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Monday, March 13, 2023

Review: D&D Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter

The Road to Neverwinter by Jaleigh Johnson is the adult prequel novel to the upcoming Honor Among Thieves movie. It was released at the end of February ahead of the movie's release at the end of March. It is a story of the origins of the party that are the protagonists in the movie. I’ve already reviewed The Druid’s Call, The YA prequel telling us of the tiefling druid, Doric. 

As opposed to Johnston, Johnson is a Forgotten Realms veteran, for example her Mistshore is a lovely tale of memory and revenge set in Waterdeep.

At the start of the story, Edgin is playing with his daughter, Kira, who shortly settles into bed and Edgin begins telling her a story of their past. It starts on the Sword Coast when he was recently a Harper agent. This framing narrative is cool and a great setup, we know Edgin will survive but we really knew that anyways, since he is the main protagonist. We also get some interludes back to the bedtime story.

Kira is a newborn babe, Edgin's wife is recently diseased and he left the Harpers as a result of her death. He lives in an unnamed village (at the start, that is) on the Sword Coast. Being part of the Harpers, he was once an entertainer, a bard, but now he’s just a single father, though part of the prologue seems to imply he has found a new partner and leaves some promise either for some potential romance in the novel or movie. Don't get your hopes up there.

He passes out at a tavern, and shortly meets the Uthgardt barbarian woman named Holga, of the Elk Tribe. She is similarly feeling lonesome. This is quite a unique start to a D&D adventure. A widower father and some barbarian meeting in tumultuous inner times but peaceful on the outside, in some sleepy village. These first couple chapters are also nine years before the rest of the story. 

Shortly in we get a story about the Zhentarim, which is more Realms stuff than The Druid’s Call had. Pendra is a pawn broker and has connections to the Black Network, which makes him a target for our protagonists. In the interveening nine years Edgin and Holga had made a living as thieves, a sort of odd Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, but Kira, as she gets older, joins the party. 

The party technically lives in Targos, one of the Ten Towns in Icewind Dale. It is not spoken of as being particularly cold early, nor is it named for the first few times, on so you could mistake it for a village nearer to Neverwinter. But the Trip and Shuffle tavern is mentioned and seen, which is cool.

Since Edgin is a bard and plays the lute, it would have been cool if it was a more Realms specific Yarting was used, but that is just me being picky. He does us his bardic talents some in this book, though it is not a great amount.

Eventually the party of the movie takes form; the trickster Forge Fitzwilliam plays cards, 3 Dragon Ante, with Edgin. With a name like Forge I’d think he would be a dwarf but he’s a human. In reality everyone is human with one exception

Simon Aumar, who has an inferiority complex is a fledgeling sorcerer that is related to Elminster. He comes in later and is a half-elf, making him the only non-human of the party.

The jokes are very recent movie faire, something like Marvel movies, I’d think they make you smile when seen on the big screen, I was waiting to laugh out loud. I'm not sure how affective they will be on a second watch. Potatoes are mentioned several times. 

The themes are largely about what makes someone a hero. This is connected to the father daughter relationship that I feel is very rare in fantasy. It's rather touching at times.

So as far as Realms lore goes, Johnson satisfies. We get things from 5e, like Icewind Dale, but also Neverwinter which has been ignored in 5e up until now but is probably my favorite place along the Sword Coast. 

This is the late 1490s. The novel ends a year before the movie, and we know Forge Fitzwilliam is the Lord of Neverwinter in that movie. I’m not sure what happened to Dagult Nevermeber. There are comics and maybe even the junior novelization answers some of the questions that arise between the end of this novel and the start of the movie. I am not sure I will read those, since I am largely concerned with the normal novels. Overall, The Road to Neverwinter satisfyingly sets up the characters of the movie in Good fashion. Paired with The Druid's Call, I don't think you could go wrong.


You can track my current progress here.

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