I feel like I buck the trend a bit in the world of Forgotten Realms fiction. Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cole is by far my favorite character and Kemp’s handle on dialogue is superb. The Godborn continues Wizards of the Coast’s Sundering event following Salvatores The Companions. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Companions as a novel, it felt far too transitory to make for a good stand alone read, and thankfully The Godborn doesn’t follow in that tradition. The Companions hinted and The Godborn confirms that the The Sundering is mostly a background tie-in that doesn’t really get expounded on in the plot. Indeed, in The Godborn the major event felt a bit more tertiary to the proceedings than even the previous novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Kemp’s handle on characterization really brought to the needs and desires of his characters to the fore; a fact which definitely helped in getting things rolling.
The Godborn focuses heavily on the duality of it’s lead character Vasen Cole. As the son of a shade Vasen is perhaps an unlikely candidate to become a paladin of Amaunator, a deity of light and healing. A good portion of the novel is Vasen’s struggle to find a balance between his inborn shadow magic and his devotion of Amaunator. It’s an interesting and immediately compelling tension that never goes overly far into brooding. Vasen, is new to readers and makes for an excellent choice in leads since he has a connection to Kemp’s previous work (he is after all the son of Erevis Cole, whisked forward in time 70 years during the Spellplague) and at the same time an excellent means to introduce new readers to established characters.
Kemp sets out quickly establishing Vasen’s character, helped especially through the character of Orsin; a monk devoted to Mask. The quick camaraderie between Orsin and Vasen definitely served to set the novel tone and their banter definitely helped keep the novel from slipping too far into darkness. Kemp sets up a lot of moving parts in The Godborn, including dangling plot threads from his Twilight War series, and introducing new dangers such as the monstrous Sayeed and Zeehad; two brothers monstrously cursed by Mephistopheles and sent forth to seek out Vasen. I will say that you will never quite look at cats the same way again.
Kemp excels a quickly and effectively painting vivid characters and in doing so manages to keep the complicated plot grounded in individuals the read can quickly come to care about. While I have read some of Kemp’s previous Forgotten Realms and quite feel that they are a necessity in enjoying The Godborn to its fullest. While knowledge of Kemp’s previous works definitely enhances the reading he introduces new elements, an concisely explains the old one, just enough that new readers should follow along nicely. Unfortunately, The Godborn does nothing to enhance my view of The Sundering as a whole. While long time Forgotten Realms fans know what is in store the lack of cohesiveness to the event saps my interest overall. I finished The Godborn thinking that it was a great novel but not at all curious as to what happens next in The Sundering. To me that smacks of bad marketing and poor editorial direction. Regardless, rest assured that if you’re interesting in reading a top-notch adventure fantasy story than The Godborn is a novel well worth picking up.