Title: Marked for Death

Author: Matt Forbeck

Hardback: 384 pages

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (March 2005)

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Title: Road to Death

Author: Matt Forbeck

Hardback: 384 pages

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (January 2006)

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Title: Queen of Death

Author: Matt Forbeck

Hardback: 352 pages

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (October 2006)

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About Marked for Death:

Twelve Dragonmarks

Sigils of immense magical power.

Borne by scions of mighty Houses, used through the centuries to wield authority and shape wonders throughout Eberron. But there are only twelve marks.

Until now.

Matt Forbeck begins the terrifying saga of the thirteenth dragonmark...The Mark of Death.


About Road to Death:

The Mark of Death.

After hundreds of years, it has returned to Eberron, and the forces of good and evil want to control it. But one man only wants to get his daughter back alive. To save her, he must walk a perilous path...The Road to Death.


About Queen of Death:

They've been hunted across the Mournland, captured in Karrnath, and attacked in a dragon's mountain lair. One band of adventurers has had enough. Time to take the battle to the enemy. Time to fight back. One young woman will have to decide to give in or embrace her destiny as—the Queen of Death.



Bruce’s Appraisal of Marked for Death:

            When Wizards of the Coast announced a contest to design the next core setting for their Dungeons and Dragons game, my mind reeled with the possibilities.  A lifetime of fantasy worlds, arcane cabals and secret societies raced through my imagination.  I started to refine numerous projects, tried to distill each to its fantasy essence, to something in which any gamer might find his niche.  When Eberron was published, I saw all the shortcomings in my many plans.  A game of fantasy and horror, pulp and gritty war, Eberron managed to please all those I had envisioned and more.

            Matt Forbeck’s Lost Mark trilogy is the first fiction I’ve read from the setting, and it serves as a sort of tour of the many locales on the main continent of Khorvaire and points beyond.  For this alone I would have sat enrapt for days, picturing the landscapes, cultures and history of Eberron.  It is a rich and multi-faceted world, and well worth the time spent in it.  But Forbeck himself turned out to be every bit the pull that Eberron was.  The author’s style had a gravity stronger than the world or any of its moons.

            Marked for Death changed the way I write.

            In reading this novel, I truly came to understand so many adages akin to “Less is more.”  I was as engrossed by the tale as I was by the utter lack of compound or compound-complex sentences.  Even complex sentences appear sparingly.  Matt Forbeck uses subordinate clauses the way Max Allan Collins delivers clues to solve a mystery.  When one appears, it is to be caught, savored, and ferreted away for the meaning it must hold.

            Thoroughly enjoyable, I read Marked for Death in a day and a half.  The only book I’ve devoured as quickly is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Hour after hour, I couldn’t get enough of the characters, the world, and the superb craft of the story itself.  My imagination was engaged, but the part of my mind that has devoted years to analyzing the rules of grammar and techniques of writing danced in awe as one short, direct sentence snowballed into the next, the story never losing momentum because of it.  Rather, it continued to speed faster and faster towards a conclusion that seemed inevitable but was just not to be.

            That ultimately made this a book in a series that I read immediately upon the release of each volume.  No waiting here.  I loved everything about the Lost Mark series, and I couldn’t wait to find out what twists were coming my way.  Marked for Death is at times poignant, at times awe-inspiring, and yes, at times incredible.  It’s not without its flaws.  The sheer number of instances in which one person can be abducted, for instance, boggles the mind and eventually serves to strain the willing suspension of disbelief.  But in the end, I absolutely loved this book.  You must read it, too.


Bruce’s Appraisal of Road to Death:

            In comparison to Marked for Death, this novel seems a bit hurried.  The story moves inexorably towards the conclusion but the writing feels less polished.  Many paragraphs read as though a different author penned the lines.  Much of the good will earned by the first book goes into overlooking the stylistic and pacing differences in this one.

            The journey continues from the first book, and with nothing but endless wilderness before the heroes it might seem ready to degenerate into one unsurpassable challenge after another.   This is not the 2006 King Kong, though, and Matt Forbeck turns as much attention towards developing the characters and their interrelations as he does crafting those impressive obstacles.

            Burch and Kandler reign as the team supreme, retracing steps they journeyed as Brelish agents before leaving the past behind them and striking out into wholly new territory.  Sallah struggles to balance her faith and the emotions she must ultimately feel towards the impossibly heroic father who faces death without flinching time and again to rescue his beloved Esprë.  As more characters appear on the page, though, the new arrivals serve to add to an expanding mural rather than altering the picture that existed in the first book.

            Matt Forbeck also does the impossible in this novel, engendering true compassion for a figure that seemed utterly reprehensible in Marked for Death.  I vowed not to let him do it, but by the end of this novel, he had done it to me anyway.  Though the style of writing is not nearly so tight as it previously had been, the story continues to impress and excite.  Everything works towards a conclusion, with the arrival of a dwarf I feared would turn into Eberron’s version of a gully dwarf—but does not—and a battle with a titan that overshadows everything that came before…but would soon be overshadowed itself in the final installment of the series.  Quite good.



Bruce’s Appraisal of Queen of Death:

            This book brings back the style that I enjoyed so thoroughly in the first installment of the series.  It also captures the sense of awe and almost inconceivable courage demonstrated by the series’ protagonists through their every hardship.  The bold decision that concluded the first book runs through the bulk of this novel as a point of contention among the entire crew of the beleaguered airship. 

            There are more party members than ever in the group, and while all of them are capable of great deeds the motivations behind those deeds becomes as important as the actions themselves.  Matt Forbeck’s development of the characters through the first two volumes pays off here, as each individual’s goals and ambitions play into the decisions we see them make.  Distrust rubs elbows with camaraderie, and even those who seem most reliable sometimes surprise with the true depths of their loyalty, and the ways in which it can feel a lot like betrayal.

            The Lost Mark series introduced me to a side of Eberron that no rulebook could possibly expose.  Of course, having become familiar with the setting in a gaming context, many of the names and locations were familiar to me—and that added to the enjoyment—but the trilogy serves several purposes, foremost among them introducing new readers to the diversity of Wizards’ newest setting.  Further, it expands the meta-game of that setting in a surprising direction, in the context of a very human and moving drama.

            When I read Marked for Death, I could not stop.  Sleep and nourishment fell by the wayside as I crammed in just one more chapter.  Queen of Death had a similar impact on me, but there were times when I read through a sheen of tears, not able to completely keep them at bay but equally unable to stop reading page after page in disbelief.  He got me.  I didn’t see it coming.  And that makes it the solid book and astounding series that Lost Mark is.  Delightful.