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Book Review: City of Torment by Bruce R. Cordell

# Genre: Shared World, Sword and Sorcery
# Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
# Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
# Publication Date: September 1, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0786951842
# ISBN-13: 978-0786951840
# Author Website: Bruce R. Cordell

City of Torment, by award-winning game designer Bruce R. Cordell, is the second book in his Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy set in the Forgotten Realms. In it, Cordell picks up where he left off in Plague of Spells.

Japheth has the Dreamheart, the stone eye of the Elder, a being from out of time. Using the powers stolen from the eladrin Lord of Bats, he seeks to reunite the spirit and body of Anusha, the girl he has come to love. The monk Raidon Kane, wizard Seren, and the pirate captain Thoster are hot on his trail. But when Japheth fails in his quest, everyone soon finds that they must go deep below even the Underdark to the realm of Xxiphu the lair of the Eldest and his aboleth (slug-like, intelligent creatures) minions.

It is always the joy of a reviewer to watch the growth of a writer as s/he moves from book to book improving his/her skills. Cordell is no exception. From the time of his first novel, Cordell has moved from being a writer who occasionally had rogue elements, rough plot or poor characterization to one with tight plots and fascinating characters.

City of Torment is his best work yet. Whereas in earlier works his narrative might drag at points or have characters that exist only as cannon fodder, this latest novel has complex characters with their own motivations and reasons for what they do. Even Seren and Thoster have a back history and potential futures which are integral to the plot. This tune-up of his characterization is propelling Cordell into not just enjoyable reading, but necessary reading. Each time he releases a new novel, I am finding myself more and more desperate to buy and devour his work the day it is released.

This is sword and sorcery at its best. Cordell has just the right mix of action and introspection to keep the reader’s interest. Cordell delicately balances several plot lines, and the final conclusion (to be found in Key of Stars) is still anyone’s game.

The 4th edition Forgotten Realms campaign setting has its prophet. And he is awfully convincing. I highly recommend you read both City of Torment and Plague of Spells, you won’t be disappointed.