BOUND BY IRON (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The first official installment of The Inquisitives series, author Edward Bolme ties Eberron’s war-torn past to the present, setting up a mystery that stretches across the continent of Khorvaire in Bound by Iron.
While traveling the countryside of Karrnath to find his missing wife, military veteran and Dol Dorn priest Cimozjen stumbles upon a woman being assaulted in the city streets of Korth. When he accosts the dwarven assailant the latter boasts of being a member of the legendary Iron Band, the most fearsome military unit of the Last War. Unluckily for the dwarf Cimozjen actually was in the Iron Band, and after some hard persuasion the thief leads him down to the King’s Bay where he found the metal armband on a floater.
At the Low District docks Cimozjen discovers that the waterlogged corpse is none other than Torval, his best friend during the war. Sworn as bloodbrothers, Cimozjen takes it upon himself to find out Torval’s killer and bring him to justice. He takes his friend’s body to the Korth city guards, who are more annoyed with the possibility of additional work than concerned about the murder. Cimozjen does, however, gain assistance from Minrah Penwright, a young elf maiden who hangs around the guard’s barracks.
Minrah, it turns out, is a very successful writer with a knack for observing details. Smelling a story, she enlists her help with Cimozjen and together they start unraveling Torval’s mystery to uncover a shocking truth.
At the end of the Last War each country held caches of prisoners-of-war, which accumulated over the years. Under the guise of transporting them back to their home countries, an unknown power indiscriminately siphoned off handfuls of the best warriors to use them in a network of underground gladiatorial matches.
Now Minrah, Cimozjen, and an emancipated warforged (a magewrought construct built for battle) must infiltrate this seedy gambling ring to find out who’s behind it all, but it isn’t long before Cimozjen finds himself in the pit, fighting not just for his late friend, but for his own life as well.
Despite the low grade I gave Bound by Iron, there’s no doubt that Edward Bolme can write. His pacing builds a tremendous amount of momentum near the end of the novel and his subtle details really help flesh out a land trying to recover from the aftershocks of a horrific war. Interposed with the main plot are also flashbacks of Cimozjen’s days in the Iron Band, where an otherwise inanimate Torval really comes to life and establishes the deep friendship which really motivates the entire investigation. All these things work together to tell a compelling story, yet there are some snags that I had trouble moving beyond.
Minrah’s character, taking the role of an inquisitive, is rather abrasive and uninteresting. For all of her years she acts like nothing more than a foolish, self-centered child. And maybe that’s her essence, but that essence, combined with a disappointing character arc, makes for a persona that the reader will not miss. Cimozjen’s history, aside from his time in the war, is also largely unknown and unexplored (especially concerning his wife). I would be able to overlook these things though if the novel ended with a bang and not a fizzle. The final confrontation, although satisfying, is rather anticlimactic after such exhilarating rising action.
All this being said, I do hope to hear more of Cimozjen and his warforged ally. Their vast character differences give rise to great chemistry, providing an original lens through which we could experience more of Eberron through.
Mania Grade: C+
Author: Edward Bolme
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast