(Forgotten Realms #1, The Moonshae Trilogy, #1)
In the kingdom of Moonshae, a terrible struggle is about to ensue. The evil beast Kazgoroth has awakened. Drawing power from a corrupted Moonwell – a source of power sacred to the Goddess – it roams the land, amassing its followers and spreading darkness throughout the isles. Prince Tristan must rally his people against the threat of this ancient evil even as the Goddess sends her own children to combat the threat.
The first Forgotten Realms novel ever published, Darkwalker on Moonshae draws on Celtic-inspired mythology. Located a hundred miles off the western coast of the Forgotten Realms, the Moonshae isles have scant little to do with the mainland Forgotten Realms setting. Apparently the novel was originally written for a different setting and the refitted to the Realms, and it shows. The people of Moonshae exclusively worship the Mother (later revealed as an aspect of the goddess Chauntea), who has for centuries been venerated by the local druids. The clerics of the “new gods,” as the Realms pantheon are known, are a recent curiosity. There’s a definite feeling of the old ways slowly giving way to the new. This sense of the unknown encroaching upon a very familiar Celtic setting acts as an effective portal for new readers into this vast world.
The story is standard fare, as are the characters. Tristan is notable only for his remarkably quick transition from feckless disappointment to his father, to inspirational leader and expert fighter. This occurs in the space of few dozen pages and seems mainly down to him finding a magical sword. Of slightly more interest is Robyn, Tristan’s young ward of mysterious parentage who quickly discovers she possesses druidic powers. Tristan spends much of the book fretting over how Robyn feels for him. New friends (and potential love rivals) include Daryth, a thief hailing from the Arabian Nights-inspired setting of Calimshan, and the famous bard Keren. Filling out the party are a halfling named Pawldo and, perhaps my favourite character, a moorhound named Canthus, who truly is a Good Boy.
There’s little in the way of female representation – Robyn is the only female character of any real note – but the sexism is mostly confined to Tristan’s attitude towards Robyn. His worship of her maidenhood jars a little with his own background of drinking and carefree wenching. Still, rather than dwell on this kind of thing – which would make this Great Realms Read-through very tedious indeed! – let’s just acknowledge it exists. It’s not as though Robyn is introduced with a silk shawl straining against her breasts…. (Ahem.)