Return of the Archwizards

Return of the Archwizards is a sword and sorcery book that takes place in the Forgotten Realms (a subset of Dungeon & Dragons). It collects all three novels in the Return of the Archwards series: The Summoning, The Siege, and The Sorcerer. All three stories are written by Troy Denning and follow an elf named Galaeron who winds up in the middle of a massive battle that threatens to eliminate his home of Everska. His adventure with a mysterious wizard named Melegaunt exposes him to a strange type of magic that eventually threatens to undo his very being. Caught between fighting his own shadow and stopping an army of monstrous creatures, Galaeron finds himself in a desperate struggle.

Denning packs the story with action and enjoyable characters. For fans of the Erevis Cale novels, Return of the Archwizards covers some very familiar territory with shadow magic, the Netherese Empire, and the Shadovar, making it an essential read to fill in the gaps.

The Summoning: Return of the Archwizards Book I

The Summoning plunges readers straight into a story about monsters and wizards. It follows the adventure of Galaeron, an elf tomb guard who accidentally unleashes a terrible plague on the world. The phaerimm are a monstrous species that feed on magic. It’s all up to Galaeron and his unlikely allies to stop them.

What makes the story interesting is the mystery that surrounds the characters. Denning slowly dishes out information on each as the story explodes into vicious combat and narrow escapes. There’s Melegaunt, a powerful wizard who is extremely cautious when discussing the nature of his magic. There is Valla, a female warrior who is tight lipped about her people. Then there is Galaeron, a capable magic user who for some reason is stuck on tomb patrol in a forsaken sector.

The creatures the characters find themselves up against are the things of drunken nightmares. There are beholders, orb shaped floating creatures with numerous eyes stalks that can all emit powerful magical rays. There are the tentacle faced, mind feasting illithids that can drive people insane with their gaze. Then there are the phaerimm, floating worm like things with numerous arms, a maw of teeth, and a venomous, barbed tail. On top of that they are resistant to most magic and are deadly spellcasters.

This story does a great job of setting up a enjoyable cast of characters. It introduces readers to the set up for the series, the main cast, and packs a lot of action. The way Denning sheaths the characters in secrecy is a great mechanic to keep readers going. Piece by piece their backgrounds, motivations, and personalities are revealed. It really keeps the anticipation flowing throughout the story.

The Siege: Return of the Archwizards Book II

The Siege takes an interesting turn as Denning shifts the story into different directions. One thread follows the actions of the Shadovar and how everyone else holds their every move in question. Another thread focuses on Galaeron’s battle with his shadow. Meanwhile the war with the phaerimm continues.

The Shadovar are played very delicately in the story. They are powerful wizards who draw their power from the Shadow weave and have finally returned from their exile in another plane of existence. Denning is careful to shroud their motives. To all appearances they seem to be helping everyone and doing a very good job of it. Yet no one trusts them. No one thanks them. Instead, insults and suspicions are constantly hurled at them. It’s to the point that if the Shadovar did turn on them, it would be completely justified in the reader’s eyes. The delicate alliance between the Shadovar, the elves, and humans becomes a complicated war of politics. This adds a great deal of suspense and intellectual intrigue to the story.

One thing I especially liked about The Siege was how it fit in with the Erevis Cale novels by Paul S. Kemp. Both take place on Faerun, and familiar places are sometimes mentioned. The Netherese Empire is discussed and the phaerimm play a big role in their history. Plus Shade Enclave has a large part in the story. There are also familiar characters like the Shadow Princes and the High Lord. The Siege provides a bit of background on all these subjects that supports Kemp’s work while also expanding the world greatly.

As much fun as I had reading about the Shadovar, Galaeron’s battle with his shadow was another matter. I found it to be a difficult thread to contend with. It pushes the story along, but it’s one of those situations that can be annoying. Galaeron’s jealousy, selfishness, and paranoia forces him to say detestable things and to commit terrible actions. The more he loses to his shadow, the more vile he becomes. It’s hard to read a story where the main character becomes unlikable.

Thankfully there are a lot of other characters that keep the story enjoyable.

The climax of the story ends up with a deadly battle between shadows and wizards. Galaeron has regained a bit of himself and the true heart of the Shadovar has been revealed. Yet the end is dark and inconclusive. With no clear winner, the story hangs onto the next. What becomes of Evereska? The phaerimm? Vaala, Galaeron, and Takari? Keya and Dexon? The Shadovar and Malygris?

The Sorcerer: Return of the Archwizards Book III

The Sorcerer ends the trilogy with a conclusion to the war. There are battles with the Shadovar, the Phaerimm, and the characters’ own internal shadow conflicts. It ends well but with some surprising story threads left in the air. Eventually some of these threads are picked up in Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale novels, while others may be waiting for Troy’s return to the Realms. Regardless, it was a good end to the series.

Return of the Archwizards has tons of action, great characters with good depth, and a twisting, engaging story that kept me reading page after page. If you’ve read Kemp’s Forgotten Realms books and enjoyed them, this is a great book to dive into. If you’re a Star Wars fan who has never read a non-Star Wars book by Troy Denning, I’d certainly recommend giving this one a try.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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