fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsForgotten Realms book review Jess LeBow Obsidian Ridge The CitadelsObsidian Ridge by Jess Lebow

Jess Lebowhas brought some of the adventure back to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It is much like the early Ed Greenwood, when he first began writing media tie in novels for his Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Obsidian Ridge tells the story of three primary heroes. The Claw is the king’s assassin, whose bladed gauntlets remind me of Wolverine (and The Claw uses them to equal effect). Mariko is the king’s daughter — a budding spellcaster and damsel in distress. Korox, King of Erlkazar (a newly formed nation that broke off from Tethyr) is forced to make a decision about whether or not to give up his daughter to the arch magus Xeries, master of a floating mountain in the sky called the Obsidian Ridge. Twisted in body and mind, Xeries threatens to destroy all of Erlkazar if he does not receive Mariko for his payment. But there are other forces at work. The criminal underworld of Lhorbauth (capital of Erlkazar) has captured Mariko and holds her for ransom from a desperate king. The king and the Claw must find Mariko, all the while wondering whether or not to turn her over to the evil Xeries.

Lebow leverages all this potential action to the hilt. The story is light on dialogue, and instead moves from action sequence to battle scene to fight scene with a dose of mystery thrown into the mix. The identity of both the Claw and the king of the underworld remain a significant mystery for a large part of the story, although the astute reader will guess their identities quickly.

Although it is action that drives the plot, there is some time given for introspection. Korox especially wrestles with what it means to be king. But Lebow’s skill is not to get us emotionally connected to the characters, but to give us heroes that we cannot help but cheer for. Reading Obsidian Ridge was like watching a football game in which you know nothing of the players except their names. As you watch, the announcers give you little tidbits of information about the players, and you appreciate them, but that isn’t why you tuned in. You tuned in because you needed something to cheer for, to watch one team beat another. In Obsidian Ridge you want to watch the team of Korox, Mariko, and the Claw beat Xeries and the criminal underworld.

Obsidian Ridge has flaws. It’s a simple plot, and Lebow uses deus ex machina a few times. The Claw and Mariko get out of a few scrapes a bit too fortuitously. When the plot tries to zig or zag, it is usually pretty obvious where it’s going.
Lebow uses only what dialogue he must. The story is mostly told through a description of events as they unfold, characterization is simplified, and the motivations of the characters are not complex (except for Korox who really struggles with himself).

Obsidian Ridge does not make a good entry point for new Realms readers because it explains little of the mythos, races, and denizens. But, it’s an enjoyable read for Realms fans — It has inescapable dungeons, a love story, truly evil villains, battle and fight scenes, and a hero who uses gauntlets as weapons. What more could you ask for from a sword and sorcery novel?

FanLit thanks John Ottinger III from Grasping for the Wind for contributing this guest review.

The Citadels — (2007-2008) by Ed Gentry, Jess LeBow, Mark Sehestedt, James P Davis. Publisher: Monsters and mystery in a remote stronghold — explore the Citadels of the Forgotten Realms! Neversfall was supposed to be Estagund’s stronghold in the wilds of monster-ridden Veldorn, an unassailable citadel to protect the southern lands. Then the regiment holding Neversfall disappeared, leaving no hint of what took them. The replacement forces find themselves attacked from both within and without the fortress’s walls. Besieged by monsters and men, a mercenary captain and an elite warrior must work together to discover out who their enemy really is.

Forgotten Realms The Citadels 1. Neversfall 2. Obsidian Ridge 3. The Shield of Weeping Ghosts 4. Sentinelspire Forgotten Realms The Citadels 1. Neversfall 2. Obsidian Ridge 3. The Shield of Weeping Ghosts 4. Sentinelspire Forgotten Realms The Citadels 1. Neversfall 2. Obsidian Ridge 3. The Shield of Weeping Ghosts 4. Sentinelspire Forgotten Realms The Citadels 1. Neversfall 2. Obsidian Ridge 3. The Shield of Weeping Ghosts 4. Sentinelspire


  • John Ottinger (guest)

    JOHN OTTINGER III, a guest contributor to FanLit, runs the Science Fiction / Fantasy blog Grasping for the Wind. His reviews, interviews, and articles have appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, The Fix, Sacramento Book Review, Flashing Swords, Stephen Hunt’s SFCrowsnest, Thaumatrope, and at

    View all posts