You really can’t go wrong with Drew Hayes. While I haven’t read quite everything he’s ever written, I’ve read more than one of each of his novel series (I think). I’m working on getting caught up, but then there’s the problem or having to wait until the next thing is published. Villain’s Code, Super Powereds, and even the Fred series to some extent all deal with focusing on contemporary world hero ensembles. Split the Party though is a little different. It’s still a group of various good guys (and girl), but it goes back and forth between the ‘real’ world that we know and the world of a role playing game clearly modeled on Dungeons and Dragons. The pseudo-medieval game world is real to the characters who live in it though, and this is where most of the story takes place. One thing I appreciated about this volume (part 2) is that both worlds are starting to get hints about the other; in the first volume only the game world had a hint about the ‘real’ world. I already have volume 3 on my TBR pile, and I really hope that element gets some attention.
Split the Party takes the tradition game group of rogue Eric, barbarian Gabrielle, paladin Thistle, knight TImuscor, and wizard Grumble that was established in NPCs (volume 1). Each character has settled into their role now, and we get to see Gabrielle, Timuscor, and Grumble especially start to develop their abilities and positions. The quest from volume 1 lads to a new place and new quest that takes up most of the story, in this case saving the village of Briarwillow from a mysterious illness. The title comes from the decision to divide the team in 2, with one team staying in town to figure out what’s going on, and the other team going to the nearest town to ask for help from the Guild of Mages. They get help from the travelling sales-elf Fritz who of course has some secrets of her own. In the real world, a few new characters also get introduced. Tim and Russell have formed a new game group with three new people who happen to include Russell’s older sister Cheri.
While both quests, and this time they are different ones in the game and real worlds, succeed in their objectives, both establish the clear potential for a continuing mystery or antagonism. In the real world, Russell is starting to wonder about the company that sells and makes his game, and how some very unusual things have happened with the game which the reader knows are related to things that happen in the game world. Potential for shady possibly magic in the real world thing being set up? I do hope so. In the game world, the team defeats but does not destroy the god of darkness Kalzidar, thereby earning them his probable wrath in the future. Add to this the question of exactly what is Fritz up to, and why is she helping the team? Or maybe is she manipulating them?
Overall, book 2 of a series can sometimes be bit disappointing after a strong volume 1. Not the case here. Book 2 complicates and develops but still keeps the action and the fun going. Here’s to more future fun and games in the worlds of ‘Swords, Spells, and Stealth’.