Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Druid's Call Review

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Druid's Call is the second prequel novel laying the ground work for the March 31 release of the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie. Between this YA novel by E.K. Johnston and Jaleigh Johnson's Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter novel, I'm cautiously optimistic about the direction being taken for the movie.

DnD Honor Among Thieves Druid Call.jpg

Like my review of the other book, I won't spoil anything from the movie that isn't in the trailers. References to the book's plot are within the confines of what's described in promotional material, but if you want to go in absolutely cold to the movie and/or book, proceed with caution.

All About Doric​

While the other novel focused on the bard Edgin and how he met Holga, Forge, and Simon, DnD:HAT:TDC focuses almost entirely on Doric, the tiefling druid. She does meet Simon during the story, and the epilogue helps to connect the dots between this novel and the start of the movie. Otherwise, it's entirely back story separate from the movie.

Johnston does an excellent job of giving the reader a feel for life in Faerun, especially life in wild communities instead of towns. Anyone who has ever been the outcast will also empathize with Doric. While not everyone judges her for being a tiefling, the early rejection and neglect makes her anticipate the worst until she gradually realizes that some people do accept her as she is and that no one is universally liked.

The novel alternates between Doric's very early life and how she was cruelly abandoned by her parents, the wood elf ranger community in the Neverwinter Woods that adopted her, and Doric's time with the Emerald Enclave in the Ardeep Forest, where she trains as a druid. While the book has a lot of action, it focuses on how Doric evolves from a girl so scared of rejection that she strives to simultaneously be useful and avoid notice to a focused, more confident person who has found her calling as a guardian of nature. It also delineates the everyday differences between rangers and druids.

About That Owlbear Wildshape​

DnD:HAT:TDC also addresses why Doric can, as shown in the trailers, wildshape into a owlbear, which isn't possible in D&D rules as written. Whether the answer is satisfactory might depend upon the reader, but Johnston simply provides a rationale for something movie screenwriters/directors/D&D players John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein included because owlbears are iconic to D&D and – let's be honest – it looks really cool.

Don't let the YA novel label deter you. Road to Neverwinter is a story told by Edgin, so its focus is on his perspective just like DnD:HAT:TDC is focused on Doric's. The main difference between the two novels is that DnD:HAT:TDC shows on how Doric learns to recognize and use her powers while in RTN the characters are already experienced so it explains on how they become a crew.

Should you Get It?​

I enjoyed DnD:HAT:TDC a lot and read it almost as quickly as I did Road to Neverwinter. If you like audiobooks, the narration by Emily Lawrence is very good. And like the RTN novel, I liked DnD:HAT:TDC more than I do most media tie-in novels. Rating: A.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels



NiClerigo

Adventurer
So far the paladin is the only one not being in any of these novels. I wonder if one with him will be released in the future
 


Dire Bare

Legend
Thanks for the review! Actually, both reviews! I just finished "Road to Neverwinter", "Druid's Call", and the prequel comic "Feast of the Moon". I enjoyed both books quite a bit, but felt the comic was okay, if a bit lackluster. Each story laid groundwork for the movie, based on what I've seen in the trailers.
 

M_Natas

Hero
I have just finished Druid's Call. I enjoyed it, but compared to Road to Neverwinter it is a bit lacking. If Road to Neverwinter does a good job of conveying what a D&D campaign feels like, the Druid's Call is more of the backstory a player comes up with for their character before the campaign starts.

I'll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but from here on there will be some slight plot spoilers, which shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying the book, but everyone has a different tolerance for spoilers, so be warned:

We have two story arcs - the internal one of Doric, her development from a frightened little abused (tiefling) child who trusts no one to a confident young druid, which is well done - and the external one, which is... rather unfocused and unfinished.

There are several external plots, all of which are a little lackluster. The two big ones are the druid school and the threat to the wood elf/doric family and their forest.

The Threat to the Neverwinter Forest - unfinished

The Threat arc is unfinished, and it looks like it will be resolved in the film, which is a little unsatisfying because it makes the book feel unfinished. Road to Neverwinter can be read on its own and has a satisfactory resolution of all the major plot arcs. Druid's Call leaves a big one hanging for the film.

Druid School

The second major external arc is the druid school, and this also felt a little lackluster. I love me a magical school story any time. I grew up with Harry Potter, but the Emerald Enclave is - boring? It's just a bunch of dudes and dudettes living in a forest. No cool hideout, no real flair, no real anything. For all the description or lack thereof we got, it could have been just any lumberjack camp in any forest. It didn't really feel magical. Like, anyone who has read Harry Potter (and the HP comparisons will come, because the stories are very similar) knows what Hogwarts feels like. How it is magical and quirky and a little bit dangerous. The Emerald Enclave is a generic camp in a generic forest.

And then the training to become a Druid - it lacked detail, it lacked a sense of wonder and awe.

The literal description of how they learned spells is "we went there, they showed us, we did it!" Part of this is probably the fault of D&D (5e). It doesn't really matter how spells work, only that they work for the game to be playable, so the details of how magic works are very rare and very incomplete and lackluster. Which is fine for a game. But not for a YA book where the main character goes to a druid school to learn druid magic! And they treat the wild shape the same way. No real sense of wonder, no depth, no detail. They literally describe it as "the guys in front of us turned me into animals, we tried it and at the end of the day me and another guy were able to do it".

Harry Potter meets D&D

The whole book is very similar to Harry Potter. We've got an abused protagonist whose parents are ashamed and afraid and hide her away, who learns she's magical and goes to a magical school.

The book is two genres:

It is a young adult story about an abused child who must learn to trust others and accept that she can be loved.

And a fantasy novel.

And the young adult parts of the story are the strong parts. They made me cry. The beginning of the story, when Doric is in the attic and realises that her parents have had another baby, is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing I have read in a long time. It is dark, emotionally gritty, and I was really excited to see where this story would go. And her personal growth arc is very good. It is the best part of the story. The author really seems to know how to write teenage protagonists, their problems and how they interact. It definitely beats Harry Potter in that regard.

But the fantasy part of the story is really lackluster. Not what I would expect from a D&D novel. I mean, everything looked fine until we got to the Emerald Enclave, and then it fell apart for me. In Road to Neverwinter, it was okay that we didn't go into depth on how magic works, because we were seeing it from Edgin's perspective, who didn't do magic himself.
But they took the same approach here. Only Doric is supposed to learn about magic. We see it from her perspective and we got absolutely nothing. No depth, no substance. The player's handbook gives me more fluff and descriptive detail in the class descriptions on how magic feels than this book about a druid school, and that can't be.

The rest of the fantasy world building and elements are fine, but nothing really special.

So I would give the YA part of the story a natural 19. The fantasy part a natural 7-8.

So the Druid's Call to me is like a 13 or 14 on a d20. Not great, but not too bad. The magical system of the story needs a lot more depth, but the YA parts are great. The fact that some major arcs are unfinished and will (hopefully) be completed in the move annoys me to no end.
All in all, though, we are really dealing with a well-written backstory for a player character who is now beginning his actual adventure. And that's the problem, the actual adventure is missing from this D&D novel. It's a good YA story, but not a good D&D novel.
 
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OB1

Jedi Master
Just finished both books and enjoyed them both! Druid's Call surprised me a bit more than Road to Neverwinter, and I thought the explanation behind the Owlbear wildshape ability was worth the read alone. Can't wait to see the movie next Thursday night!
 

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