Descent Journeys in Darkness – The Shield of Daqan, review: for lovers of fantasy classics

Descent Journeys in Darkness – The Shield of Daqan, review: for lovers of fantasy classics

Descent Journeys in Darkness – The Shield of Daqan, review

The Shield of Daqan is the second novel set in the universe of Descent Journeys in Darkness, the famous fantasy dungeon crawler board game published by Asmodee and Fantasy Flight Games, which, like the previous The Destiny of Fallowhearth , serves as a prequel and bridge between the second and third editions of the game entitled Descent: Legends of the Dark. The two novels are unrelated both in terms of the setting, we find ourselves in another barony of Terrinoth, and for the characters. Furthermore, compared to the previous novel, which veered towards an almost young adult narrative, the author David Guymer prefers to stay on the territories of the more robust classic high fantasy, with some almost grim fantasy passages, evidently aiming to gather consensus among the readers who make up the base hard of enthusiasts of the genre.

Heroes vs Blood Magic

--> The Barony of Kell was a key crossroads for the Kingdom of Terrinoth. A border place where the fierce battles fought by his tough army, nicknamed the Shield of Daqan, were contrasted with lively trade. But now Kell is crossed by an inexplicable famine and its vast territories are threatened by bandits led by the mysterious Gray Fox, self-proclaimed their queen. Baron Frederic is divided between hunting down the bandits and protecting the borders threatened instead by increasingly frequent raids by the Uthuk Y'llan, a people of men horribly mutated by the adoration of the demons of Ynfernael.

Ex-soldier Kurt, now a humble farmer, is the victim of one of these terrible raids. Meanwhile, Trenloe the Mighty, a mercenary known throughout Terrinoth for the deeds of his army, and Andira Runehand, a sacred warrior renowned for having already fought and beaten the demons of Ynfernael, converge in Kell. But what the heroes don't know is that those of the Uthuk Y'llan are not simple raids but a real invasion led by the sadistic witch Ne'Krul. The Locust Swarm, as the Uthuk horde is nicknamed, then heads straight for the capital of Kellar leaving human sacrifice, death and destruction behind them.

The battle is brutal and the Uthuk forces, galvanized by the presence of the dragon Archerax, seem to have the upper hand at least until the providential intervention of Andira. But it is a battle, in fact the war is far from being won. Frederic and Andira side by side therefore decide to lead the reformed Shield of Daqan, in whose rear Kurt has joined in search of his son Sib who has joined the warriors of Andira, pointing towards the Valley of the Tumuli or a remote area of ​​the barony where there is a mysterious and ancient prehistoric stone construction. Trenloe also aims there, in fact the heroes have understood that, through Blood Magic, Ne'Krul wants to bring his demonic lord Baelziffar back to this plane of her existence.

The Shield of Daqan: for lovers of classic high fantasy

--> David Guymer creates a story solidly based on the classic three-act structure, his strong point, but without renouncing for this some excellent twists thanks to the shrewd use of the macguffin made up of Gray Fox first and the revelation of Ne'Krul's real objectives Then. We draw heavily from Tolkien in the final part of The Fellowship of the Ring and of The Two Towers, from R.A. Salvatore and even by the couple made up of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The Shield of Daqan in fact does not have a properly adventurous tone but refers more to a certain war literature and therefore recovers that declination where the great fantasy cornerstones of the past have paved the way: Tolkien for the pressing pace of the prose in some chapters and the progressively more oppressive atmosphere, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for the vibrant and spectacular description of the battles.

The author chooses an unusual way to structure his novel or that of a choral story of different characters who witness the events from different points of view and from different places, it is a stratagem typical of some novels by R.A. Salvatore which is reworked here in a more than satisfactory manner. It should be emphasized that, especially in the first part of the novel, it is not easy to disentangle the many characters presented and the many references to places or people, especially if you do not know the lore of Descent. The subdivision into short chapters, each dedicated to a different character, helps the reader while the prose, initially more descriptive but not always punctual, improves becoming more punctual and engaging already from the middle of the novel onwards.

--> Despite being a choral story, the author works by outlining archetypal characters without seeking an in-depth analysis or an exaggerated characterization as often happens in modern fantasy in which different needs are tried to combine, also linked to current issues. The Shield of Daqan is therefore configured as an exquisitely plot-driven story as in the tradition of high fantasy but embellished by antagonists who go from a shapeless mass to a destructive force thanks to episodes towards the grim fantasy that re-emerges in their descriptions and in the descriptions of their behavior and goals. Finally, it is no coincidence that the reading becomes more robust and pressing when the battles begin to follow one another, first the one involving Trenloe and then the more devastating one in Kellar which leads towards the final climax, not at all obvious and which leaves the door open to a sequel both in the form of a novel and at the gaming table.

The volume

Asmodee and Aconyte Books maintain continuity in the publication and pack a slim softcover volume with flaps of over 300 pages. The paper-technical care is very good as is the editorial care. The chosen paper is uncoated of good quality, white, the size and type of font chosen allows easy reading as well as the line spacing chosen does not tire even after many minutes of reading. In addition to the map at the beginning of the volume, well reworked with the names of the places in Italian, unfortunately it only provides generic reference points and some more detailed maps or even some illustrations would certainly have helped to immerse yourself better in reading given the large number of places and characters present. Sliding both the translation and the Italian adaptation. Once again, a digital illustration on the cover is opted for, a choice that could dissatisfy the purists of the genre, but which nevertheless turns out to be spot on both for the chosen subject and for the mood it communicates.

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