Most helpful critical review
A nice vile change of pace.
on September 12, 2000
Troy Denning is one of the better TSR (I won't mention WOtc) fantasy authors, and he deserves credit for writing a novel in the form of a first-person account of the trial of Cyric and its circumstances. It's especially interesting since the point of view is that of Malik, a pathetic -and at times humorous- spy that clings to Cyric despite that god's cruelty to him. Thus the tone of the book is morbid, but Malik is an interesting enough character to keep one reading, if only to discover what extremes he will push himself to to attempt to free Cyric of his madness.
Like the previous Avatar books, the gods are major characters, and some are fleshed out better than they were before, such as Tyr and Talos. Torm, however, one of the protagonists of Prince of Lies, is barely to be found here. Instead, Mystra, who represents the 'good guys' in the book, appears to be fallible, and Kelemvor suddenly discovers the meaning of Lawful Neutral. The chapters that describe characters other than Malik are told mostly in a third-person narrative, but still from the pen of Malik, so Mystra is at times described as the "Harlot" and Cyric as the "One" or "Our Dark Lord."
This may be why the book does not much discuss the fate of Gwydion and Rinda, two prominent and likeable characters from Prince of Lies who are slain early in the book by Malik in a very Douglas Niles-like fashion. For that matter, much of the book is filled with grotesque imagery and gore, usually due to Cyric (surprise), but Denning's writing style is good enough so that this does not become cliche. Just be prepared for a character to enter the novel, begin to be fleshed out, then die in a horrific way. It all reminds the reader of the Moonshae Trilogy at times.
Malik himself is both amusing and disturbing, both because he is willing to go to shocking extremes for Cyric, who he seems to both love and hate, and because the little turd's stinginess is amazing (such as when he 'only has time to take the gold'). The end of the book does not tie up all of the loose ends that this series has presented, nor could it be expected to, since it is 'written' by a Cyricist, but its conclusion is very exciting and does not produce a clear victory for good or for evil.
Disgusting at times, but an engrossing read. In some ways, I wouldn't mind another novel that might involve some of the lesser characters -such as Rinda, whose cheap death is one of the books' more bothersome aspects- in some way, but this is good enough for now. At least Elminster kept himself out of this one.