Twilight Falling

Twilight Falling is an entertaining fantasy story that presents itself as a small chapter in a far larger epic. Author Paul S. Kemp entertains the reader with an unusually interesting cast of heroes set in a strange land in the middle of someone else’s quest. By coincidence or fate, a pair of assassins find themselves on a quest of vengeance against a shadow sorcerer seeking immortality. The book is part of the Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms series, yet Twilight Falling does not require any previous knowledge to the Forgotten Realms setting. Throughout the pages Kemp keeps the reader intrigued with fantasy elements that are fairly easy to follow for those not familiar with the genre. The story itself has a tight, personal focus that avoids drudging into convoluted politics of a pre-existing series. Maintaining momentum throughout, the story leaves the reader anxiously ready to plunge into the next book.

“…pragmatism is a merciless bitch. We can stand on principle and accomplish nothing, or we can grit our teeth and do what needs to be done.” -Cale

The story has three main stars: Cale, Riven, and Jak. Cale and Riven are both ex-assassins yet they are distinctly different. Cale has given up his past to embrace the role of caretaker for a local noble. In essence he’s a butler, like Alfred in Batman, but with the skills of an assassin (think Cato in the Green Hornet). But Cale isn’t the subservient type and he works only for those who he respects. His skills make him an indispensable adviser and bodyguard to his lord. On the other hand Riven is a hard edged killer with few friends and fewer morals. He is death on two legs, the duel welding swordsmen that strikes fear into his enemies, and the warrior who detests cowardice and hesitation. Where Cale is striving not to kill anyone he doesn’t have to, Riven has no such qualms and revels in the chance to feed his blades. Yet both characters have entered into a new chapter in their lives as they embrace a god called Mask who blesses them with special powers. In their first steps toward priesthood, they struggle to understand what costs will be entailed with this new relationship and that discovery plays an intriguing part in the story.

“A wild sea calls wild souls.”

Jak is the odd man in the mix. First off he is a Halfling which is race of beings who are very similar to humans but half their size. Secondly Jak serves a different god than Cale and Riven: Brandobaris, the trickster god. Furthermore Jak is a more of an adventurer, and has very strong morals. Where Riven and Cale might kill a man in cold blood, Jak wouldn’t think of it, though he isn’t a pacifist. Cale and Jak are also very close friends. On the other hand Riven and Jak would just as soon kill each other. Nevertheless the trio find themselves on the same path and the interactions with each other add an outstanding character dynamic to the story. Jak and Riven constantly barb each other with words leaving Cale as the middleman who has to keep some civility between them. Meanwhile Cale has no love for Riven, but he often finds himself wondering if he is any different, and in those times Jak serves as his conscience reminding him that he is something more.

“I don’t care if you’re human or not. You know? Because everything feels pain.” -Riven

The world the characters find themselves in is called Faerun. It’s a place of magic and feudal kingdoms much like any other sword and sorcery fantasy novel. In this particular book only a few different races actually appear, and for the most part the main characters are human with a few drow (dark elves) and later on some gnolls (hyena looking humanoids) and bullywugs (froglike humanoids). Most of the story also takes place in the city of Selgaunt, a mix of noble estates and merchant streets. As far as societies and kingdom politics go, they don’t play any part in the novel. The story is purely driven by the main characters, including the villains, and their personal quests.

Taken as a whole Twilight Falling is a very personal journey with a tight focus. The villain, Vraggen, has no previous quarrel with the main characters, and he is not a ruler or leader of an army. The villain is simply a wizard, albeit a powerful wizard, seeking an object of great significance that has to deal with the Fane of Shadows. Cale, Riven, and Jak find themselves involved and using all their talents and resources to try to stop Vraggen. When looked at from that perspective it’s a very simple tale, yet Kemp makes it personal and keeps it exciting. The well layered characters easily become real in the reader’s imagination. Like all good characters they have their flaws and they have down-to-earth human motivations. Yet they avoid the typical cookie cutter stereotypes and each one presents a journey to the reader as more and more details are revealed.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the book is how difficult of a time the heroes have in dealing with the villains. Every battle becomes a frustrating contest where you never quite know what’s going to happen or whose going to get hurt. Even the simple quest of stopping Vraggen unravels into something more profound as Kemp begins pulling back the curtains to the larger tale. The non-typical ending leaves the reader knowing that the story cannot end here, that the tale must continue, and in that respect Kemp shows just how skillful of a bard he can be.

If you liked Crosscurrent and Deceived, and you’re comfortable with sword and sorcery stories, then Twilight Falling is an excellent novel to jump into. Overall I give Twilight Falling a four out of five metal bikinis. It was a very enjoyable story with fascinating characters. I’d highly recommend reading the short story And All The Sinners, Saints to get a feel for Twilight Falling. It stars Cale and Riven and introduces their relationship with Mask. Time wise it’s also precedes this story (and you can read it for free here). Since Twilight Falling does end with a climatic cliff hanger, you might also want to consider buying The Erevis Cale Trilogy which includes Twilight Falling, Dawn of Night, and Midnight’s Mask plus the short stories And All The Sinners, Saints and Soulbound. Either way it’s still a great story worth checking out.

Reviewed By: Skuldren

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