Crypt of the Moaning Diamond: Opera?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy review Forgotten Realms The Dungeons 4: Crypt of the Moaning DiamondCrypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones

What happens when an writer who works for an opera company turns to writing fantasy? Does the story take on qualities of the epic? Do people take forever to die? Or does everyone just walk around singing loudly and wearing funny costumes? If these are questions you have asked yourself (or even if they aren’t) you ought to turn your attention to Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones. An opera writer and first time novelist, Jones has created a dungeon delving story both humorous and out of the ordinary set in the Forgotten Realms mythos.

Ivy is the leader of the Siegebreakers, a small band of sappers who hire themselves out to armies needing to have walls come a’tumblin down. Ivy’s crew consists of a 300 year old dwarf who loves dogs, the dog Wiggles, two sisters with very different mothers, and a goat-footed thief. Additionally, they have a tag-along, a Procampurian knight whose rigid sense of honor provides a great deal of humor to the pragmatic Siegebreakers. When the group falls into a vast and ancient crypt during one of their siege-breaking attempts, they are forced to find a way out. But it isn’t all that simple; The crypt is vast and down there with them is a crazy wizard who’s in search of a treasure with a great deal of power. In the meantime, the water level is rising beneath their feet, even as the heroes move deeper into the ground.

Unlike the other stories in the Dungeons series, Crypt of the Moaning Diamond is humorous. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Jim C. HinesGoblin Quest in that way. But where Hines chose a strange character and made him into a hero, thereby providing humor at the ridiculousness of the situation, Jones’ humor is more relational. Ivy and Sanval (the Procampurian gentleman) flirt with each other, albeit unconsciously. Since Ivy chooses to be pragmatic and dresses comfortably, whereas Sanval is all spit and polish with a strong sense of honor. The attraction of polar opposites provides great humor. The two sisters in the Siegebreakers fight like family always does, yet step to the plate when the protection of each other is needed. And then there is Wiggles, the bone-loving white ball of fluff, who sees undead as a snack. Add to that love-poetry-writing bugbears (“a good thump-thump beat is necessary,” apparently) and you can’t help but snicker each time you turn the page.

Jones also never lets up on the action. Moving through the crypt, the Siegebreakers encounter enemy after enemy, all with the knowledge that if they don’t hurry, they’ll drown in the rising water. This pacing keeps the novel interesting and it never gets bogged down in detail. Her battle scenes are innovative, often finding unusual or pragmatic solutions where other authors tend to over do it in order to add to the “epic” nature of the narrative.

Jones would do well to vary her word choices a little bit. In a battle scene where one character is wielding a shovel, she kept repeating the word “shovel” to describe the weapon. If she had tried a little harder, she could have found other words to use in her sentences. In the span of two pages (pages 74 and 75) she used the word “shovel” 8 times when it would have been possible to use “weapon” or “makeshift bludgeon” in its place. In a fight scene, an author ought to use synonyms more often, since the reader’s reading pace often picks up at such points, and the overuse of a word becomes more obvious. This detracted from some of the action scenes.

Each of the novels in the Forgotten Realms: Dungeons series is a stand-alone novel and Rosemary Jones doesn’t rely heavily on the mythos of the Forgotten Realms, so any reader can easily enjoy it. Of all the debut Forgotten Realms authors of recent years, I think I enjoyed Rosemary’s writing the most. She reminds me a lot of Elaine Cunningham. Both writers create relationships between their characters, as well as writing sword and sorcery action, and those relationships make the novels all the more fun to read, as the reader becomes invested in the characters.

So in answer to the opening questions, I would say that yes, a writer with a familiarity with opera has some knowledge of the epic, and that when such a writer turns to fantasy, she is able to bring that knowledge into her story. There was some loud singing in Crypt of the Moaning Diamond but it wasn’t pretty and the characters weren’t wearing funny costumes. But Jones understands narrative, and knows how to make a story interesting. I think Rosemary Jones is an excellent addition to the cadre of Wizards of the Coast writers, and I hope she continues to write stories like Crypt of the Moaning Diamond.


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JOHN OTTINGER III, a guest contributor to FanLit, runs the Science Fiction / Fantasy blog Grasping for the Wind. His reviews, interviews, and articles have appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, The Fix, Sacramento Book Review, Flashing Swords, Stephen Hunt’s SFCrowsnest, Thaumatrope, and at Tor.com.

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