For centuries, adventurers have sought the fabled Ring of Winter, rumored to possess the magical might to make the wearer immortal and bring a second Ice Age down upon the Realms. Artus Cimber knows where it is.
After discovering the ring is hidden in the jungles of Chult, he sets off to fulfill the quest that has devoured a decade of his life. Knowing that the artifact is hidden somewhere in the danger-filled jungles and recovering it are two entirely different matters, however – especially when a lost city, rampaging dinosaurs, and the villainous Cult of Frost all stand between Artus and his goal.
The Ring of Winter is part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part The Lost World, and a lot of The Lord of the Rings all thrown together into one novel. While not a complete failure, it’s not very memorable either.
The novel is set in the Forgotten Realms, a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Artus Cimber is basically the Indiana Jones of Middle-Earth – an explorer and archaeologist who plunders ancient tombs for magical artifacts. He has spent a decade searching for the legendary Ring of Winter, an artifact that, as the cover blurb says, could bring about another Ice Age (and probably solve global warming in the process). During a stop at the explorer’s club in which he is a member, Artus meets a half-crazed explorer recently returned from Chult, a vast jungle where dinosaurs still live. The explorer tells Artus that the man who founded their club – a man who should have died hundreds of years ago – is still alive and in possession of the ring. Artus immediately sets off for Chult, but he is followed by the Cult of Frost, which wants the ring for its own evil plans.
The first thing that struck me after reading The Ring of Winter is that for a book set in a lost world of dinosaurs, it’s surprisingly lacking in dinosaurs. The terrible reptiles make a few cameos but Lowder mostly populates his setting with mythological creatures more traditional to the Dungeons & Dragons world, which is a shame. The characters themselves are stereotypical and the writing is simply serviceable, but tie-in novels have never been known for their literary merits.
That said, Lowder never takes the whole thing seriously, and there is a playfulness in the writing that reminded me very much of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. When two characters are a talking wombat and a ghost stuck in the material world because of a bureaucratic blunder between gods, you get the idea. And I must admit I enjoyed the merging of the pulp fiction and high fantasy settings, if more in concept than in execution. The Ring of Winter didn’t feel like a chore to read, and while that may not sound like much of a compliment, it’s more than I can say than some novels reviewed here.
- The author would later flesh out the world of the novel in the game supplement The Jungles of Chult.