Last night I finished up reading Marcy Rockwell’s Dungeons and Dragons Online / World of Eberron book titled The Shard Axe. I actually took the book after reading the final page and yelled “YEAH! FINISHED!” and playfully hurled the book at my wife and kids' feet when I was done. They thought this was hilarious and the two-year-old even followed my bad example and chucked it right back at me. Haha! I think they understood I felt good about finishing this book I’ve been reading the past few weeks because, honestly, this is no small feat to try and get some casual reading in when you have three kids and a wife needing your attention, but I got it all read and done eventually.
I barked at my family during the final 30 pages or so because I was totally into the final battle scene and kept getting interrupted. ARGH! The middle child wanted me to recover a password from his ToonTown account out of freaking nowhere. I mean, it’s been a good year or two since we fired up ToonTown. What? Why tonight? Then a dirty diaper bum slid past me from the 2-year-old. OH MAN! That totally kills this awesome battle scene (although a few pages earlier Ms. Rockwell was detailing a sulfurous smell accosting our heroes—so somewhat apropos). Luckily my oldest child had acting classes to attend earlier in the night, and I was able to squeeze in an hour of reading in the car while waiting for her to get me within that final 30 pages.
Reading like this that spans over a few weeks really makes giving a fair review of a book like The Shard Axe almost impossible (not that this is an official "review" or anything mind you), but I will say that I enjoyed it. The book is easy to read (unlike the stacks of technical documents I’m paid to edit at my day job), and the time I've spent in DDO helped center me in the world for the first half of the book. I’m familiar with the houses in Stormreach and the sewers below. I’m familiar with the Marketplace and a couple of the taverns mentioned. I’m familiar with the odd reference here or there to Three Barrel Cove or the Menechtarun Desert. I liked this fact of it.
I also think the book makes a good sell for someone like me to find out even more about the world of Eberron, which was not a creation solely made for Dungeons and Dragons Online. As to be expected, there are many books of lore for Dungeon Masters who play the pen and paper version, which involves a world with much more breadth than we have in DDO, including the lands of the Mror Holds and all their dwarven goodness. As far as I know we never get to visit those areas in our game, which seems to be isolated to the Xen’drik continent. There were even encounters with a few monsters in the book that I don’t believe we get to see in DDO as well . . . namely the yrthak, a blind dragon with a devastating sonic scream. After reading the book I want to fight one (heck, even ride one) in DDO now! Make that happen, Turbine! ;)
The last half of the book deals a lot with these unknown-to-me areas where Sabira (the main character of the story) received a lot of fame and recognition as The Shard Axe, a law officer (a Marshal to be specific *cue western fantasy crossover music*) for House Deneith. She’s an interesting character that reveals her battle prowess, her flaws, and her wits to the reader, and (as a good book should do) we get to see her growth throughout the book and a gentle change in perspective for a woman who’s powerful enough to fling my halfling sorcerer the length of a football field.
I think Ms. Rockwell had a lot of respect for her characters and the rules surrounding the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Healing potions and resurrection were accounted for, and when Sabira was lying through her teeth you could almost hear the DM rolling a bluff check to see if it was successful. She did her research well! She treated Sabira well! It was a good book that was a fun read.
What was missing from the book? Well, for me, the game of DDO is about grouping up with my 4 to 5 friends and tackling a mission as a group. For many others, the game is about grouping up with their 11 to 12 friends and hitting bosses as a raid unit. Hirelings to fill a group are also a dynamic. This large grouping dynamic isn't accounted for much in the book. Sabira likes to solo, duo, or trio her way through the book . . . and that's fine. A good majority of players do that in the game of Dungeons and Dragons online, but it's just something that I have to mention because with the DDO tag on the book, someone might be expecting some dynamic that isn't there. There are plenty of Eberron themed books (none of which I have read), but only one DDO themed book. If you don't have those expectations going into the book, then you'll never miss it. I was one that didn't have those expectations; it was more an afterthought. Snarky forum posters might have that expectation. ;p
You never know! Perhaps in the next book Ms. Rockwell can expand Sabira's grouping habits a bit and show us the dynamic of a cleric, sorcerer, rogue, artificer, and monk backing up Sabira playing as the meatshield while battling something big and nasty. Either way, I look forward to a resolution to the book's cliff hanger. :) Nicely done!