The Crimson Talisman, War-Torn #1 by Adrian Cole

The Crimson Talisman - Adrian Cole

'The Crimson Talisman' starts off a four-part series of standalone novels by four different authors. They are linked thematically by characters that had lives profoundly changed by the Last War and are unsure of how to live in a world, theoretically, at peace, or even if they have a place in it.


The Last War was a century-long conflict that consumed so much energy and resources that it drastically altered society, technology and the landscape itself. It was one of the main components of the Eberron setting that set it apart. The suggested starting point for campaigns was only a few years after the end of the war.


That said, the thematic link doesn't make all that much sense here. Our protagonist is one Vaddi d'Orien a young half-elf of good family who witnesses the death of his father and half-brothers at the hands of undead. This is shortly after his father handed him his mysterious birthright: a macguffin in the form of a carved dragon's tooth. There are necromancers, vampires, a thin romance angle complete with a warrior/sorcerer damsel who needs to be saved, and a bunch of dropped plot points that could have made the novel at least atmospheric. The Last War and setting markers (like major NPCs, locations, etc.) are seldom mentioned. The only connection with 'The War-Torn' theme is with the supporting character of Nyam Hordath, whose family died in the war, and whom, for obscure reasons, sees something of his sons in young Vaddi.


There are some nerdish objections - including the strict rule that a half-elf cannot bear the d'Orien dragonmark (an inherited magical ability) - but I won't bother with that. This was the third ever Eberron novel so mistakes were gonna be made. Of course, the 'Campaign Setting' itself was out almost a full year before this novel debuted so editors should have been able to make some corrections...but, whatever. There are enough flaws to the book on a more basic level.


The plot was all macguffin and there wasn't a real solution to be found. Conversations would happen between heros and between villains and made no sense until I reversed who was saying the lines. That...shouldn't happen, at least not in more than one scene. This was not an auspicious beginning to my return to Eberron novels, but I know that there's more (and better) to come.


The War-Torn


Next: 'The Orb of Xoriat'