Crypt of the Shadowking by Mark Anthony is a fantasy tale of the never ending struggle of good against evil. The Zhentarim, the hell-bent organization which is more concerned with making a profit than the greater good of all has taken over the city of a thousand spires. The Harpers, a loosely construed group of people who are always meddling in others affairs to keep the proverbial balance between good and evil in check, are ready to get the once bustling trade city back on the track it once was with the help of a former member. Through out the book there is never a dull moment, making it easy to read in just one or two sittings. Anyone who loves a good fantasy should read this book.
After seven long years of traveling, the rough looking, worn out Caledan Caldorien is returning to his home town Ireaebor and finds it has been taken over by a tyrant known as Cutter. In Caledan?s absence, Cutter has passed many ridiculous laws and anyone violating any of these is forced into slavery under the Tor which the city is set upon, where Cutter is mining to find the crypt of the Shadowking, where the nightstone, an ancient artifact of great and evil power, believed to be. Caledan finds this out through a connection within the slums and goes to find his old traveling companions who once made up the Company of the Dreaming Dragon. After reuniting, the company goes to find the tomb of Merrimeck to find the secret of the shadow song, the known power against the Shadowking and the nightstone. As the company travels to toward the Fields of the Dead, they encounter a shadevar, a horrifying and powerful foe thought to have been banished from the world of Toril long ago. After a wild battle, and the death of the shadevar, the company thief, Ferrit, searches the corpse and finds a ring which enabled the shadervar to communicate with the frighteningly powerful creature who summoned it, and through magic the mage, Morhion, finds that the master of the shadevar was not the lord Cutter as they had once thought but Cutter?s own lord steward, Snake. After returning, Ferrit does a little spying and finds that Snake has made a pact with the Shadowking and to conspire against Cutter and eventually rule over all of Toril. The Company of the Dreaming Dragon devise a plan to free all of the slaves and through a little flag waving get all of the slaves and cityfolk alike to revolt against Cutter and the Zhentarim. As the slaves are freed, however, Cutter finds the Crypt while personally leading a group of soldiers against the revolt, unleashes the Shadowking while greedily trying to take the nightstone for her own, and is grotesquely killed by the being. But of course the Company intervenes and uses the shadowsong to drive the Shadowking back into the crypt and they save the world.
The book revolves around the main character Caledan Caldorien. The fact that Caledan cannot be around his friends from the past without rousing memories of his wife who was killed seven years before causes a conflict within him, man versus self, because he has to have the help of his old traveling companions to survive. With Cutter leading the Zhentarim forces into Iriaebor and Snake conspiring with the Shadowking, the company has to stop the dictator and the being of evil before the Shadowking arises and all hope is lost, a good versus evil conflict. Being told in third person omniscient point of view, the reader is opened to all characters thoughts: ??Caledan swore under his breath, that was all he needed, another female to make his life miserable.?, ??Snake was going to have to take action, and he would need lord Cutter?s help, but first he would half to decide how much to tell her.?
When Cutter finds the nightstone the climax hits and sends the reader into such a frenzy that one may skip over half a page to find out what happens next. ? This time the pain showed clearly on Cutter?s beautiful face. The blood drained from her cheeks, her eyes widening as she stared at the nightstone. ?No!? she cried out in horror.? ?Bow to me! a vast and ancient voice thundered within Caledan?s mind. Terror clawed brutally at his heart. Bow to me. I am Darkness! ? ??To me! To me!? Tyveris bellowed in his enormous voice. Despite the din, all around him the city folk looked up to see him striding through the battle, his sword flashing under the magical illumination of the banner. Hope ignited in their eyes.? The Shadowking is released but Caldorien drives it back with the sweet notes of the Shadowsong. The priest Tyveris leads the revolt up on the ground and drives the Zhentarim out of the city. As the book slows down, the cityfolk begin to rebuild their once wondrous city, and despite the heavy work load, the cityfolk are just happy to have their freedom. The theme of the story can best be stated in this one quote, ?Willowy saplings now grew in gardens where ancient oaks and ash trees had once stood, before they were hacked down and burned by the Zhentarim. But scars such as these only served to remind cityfolk how much their homes meant to them and how valuable their freedom really was.?
The book is fantastic and there is never a boring moment. Mark Anthony tells an epic tale of lost love, new-found love, friendship, hate, and terror in Crypt of the Shadowking. The book is easily read because the fast paced writing flows so smoothly it sets the reader onto a thrill ride. The variety and life which the author gives the many characters keeps them, the story, and the many sub-plots in your mind long after you put the book down.