to Gaven, an ex-soldier plagued by visions of his past, is locked in the impregnable prison known as Dreadhold. He is immediately rescued by a party of adventurers led by Haldren, a war criminal and revolutionary. The escape is childishly easy: The party's wizard casts some spells, blows the tower open, and they all fly merrily off on the back of the electric dragon Vaskar. Impregnable my foot.
It turns out that Gaven's visions have given him deep knowledge of the Draconic Prophecy, which, among other things, states that "the Storm Dragon emerges after twice thirteen years". Vaskar thinks he fits the bill nicely, and he's made a partnership with Haldren to fulfill the prophecy in his favor.
Meanwhile, Gaven has a dragon tattoo that gives him superhuman powers. Storm powers.
Thus, a Quest ensues, to seek out more information about the prophecy--which, itself, is pretty uninteresting, with lines like "Tumult and tribulation swirl in his wake: The Blasphemer rises, the Pretender falls" which sound like they come from a Jack Chick tract on the End Times. Haldren teleports the band from location to location, until eventually Gaven strikes off on his own, fleeing various dull and faceless lawmen trying to haul him back to prison, as he begins to suspect that he might be the Storm Dragon.
I found both plot and character unimpressive. Gaven himself manages a few moments of sympathy with his tortured past and his angst over his old lover's betrayal, but he's a fairly blank-faced hero with little to make him unique. His companions fit neatly into their slots: The sexy elf-babe, the nerdy wizard, the stalwart warrior (the fact that he's an artificial Warforged doesn't improve his character), etc. The various locations and fantastic lands visited are described in mundane terms, utterly failing to evoke any wonder or beauty.
What really killed this book for me, though, was its complete lack of realism. Anachronisms abound. Towns are places to buy generic "supplies", inns work pretty much like a Best Western--complete with two twin beds per room--and weapon and armor shops line every street. Random encounters that could have been pulled from Final Fantasy provide most of the action in the first hundred pages. Magic is ridiculously powerful--Haldren preforms several long-distance teleportations in the same day with no cost or fatigue. Critics often accuse books of reading as if someone wrote down their latest gaming session. Storm Dragon is a fine example.
Most annoying, perhaps, was the sheer mundaneity of the whole enterprise. So a side character is described as "half-orc". So what? Does it give him any unique characteristics? What kind of culture does he come from? What is a half-orc's standing in this city? The author doesn't seem to know or care. He peoples his cities with gnomes, minotaurs, half-dwarves, and kobolds, but all without color or personality. Magic is unremarkable and routine. Even dragons and manticores and Cities of the Dead are treated as routine matters, with little description or sense of the exotic.
Things get slightly better around page 200, with one truly exotic location and a revelation about the nerdy wizard's true nature, but both failed to spur my interest. I set the book down 2/3s of the way through and couldn't persuade myself to pick it up again. I can't recommend it to anyone except Eberron fans who might find something to enjoy.
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