FEBRUARY FANTASY MONTH
I first discovered Dungeons and Dragons back in the early eighties when I received the Red Box Basic Rule Set. It instantly spurred my imagination with its infinite story crafting potential. Over the next several years I made friends who also played. We swiftly moved to using the more advanced 2nd Edition Rules and, more importantly to this post, the pregenerated adventure modules that TSR published in conjunction with them. There was one such module that was renown for its brutality and penchant for killing off entire parties of adventurers. That module was The Tomb of Horrors (S1), and although I never got to play that particular one, it did rouse my curiosity. Recently I learned Wizards of the Coast published a series of novels based off some of their more famous modules with Tomb being among them, so I bought a copy. What follows are my thoughts on it.
The Tomb of Horrors novel (2000) switches view point characters throughout, but the majority of it is seen from the perspective of the protagonist Kaerion Whitehart, a former paladin of Heironeous who’s lost his faith and has since attempted to drown his sorrows in alcohol. Kaerion hides what he once was from those around him, embarrassed by how far he’s fallen from his former status. This is difficult as his holy sword Galadorn refuses to be parted from him, reappearing amidst his belongings whenever he tries to discard it. He’s reluctantly recruited by his best friend Gerwyth, an elvin archer with a magic bow, to help a contingent of nobles from the deteriorating city of Nyrond to find and infiltrate the lost tomb of the evil wizard Acererak. They want to go to this tomb to attain the vast treasure its reputed to hold for use in rebuilding their city to its former glory. Unfortunately, the place is said to be filled with deadly traps and possibly the evil spirit of Acererak himself. Accompanied by several nameless soldiers, the other party members consist of Majandra, a beautiful half elvin bard/noblewoman who becomes Kaerion’s love interest, Bredeth, an arrogant warrior nobleman, Phathas, an aging but powerful wizard, and Vaxor, a cleric of Heironeous who seems to have some idea of Kaerion’s past which leads to unvoiced tension between the two.
The other viewpoint character we regularly get insight from is Durgoth, a powerful, dark priest. His objective is to bring the evil god Tharizdun into the world to reign down destruction on everything. He and his assembly of followers, which includes a skilled monk, a master thief, a sorceress and a huge golem, secretly follow the heroes on their journey to the tomb, allowing them to defeat the obstacles that arise for them.
The book is separated into three parts. The first two sections deal with gathering the team together, the forming of their relationships, and the dangerous journey to the tomb. Even though it takes two thirds of the book to get to the temple, there’s plenty of action along the way as Durgoth and his crew send lots of misery the hero’s way. The combat scenes were well done and felt consistent with the Dungeons and Dragons setting. Most of the characters were adequately fleshed out but a few seemed somewhat extraneous and probably could have been left out. Vaxor in particular spends most of the book giving Kaerion the silent treatment as he seems to have some idea of the man’s past relationship with the god they both worship. Kaerion is a rootable lead, and his friendship with Gerwyth is well-defined, as is his budding romance with Majandra.
The last section of the book when they finally enter the tomb was definitely my favorite. There were some cool rooms, hideous creatures and insidious traps which was what I was hoping for when I purchased the book. This section was shorter than I would have liked it to be, and the ending felt a little abrupt to me. I won’t spoil who or how many of the party members die here except to say that there are some notable ones within Acererak’s tomb alongside a host of “red shirt” deaths as well.
All said, it was a fun read that took me back to my AD&D playing days, and it made me hope they consider writing novelizations of some my personal favorite adventure modules such as Castle Amber (X2) or The Palace of the Silver Princess (B3).
Review by Matt Cowan
2 thoughts on “THE TOMB OF HORROR NOVEL BY KEITH FRANCIS STROHM REVIEW”
I wasn’t quite as into D&D as you were, but this post took me back a lot years and brought a smile to me. Thanks!
Thanks! AD&D was a great creative outlet for me during my high school years and I think it taught me a lot about the art of story crafting. I kinda miss not getting to play anymore.