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    THE VACANT THRONE by Ed Greenwood


    TOR, April 2001

    The Band of Four has raised the long-sleeping king of Asmarand (see our review of THE KINGLESS LAND), but all is not well. The Barons, used to their longstanding freedoms, plot rebellion, the mages continue to scheme for power, and the kingís awakening has also awakened the evil Snake Gods.

    To save the kingdom and serve the king, the Band of Four (magician Lady Embra Silvertree, warrior Hawkril, thief Craer, and healer Sarasper) set off to find the Dwaerindim Stones, magical implements that hold so much power that they can be used again and again without damage (ordinary magical implements can be used once and immediately disintegrate). Other powers also seek the Dwareridim Stones and the Band of Four runs the risk of losing the one they have in hopes of securing the others.

    Ed Greenwood (click here to see other reviews of novels by this author) has written a novel of non-stop action. The Band of Four is under continued threat from treasure seekers, evil magicians, traitor Barons, and the snake people. Without a steady stream of magical objects (each of which is apparently connected with the death of a magician), they will all die. Even their survival, however, is not enough to save the kingdom. King Kelgrael knows that the threat of the Snake Gods which his awakening unleashed, is beyond even the powers of his four helpers.

    THE VACANT THRONE reads something like a fantasy role-playing game come to life (which makes sense given that Ed Greenwood is a freelance game designer). Possibly as a result of this background, Greenwood spends more time on the battles than he does on the characters themselves. The novel needs better character development to allow the readers to care about people and feel concern when they are injured and near death (an all-too common state for the Band of Four).

    I found myself imagining Greenwood moving pieces around a dungeon, rolling dice and counting the number of magical items remaining. It isnít bad, but it could be much more compelling.

    Two Stars

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