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What is The Crimson Legion?

With Tyr’s most vile enemy dead, a new tyrannical ruler takes his place in this second Prism Pentad novel set in the post-apocalyptic world of Dark Sun 

After a millennium of sorrow, the city of Tyr has cast off the yoke of the brutal sorcerer-king Kalak. The new ruler, Tithian of Mericies, has liberated the slaves—and plunged the city into chaos. In a cruel twist of fate, Tyr’s triumph may very well become its death knell. Only Rikus, the man-dwarf gladiator who sparked the rebellion against Kalak, can save Tyr from its new the invading armies of Urik, a neighboring city that seeks to conquer Tyr and its Iron Mines. With a ragtag militia of nobles, templars, and former slaves, Rikus must stand against Urik’s forces and their evil leader. But strength of arm does not necessarily make a good general—as Rikus will learn before the conflict is over.


THE CRIMSON LEGION is the second novel of the Prism Pentad series by Troy Denning. Set in the harsh world of Athas AKA Dark Sun for TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons, it is a post-apocalypse story except the pre-devastation world was a typical fantasy setting. Now everything is desert, evil wizards, and guys dressed up like Lord Humungus. In the previous book, the city of Tyr was trying to overthrow its evil Sorcerer King and now we’re following Rikus the Gladiator as he attempts to lead its army against an invasion by the city of Urik.

Generally, I absolutely love The Crimson Legion and think it has a lot going for it. It’s a war novel and has a huge amount of interpersonal drama. We get a lot more character development for both Rikus and Neeva, who are two of my three favorite characters from this series. It does have some areas that I’m willing to criticize and if The Verdant Passage is a 4.5 to 5 out of 5 then this is a 4 to 4.5 out of 5. Which is perfectly respectable and well above most other Dungeons and Dragons fiction that usually is a fun but substanceless 3 or 3.5 out of 5, numbers wise.

The book is essentially a running chase as Rikus and the army of Tyr achieve an unexpected victory against a vastly superior force through what amounts to sheer dumb luck. Basically, the big superweapon/monster of the Urik army was controlled by a mind-controlled slave that they just so happen to free. Rikus confuses the fortunes of war for military genius on his part and proceeds to lead his army into greater and greater danger. Rikus is driven by revenge as much as victory as Maetan Lubar, the enemy commander, happens to have once owned Rikus.

Maetan Lubar is a perfectly hateable villain, a smug Urik nobleman and slaver who intends to clap as many Tyrians in chains as he can. Even though he spends the entirety of the book fleeing from Rikus and his armies, he maintains his insufferable superiority. If you’re looking for particular depth to your bad guys, he’s not the guy to look to. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not realistic as there’s alot more people who look down on their social “inferiors” and are pathologically incapable of recognizing how they’ve screwed up.

Indeed, the moral ambiguity of the novel isn’t from the villain but the hero. Rikus is arrogant beyond belief and his personal flaws alienate Neeva as well as those among his command. I’m a big Neeva/Rikus shipper, so I wasn’t happy about how he increasingly drives her into the arms of Caelum the Sun Priest. Caelum is just as flawed as Rikus but not in as interesting a way. However, you can see why Neeva wants something more stable as Rikus keeps trying to convince her to live in polyamory with him, Sadira, and Agis. Not exactly the sort of plot you expect from Dark Sun, eh?

The book also provides a lot of foreshadowing for the eventual revelations about the nature of Athas, the origins of the Sorcerer Kings, and the mysterious entity known as Rajaat. This is all spoiler territory now but I appreciate Troy Denning was willing to get into the meat and drink of the setting if not set the banquet himself. Athas was largely undefined and mysterious before this series and the history he creates for it is fantastic.

In conclusion, another great entity in a book series that I feel is fantastically underrated. It was an influence on my Cthulhu Armageddon series and remains a personal favorite. Would I prefer more Neeva and Rikus? Absolutely, but I also understand why he’s screwing up what is an otherwise good thing.

Available here

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