The City of Splendors: Not WOTC’s usual fare

fantasy book review Forgotten Realms Ed Greenwood Elaine Cunningham The City of SplendorsThe City of Splendors by Ed Greenwood & Elaine Cunningham

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe City of Splendors is very different from Wizards of the Coast’s usual fare. In fact, it’s even unusual for The Forgotten Realms, and that’s saying something.

The story almost seems to have no main character, no central conflict, and no central motivation. It revolves around many characters who live their lives in Waterdeep, also known as the City of Splendors due to its astonishing beauty and variety. The interconnectedness of the central characters and the way that they interact with each other and the city that surrounds them (both the actual city and its citizens) is so cleverly written that the reader is never sure just what might happen next.

As with any sword and sorcery novel, there is the usual blood-letting, magic-hurling, rescuing damsels in distress sort of plot line, but there is a subtlety to it that I don’t normally expect as well. In particular, there’s a brilliant gradual building up to a riot.
The mob doesn’t just break out and provide a convenient way for the author to kill off a few characters and give the hero a chance to rescue a heroine. Although this does happen, the preceding chapters build to a tension so high that a mob must break out — there is nothing else that could happen, given the circumstances. Comman artisans are calling the Masked (and unknown) Lords of the city to reveal who they are, so that their decisions can be weighted and measured against the desires of the people. A character called Dyre calls for a New Day. Soon the New Day is on everyone’s lips and they begin to voice their discontent with their life, blaming the Lords of Waterdeep for all their ills (real or imagined) chapter by chapter the tension slowly builds until naught else could happen but a riot. I applaud Greenwood and Cunningham on their understanding of the common man and the motivations of the mob.

The City of Splendors is a surprising novel, unexpected and arresting in a way that no sword and sorcery novel has been before. Waterdeep is a city of splendors that lives and breathes on the hopes and ambitions of its citizenry.

FanLit thanks John Ottinger III from Grasping for the Wind for contributing this guest review.


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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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