Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

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Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Dragonhelm » Wed May 08, 2013 4:10 am

So I hear that the Prism Pentad is not liked by Dark Sun fans due to the changes it made, especially so shortly after the original boxed set came out. What I'm wondering is whether they are worth reading or not.

Likewise, I was wondering whether any of the other old or new fiction was worth reading.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Cthulhudrew » Wed May 08, 2013 7:21 am

I didn't like the Dark Sun novels for the sweeping changes they made to the setting, but mostly because I didn't feel they were very well written.

Of the main characters, the only one who had any real depth or personality- or who was remotely likable- was Agis of Asticles, the psionicist. Rikus, the Mul, was constantly complaining and bemoaning his fate in a way that made Tanis seem like an optimist. Sadira didn't really have much in the way of personality either, that I recall, and if anything seemed completely self-interested and unbelievable as a heroine of the world.

I also didn't like the way the Prism Pentad depicted magic and psionics- it didn't seem very D&D like, if you get my meaning. A lot of weird descriptions and things that didn't do justice to the game system (a problem I've seen in a lot of D&D fiction, and I've never quite understood how authors have such a hard time with it). It also took a lot of the uniqueness and mystery of the Dark Sun world and explained it in a way that was quite underwhelming to me (such as the question of why giants have animal heads).

That said, I did rather enjoy the Tribe of One series by Simon Hawke. A very interesting main character, a good storyline, and he handled the world and its flavor and magic very well. So I would recommend that.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby NPCDave » Tue May 14, 2013 9:07 am

I am in the minority in liking most of the Prism Pentad books, the first four, but not so much the last. My opinion is colored because for a long time my only exposure to Dark Sun was those novels, I didn't buy the box set for a long time or any other supplement, at most I read a Dungeon Mag adventure or two.

I will need to defend my opinion further than I can right now, but because I only knew what the novels were telling me, I was drawn into the mystery of how this D&D world had become what it was. I was engrossed as I learned what happened to the dwarves in the ancient past, and the mysterious Borys and other champions of Rajaat. It seemed each major character had the odds almost hopelessly stacked against them and was just barely able to pull out a victory against incredible odds, and the support network for good guys was the most threadbare cobweb.

I had only read the first Dragonlance trilogy before this one, and so even after Prism Pentad I still had a high opinion of D&D fiction.(that would later change). So perhaps the best way to approach it is to not know anything about Dark Sun and read the Prism Pentad. Unfortunately that is probably already too late.

I read one Dark Sun fan who explained in a critique how the second, third and fourth novels should have ended, and I had to agree that doing it the way he suggested would have been better overall for developing the campaign setting as a place where PCs would be the movers and shakers, rather than the novel characters. I did pick up the Dark Sun gaming materials much later, and the bigger problem even more so than the drastic changes is having NPCs doing all the major changes leaving PCs having minor roles. I think it was even worse in this regard than FR.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Chimpman » Tue May 14, 2013 4:54 pm

NPCDave wrote:I am in the minority in liking most of the Prism Pentad books, the first four, but not so much the last. My opinion is colored because for a long time my only exposure to Dark Sun was those novels, I didn't buy the box set for a long time or any other supplement, at most I read a Dungeon Mag adventure or two.

I'm in the same boat as you actually - having the Prism Pentad books be my first introduction to Dark Sun. I liked all of the novels (actually now I'm not sure I made it through all 5... maybe only 4... I'll have to go back and check). Unlike you my interest never went beyond Dragon Mag - though I've always wanted to delve deeper into that world.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:44 pm

Dragonhelm wrote:So I hear that the Prism Pentad is not liked by Dark Sun fans due to the changes it made, especially so shortly after the original boxed set came out. What I'm wondering is whether they are worth reading or not.


I got these fairly recently and they are my current novels to take to work and read on the London Underground.

I really really enjoyed the first novel (with most of the characters in it). After that, I've been reading novels where the characters have mostly been split up. I have enjoyed those too, but not quite as much as I enjoyed the first novel. I've not read them all yet, but it seems like most of the characters have the habit of doing something stupid that gets background characters killed. (Background characters need to die in fantasy books, but if you can see it coming a mile off, the viewpoint characters should also be able to see it.)

Having said that, I still think they are worth reading and am glad I bought them. I'm not sure I would use the Prism Pentad changes, but I don't see them as a reason to dislike the books. I think they show some possible ways that player characters might be able to radically change the campaign setting. And I think they also show the consequences of trying to radically change some of the fundamental elements of the campaign setting.

I'm not sure I know enough to run a Dark Sun game (and I've got other priorities *cough* SJ3e *cough*) but I think I would be very happy to run the campaign from the very first Dark Sun boxed set, but also insert the Prism Pentad characters (including all the minor background characters) into the game as background NPCs. That way, you could use the personalities that the books show, without their actions dominating a Dark Sun game.

...but at the same time, if the players actually like any of the stuff from the Prism Pentad and want to try to make it happen, those NPCs (along with other ones that are not in the novels) might be useful for allowing them to attempt it.

I got the books pretty cheap. I think you should buy them too.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Havard » Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:42 pm

I just noticed there was a novel called Death Mark:The Dread of this Desolation by Robert Schwalb published in 2011. Has anyone read this one?

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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Knightfall » Mon May 05, 2014 7:34 am

Havard wrote:I just noticed there was a novel called Death Mark:The Dread of this Desolation by Robert Schwalb published in 2011. Has anyone read this one?

-Havard

Yes, I've read it.

It is a great book that stays true to the origins of the setting, but it also goes its own way. I highly recommend it.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Knightfall » Mon May 05, 2014 7:37 am

There were also two other new Dark Sun novels: City Under the Sand (October 2010) and Under the Crimson Sun (June 2011). I haven't been able to find copies of either of them... yet. :)
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Raddu » Wed May 07, 2014 4:07 am

I'm a fan of the original Pentad, as well as all of the Tribe of One and most of the Chronicles of Athas (except Cinnabar Shadows).

As for the new books, I think City Under the Sand and Crimson Sun are not worth the read, while Death Mark is probably one of the best Dark Sun novels around.

Here's my review on Athas.org (no spoilers):http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-novel-review

Here's my interview with the author, Robert Scwalb: http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-interview-with-robert-j-schwalb
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:41 am

Knightfall wrote:
Havard wrote:I just noticed there was a novel called Death Mark:The Dread of this Desolation by Robert Schwalb published in 2011. Has anyone read this one?

Yes, I've read it.

It is a great book that stays true to the origins of the setting, but it also goes its own way. I highly recommend it.


Erm. I checked the WotC page and this seems very familiar. Isn't this a reboot of the story in the first and second book of the Prism Pentad? :?

Raddu wrote:I'm a fan of the original Pentad, as well as all of the Tribe of One and most of the Chronicles of Athas (except Cinnabar Shadows).


I missed the reference to Tribe of One, when Cthulhudrew mentioned it. Are there a lot of books in the series?

And what is Chronicles of Athas like?

Raddu wrote:As for the new books, I think City Under the Sand and Crimson Sun are not worth the read, while Death Mark is probably one of the best Dark Sun novels around.


Any particular reason why you do not like those novels? Are they bad stories or just not very true to the campaign setting?

Also, do the 4e Era Dark Sun novels introduce a lot of Points of Light themes to the world?

Raddu wrote:Here's my review on Athas.org (no spoilers):http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-novel-review

Here's my interview with the author, Robert Scwalb: http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-interview-with-robert-j-schwalb


Thanks for the links! That wil help me decide if I should buy that novel. :)
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Raddu » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:52 pm

Erm. I checked the WotC page and this seems very familiar. Isn't this a reboot of the story in the first and second book of the Prism Pentad? :?


No, it's not a reboot, it's just concurrent with the original timeline.

I missed the reference to Tribe of One, when Cthulhudrew mentioned it. Are there a lot of books in the series?

And what is Chronicles of Athas like?


Tribe of one has 3 books in it, IIRC
CHronicles of Athas is a 5 book series, but all the books are different characters, maybe some small crossover, hard to remember, it's been years. Definitely read Rise and Fall of a Dragon King, one of the best, despite or perhaps because of the "historical errors"

Raddu wrote:As for the new books, I think City Under the Sand and Crimson Sun are not worth the read, while Death Mark is probably one of the best Dark Sun novels around.


Any particular reason why you do not like those novels? Are they bad stories or just not very true to the campaign setting?


There are too many setting mistakes and it takes me out of the immersion for me. You can tell they were written by authors who are not real fans, just hired guns.

Also, do the 4e Era Dark Sun novels introduce a lot of Points of Light themes to the world?

Raddu wrote:Here's my review on Athas.org (no spoilers):http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-novel-review

Here's my interview with the author, Robert Scwalb: http://athas.org/articles/death-mark-interview-with-robert-j-schwalb


Thanks for the links! That wil help me decide if I should buy that novel. :)[/quote]
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:54 am

Raddu wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Erm. I checked the WotC page and this seems very familiar. Isn't this a reboot of the story in the first and second book of the Prism Pentad? :?


No, it's not a reboot, it's just concurrent with the original timeline.


Hmm. That sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I might add Death Mark:The Dread of this Desolation to my Dark Sun novel wishlist. :)

Raddu wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I missed the reference to Tribe of One, when Cthulhudrew mentioned it. Are there a lot of books in the series?

And what is Chronicles of Athas like?


Tribe of one has 3 books in it, IIRC
CHronicles of Athas is a 5 book series, but all the books are different characters, maybe some small crossover, hard to remember, it's been years. Definitely read Rise and Fall of a Dragon King, one of the best, despite or perhaps because of the "historical errors"


I mostly want to learn more about Dark Sun from the stories in the novels. So different characters doesn't bother me too much.

Raddu wrote:
Big Mac wrote:
Raddu wrote:As for the new books, I think City Under the Sand and Crimson Sun are not worth the read, while Death Mark is probably one of the best Dark Sun novels around.


Any particular reason why you do not like those novels? Are they bad stories or just not very true to the campaign setting?


There are too many setting mistakes and it takes me out of the immersion for me. You can tell they were written by authors who are not real fans, just hired guns.


It is a shame when you get continuity errors in fantasy novels. I think that, when they make complex rules for fantasy worlds it can be hard for people to keep track of them all. Authors really need to do research to avoid errors.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby multizar » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:43 am

The Tribe of One series was imho much better than the Prism Pentad. There was a follow up novel in the chronicles series but I did not like it as much. It has been years since I have read them, but I remember that I read the trilogy in about 3 days. The author, Simon Hawke, also wrote the best Birthright novels and a couple of Star Trek the Next Generation novels that were ok.

I would recommend The Tribe of One series to anyone who wants to read Dark Sun novels. In fact, after I finish the series I am reading now, I am going to read them again.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:01 pm

multizar wrote:I would recommend The Tribe of One series to anyone who wants to read Dark Sun novels. In fact, after I finish the series I am reading now, I am going to read them again.


I might put these on my wishlist. Do you recall the names of the individual novels?
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby multizar » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:12 pm

1. The Outcast
2. The Seeker
3. The Nomad
and The Broken Blade from Chronicles of Athas.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:09 am

multizar wrote:1. The Outcast
2. The Seeker
3. The Nomad
and The Broken Blade from Chronicles of Athas.


Thanks Multizar. I'll look out for these.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Grummore » Wed Jun 25, 2014 7:20 pm

I'd go with the Prism Pentad. I liked RafoaDK and a few from Chronicles of Athas.

The worst books I have read are those from Tribe of One. OMG. If you want to feel like you are reading old entries of the DS Monsters Manual 2nd when he does some descriptions and know he's too strong for anything he encounter, go for it, read. It's kind if Simon Hawke never took the time to immerse himself or read a bit about dark sun. He's not subtle and you can feel it in some Star Trek novel he wrote as well.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:32 am

Grummore wrote:I'd go with the Prism Pentad. I liked RafoaDK and a few from Chronicles of Athas.


Welcome to The Piazza Grummore. Thanks for delurking/signing up to tell us about Dark Sun novels. :)

There is an "Introduce yourself here" thread if you fancy saying helo to everyone and saying a bit about yourself or the stuff you like.

What is "RafoaDK"? I don't know the names of all the Dark Sun novels.

Grummore wrote:The worst books I have read are those from Tribe of One. OMG. If you want to feel like you are reading old entries of the DS Monsters Manual 2nd when he does some descriptions and know he's too strong for anything he encounter, go for it, read. It's kind if Simon Hawke never took the time to immerse himself or read a bit about dark sun. He's not subtle and you can feel it in some Star Trek novel he wrote as well.


I remember getting some advice about Greyhawk novels to not read, when I was looking for the ones that I did want to read. :)

So is it just the combat encounters that are a bit dodgy in Tribe of One? Are the non-combat sections any better?

Cthulhudrew seemed to like the books, so I'd be interested in where you see the problem to be.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby XstarkillerX » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:33 am

Big Mac wrote:What is "RafoaDK"? I don't know the names of all the Dark Sun novels.

The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King. I can't say anything about the quality of the novel as it's still in my to read list.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:19 pm

XstarkillerX wrote:
Big Mac wrote:What is "RafoaDK"? I don't know the names of all the Dark Sun novels.

The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King. I can't say anything about the quality of the novel as it's still in my to read list.


After looking at the new and old covers for this book on Amazon (and I really do not like the new cover so if I buy this, I'll want the original cover) it looks like this is Book 5 of Chronicles of Athas. Multizar recommended another book from Chronicles of Athas.

I don't really like buying single books out of a sequence. I prefer to read the entire sequence.

Could someone list all the novels in Chronicles of Athas. Please bear in mind that I still don't know much about Dark Sun novels, so if you drop abbreviations, you are going to confuse me. :)
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Sturm » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:31 am

Hi, here should be the complete list:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Sun#Novels
I've read only the Prism Pentad and I have, but I haven't read yet, the New Fiction..
and now I want the others too :)
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby XstarkillerX » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:55 am

Sturm wrote:Hi, here should be the complete list:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Sun#Novels
I've read only the Prism Pentad and I have, but I haven't read yet, the New Fiction..
and now I want the others too :)

In this list you can find a short story in a collection, in addition to those listed in Wikipedia. The page lists, besides the novels, everything ever published for Dark Sun. It's a very handy link.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:03 am

Thanks Sturm/Starkiller.

Echohawk does some great research. :)
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Alzrius » Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:32 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Grummore wrote:The worst books I have read are those from Tribe of One. OMG. If you want to feel like you are reading old entries of the DS Monsters Manual 2nd when he does some descriptions and know he's too strong for anything he encounter, go for it, read. It's kind if Simon Hawke never took the time to immerse himself or read a bit about dark sun. He's not subtle and you can feel it in some Star Trek novel he wrote as well.


I remember getting some advice about Greyhawk novels to not read, when I was looking for the ones that I did want to read. :)

So is it just the combat encounters that are a bit dodgy in Tribe of One? Are the non-combat sections any better?

Cthulhudrew seemed to like the books, so I'd be interested in where you see the problem to be.


I agree with Grummore in that I didn't care very much for the Tribe of One novels. To me, the issue was one of characterization.

Simply put, the main character of the Tribe of One novels feels dangerously close to being a Mary Sue (to use a somewhat loaded term). That is, he seems to be largely aloof from both the dangers of Athas and from the morally gray areas that (are supposed to) come from living in such a dangerous world. It's constantly emphasized that he has, for all intents and purposes, a "super power" that can do whatever needs to be done to pull him out of almost any sort of danger. As Athas is supposed to be a place where even basic survival is called into question, particularly outside of the city-states, this really served to de-emphasize what I felt were the more interesting parts of the what it means to being an "adventurer" on Athas.

This was especially true with regards to the main character's moral dimension. The nature of living in such a harsh world is that it requires harsh choices - do you die for your principles, or compromise them in order to survive? In the Prism Pentad, Sadira faced this more than once with the issue of using defiling magic, which is part of what I liked about her character. By contrast, the main character of the Tribe of One was not only morally-superior to everyone around him, but was blithely so; he could afford to be that way due to his overwhelming personal power. A character that already exists on a plane of moral perfection is one that I have a hard time empathizing with; at the very least, it makes any angst the character does feel with regards to an issue feel largely contrived.

Oh, and the characters actually play a table-top role-playing game in the third book. I suspect that this was largely meant to be amusingly self-referential, but it came across as cheesy.
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Re: Dark Sun Novels - Any good?

Postby Grummore » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:27 pm

Couldn't have explained it better than you did Alzrius.

Sorry Big Mac if I haven't introduced myself :-)

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