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

Really? You're complaining about whiskey with an "e" as breaking immersion? Ireland isn't a part of the Realms, but neither is anywhere else on Planet Earth.

The "mail order" reference stood out to me also, it felt like too modern a reference, but . . . . the Realms DOES have a mail order catalog in-universe!

Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue
Gotta find nits to pick somewhere!

Might also query the distance from Targos to Longsaddle...
 
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GDGD

microscopic
Finally got around to reading this. Overall, I enjoyed it. I thought the quality of writing was decent when compared to other trash fantasy, although mediocre at best when compared to contemporary fiction in general. Only a handful of things bothered me:
  • The author uses the word "week" several times. This is really not consistent with Realmslore, where "tenday" would be the preferred choice.
  • The geography is weird... they're described as living in Targos, and it's implied that Longsaddle is within a day's ride, which again isn't consistent at all with Faerun's geography. Icewind dale isn't really given any character either... it's almost as if the author thought Targos was somewhere East of Waterdeep.
  • Assuming this book is meant to appeal to fans of the movie who might not know anything about D&D, the author seems to assume the reader knows things they probably don't. In an encounter with gnolls, for example, the gnolls are given no description at all. Not one word. Maybe this can be chalked up to mediocre writing, but it's a missed opportunity to not effectively evoke what it would really be like for a hulking hyena-faced monster to burst in and attack you.
 

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