Return to Quag Keep
I think it would be better if this book were badly written. Unfortunately, it’s main fault is that it’s badly plotted and overly focused on the gritty realism of the world at the expense of actual world-building or character development. The characters from the original book find themselves down and out with no money and no prospects where the only prospect for work is to hire on with one of the local nobles. As near as I can tell, the characters, having succeeded in reaching Quag Keep, have reverted to 0-level characters incapable of actually doing much of anything other than feeling sorry for themselves and, in the case of one character, dying in a rather perfunctory fashion early into the book just to hammer home the point that there’s some evil afoot intent on wiping out all the characters. This book manages to avoid the charm of the original and similar books like Hugh White’s Magira series while failing to full embrace the whiny fish-out-of-water trope of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series. How does the first character die? He gets his throat cut in an alley after pages of build-up where that character’s backstory of his life on Earth is revealed. It’s not a heroic death or a battle against overwhelming odds compounded by the character’s stupidity since he and his compatriots somehow think, up until that point, that the perpetrator is on their side. We’re not talking something like the betrayal by Orl Fane in The Sword of Shannara – this is more obvious and predictable than that. So, to sum up, gritty realism, characters that aren’t sympathetic (until they get killed off), generic villain, generic fantasy setting where the only realism is the aforementioned grit, and a pointless plot-driven quest comprise this lackluster book.