I am not sure if there is all that much that I can actually say about this book other than it is another of those many Forgotten Realms books that I read when I was much younger and have now relegated to the pages of history. For a while I felt that maybe that were scrapping the bottom of the barrel when it came to stories to base books on, but then it seemed that they were very much doing the same thing with regards to the various settings within the Forgotten Realms. The main continent (known colloquially as the Forgotten Realms, but more precisely as Faerun) is an area based upon the Mediterranean world, though it is sort of a mix between the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern periods. However, they then expanded the setting to include an oriental setting which is, surprisingly, to the east.
However, they were not simply satisfied with that and also included settings based upon the Arabian Nights (Al Qadim) and the Americas (Maztica). By the time that they reached Maztica it seemed as it their creative juices had finally been squeezed out and they were simply throwing around the first names that came to mind onto the cover of the product. At least Kara Tur and Al Qadim had enough of a fantasy element to keep our beliefs suspended (and even those two settings could easily be played without even mentioning the existence of the Forgotten Realms).
What Ironhelm does is that it introduces the world of Maztica and I must admit that the plot is pretty, no incredibly, lame. We have some merchant who approaches a king and says that he has this theory that if he sails to the west he will sail right around the world and arrive at Kara Tur. The king, who is intrigued, gives him money, ships, and soldiers, and sends them off to the west. However, instead of sailing right around the world he discovers that there is a massive continent in between. So he lands and sets up a colony, while burning all of the boats so that nobody can return home.
The only reason that this is not outright plagiarism is because the story is based on real events as opposed to somebody else's story. Okay, it sort of merges the stories of Columbus and (I believe) Cortez into a single story, but it is pretty noticeable nonetheless. I'm not really sure whether Niles is a bad writer or not, but his imagination (if indeed he wrote it, or simply just put his name to a bunch of words that were thrown onto the paper because a committee determined that these particular words in this particular order would sell the book – then again, I read it so I guess there were a lot of other people out there who read it as well) seems to be non-existent.