Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Rod of Seven Parts by Douglas Niles

The Rod of Seven Parts is one of the famed artifacts in Dungeons and Dragons. The weapon of ultimate, icy Law, it was broken into many pieces after being used in battle against the lover and general of the Queen of Chaos, Miska the Wolf-Spider. It defeated Miska and imprisoned him in the fortress of Law, away from his lover and her fiendish forces. Now, the story of it can finally be told.

A piece of the Rod comes into the possession of Kip Kayle, a halfling adventurer. He finds it during an ill-fated dungeon expedition that kills off every other member of his party except for Saysi, a female halfling that Kip is attracted to, but who he has been unable to express his appreciation and longing for. Possession of that tiny piece of the Rod, starts changing Kip so that even though he is a thief who specializes in "liberating" items of interest, he becomes incredibly truthful and law-abiding.

It is only after he is separated from Saysi and thinks her dead that Kip begins tracking other pieces of the Rod, not really knowing what it is, but able to feel the location of the next piece through some indefinable mystical means. Not only does he find other pieces of the Rod, but companions as well, such as Badswell the Half-Ogre, not the brightest, but strong and loyal, and even finds Saysi again, just in time to meet the magician Parnish, who is aware of the Rod and the need for its magic. Along with the help of the Wind Duke Arquestan, they groom Kip for the position of Champion of Law, a position the little thief never thought he would hold.

But as Kip finds his body changed beyond all recognition by the Rod, will there be any hope for his pursuit of Saysi? Or will the toll of the fight against the forces of Chaos rend them apart forever?

Unlike many Dungeons and Dragons books, this story was never released in soft cover, but was only published in hardback. The book plays with both the characters and the readers, playing with their sense of time, space and history, but is otherwise a rather straightforward adventure story. Like many adventure stories, the romance plot between Kip and Saysi feels slightly forced, but otherwise, the story is strong and entertaining.

If you have a chance to read the story, go for it, but it's a rather expensive indulgence in hardcover. Given a choice, save your money for a softcover version or purchase it second-hand rather than buying it outright for the cover price.

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