Author: Ed Greenwood
Publisher: TSR, 1988, 382 pages
I was done with high school in 1990, which means I was DONE with being forced to read books I didn’t want to read. I took a couple of years off from novels and focused more on comic books. Then, in 1992, I decided I wanted to read “real” books again. But where to start? Where better than good old Dungeons and Dragons? But I didn’t want to get locked into a three-book series if I didn’t like the first one. After much searching, I discovered Spellfire.
Shandril Shessair is a typical young orphan girl (not even seen 20 winters yet) working in the local inn as kitchen help. She’s mesmerized by the nightly patrons and adventurers who come to feast and regale each other of foes defeated and treasures found. Oh, if only there were more to life than fetching herbs and cleaning tables in a nice, safe inn surrounded by people who love you.
One night, Shessair decides she needs to see what’s out there in the vast world for herself. So, she steals all the equipment from The Company of the Bright Spear. When they discover they’ve been robbed, she heroically appears with all their belongings to show they are in need of a thief. She signs on, and they slip away in the night to the mystical area of Myth Drannor that is heavily beset with evil magic and wondrous treasure.
It doesn’t take long for Shessair to discover that she might have made a mistake leaving the inn. The group is soon attacked, and the damage is heavy. They recover, thanks to an abundance of healing spells and potions, and decide to keep going. During an exploration of some nearby ruins, they are set upon by an evil female mage called The Shadowsil who isn’t too pleased with trespassers. As they fight, Shessair happens upon a glass orb and smashes it into the face of The Shadowsil, defeating her while inadvertently releasing the trapped balhiir (a magical creature that absorbs magic from spells and items) within. Not realizing what she’s done, the balhiir finds a host in Shessair, who is now filled with a magical energy she can barely contain. If she doesn’t release this energy soon, it will consume and kill her. Nothing can stand in her way as she levels the ruins, an ancient bone dragon, and half a mountain with powerful magic flames that turn everything they touch to ash.
Spellfire (the innate ability to convert magic into an energy the person can wield) is very rare in the world of Forgotten Realms. Shessair and only one other have had this gift. And, of course, once word gets out that there is a new wielder of spellfire, more than a few would either control her or defeat her. This once unknown girl is now daily fighting for not just her life, but that of friends and a new husband as well.
This book was a good start for me at the time. It was a standalone story (now there are three in the series) and a decent one. This was Ed Greenwood’s first novel in the world he created from short stories published in Dragon Magazine beginning in 1979. He’s written more than 50 books, most in the Forgotten Realms world, and some feel he’s the father of the modern Dungeons and Dragons-styled books.
Spellfire reads very much like a DnD campaign. The story starts with a few people in an inn who set off on an adventure together. The characters aren’t fleshed out too well in the first half of the book. There’s too much action to get through. The second half was rather tame in comparison as the group hides out to train, learn the limits of spellfire, and get to know each other. There were several times throughout the story where I could almost imagine sitting around a table listening to the dungeon master explain the scenery and walk the group through the options at hand. It brought back fond memories, but overall, I have a better understanding of why I never read the same book twice. Although a good book in 1992, it wasn’t the best book in 2018. I would still recommend this to anyone wanting to have a fun Dungeons and Dragons adventure.