Wednesday, 12 November 2008

‘The Queen of Stone’ – Keith Baker (Wizards of the Coast)


Cover art is a funny thing isn’t it? It’s such an important part of the book as it’s the first thing you notice in the bookstore and could potentially put someone off buying the book itself. Everyone has different tastes though and this must make it difficult for a publisher to come up with cover art that will appeal to plenty of people... On this occasion, the cover art for ‘The Queen of Stone’ really didn’t work for me...
The problem I’ve always had with ‘tie-in fiction’ of this kind is its association with the game settings that it arises from. I want to read a story, not someone’s D&D campaign retold! The cover, for ‘The Queen of Stone’, looks (to me) like old 80’s ‘Fighting Fantasy’ cover art and left me immediately thinking that even though I wasn’t picking up a ‘game book’ it was still a book very much based on a game (or someone’s game)... All this was before I got to the book itself....

Nyrielle Tam is also ‘Thorn’, a secret agent engaged in covert actions that will advance the aims of her country Breland. Thorn’s latest mission is to uncover the aims of a fledgling nation of monsters whilst at the same time rescuing a captured Brelish hero from their clutches. If that wasn’t enough for her to be going on with, other plots and machinations are due to come to fruition and very much get in her way...

This is the hardest review I’ve had to write for the blog so far, at least until the next ‘hardest review ever’ book comes along. You see, books normally inspire a reaction in me to some degree. I might love a book, I might hate it, I might find myself completely bemused, you get the picture... ‘The Queen of Stone’ though is perhaps the first book ever that has completely failed to inspire any kind of reaction in me at all. The very definition of ‘meh in fact...

Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Queen of Stone’ does what it sets out to do. It tells a story of spies, mystery and magic with the required plot twists and action scenes. The plot fits together well and appears to be set up for further ‘Thorn’ books in the future. For some reason though, I found it to be completely missing the spark that would have got me into the story a whole lot more....

Characters all seem to go through the motions to achieve their goals with no sense of urgency or real interaction with other characters. If this was a D&D game (and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what the story has been based upon) it would be immediately clear who was a ‘player character’ and who was a ‘non-player character’... The main reason that there’s no urgency to the plot is because all the main players come ready equipped with spells to counter the problems that they face... Being a fairly slim read as well (two hundred and ninety three pages long) ‘The Queen of Stone’ doesn’t offer the reader much time to get to know the characters either, you just get to see them act out a story where the ending is in no doubt.

With the main players having left me completely cold, there wasn’t an awful lot of hope for the story itself. Like I’ve said, the plot is serviceable but felt like it needed something to give it a bit of spark which never happened as far as I was concerned...

‘The Queen of Stone’ was an odd one for me. It wasn’t badly written as such, it just never really got going. Fans of Keith Baker (or the Eberron books in general) may end up getting a lot out of ‘The Queen of Stone’, this just wasn’t the case for me...

Five out of Ten

3 comments:

James said...

No way, that artwork is far worse than any Fighting Fantasy gamebook cover!

pacamanca said...

lol There's no way I'd even TOUCH a book with that cover, let alone read it!!!

Stephen said...

Couldn't have said it better. I picked up this book knowing it was probably going to suck SUPER bad, and guess what? It DID!!

Seriously, it reads like every nerd story-teller who ever wanted to brag about his "AWESOME-masterbatory-female-thief/mage-half-elf-with-a-bag-of-holding-glove-that-is-really-cool-and-is-a-spy-who-rode-this-manticorebutthemanticoreknewherandIdidn't-and-then-I-saved-the-world!!"

It is utter dreck. I picked it up for 3 reasons: I like the world of Ebberon when I play D&D, I fell in love with the Darksun World because of the novels, and the Dragonlance Chronicles.

Kieth Baker, STOP WRITING BOOKS! You're killing trees and making people hate you.