The sava game is still being played, and Lolth and Eilistraee continue to vie for control of all the drow of Faerun. But the drow were once dark elves — surface dwellers — and faithful to the pantheon of the “light” elves. As Lisa Smedman‘s The Lady Penitent draws to its conclusion, the fate of all hangs in the balance. Ascendency of the Last, the concluding volume of this trilogy, returns the reader to the halls of the Promenade, where Eilistraee’s faithful dwell. But all is not well, as their leader Qilue is beset by a demon, the drow-turned-demon Halistraa is reborn a demigod, and Ghaunadaur’s oozes are preparing themselves for a final assault on the Promenade.
Smedman gives us a sword and sorcery tale that rarely takes a breath. But unlike simplistic tales that tend to bore us after a short time and straightforward plot, Smedman keeps us guessing. The ferocity of the action sequences hides subtler hints and foreshadowing of a significant Realms-changing event. The path to that end is fraught with danger for all the characters as they play out the game between Lolth and Eilistraee.
Qilue seeks to purify the demonic taint from the drow. Cavatina, slayer of the demigod Selvetarm, believes that Qilue’s desire is itself tainted by the effects of the Crescent Blade she carries. Q’arlynd is a wizard who must quickly find recognition for his wizard’s college so that he might also be able purge the taint using high magic. Various Nightshadows are drawn into the web, either wanting to serve Eilistraee, or believing that she is being controlled by the drow god Vhaerun. Such complex emotions and motivations serve to elevate this story from mere action tale to grand drama.
Smedman tends to use deus ex machina to keep her characters alive, but she also kills as many characters as she saves, inclucing quite a few who we’ve come to care about.
Ascendancy of the Last also needs a better copyeditor. In my copy, there were many missing punctuation marks. Whether this is Smedman’s fault, or the publisher’s, it is unacceptable from such generally professional and prolific people.
The Lady Penitent is a must read for any Forgotten Realms fan, especially drow fans. Smedman is one of the more seasoned Realms authors, so she has honed her craft to a sharp-bladed knife, neither mincing words nor wasting them. Ascendancy of the Last becomes a fun 308 page read that is exciting and accessible. If you are looking for light, action filled adventure full of mystery and intrigue, yet still containing far-reaching consequences, read The Lady Penitent trilogy.