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Monday, November 2, 2020

Completed Series: The Erevis Cale Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp

 The Erevis Cale Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp is a follow up to "Resurrection" in The Halls of Stormweather and Shadow's Witness, books one and two of the Sembia series. It is the story of Erevis Cale, the Chosen of the shadow and thievery deity, Mask. He is joined by his friends, Jak the halfling rogue who serves Brandobaris, halfling god of thieves; and sometimes ally Riven, who is also a chosen of Mask; the tiefling psionicist Magadon joins later in the first book.

I read the entire trilogy from August to the beginning of November. It is full of thrilling twists, exciting action, and fantastic characters. It is a step up from the last series I finished, and I believe that the Legend of Erevis Cale will be to me better than that of a certain drow rangers. Beware of spoilers below.

Twilight Falling (2003) - Amazing

Dawn of Night (2004) - Good

Midnight's Mask (2005) - Exceptional

“Today is a new day”

Twilight Falling starts off in a fantastic blur of activity. Cale is where we left him at the end of the Sembia series. While Shadow's Witness is a true prequel to the Erevis Cale Trilogy, reading the last book in Sembia, Lord of Stormweather, really sets up the scene at the start (while Cale is not the main character there are multiple parts from his POV). Times are changing, as the blurb on the back states: "The day's end finds Erevis Cale serving a new master". The intrigue is deep and there is only one man for the job: Erevis Cale. The story starts strong and doesn't slow; the first pages in-and-of-themselves tout gods, madmen, assassins, and demons, so you know it will be exciting. 

The main villain is Vraggen, a worshipper of the evil goddess, Shar. He is seeking one of her temples, the Fane of Shadows to transcend his humanity. He is aided by a gang of minions, who have secret purposes of their own. You slowly find out that Vraggen is ignorant that he is a pawn of a certain gith: the Sojourner.

Cale is resolved to leave Stormweather and the service of House Uskevren but that proves hard when a band of fanatics endanger the residents of Stormweather in their schemes to find the Fane of Shadows. These fanatics turn out to be Vraggen's shape-changing buddies, slaadi.

There is a lot that happens here. Including a trip across the sea to Starmantle. We even learn that, on page 109, that there are intact dung sweepers in Selgaunt and that they are not only in Waterdeep!

Funnily the whole story involving Cale and Riven was by Vraggen’s miscalculation, thinking they were already involved somehow and trying to push them out of the picture. He even realizes this fault but the error is still his doom of course. This shows the consequences for most of the series.

Overall we receive a great cast of characters: Cale, Riven, and Jak as well as Vraggen, Dalgor, Azriim, and Sephris. This is a fantastic novel, one any fantasy fan, Dungeons & Dragons or Forgotten Realms fans should read. From start to finish it is an exhilarating ride. In short, it is amazing.

It does end on a hefty cliffhanger, I believe it’s well deserved, but beware.

Dawn of Night continues right where the cliffhanger left us in Twilight Falling (though the prologue is a little removed, but gives us a good view of the antagonist, the Sojourner). To contrast, Dawn of Night is not quite as exciting as the first of the series. The party find themselves in the Plane of Shadow for a good chunk of the book while Cale figures out his predicament he is thrown into at the tail of the first book. It is drab, and a little taxing. For those who found the Abyss interesting in Shadow’s Witness you will probably enjoy the time spent in the Plane of Shadow in Dawn of Night. I surely enjoyed the time in the Material Plane more, particularly the time spent in Skullport.

One thing the reader will probably note is Cale's use of big words, generally in his thoughts. He is a linguist, he knows nine languages. This adds a fun twist to the already deadly and intelligent assassin.

About 2/3 mark, we meet Varra, and I really enjoy the connection of a random person from the start, though sadly she is a victim of a wretch when she is introduced. We don't see much of her, but I feel she will be important, and a sort of replacement for Cale's feelings for Tazi.

It’s interested to see Cale adapt to his new predicament. It’s quaint that the Sojourner just wants to stand under the Sun, and this can symbolically be related to Cale's willingness to do so even though it pains him after the events of Twilight Falling. The Sojourner doesn’t have any problem doing bad things because he believes there are no consequences and set path of the universe. Everything is random, and allows those who are able to do what they want, to do what they want. He doesn’t believe in morals, but he believes in math.

Dawn of Night ends on a cliffhanger, though one that feels less intense and not as immense as that of the first book.

“Cale and Riven might be separated by only a blade’s edge, but that edge was keen and clear. Cale showed mercy. Riven did not."

Midnight’s Mask starts off better than Dawn of Night. There are some interesting twists and good action from the get-go. It becomes apparent to our would-be-heroes that the Sojourner is powerful, maybe even more so than the likes of an archmage such as Elminster of Shadowdale.

If you like Netherese ruins, and sea going adventures; a tiefling companion that isn't the generic blood of Asmodeus kind; an sea-going adventure, that is what this book brings. It is emotional, and there are some great twists, at the start to the end. I actually got teary-eyed at the end of this ones, for reasons I won't spoil here, but the sentiment is summed up by a phrase from Jak Fleet:

“If we get the chance, let’s be heroes.”

There are some parts where it becomes apparent that the slaadi’s arrogance really are going to be their downfall. It's also interesting that the Sojourner does evil things for personal gain, to walk on the surface. He does not try to conquer the world or anything. The fact that Cale and Friends don’t know what The Sojourner wants and what he is doing to get it is intriguing. While the reader has an idea of Vhostym’s desire, the means are slowly revealed to be world shaking, but petty. It's interesting to think of what could have been avoided.

Ssessimyth is an interesting addition in the last book he makes certain parts dealing with Sakkors, an ancient netherese city, more fun. His relationship with a certain mythallar may pop up again in the future; maybe concerning a certain Shadovar in the next trilogy involving our titular character.

Over all, The Erevis Cale Trilogy is exciting and action-packed. I appreciate the Realms talk, appropriately in-world language helps with immersion. The world around the Sea of Fallen Stars is unveiled a bit-by-bit to show the reader more and more of the great, massive Forgotten Realms. This starts off exceptionally well, and though it slows down a little, it overall is a rewarding ride. The Erevis Cale Trilogy is Exceptional. 

This trilogy is followed by another, The Twilight War. I plan to in due time to explore the rest of Cale's story, from The Godborn to the short stories in Dragon magazine. As of now, he stands as one of my singular favorite Realms characters; who is yours?


You can track my current progress here.

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