Faces of Deception is the second in a series of four novels (known as the Lost Empires series and which includes The Lost Library of Cormanthyr, Star of Cursrah, and the Nether Scroll) that deal with the secrets of four of Toril's long lost ancient civilizations.
The book describes the adventures of Atreus Eleint of Rivenshield, a Quasimodo-like follower of Sune (!!!) (and his ogre bodyguard!), as he sets forth to complete a quest for his goddess which includes finding the mythical realm of Langdarma and bringing back a vial of sparkling water from the Fountain of Infinite Grace found therein.
The book was a great disappointment from beginning to end and is reminiscent of Troy Denning's other poor work (i.e. The Veiled Dragon) as opposed to his commendable work (e.g. Waterdeep, The Parched Sea, Prince of Lies, and Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad to mention a few).
Troy Denning sets up the Mar as being very similar to the inhabitants of India and the Ffolk to the British. Subsequently, Rishi Saubhari's words should be read with a thick Indian accent for accuracy.
On the positive side, Troy Denning does a good job of acquiring and presenting essential knowledge relevant to Toril, including customs, religion and history, such as the Bloodforge Wars described on pages 14-15. Additionally, the author does a wonderful job of describing ogre customs: "...don't let the crows get your eyes." "They believed crows to be spies of Skiggaret, the fear-loving god of their bugbear enemies."(p.241)
Moreover, on page 123 he provides a very good description of the effects of fear, while on page 107 he does a formidable job in presenting a barbazu.
Additionally, Troy Denning is on the ball when he has Atreus stating that: "There is no duty greater than that of a mother to protect her child." (p.235)
Finally, the author strikes gold with graphic descriptions of violence such as: "So powerful was the strike that the man's eye popped free of its socket." (p.117) "The man's nose exploded across his face, spewing blood and cartilage in every direction. (p.120) "Atreus grinned and leaped into the fray, biting an ear off and gouging two eyes out with his naked fingers, both favorite ogre brawling tricks." (p.120) "The slaver's jaw clacked shut. He spit out the tip of his tongue and stumbled back, blind with pain and slashing his dagger about madly (p.135) "Atreus kept his jaw clenched, nearly snapping his own neck as the devil's ear came off in his teeth." (p.193) "Tarch went sailing down the icefall, leaving his tail in Yago's hands and trailing an arc of rust-colored blood." (p.194) "His mangled eye was dangling out on his cheek, and his wounded leg lay stripped to the bone from the hip down." (p.294)
On the negative side, the author repeatedly fails in accurately describing the barbazu and instead treats it like any other natural creature. Specifically, a barbazu would not have let go of Atreus' ankle after being stricken by a mundane club since they can only be hit by +1 weapons or better. (p.124) In addition, a barbazu, once per day, may gate 2 to 12 abishai or 1 to 6 additional barbazu, hence it should have made minced meat of the adventuring party. In short, the struggle against the barbazu was rather sad!
Moreover, how was a slavers' captive able to hold on to her pouches and brew a healing potion in the midst of commotion? (pp.112-113)
Additionally, what mother (particularly a lawful good one) that has lost her child is in the mood for love-making less than a month after its loss, especially when she was responsible to a great extent for its death???
Other drawbacks include Troy Denning giving the impression that he will include a generous dose of Planescape when he does not, the characters never-ending bad decisions, and Yago never revealing Atreus' mother's name!!!
Furthermore, Tarch reminded me of the ice mephit in Soldiers of Ice (a rather dull novel by David Cook for the Harpers series)
Finally and most importantly, the characters were just not likable, making the reader not really care about the outcome and taking away from the overall enjoyment; the ending was a different (and very disappointing indeed) story altogether with nearly all questions left unanswered.
In conclusion, Faces of Deception was like watching a National Geographic documentary, which although can be very enjoyable, there is a place and a time for that and not at the expense of a Forgotten Realms novel. Nevertheless the book will provide for a fair amount of entertainment if you are looking for a D&D fix.
Troy Denning allows for a dramatic cliffhanger, however, I do not believe one ever materialized due to a lack of demand attributed to the weak plot and the weak characters.