Paul S. Kemp has, once again, delivered the goods with Midnight's Mask, the third book of the Erevis Cale trilogy, following Twilight Falling and Dawn of Night.
The story felt epic in nature as the events chronicled in this book took our intrepid heroes from the ratty streets of Selgaunt to the deepest depths of the Inner Sea. However, when it comes down to what Midnight's Mask really is and, indeed, what this entire series will best be remembered for, the answer is simply, the characters.
Erevis Cale leads a battered and beaten troupe of friends, the psionic teafling, Magadon, the stalwart Halfling priest Jak Fleet and the mysterious Drasek Riven, an assassin and fellow follower of Mask whose loyalties seem to constantly shift. These four companions are opposed by a being of immense power, The Sojourner, and two of his "sons," powerful creatures known as Slaads. From the first page to the very last of this novel, Erevis and company must fight overwhelming odds to stop The Sojourner from completing his task. They battle to stalemates, flee for their lives and fight to the death. This is a dark story that, at its heart, is a simple allegory concerning man's selfishness versus his need to belong to something greater than himself. It is about sacrifice and friendship. It is about human beings, creatures who are always more than what they appear.
It is no fluke that Mr. Kemp's heroes are flawed, real characters, while the villains are a mirror to those heroes, a device to show them...and us, the readers...what is truly important in a world that seems to have gone haywire...where nothing makes sense and where the darkness seems to have taken a foothold over the land...and over the heart. Mr. Kemp has shown a magical ability to create and bring to life characters of deep meaning and ones which we care for, even though we question in the back of our minds why we should. They are complex characters. They are as real as fiction can make them.
The Erevis Cale trilogy, and Midnight's Mask in particular, is a gory, dark and deeply disturbing look into the shadows of the heart and soul. It is also an incredibly emotional and uplifting tale of men who struggle daily with that darkness...and choose instead to follow the path of light and goodness. Midnight's Mask is about wanting to make a difference...wanting to be a hero in the truest sense of the word. It is also about not enslaving oneself to a perceived course of action, a destiny, if you will. This is a story about following your own heart...your own course...for your own reasons.
This novel brought me to tears. It did so because of its honest portrayal of what is important to the human heart. Mr. Kemp shined a mirror into the hearts and souls of his readers...and his entire trilogy showed us that even those who live in darkness never have to let that darkness consume them. Midnight's Mask not only gets my highest recommendation, but a promise to this author that my loyalty to his work has been more than earned for, hopefully, decades to come. Thank you, Paul! And well done!