From the back cover......Huntings parties from an elven village are mysteriously disappearing. Similar mysteries plague a dwarven settlement on the far side of the mountains. Each side blames the other. Only a band of tried and true heroes can root out what sinister force manipulates these normally peaceful people. But can they conquer that evil before the tribes go to war?
The Living Dead is the second novel in the 2002 series introducing archetypical "iconic" 3.0 Dungeons & Dragons characters in literary terms. These novels were apparently designed to support the 3.0 launch by inserting players handbook characters into actions and/or quests that D&D fans could both understand and enjoy.
I found the second novel to be a chore to read. The three iconic characters in this book are: Mialee the elven Wizard, Devis the half-elven Bard, and Soveliss the elven Ranger. I had several issues with the way these iconic characters were presented. Mialee, for example, apparantly has a "thing" for musicians and is a cheap drunk. This combination results in her staying the night (on the first night they meet) with Devis. Somehow I never pictured an elven wizard doing such things. Also, she runs nude through town - really without pressing cause either. Soveliss is bitter and angry at the other characters and even standoffish to his nephew, etc...just little inconsistencies that seemed jarring or out of character for intelligent elves that are meant to be iconic.
The foes in this book are waaaaayyyy above the characters "pay grade" also. Basically they have to fight a super-wight who can easily make other wights and "wightlings" out of rats, wolves, crocodiles, etc...and these creatures turn other creatures to the undead also with just a simple bite. Other plot failures is the existance of a "mythical" and "secret" elven village that has been rumored to exist but never found for hundreds of years. The party easily finds it though and the entire town is now the living dead. THOUSANDS of elves are now the living dead? It would seem that a community with thousands of members would be hard to hide in the first place and not very secret. Plus, thousands of elves dead? That seems pretty drastic and a little over the top perhaps.
Perhaps the most maddening thing about this book was how death was handled. One of the other characters in this book loses his village and his wife and seems to be only slightly put out by it all. Then one of the major characters "dies" and he freaks out - crying hysterically and pouring all these healing potions down the throat of this character. Why didn't he act like this when his wife died literally about four hours previously? Whats worse, this character also had two young children killed some few hours before his wife was killed. The lack of grief and/or misplaced grief was just over the top unrealistic. Another example, an elven child of 8 or 12 is not concerned much at all with the impending doom of her parents but is instead concerned with the welfare of a halfing she just met and wants to go with him to safety, leaving her parents to die. Even though her parents survive at the end, it doesn't register to their daughter to care in the first place. This constant and uneven treatment of death or threat of death throughout the book was what really got to me.
In short, I think this particular book fell far short of the first book in this series, and I really hope the remaining eight books are better.
Eventually a total of ten books were written for this series by various staff writers in the WOTC stable. All ten used the psuedo-name "T.H. Lain" to grant continuity between the books. Each adventure looks like it features different iconic characters and as I read them I will post reviews for all, along with which characters were present. My hope is that the story line is pulled from one book to another but that is never a sure thing with multiple authors.
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