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Monday, September 18, 2023

Review: Sandstorm by Christopher Rowe

Sandstorm is one of those odd standalone novels not incorporated into a series like Lost Empires or Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep. It was released in 2011 and was Christopher Rowe's first novel. I actually have chatted with Rowe briefly online, and realizing he had written a Realms novel pushed this one up my list.

This is the Fourth Edition of Forgotten Realms, so it's weird. That doesn't count it out as a good time, I enjoyed Brimstone Angels and Venom in Her Veins, and those are also during the Era of Upheaval. This one takes place in Calimshan, and fans of the desert kingdom south of Tethyr and Amn and across the water from Chult may want to give it a whirl.

Calimport is way less glorious after the Spellplague, though it was always tainted by its slave trade. Slavery is one theme of this book, and we are introduced to gladiatorial games on an earthmote, that is a floating piece of earth. It starts with a bang, a duel between a gladiator and a great tentacled cat. You often don't get covers showcasing events from the start of the book, but this is an exception. It's also notable because Raymond Swanland makes such good art.

Along with this cover, it has a sword & sorcery feel at the start. The magic is also less gamey and feels tad more authentic than in some other Realms novels.

Cephas is a gladiator slave on the earthmote. He seemingly tries to escape from just about every bout he is in; though he is a good fighter he longs for freedom. He has some innate connection to the earth and this relationship is explained once he goes on his journey.

Corvus Nightfeather is a Kenku assassin and a carnie of sorts for the Circus of Wonders. He is not the main character but stands out as unique and as my favorite. Along with a Kenku, you also get some other races that have populated D&D for the last decade or more. Things like Goliaths and Genasi, the latter being integral to the story. The story explores Genasi having two or more elemental aspects regardless of their birth element. For example, can air Genasi also acquire the fire aspect? This ties into a theme of identity and family, particularly the found family trope.

Lastly, Rowe makes good use of epigraphs from in-world texts. I am a big fan of this method, and seeing it in the Forgotten Realms is very fun. That being said, I did not enjoy this one too much, but I feel I could have put more effort into reading it. I think I will reread it at some point, it is very short. As of now, I'll give my arbitrary rating of Acceptable.


You can track my current progress here.

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