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Book Review: Swords of Dragonfire by Ed Greenwood

Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 0786943394
Pub. Date: August 2007
Format: Hardcover, 352pp
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
See an interview with the author here.

Although I generally don’t like reviewing the second book in a trilogy, (middle books often seem to just be filler) I just had to write about Ed Greenwood’s latest contribution to the Forgotten Realms, Swords of Dragonfire.

The novel continues the early exploits of the Knights of Myth Drannor, some of Greenwood’s more interesting characters. A roaming band of adventurers, loyal to the crown of Cormyr, the Knights are perhaps some of the most successful bunglers in the history of the Forgotten Realms. Florin Falconhand and his friends had appeared as wise and worldly wise adventurers in previous Greenwood books, but their history had never been fully explored. The Knights of Myth Drannor series is Greenwood’s story of their humble beginnings as callow youths in love with the spirit of adventure, who know nothing of its atrocities.

Swords of Dragonfire continues where Swords of Eveningstar left off. Having gained the approval of Queen Filfaeril and King Azoun, the Knights believe that they are set up for life. Little do they know that good adventurers are always feared, and that The Crown is determined to have them become some other country’s problem. But, being the Knights of Myth Drannor, Florin and friends are soon caught up in a web of intrigue aimed at killing the weary Court Wizard Vangerdahast, and the entire royal family.

Greenwood has never been the best of novel writers. He tries to write archaically, using wherefore instead of therefore, and constructing sentences to make them seem part of an older age or courtlier. But in Swords of Dragonfire, he has written one of the most protracted, most complicated, most fascinating fight scenes I have ever seen in print. Taking up at least 50 pages of the 352 page novel, the fight at the Oldcoats Inn takes several chapters, and appearance of no less than Vangerdahast, Khelben Blackstaff, Manshoon of the Zhentarim, and Elminster to bring an end to it.

What Greenwood does well, is weave an intricate plot. Instead of writing a novel from one perspective, or following around a band of adventurers, Swords of Dragonfire is told as a series of vignettes following a great number of characters as they plot against Cormyr, seek to save it, or simply try to preserve the status quo. Each conspirator doesn’t know of the other’s plots, and the entire novel culminates in what is quaintly known as the Disaster of the Season. Many people don’t like the vignette style of Greenwood, as it requires a great number of characters to follow which can sometimes be confusing. (I managed to confuse Old Ghost and Horaundoon a time or two.) But this is sword and sorcery at the next level. Greenwood doesn’t spend a lot of time in soul-searching, or angst ridden characters. He simply details a great fight scene, which by my count had no less than five different groups duking it out in one small inn. Thereafter follows an excellent chase scene in the bowels of Azoun’s place in Suzail, which has the pace and feel of a Dungeon Master playing games with you.

I recommend this book highly for the protracted fight scenes alone. You will need to read Swords of Eveningstar first in order to get the back story, but Swords of Dragonfire is worth it.