If you have read any of my reviews (if?) you should know by now that I pay a lot of attention to the relationship of the characters in the books, the places where the action takes place and the plot itself. If they don’t match, then I don’t enjoy the book. I feel it’s a wasted chance of taking full advantage of the dynamics, or simply assume it’s been very lazily written and edited.
Sometimes, though, a book will come up and it’s a massive lesson on “how it’s done”. Recently it was Bruce Cordell with The Sword of the Gods, but a long time ago, in a distant universe that no one can get in or out from, it was a different author that managed the feat.
I refuse to let that feat be forgotten.
The Tribe of One trilogy was written by Simon Hawke for the original Dark Sun setting in the early 90’s. I don’t think they’ve been reprinted since, so these are “very old” books already that you can find for just a few pence in your favourite online retailer. Like the Dark Sun setting, these books have been forgotten for a long time, which is a shame.
The plot is simple. Sorak, a unique progeny born of a Halfling and an Elf, mortal enemies in Athas, is found nearly dead by a Pyreen and brought to be educated at the Villichi convent. After a few years of training and growing up, Sorak decides to leave the convent and try to discover who his parents were. He will be joined by Ryana; childhood friend, who’s love for Sorak gives her the drive to leave the convent behind, break her vows and help him in his quest. The adventures will take them around Athas looking for some items for The Sage, who has the key to the knowledge Sorak seeks.
This is a very, very short synopsis for three books, but if I give away a lot more, I will be spoiling a good chunk of the books and I don’t want to do that.
Everything about these books is great, and the last in the trilogy continues with the terrific character development that the first book started.
For the adventures in the last book, Valsavis, a ruthless and self-centred mercenary at the service of the Dragon King Nibenay, joins them in their quest to find some magic items needed by the Sage. Needless to say, Valsavis is completely polarised in most aspects to Sorak and Ryana.
The personality of all the characters truly shine in this book, and the dynamics between the different personas, ideals, morals, ethics – or lack of – in all the stars of this book are handled perfectly by Hawke. He manages not just to handle the interaction with each other well, but also with less relevant characters, the cities, the struggles and the difficult situations that require some sort of ethics or approach.
In a nutshell, the characters are perfectly congruent with the story, their past, their philosophies, the environment…
There are times, though, when you truly wonder if anyone would react in such a “legal good” way in a place like Athas. However, if we take into account this novel is based on the AD&D of yesteryear, it is not surprising to see why the author decided to make the characters behave in the way they do to match the setting.
Also really excellent is the way Hawke managed the pace throughout the novel. In the middle of the whole thing, you’ll look at the number of pages left and wonder how he is going to get everything into a relatively small number of pages. No problems there! As soon as the action starts, he increases the pace without decreasing the descriptions and things happen faster, giving a good sense of excitement and rush – since the last quest is on a deadline.
As with the rest of the trilogy, I can’t recommend this enough. I truly love these books and the story is as good as any of the other Dark Sun books published to date, and, most importantly, very relevant to the setting itself, due to the presence of The Sage.
Considering the time that has passed since the publication of the books, they remain current to both the setting and the public it was orientated to. Indeed if Wizards of the Coast took the characters and started to publish new fiction based on them, they would make the perfect addition to the current Dark Sun setting, or any future ones.
For the perfect flavour of what Dark Sun can be like and how it works as a world to use in your games, get these books. I think it’s pretty much impossible not to enjoy them immensely!