I have just finished Druid’s Call. I enjoyed it, but compared to Road to Neverwinter it is a bit lacking. If Road to Neverwinter does a good job of conveying what a D&D campaign feels like, the Druid’s Call is more of the backstory a player comes up with for their character before the campaign starts.
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but from here on there will be some slight plot spoilers, which shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the book, but everyone has a different tolerance for spoilers, so be warned:
We have two story arcs – the internal one of Doric, her development from a frightened little abused (tiefling) child who trusts no one to a confident young druid, which is well done – and the external one, which is… rather unfocused and unfinished.
There are several external plots, all of which are a little lackluster. The two big ones are the druid school and the threat to the wood elf/doric family and their forest.
The Threat to the Neverwinter Forest – unfinished
The Threat arc is unfinished, and it looks like it will be resolved in the film, which is a little unsatisfying because it makes the book feel unfinished. Road to Neverwinter can be read on its own and has a satisfactory resolution of all the major plot arcs. Druid’s Call leaves a big one hanging for the film.
The second major external arc is the druid school, and this also felt a little lackluster. I love me a magical school story any time. I grew up with Harry Potter, but the Emerald Enclave is – boring? It’s just a bunch of dudes and dudettes living in a forest. No cool hideout, no real flair, no real anything. For all the description or lack thereof we got, it could have been just any lumberjack camp in any forest. It didn’t really feel magical. Like, anyone who has read Harry Potter (and the HP comparisons will come, because the stories are very similar) knows what Hogwarts feels like. How it is magical and quirky and a little bit dangerous. The Emerald Enclave is a generic camp in a generic forest.
And then the training to become a Druid – it lacked detail, it lacked a sense of wonder and awe.
The literal description of how they learned spells is “we went there, they showed us, we did it!”
Part of this is probably the fault of D&D (5e). It doesn’t really matter how spells work, only that they work for the game to be playable, so the details of how magic works are very rare and very incomplete and lackluster. Which is fine for a game. But not for a YA book where the main character goes to a druid school to learn druid magic!
And they treat the wild shape the same way. No real sense of wonder, no depth, no detail. They literally describe it as “the guys in front of us turned me into animals, we tried it and at the end of the day me and another guy were able to do it”.
Harry Potter meets D&D
The whole book is very similar to Harry Potter. We’ve got an abused protagonist whose parents are ashamed and afraid and hide her away, who learns she’s magical and goes to a magical school.
The book is two genres:
It is a young adult story about an abused child who must learn to trust others and accept that she can be loved.
And a fantasy novel.
And the young adult parts of the story are the strong parts. They made me cry. The beginning of the story, when Doric is in the attic and realises that her parents have had another baby, is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing I have read in a long time. It is dark, emotionally gritty, and I was really excited to see where this story would go. And her personal growth arc is very good. It is the best part of the story. The author really seems to know how to write teenage protagonists, their problems and how they interact. It definitely beats Harry Potter in that regard.
But the fantasy part of the story is really lackluster. Not what I would expect from a D&D novel. I mean, everything looked fine until we got to the Emerald Enclave, and then it fell apart for me. In Road to Neverwinter, it was okay that we didn’t go into depth on how magic works, because we were seeing it from Edgin’s perspective, who didn’t do magic himself. But they took the same approach here. Only Doric is supposed to learn about magic. We see it from her perspective and we got absolutely nothing. No depth, no substance. The player’s handbook gives me more fluff and descriptive detail in the class descriptions on how magic feels than this book about a druid school, and that can’t be. The rest of the fantasy world building and elements are fine, but nothing really special. In comparison Harry Potter is the better fantasy novel.
So I would give the YA part of the story a natural 19. The fantasy part a natural 7-8.
So the Druid’s Call to me is like a 13 or 14 on a d20. Not great, but not too bad. The magical system of the story needs a lot more depth, but the YA parts are great. The fact that some major arcs are unfinished and will (hopefully) be completed in the move annoys me to no end.
All in all, though, we are really dealing with a well-written backstory for a player character who is now beginning his actual adventure. And that’s the problem, the actual adventure is missing from this D&D novel. It’s a good YA story, but not a good D&D novel. Übersetzt mit DeepL https://www.deepl.com/app/?utm_source=android&utm_medium=app&utm_campaign=share-translation