This is the first book set in the Dark Sun campaign setting that I've read. I'm only somewhat familiar with the setting but I found it intriguing. It...moreThis is the first book set in the Dark Sun campaign setting that I've read. I'm only somewhat familiar with the setting but I found it intriguing. It was a simple and quick read, with some notable flaws.
While the world of Athas deviates quite a bit from standard D&D fantasy, the plot does not. The setting is described in some detail, providing a glimpse of how life in Athas is different. But it feels like there's an assumption that the reader is familiar with Athas, and so leaves out explanations and flavourful descriptions where it would've been useful. For example, given the barren world that is Athas, the characters' reaction to seeing a forest and an abundance of water was almost non-existent.
The problem with the plot is that it's full of archetypes, stereotypes, and cliches. Wizened and grumpy old man, buxom maiden, stubborn gladiator, ignorant but well-meaning noble, and the worse culprit was a "test" of the group's worthiness - which boils down to something I'd roll my eyes for.
The protagonists could've been much more interesting - a noble psionicist, a preserver, and two gladiators - and they had much potential. But character development was pretty lacking so they ended up very stereotypical, with simplistic motivations. One of the villains, a templar, was the most interesting character - I want to see what happens to him in the next book. And lastly the portrayal of the sorcerer-king was a bit underwhelming. Being supposedly powerful defilers and psionicists, I was expecting a stronger finale. The gladiatorial games near the end was something I quite enjoyed though.
Still, the flow of the story was good, without much slow bits. It goes from action to action at a good pace, making it easy to read and follow. For the next book, I hope character development picks up a bit; I'm not at all sympathetic to the characters at all.(less)