Twilight Falling is the second novel by American fantasy author and lawyer Paul S. Kemp. It is the first book of The Erevis Cale trilogy, centered on the character Kemp introduced in the excellent group series writing project Sembia, and set in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting.
Take a setting and make it your own
I’ve been a Forgotten Realms reader pretty much since I was able to read. I’d estimate I’ve probably read about 70% of all Forgotten Realms fiction that exists, and I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons in campaigns set in the Forgotten Realms. In my erstwhile youth, I even wrote some (terrible) fan fiction set in that world. The source for Kemp’s character, Erevis Cale, was a group writing project about the lives of a family of wealthy merchants, the Stormweathers, set in the city of Sembia. It was a series of seven books. First, a collection of short stories about each member of the family, then a full-length novel focusing on each in turn, and all written by different authors.
It was a fantastic series, and I remember thinking right after finishing it, “Man, you know who was the best character in that series? The butler! I wish I could read more about that guy!” That same year, Paul Kemp released this novel, followed by two more to close out his tale. This re-read I’m doing for an article project on The Forgotten Realms is at least the fourth or fifth time I’ve read this book, and Cale is still one of my favorite Forgotten Realms characters.
A more realistic number of shades of grey
One of the most intriguing aspects about Cale is the moral grey area in which he operates. He has a very dark past, but seems to be on a path of redemption when, in typical mobster movie fashion, he wants to get out but they pull him back in. His closest associates essentially function as his shoulder-angel and shoulder-devil, and he is as confident in his abilities as he is afraid of them. It makes for a very compelling character, especially for the Forgotten Realms, where the heroes and villains tend towards the extremes of alignment.
If you aren’t going to balance a Forgotten Realms novel around the massive end-of-the-world epic fantasy storyline, you really have to make sure your characters can pick up that slack, and Kemp crafts some truly compelling characters. You can see them develop, struggle, come to terms with and move on from tragedy and loss. A living world like the Forgotten Realms needs as many living characters as possible, and I’ll take Cale over Drizzt Do’Urden any day of the week.
Why should you read this book?
The Forgotten Realms has always trended towards a more young adult audience. The themes are fairly trope-y, the characters are fairly simple. Very high fantasy save-the-world stuff, lots of super heroes who never seem to get hurt, or doubt themselves, or risk failure stomping their way through the legions of evil. Twilight Falling and the later two books Dawn of Night and Midnight’s Mask provide a much more developed, mature take on the Forgotten Realms setting, and really give a great fantasy experience in a familiar setting.
Obviously, for me, the characters are the primary reason I recommend this book, but the mechanics of the writing are also solid. The pacing is great, the plot is interesting. Those who’ve read other reviews of mine will be aware of the fact that I’ve been given the title of Ranting Dragon’s official philosopher, and when you read this series and encounter the villain of the piece, you’ll understand yet another reason why I love this trilogy. Read them. You won’t be disappointed even (and possibly especially) if you aren’t generally a Forgotten Realms fan.