Grasping for the Wind Rotating Header Image

Book Review: The Tales of the Last War edited by Mark Sehestedt

* Genre: Fantasy, Shared World Fiction
* ISBN: 0786939869
* ISBN-13: 9780786939862
* Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
* Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
* Pub. Date: April 2006

When Wizards of the Coast�s new shared world, Eberron, first came out, there was some doubt as to whether Eberron was really any different from Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance. After all, the same races appear and lots of the magical abilities are the same, so what makes Eberron so different? The Tales of the Last War, edited by Mark Sehestedt, answers that question in spades.

The first Eberron novel I read, The Orb of Xoriat by Edward Bolme, gave a fair impression of how the world of Eberron was unique. The lightning rail, the airships, the dragonhawks, and the nation-states were fair example of some of the differences. But one thing that The Orb of Xoriat did not do was delve deeply into the war-forged. These sentient machines are so completely alien to either of Wizard�s other popular worlds that these alone give it uniqueness. Add to that that nations, rather than city states are the powers, and that elemental magic, rather than standard wizardry is the more common use of magic, and the world is unique enough to be considered its own.

The Tales of the Last War is a collection of short stories (including one from the creator of Eberron, Keith Baker) that show the variety of the Eberron world. All of the stories are set during or just after the Last War, the �war to end all wars� whose earthly counterpart is none other than our own World War I. The kingdom of Galifar has been torn apart into competing nations (fall of Rome, anyone?) and in one case, Cyre�s, the nation has been completely obliterated near the close of the war.

Many of the stories center on refugees from Cyre or Cyre during the war itself, as in many cases it is Cyre against everybody else. This collection will really give the reader an excellent introduction to Eberron as a campaign setting. And for those readers who read my review of The Orb of Xoriat by Edward Bolme, you will be please to note that he tells another story of Teron the monk in The Weight of Water which tells a story about how a little can do a lot. My favorite story of the lot was The Veiled Charge since it got deeper into the lightning rail concept, one of the most unique features of Eberron. (The lightning rail is essentially a train run by electrical elementals.)

Death at Whitehearth by Keith Baker uses the characters from his Dreaming Dark trilogy to give us a glimpse of the war-forged and explore the idea of sentient tools. Keith�s writing in this story was little rough, but the plot twist was unexpected.

Death Before Dawn by Paul Crilley is a straight up mystery has an obvious conclusion, but is still nice to read.

The Blade of the Flame by Tim Waggoner was a good story because it dealt with the difference between possession by evil spirits and disorders of the mind. The two are not always easily separated, and this is question that has plagued religions since the dawn of neuroscience. Interesting approach to Eberron, since the world is on the cusp of moving into an �Age of Enlightenment� in some ways.

Distant Fires by Aaron Rosenberg was not really a story I felt belonged in this collection, but was still an okay read.

The Veiled Charge by David A. Page was great because it really got into the lightning rail concept. It also explained better how the world of Eberron reacts with other planes of existence. In Forgotten Realms, the line is thin, but in Eberron it seems to be much thicker, although not impassable.

The Weight of Water by Edward Bolme is a great story about how a little ingenuity can often trump brute physical force. Continues the story of Teron the Aundarian monk.

War Machines — 992 YK by Ian Burton-Oakes has war forged as its primary characters so like none of the other stories provides a window into their way of thinking.

Call of the Silver Flame by James Wyatt a good introduction to some of the history of Eberron. For those who like vampires in their fantasy, this one�s for you. Is a precursor to Wyatt� Draconic Prophecies trilogy.

Flight of the Righteous Indignation by Ari Marmell is a horror story that can only be described as Alien for Eberron.

This collection is an excellent way to get into the world of Eberron and get a really broad bird�s eye view of what this relatively new campaign setting has to offer. All of the stories are entertaining. Some are mysteries some straight up action/adventure stories, and even one that is a bit of a horror story. I enjoyed the read. It took only a few hours to read through, and Sehestedt organized them well, from beginning to end, so that it is easy for the reader to learn more about Eberron with each successive story. I now wish that I had read The Tales of the Last War before reading The Orb of Xoriat, just so that the world would have been more familiar to me, even if it meant reading the story of Teron out of order. If you like shared world fiction, or even just good fantasy short stories, this is a collection worth reading.

Comments are closed.