Honor Among Thieves: Road to Neverwinter Review

I'm frequently disappointed by media tie-in novels. Many are lackluster or feel like they're going through the motions. That makes Jaleigh Johnson's Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter, one of two prequel novels for the movie releasing on March 31, such a pleasant surprise.

DnD Honor Among Thieves Road Neverwinter.jpg


The Framing Story​

While DnD:HAT:TRtN (that title is a mouthful even abbreviated) is a prequel and therefore has no spoilers for the movie, be warned if you want to walk into the movie knowing absolutely nothing. This review will discuss characters from the movie. Similarly, while I won't give away major plot points from the book, I do reference things mentioned in promotions for the book.

Technically, DnD:HAT:TRtN is a story Edgin (played by Chris Pine in the movie) is telling his daughter. That story begins with Edgin the bard as a widowed father, having recently quit the Harpers (think good guy spies in Faerun) after his wife was killed in retribution by enemies of the Harpers (this is referenced in one of the movie trailers). Edgin is floundering amidst his grief and decides to go to the local tavern with his infant daughter for a hot meal.

It Starts in a Tavern​

Like all good D&D adventures, important things happen in a tavern.

An exhausted Edgin meets Holga (played by Michelle Rodriguez in the movie), who has been expelled by her tribe, and they end up helping each other. Flash forward nine years, and Edgin and Holga visit that same tavern again, this time meeting Forge (Hugh Grant), a con man. When the town is attacked, Edgin, Holga, and Forge team up to get their stuff back, and end up hailed as heroes. Forge then parlays that into an opportunity for them to make “easy money” a few months later, looking for someone who disappeared.

But it's never that easy in a D&D adventure.

During that expedition, the group meets Simon (Justice Smith), a half-elf sorcerer striving to live up to his family's legacy. Afterward, Simon brings them an opportunity to rob a wealthy, eccentric dragonborn mage.

Unlike some D&D groups, Edgin and his crew put together a good heist plan. Like most D&D campaigns, things get complicated and don't go as planned.

Is it Good?​

DnD:HAT:TRtN needed to accomplish three things: 1) encourage people to see the movie; 2) please existing D&D fans; and 3) attract fantasy fans who have never played D&D. The prequel does an excellent job on all three counts.

The story feels like D&D adventures, and the book also has a lot of heart. One of my complaints about Dragonlance: Dragons of Deceit was that I never felt an emotional connection to Destina or the other characters. In DnD:HAT:TRtN, I feel for Edgin's survivor's guilt and need to protect his family of misfits in a world with gnolls, beholders, dire wolves, etc.

Author Jaleigh Johnson also doesn't reach for the stereotypical reasons when a better one is believable. Holga is a perfect example. She's a strong, blunt, axe-wielding barbarian, but her reasons for being reluctant about certain things go deeper than barbarian cliches, and made me feel for Holga.

Movie novelizations and prequels are typically written while the movie is filming, so they have the shooting script to work from but no actual footage. Johnson does a great job of matching the characters' dialogue to the tone and delivery the actors use in the trailer. In the audiobook version, narrator Fred Berman enhances this by evoking the actors without doing actual impressions of them. It's easy to imagine the actors in their roles.

I read this book very fast because it engaged me quickly, and I didn't want to put it down – and that's the mark of a good book. Some D&D books feel more like they're checking off a list of D&D terms and tropes with shallow characters that evoke little interest or empathy.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter had enough twists to keep me guessing, and characters I came to care about. I was also far more entertained by it than other similar books I've read. If the actual movie is anything like this prequel, it's going to be good. A+
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


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I don't dislike this book, but, for balance, I will mention that it is full of anachronisms. Fore example Edgin complains that the ale isn't chilled. Given that chilled beer requires refrigeration, and this isn't Eberron, I'm pretty certain that everyone in the Forgotten Realms drinks ale the proper way, at room temperature.
 

M_Natas

Hero
I don't dislike this book, but, for balance, I will mention that it is full of anachronisms. Fore example Edgin complains that the ale isn't chilled. Given that chilled beer requires refrigeration, and this isn't Eberron, I'm pretty certain that everyone in the Forgotten Realms drinks ale the proper way, at room temperature.
Or cantrips like prestidigitation.
I noticed few anachronisms, too, but ... for me that added to the feel of reading a D&D campaign. And there weren't to many, so it didn't get to distracting.
 

Or cantrips like prestidigitation.
I noticed few anachronisms, too, but ... for me that added to the feel of reading a D&D campaign. And there weren't to many, so it didn't get to distracting.
I've seen loads. E.g. references to "mail order". I cant see Targos having a postal service to support this. Also, they drink whiskey, with an e, which comes from Ireland. Which wasn't part of the Forgotten Realms last time I looked.
 

Dioltach

Legend
In my many years of drinking whiskey, I always learned that "whisky" meant Scotch whisky, and everywhere else added the -e-. I just double-checked, and it seems it's not quite so clear-cut. Apparently the preferred US spelling is with an -e- (presumably because of all the Irish immigrants), but it's not applied consistently. Japan spells it without, supposedly because the industry there was launched by a pair of Scots. Amrut from India spells it without.
 

In my many years of drinking whiskey, I always learned that "whisky" meant Scotch whisky, and everywhere else added the -e-. I just double-checked, and it seems it's not quite so clear-cut. Apparently the preferred US spelling is with an -e- (presumably because of all the Irish immigrants), but it's not applied consistently. Japan spells it without, supposedly because the industry there was launched by a pair of Scots. Amrut from India spells it without.
If it has an e, it comes from Ireland, if it doesn't it comes from Scotland. If it comes from anywhere else it just foul-tasting distilled grain alcohol.
 


M_Natas

Hero
Just finished the book and here is my Review (please excuse my English, I'm not a native speaker):

Dungeons and Dragons – Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter – a critical hit – Review (20/20)​


The Road to Neverwinter is a prequel novel to the new Dungeons and Dragons movie Honor Among Thieves, which is coming to cinemas soon.


And I have to say, if this is how Wizards of the Coast wants to monetise their D&D brand, I’m all in.


Road to Neverwinter is not only a good D&D novel, but also a good fantasy novel in the Sword & Sorcery genre in its own right, and if the quality of the novel is any indicator of the quality of the film, then we probably have the first really good Dungeons & Dragons feature film here with Honor among Thieves. (Disclaimer: I bought the original English version. I haven’t seen a German translation, I can’t say anything about the quality of any translation, and I didn’t receive a review copy or anything else from WotC to write this review).


I will try to keep the following review as spoiler-free as possible.


Summary​


The framing story is Edgin telling his daughter a bedtime story about the adventures they’ve had together and how their family has grown together. The rest of the story, then, is a narrative by Edgin.


Edgin is a father, a widower and has to look after his young daughter Kira on his own. He is also a former Harper agent. He meets Holga in a tavern, a barbarian who has been cast out by her tribe. Two lost souls who find each other, help each other and care for Kira together. Together they experience adventures, and with each adventure the little family grows by another member: Forge, the rogue, and Simon, the sorcerer. Thus, little by little, a small group of adventurers emerges, as known from many D&D campaigns. In total, there are four different adventures that they experience together, with the last one taking up about 50% of the entire book.


Yes, especially the beginning is not the typical D&D novel plot. It’s about family, about bonding, about personal and everyday problems, like getting enough food on the table.


There is not a single fight in the first 15 percent of the book. I think that’s a brave choice, but it works out perfectly. It shows that Dungeons and Dragons can be more than “kick down the door, kill the monster and steal the treasure”.


The characters are always outmatched in combat, the monsters and enemies are always stronger or outnumbered, and they have to use cunning and planning to get through the battles. Since I don’t want to spoil anything, I won’t reveal more here.


But if the whole thing were a D&D campaign, I would like it.


Top​


Overall, I think the novel perfectly conveys what a D&D campaign would feel like. You would think, yes, that’s what my group would do. But at the same time I would say that you can read and understand the whole novel without having been exposed to Dungeons and Dragons before. It is a very good fantasy novel even without D&D.


The characters all make sense, the magic is not overdone and solves all the problems of our heroes, they have to solve the problems with their minds and when they do stupid things it gets them into trouble. You feel for the characters and don’t feel they are flat, they are real.


The references to the D&D rulebook are there, but not distracting. All in all, the novel is well written. The language is natural and understandable. The plot is varied and not always predictable, but not unrealistic either.


I would say The Road to Neverwinter would make a perfect short TV or Netflix series. Maybe 5 or 6 episodes.


Flop​


There is not much to criticise about this novel.


There are a few anachronisms, a few descriptions that seem modern. But these are so few individual sentences that they don’t bother much.


One could perhaps be bothered by the fact that especially the last heist is not really well planned and the planning itself is rather skimmed over, but at the same time this is how it would go in many D&D campaigns.


Conclusion​


Dungeons and Dragons – Honor Among Thieves – The Road to Neverwinter is a critical hit. Author Jaleigh Johnson has rolled a natural 20 here and I will be checking out her other (D&D) novels. The book is fun and I can recommend Roads to Neverwinter to anyone who likes D&D novels, who likes Sword & Sorcery novels and who wants to read a fantasy novel with a rather small focus, with personal stories and low stakes, where for once the fate of the whole world is not in the hands of the protagonists. The novel is also good for D&D newcomers and the curious, as it conveys very well what a low-stakes D&D campaign can look like.
 

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