Disclaimer: Mr. Hayes sent me a copy for a fair and honest review. I also reviewed the first book in this series.
Like the first book in the series, Demon of Stonewood is very much a novel for those who gamed or who enjoy gaming. This novel continues the story of Harcourt as he tries to control the Thieves Guild, fight the Cult, and move on with his life.
In other words, he just went up a level or two in AD&D.
Which is a little unfair considering that this installment is far darker than a good portion of gaming novels.
Unlike the first book, this book moves rather quickly from the get go. There is no wait to be pulled into the story. Additionally, while the writing can at times seem a bit sticky, those episodes are far fewer than in the first novel. In fact, those episodes seem to occur with the touchy feeling bits, the softer side of Harcourt. It’s not the bits feel forced, they don’t, but they aren’t as smooth as the rest of the book.
The romance sub-plot, if you wish to call it that, does feel believable but in some ways I wish it had developed a bit more. For instance, all of a sudden Harcourt is feeling guilty about his feelings, when you just realized he had feelings. Its’ a bit strange.
What I am very glad to see is more development in terms of the world and the female characters. Harcourt’s love interest, Krestina, is more than a simple damsel in distress. There are also the assassin Feylane and the bounty hunter Evonne, who has a very interesting partner. We find out more about Feylane and Harcourt’s soliciting of and reaction to her story are well done. I particularly liked the character of Evonne who does seem to have her head screwed on correctly.
There is something of a journey in this book and the action leaves the city for a bit. This allows for Hayes to expand his world. It is feeling less like Thieves World and more like its own place, far more than in the first book of the series. The use of magic, in particular with the wizard Fezzdin, seems to be more thought out here. More importantly, the use magic with the Cult who is trying to summon their demon overlord seems to be very well thought out, the use of the hearts being the most enjoyable bit. The reader also gets a better sense of how the city works.
I have slight mixed feelings about the ending, but in the terms of book’s world and gaming genre, it does work. Even if you aren’t happy with the ending, you have to admit that it works in terms of the logic of the world and does raises some interesting questions for the last volume of the trilogy.
I was pleasantly surprised with the first book, and this sequel is better. Hayes’ writing grows and matures. I am waiting for the third.