Thursday, March 21

Dungeons and Dragons, Honour Among Thieves, The Druids Call Review

Writen by E.K Johnston
Punblished by Penguin Books (2024)
ISBN: 9781804945773

Druid’s Call is a prequel tie-in novel to the fantastic 2023 Dungeon’s and Dragons film Honor Among Theives. Is it as entertaining and enjoyable as the film its connected to? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

The story follows the character Doric, a troubled young tiefling. She was abandoned by her parents and adopted by a group of wood-elves living within the Neverwinter forest. The story follows two different narratives. Primarily there is the story of Doric’s present. This sees her struggling to find her place within the Wood-elves’ society before traveling south to train as a druid with the Emerald Enclave. Then we have the secondary story of her past. This follows her early life as the unwanted and unloved tiefling child to her human parents. Towards the end of the novel both these narratives come together and connect in a really nice way.

I loved the themes of this story. It deals with life as a minority by using the fantasy species of D&D’s Forgotten Realms world. It’s literally about a tiefling trying to find her purpose in a world that views her species as inherently evil. This would be the text of the story. This is interesting world building on its own, but it gets better when we begin to look at the subtext. The story is metaphorically about a young minority person struggling with the bigotry and hate the world subjects them to daily. As a trans-nonbinary person myself this is very much something I connected with as a theme. That’s not to say that only queer and other LGBTQIA people will feel this same level of understanding to the subtext. I dare say that non-white POC would feel the same or similarly to myself when reading.

There’s this wonderful moment during chapter 10 when Doric first encounters another tiefling. It’s a powerful experience for the young druid and one that resonated with me as a trans person. I remember after I first came out and began my transition, I sought out community as one often does. I found an LGBT group within my area and decided to go to it. One of the things that stuck out to me when I first turned up was that I was greeted by this wonderfully kind trans woman. She was a member of staff and the first openly trans person I had knowingly met. It was the first moment since I had come out that I didn’t feel alone in the experience. As I read through Doric’s first interaction with another tiefling that moment returned to me. Johnston perfectly captured that feeling of finding your community. The feeling of no longer being alone.

All this wonderful subtext is beautifully complimented by the smooth and easy to understand style of writing that seems to come naturally to Johnston. To put it simply, I would sit down intending to read only a chapter or two and then lose myself to this book. These intended short sessions quickly turned into me reading 100 pages in one sitting. While I’m normally a rather slow reader I found that I had finished all 280 pages of this story within 2 days.

It’s worth noting that despite the obvious quality of this writing there are minor mistakes to the Forgotten Realms lore. As an example of this would be the use of weeks as a measurement of time. Within the Sword Coast there are no such things as weeks. Instead, time is measured as days, tendays, months, and years. This would make Johnston’s use of week incorrect within this fantasy setting. This is a nit-pick, as it’s not a common mistake she makes, but it does happen and is therefore worth noting. Consistency to the world you’re writing within is important for the readers immersion. Imagine if Tolkien mentioned the country of France within his Middle Earth saga. It would feel strange and off-putting. The same is true of characters within the Forgotten Realms referring to a group of 7 days as a week.

Similar mistakes are made when it comes to the continuity and connection between this novel and the film it supposedly ties into. We learn within the first chapter that the city of Neverwinter has begun a process of unbalanced and destructive deforestation. This is also seen during the Honor Among Thieves film. We learn there that the deforestation is thanks to the new lord of Neverwinter, Forge Fitzwilliam. This contradicts The Druid’s Call novel though. It’s not until chapter 22 that Forge becomes Lord Neverwinter. This would mean that the destruction of the Neverwinter forest was happening long before Forge took over the city. This doesn’t really make sense when you think about how the two stories are supposed to connect. It should go without saying but this is a bad thing for a prequel story.

So, is The Druid’s Call worth reading? I’d say so. It’s far from perfect and unlike other novels set within the Forgotten Realms it’s not depicting some world changing event. This isn’t a big incident that will rock the future of this universe like the Avatar Trilogy did. This means that for those interested in understanding the lore of the Forgotten Realms it can easily be skipped over. But I don’t think you should do though. It’s a small-scale story that feels very intimate and personal to the character of Doric. I love this. A very easy and enjoyable read set within one of my favourite fantasy worlds.


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