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New Product: Baour: Strands of Death [novella]

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Baour: Strands of Death is a fantasy courtroom novel by European RPG critic Dirk Vandereyken. It is published by Blackwyrm Books.


In a small village, a necromancer stands trial. At the center of the universe, the Spider that wove All watches intently. Webs are spun in the courtroom, of magic, of lies, and of scandal. The mage Baour argues that he supercedes not only man’s laws, but god’s! What he truly wants may only be uncovered through testimony. As strange magics meet strange deaths, can the reality be unmasked? And should it?


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Re: New Product: Baour: Strands of Death [novella]


The Upside:


Baour advertises itself as a courtroom fantasy thriller. And it contains all the trappings of your typical courtroom dramas, as each witness takes the stand and adds twists and turns to the story. Thankfully, it's not really a mystery, at least it isn't presented as a mystery. It takes the guise of a man defending his actions as not punishable.


The set up is relatively simple, a fantasy world where the people worship Seraphelim, known agents of power. Whether they are Gods or just extremely powerful is left to debate, but they are worshipped just the same. Between the common man and the Seraphelim is the Priesthood. It is made quickly apparent that the main character - a Necromancer named Baour - is unhappy with the state of things. Specifically he seems to hold a grudge with the Priesthood.


Baour stands on trial accused of communing with the dead. The novel starts with him pleading Guilty, then declaring that the Divine Law that judges him has no power and no meaning. And thus the trial begins as he defends his position. Taking place in a church, no one can leave the trial until it is concluded.


As each town person takes the stand the novel pulls the reader through a town of secrets, plagued by an incurable and unknown disease, and the Priesthood itself seems to be corrupted. Baour questions everyone's assumptions, makes them second guess their own ideas and beliefs, and ultimately starts to to turn the small populace on itself.


I'm not a big fan of fantasy novels, but this one simply uses Fantasy as a setting to take advantage of the idea of monsters, and magic, and nicely sidesteps the legal bantering, need for scientific over explanation and similar issues that make up your average modern court-room drama.


Baour is indeed guilty of the accused crime, but he turns the tides, making it known that his crime is not only the least criminal act occurring recently, but one that might actually help the people rid themselves of the disease that has inflicted them all.


Starting with the testimony of the town witch, moving on to the affluent and hauty tailor, a young man apprenticing himself to Baour, the inkeeper, and finally one of the towns own priests. Each person tells their story, adding to the tapestry of the town and a new point of view on the crimes and motives of the townsfolk, and then Baour questions each of them in him own devious way. The testimonies are interrupted with enough action and twists to make each person a story unto themselves.


The novel is paced well, has enough twists to keep you turning the page, without needing to hide facts. It doesn't provide a plot twist just to provide a plot twist. Each story is nicely told from the perspectives and motives of the speaker. At the end Baour's plan comes to a head, and we get a few final twists in the plot to add closure to the whole thing.


Being a bit of a mystery, I've left a lot of things vague - the book is worth the read. Fun, well paced, well thought out, and an poses the question of where one should draw their faith from.


The Downside:


The plot itself seems to be oddly absent until the very end of the book. Which both pulled me a long, and frustrated me. At times it seemed that it was going nowhere, or trundling along without rhyme or reason. Though the style kept me reading, so I can't say too much against it beyond being a little frustrated for the first third.


The Otherside:


It's a fun read, the characters are interesting, even if the plot itself is elusive. I'd definitely recommend this if you're into mystery and drama, the fact that it is in a fantasy setting is almost immaterial, but does lend to the background of the books premise quite nicely.

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