Darkwell – Douglas Niles

Note: before reading this review, you may wish to go back and read my thoughts on the first two books in this series: Darkwalker on Moonshae and Black Wizards. What I discussed in those reviews will be very relevant here.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this to myself. The first two books in the Moonshae Trilogy were pretty brutal reads. But regardless, I guess I felt obligated to see it through to the end. Well, I have just finished reading Darkwell and as you might expect, I wasn’t very impressed.

Released under the Forgotten Realms banner, the Moonshae Trilogy focuses on events from a particular corner of the realm, the Moonshae Isles. While not the most traditional setting in the realms, the Moonshaes certainly have potential for great storytelling. Sadly, the first two books in this series squandered much of that potential. This book was the author’s chance to redeem himself and as you might have guess, he failed.

Darkwell concludes the story of Tristan Kendrick (now known as King of the Ffolk) as he goes to battle with evil god Bhaal for a final time. Humiliated by his previous defeat, Bhaal pulls out all the stops this time around. In this quest for revenge, Bhaal manages to corrupt the sacred druid groves of the Moonshae Isles and even manages to possess the great druid Genna Moonsinger (literally reducing her to nothing more than a sex toy for his cleric). As his corruption spreads, it catches the attention of Robyn, (Genna’s student and also the love interest of King Tristan). Despite this, all Tristan can seem to think about is marrying Robyn. As you might expect, she declines the offer for the time being until more pressing matters can be dealt with. This annoys Tristan so he gets drunk and takes some random bar wench to bed. Naturally, Robyn walks in and catches them in the middle of it. From here, the book continues to spiral out of control. Robyn runs off in disgust and sets out to find the source of the corruption plaguing her lands. In response, Tristan and company decides to pursue her. However, most of his friends now dislike him because of his betrayal. Eventually, Tristan and Robyn reunite but she remains angry with him but agrees to team up because she knows defeating Bhaal will require that they all work together.

If the second book in this trilogy showed a little promise for the series, this book flushes that promise down the toilet. The writing is still atrocious and, despite what feels like an honest effort, the character development is non-existent. With the exception of Robyn, every character in this book feels wooden and acts like they are driven by a motor. After seeing some decent development for Tristan in the last novel, it just makes no sense that he could suddenly turn into a horny drunk at the beginning of this book. To make maters worse one of few characters in the trilogy that actually seemed somewhat interesting ends up perishing in a rather pointless way.

The Moonshae Isles are a very niche corner of the Realms, true. But there’s still plenty of interesting stories that could be told there. I guess I’m shocked that TSR saw fit to publish three books of such poor literature. I get it. There’s never very high expectations for pulp fantasy. But still, there’s no excuse for what’s found in this book (or even the trilogy as a whole). I think what bothers me the most is that the framework for the storyline here has such potential. But it was ruined by subpar writing. No offense to Douglas Niles, I’m sure he’s a great guy. But good God, man. Please stop. You spend the majority of the book trashing your lead character but suddenly try to redeem him at the end without any real explanation. Then all of a sudden it’s sunshine and roses? I had to force myself to finish this one, seriously. The only part of the book that captured my attention was the last chapter and the epilogue.


Story: What are the motives for the bad guy here? What drives the heroes? Both sides in this book remind me of that line from GTA … “here we go again…”. Not to mention I’ve never seen a series that builds up a hero for two books only the kick him down into the dirt in the first half of the final chapter. It just makes no sense.

Recommended: For hardcore fans of the Realms only. Not likely to appeal to casual readers.

Old Game Hermit


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