Ed Greenwood's new novel Dark Warrior Rising delivers a fantasy world heavily inspired by Norse mythology; dark elves known as Niflghar control a vast underground kingdom of pleasure and magic. Stolen from the surface world as a small child and forced to live as a slave under Niflghar rule, Orivon Firefist has grown into a skilled blacksmith and the most important servant for the beautiful yet cruel Lady Taerune Evendoom. When violence erupts in the city Taerune loses an arm and, because of her newfound ugliness, is banished by the beauty-worshipping Niflghar.
Although Orivon has dreamed of revenge since a small child he instead chooses to kidnap Taerune and forces her to guide him back to his home on the surface. On the run from skilled hunters and vicious monsters, the two must trust each other long enough to get through the dangers of the tunnels and to the freedom that waits for them above ground. A number of side-plots develop as different Niflghar families and even members within the same family use the chaos as an opportunity to raise their political stature by killing off rivals.
Greenwood is most widely known as the creator of the Forgotten Realms roleplaying universe (that’s old-school D&D, folks), and he puts his worldbuilding skills to wonderful use here. The system of magic has clear rules and the complex politics between families wonderfully heighten the dramatic tension throughout the novel. Although he tries to work in some minor sexual tension between Orivon and Taerune, it’s obvious it won’t come to be so it’s really no tension at all.
It reminds me of nothing more than Robert E. Howard’s Conan series----the basic events, the way he uses the language, the almost uncompromising dourness of the world all come together in a similar fashion. This dark, often grim tale doesn’t work in humor or romance, so while this action-packed novel will definitely satisfy fans of traditional sword-and-sorcery, unlike many other titles coming out these days it offers little to draw in readers who usually shy away from fantasy.