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T O P I C    R E V I E W
VikingLegion Posted - 24 May 2015 : 07:34:09
Greetings fellow Realms enthusiasts,

Several years ago I made a goal to read *every* novel from the major D&D worlds/settings. After blasting through the smaller libraries of Darksun, Ravenloft, and Planescape, I decided to tackle Dragonlance. Just recently I finished my 166th and final Dragonlance book. And now I have my sights set on the Forgotten Realms, a no-doubt Herculean task that will make DL easy by comparison.

As I finish each book I plan make a post in this thread. Some may be quite lengthy, others only a sentence or three, all depending on how deeply the story resonated with me and/or its greater importance in Realms lore. This is not a "book club" attempt, in that I won't be holding to any set schedule or waiting for others to finish a particular book. My pace is roughly one 300 page book per week, though occasionally I go on a torrid streak and can sometimes double that. So I won't limit my reading so others can read along with. That being said, I heartily encourage fellow Candlekeepers to jump right in with their own commentary. This can be a fun, nostalgic for some, trip through the history of the novel line. My only rules are thus:

1. I will make no attempt to hide spoilers for books as I finish them, so reader beware. This shouldn't pose much of a problem, as the material (in the early going specifically) is close to 30 years old.
2. Please, please, please, when discussing a book I've read, do NOT divulge spoilers that may occur further down the line as a result of said book.
3. Keep it civil. There are some author's writing styles that turn me off a bit, and I won't be shy about saying so, but it will be done in a manner that isn't toxic bashing.

My order of reading is going to loosely follow publishing date. I say loosely, because I will (early and often) deviate from this order when it makes sense, such as finishing up a series, or staying within a certain theme/region/etc. With that said, I began this endeavor with 1987's Darkwalker on Moonshae.
25   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Iahn Qoyllor Posted - 19 Nov 2018 : 08:56:30
Ditto Seravin, really liked Jack Ravenwild and the two Richard Baker books were both enjoyable and funny in equal measure.
Seravin Posted - 17 Nov 2018 : 09:27:11
The ONLY time I liked the deities being written a bit mortal like is Finder - because his ascent was so recent and his portfolio and number of followers was so small you'd have a lot of reason why he was not quite a true god yet (and even then he gave away his power). In Tymora's Luck the other gods treat Finder a bit like a child. Otherwise the way WotC let's the deities come off is a bit ridiculous and the MTV reality show analogy is very apt!

I actually re-read Blades of the Moonsea recently and generally like Richard Baker's work. Will be keen to read your thoughts on the series. Make sure you don't skip Prince of Ravens as it was ebook only but a return to Jack Ravenwild, who is up there with my fave characters in the Realms (and much more likeable this round).

VikingLegion Posted - 17 Nov 2018 : 01:17:29
I finished The Crystal Mountain yesterday, thus concluding the Empyrean Odyssey and ushering in a new age of FR lore. I still don't feel ready for that. When I look at the pile of books I have yet to read to complete this project, I'm stunned that so many of them are written in the Spellplague era.

Some random thoughts on Crystal Mountain in no particular order:

It feels weird to me that Kael was born and raised on Mt. Celestia. I'm a huge Planescape fan and love the Cosmology and so on, but the one problem I have with making Outer Planes so... accessible? is that they do lose something of their afterlife mystique and nature in regards to a philosophical end-game. Let me clarify; Heaven is supposed to be a reward for a life justly lived, while Hell is punishment for a wicked one. Kael ended up being virtuous largely (entirely?) due to being tutored by Tauran and surrounded exclusively by exemplars of goodness. But he never had to live a "mortal" existence down in the muck with all us dirtbags. How much temptation did he have to resist? Did he really "earn" his spot in Paradise? Some weighty stuff.

There were some really good conversations/debates between Aliiza and Kael about the nature of Good and Evil, and whether or not angels are just as self-serving and manipulative as devils/demons.

Lathander has some kind of big shakeup. The heresy amongst his church was touched upon in the Kemp novels, but I never fully understood it until doing a little wiki searching and finding his link to ancient Aumanator. Lathander, much like Helm, has always been one of my favorite FR gods from my personal campaigns, but man they have both had some dubious moments in the novel line! Speaking of gods, once again I have to express my disapproval of how mortal they seem in these books - like Tyr is dating Tymora but then she moves out in a tiff when he starts to lose control of the House of the Triad. Are these deities or contestants on an MTV reality show? I guess I just don't like the Olympian model, where gods are just bigger-than-life mortals, with all the same appetites, quirks, and foibles - only amped up to 11.

Khannyr Vhok appears on the cover of this book but looks NOTHING like the image I had in my mind. Cool pic of the astral kraken though. Overall this trilogy was pretty solid; good writing quality overall, nice thought-provoking content, the author really did a decent job with an RSE that probably very few people wanted.

Ok, I guess that ends one era and begins a new one. There's nothing for it but to press on. Up next is Richard Baker's Swordmage.
Irennan Posted - 12 Nov 2018 : 00:59:12
Both Mystra's and Helm's demises were just ridiculous IMHO. For Mystra, it's like a running gag. For Helm, it was some kind of nonsensical soap-opera drama. Then again, there's a reason why 5e era WotC completely erased the end-3e/transition to 4e era of FR novels, to the point of avoiding to mention them like they were some kind of dirty secret.
Seravin Posted - 12 Nov 2018 : 00:13:55
Adon committed suicide because of Cyric (and eventually got to Dweomerheart so who knows), in one of the Cyric is Crazy Ain't it Cool books wrote by Troy Denning...yet again, a bad god is able to totally mess directly with a mortal somehow never happens that a good god mortals cause novel plot reasons. Good gods are worthless in the Realms and never do anything apparently, while the evil gods directly intervene in the lives of mortals and cause all kinds of havoc with their Chosen and faithful. Sigh.

I had totally lost faith in WotC by the time all that happened and couldn't be asked to read those post trilogy Avatar books.
VikingLegion Posted - 11 Nov 2018 : 13:39:27
I finished The Fractured Sky a few nights ago. I really liked Savras's realm in Dweomerheart. It reminded me of an extraplanar jaunt to another deity of learning and knowledge I read not too long ago.... was it Ilsensine of the illithids? What book was that in? I want to say it happened during the WotSQ, but I've read so many FR books in the last couple years it's all blending together. Anyway, I enjoyed that bit immensely, as the best outerplanar stories are more about a metaphysical journey than the reality of walking miles of actual "ground."

Helm slain by Tyr? Somehow I forgot about that fairly MAJOR detail on my first read of this trilogy when it first came out. I always liked Helm and felt he got a fairly bad rap in the novel line. During the ToT he's villified for killing Mystra even though he'd been tasked by Ao to hold the stair against any returning deities. Also I recall him giving her more than fair warning as to what would happen if she persisted. In the Maztica Trilogy it's implied that he approves of the Golden Legion's conquistador-like slaughter of the underequipped and unprepared natives. I think the fallen paladins of Thornhold were Helmites... or maybe Tyrrans, I can't recall. There was at least one other really nasty cleric of Helm from another book as well, a fat, loathsome individual that acted more like an assassin than a cleric.

Midnight/Mystra getting offed was just humorous. How many Goddesses of Magic have we churned through at this point? At least one Mystryl and 2 Mystras? This one was a little more interesting however, in that her demise came at the hands of her old adventuring buddy/turned nemesis. I wonder if Cyric will set his sights on Kelemvor next, yet another companion that "betrayed" him (at least in his mind). Hey, whatever happened to good old Adon, the scarred and fallen cleric of Sune? You know you're doing something wrong when 75% of your adventuring group ascends to godhood and you can barely look at yourself in the mirror. I vaguely recall a short story from long ago that featured Adon post ToT, but I can't remember how it ended. I think he became a cleric of Mystra, I guess that didn't work out for him.

Up next: a brief respite from the novels as I read the 5th edition Players Handbook in anticipation of a friend starting up a campaign (I have zero experience with anything past 3.0) After that I'll get back and finish this trilogy with book 3; The Crystal Mountain.

Seravin Posted - 04 Nov 2018 : 10:22:56
Well it's not so much I hate the writing of this series as much as I hate the 4th edition FR setting and Spellplague generally and feel it destroyed the Realms, getting us where we are now; "fixed" with a half-arsed reboot, most characters Deus ex Machina surviving the time jump, and no published source/setting books or FR novels.

So yeah, a series about the overused Shar and Cyric (who never interested me as he's not one of Ed's deities) causing Mystra to die YET AGAIN because WotC is clueless (or was at the time) and then be reborn YET AGAIN later is not something I would ever be inclined to like.

But I don't have nits to pick with the Empyrean Odysee. At least they didn't make devils and demons inexplicably work together and ignore the unending Blood War?

VikingLegion Posted - 03 Nov 2018 : 19:22:06
I finished The Gossamer Plain last night. This is the only book (well, trilogy) that I've read already since the mid 1990s, so this is actually a re-read. As such, my notes were very sparse since I remembered quite a bit of it.

Kaanyr Vhok's plan is interesting, but it feels to me like so many things have to go *exactly* as planned for it to go off. I hate it when villains are intelligent enough to cook up these nearly impossibly complicated schemes, but then act like complete buffoons when it's time to lose. That hasn't happened yet, so I'll withold judgment for now. Allisza's transformation was well written. I happen to think portraying an alignment change, especially over the course of one book, is one of the hardest challenges for an author to pull off believably. But Allisza's Dickensian spirit journey that showed her the effects her selfish actions have on others was pretty decent. Having her find out it was all a big manipulation and then watching her shift *hard* back to evil was satisfying in a guilty sort of way. This book does a fairly good job of wrestling with some of the bigger philisophical questions as to the nature of Good and Evil.

Quick tangent, I liked when Vhok and Zasian have to escape the extra-dimensional mansion and use the Rope Trick spell. An extra-dimensional space inside of an extra-dimensional space?!?! EVERYONE KNOWS YOU NEVER EVER DO THAT!!! It's like crossing the streams of a Ghostbuster's proton pack. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and they knew the risks involved. I was a bit disapointed to see their gambit paid off so flawlessly. I know they had to get back to the Elemental Plane of Fire to progress the story, but I feel like there should've been some more dramatically awful consequences to pay.

Decent book overall. I'm guessing Seravin hated it with a passion so I'm eager to see some counterpoints. Up next I will continue with book 2: The Fractured Sky.
VikingLegion Posted - 03 Nov 2018 : 18:57:09
Thanks Iahn. I figured since I was going to take this journey regardless, might as well chronicle it and see if I can stir up some nostalgia (or some trouble!) with other FR readers. It's been a pleasure and I'm thankful for every poster who chimes in with their own thoughts and experiences.

That said, I finished two books recently but October, specifically the week of Halloween, is like the Superbowl for my wife and I. We've been all over the place going to haunts, spooky locations, conventions, building costumes, and so on. So I've fallen a bit behind on reviews. Let's remedy that:

Sentinelspire was an unusual story set somewhere out in the Hordelands/Amber Steppes/Shalhoond... I'm a little hazy on the geography of this region without digging up my old Hordelands boxed set. I'm really enjoying being away from the Sword Coast side of Faerun, I tend to burn out on the west coast, so all this material I've read lately in the Unapproachable East and points beyond has been great.

This story is about an old citadel of assassins, the leader of which sends out a hit on a nearby arch-druid he holds a grudge against. His top assassin is captured in the attempt and killed by rangers, only to be resurrected by the druids in order to atone for his life of killing by now serving the Oak Father. A little bit of a strange premise, but I bought in. Fast forward and now we have a crazed druid deciding to "wipe the slate clean" by powering a supervolcano to erupt, sending ash into the sky and basically wiping out all civilization, so that whatever survivors remain revert back to a more primitive lifestyle. He has visions of the destruction, but given a few years to recover, Nature restores all of Faerun to a beautiful, pristine, primal state; with the ruins of cities covered over in vegetation. I know he's the villain and all, but if I'm being 100% truthful, I don't completely disagree with the plan... I know I've mentioned it plenty of times, but I LOVE when a villain is written to have, at least from their perspective, a noble purpose. It makes for a vastly more interesting antagonist and story overall when the big bad isn't simply being evil for evil's sake.

Some downsides: the length of this book was unexpected. At 375 pages it could've easily been cut down to the more usual ~310 mark. There were 4 or 5 times the main hero battled against another assassin (a former comrade) and they would either get separated somehow, or one would win but spare the other out of past history, only to be at each other's throats 10 pages later, battling yet again. Also, when the little gecco familiar of one character defeated the full-grown tiger companion of the Malarite, that was just flat-out absurd.

There was one really funny moment when one of the assassins, a mage in training, muses on the sense of humor of the god's of magic for making one of the most useful, powerful, and commonly used offensive spells (fireball) require a rolled up ball of bat guano as the primary material component. Of all the ingredients in the world... This bit of levity occurs as he is scouring a cave for some, and made me chuckle and think about how long I've been wondering the same thing, probably at least 30 years now.

I was hoping to find out a tiny bit more about the Yaqubi people. All I can put together is they are a reclusive tribe that hangs out near the Spiderhaunt Peaks and gather silk for sale, likely to Shou traders.

After finishing this book I next tackled part 1 of the Empyrean Odyssey: The Gossamer Plain.
Iahn Qoyllor Posted - 01 Nov 2018 : 15:12:19
Love your posts VikingLegion and apologies for not saying that more often. Always very incisive and interesting. I genuinely look forward to your posts and views on your new reads.
George Krashos Posted - 22 Oct 2018 : 05:10:22
I liked lots of Shield, but the author's description of the key maguffin was confusing and it took several reads before I twigged that effectively he was trying to harness the Blood War to fight of the Narfelli demons. I think. Not the worst FR book for totally confusing plotlines but it had its moments. James P Davis did his homework though, as he asked me what the name of the Narfelli ruling family at the time was - Crell.

-- George Krashos
VikingLegion Posted - 21 Oct 2018 : 19:40:01
Thanks Demzer, good info.

I finished The Shield of Weeping Ghosts a couple days ago. I really like James P. Davis' writing style. I mentioned this in Bloodwalk but I don't recall there being any responses to that writeup. Shield was a bit more moody, maudlin, lots of flashbacks and ghostly angst. It did bog down at times, but overall I thought he did a really good job of describing the anguish of the spirits - locked for eternity in their time loops, doomed to forever repeat a series of horrific events. The action takes place primarily in the ruin of Shandaular, an old city on the Ashane Lake right on the border of Rashemen and Narfell. Most of the Rashemen books I've read thus far have done an admirable job of describing the location and culture (of one of my favorite areas of the Realms) and this was no exception. The main character is a vremyonni (male wizard) being sent into exile for dubious crimes. He is escorted by a fang of berserkers led by a wychlaren. They travel through the ruins of Shandaular, which is supposed to be a wychlaren-controlled outpost that guards against foreign intrusion. But the witches are missing and many of the protective wards that hold the angry spirits at bay have been erased or corrupted. We also get quite a bit of the demon-worshipping Nar involved, so bonus points for that. Good story for the most part, very interesting characters and an intriguing plot. Not quite as good as Bloodwalk, but not far behind, and I'm happy to see I still have 2 more books from this author.

If I can tangent for a bit, I feel like a lot of these standalone series - The Classes, The Dungeons, The Citadels, and so on got a bad wrap. I expected them to be of widely varying qualities, and that much is true, but I've also found several gems amongst them. I wonder if they just didn't sell all that well and have limited exposure. This was a decade ago, and I wasn't reading any FR at the time, so I don't have a good feel for the pulse of what was going on in that time frame. Anyway, up next I wrap up the Citadels series with the 4th book: Sentinelspire.
Demzer Posted - 12 Oct 2018 : 14:42:41
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong?

During the ToT, to try and sneak back to her home plane, Waukeen left her divinity in trust to Lliira and started a plane hopping journey to smuggle herself back home as a super powerful mortal. Graz'zt reneged on his part of the bargain when she showed up in the Abyss and she was held captive there until 1371 when she was freed by adventurers (a playable module from late 2E called For Duty and Deity).

From 1358 until 1371 the Joybringer kept answering prayers of the Waukenaars and granting them spells. After 1371 Waukeen was back on full divinity (albeit with a much reduced pool of faithful since over her absence a lot converted to the direct worship of Lliira).
VikingLegion Posted - 12 Oct 2018 : 14:07:57
I finished Obsidian Ridge last night. I'm guessing I'm the only one who has read this, so discussion will be non-existent. It wasn't a great book, but it had its moments. There were some goofy elements, like a night-prowling vigilante named The Claw who was basically Batman with a dash of Wolverine sprinkled in. Add in some terrible dialogue like, "I'll get you for this, Korox! You'll be dead soon, and so will the Claw!" and it came off very comic-booky.

The story was set in Erlkazar in 1366. I just can't seem to avoid this area of late. It's not a region I find particularly interesting, but I can only go where the books take me. Anyway, we have a king of a young nation (only recently liberated from Tethyr) defending his land against a mad wizard and his flying mountain fortress. I've always really liked the cloud castle theme - from Jack and the Beanstalk, to the flying citadels of the Dragonarmy in the Dragonlance books, to the floating enclaves of Netheril, to several D&D adventures featuring cloud/storm giants up there in there flying castles - it really gets my imagination fired up. Anyway, this immortal mage needs a new bride every few decades, as he drains their life-force to power his own longevity. He has his eye on the king's daughter. It forces an interesting moral dilemma - give up your one and only daughter but save thousands of your subject's lives?

There were some sideplots involving a criminal organization distributing an illegal drug called Elixir. That same group had their own princess kidnapping/ransom scheme going, so it was amusing to see the king struggling with his decision when handing over the princess wasn't even an option at that point (as she had been abducted by thugs.) There was a Deepspawn, one of my favorite monsters, so that was awesome. There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong? All in all it was an ok book. The writing quality was mostly sub-par, but it was a quick and easy read with a few interesting elements. I've read far worse (looking at you Once Around the Realms - still the gold standard for hideousness).

Up next, still not into committing to a trilogy right now, so I'll keep going with the standalone Citadels. Due up is Shield of Weeping Ghosts, which I'm cautiously optimistic for, as I really liked the author's previous work: Bloodwalk.
Seravin Posted - 11 Oct 2018 : 14:48:25
I was half expecting you to like this series so I'm glad I'm not the only one who disliked it (although my dislike is more like hate for this trilogy for a number of reasons already listed).

What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.

The thing for me is, in all the other depictions of Tam that I can recollect: Red Magic, Simbul's Gift, and Crusade (from the Empires trilogy the only good RSE imho) - Szass Tam is previously written as someone who is almost noble, well spoken, above gross displays of his vast power, and happy to work through agents and behave very pragmatically even with Harpers or "good" beings. So he does come across out of character in this part of the book to me. Generally I hate when "mortals" (I know that's not the case with Szass but bear with) deal with Gods anyway - nevermind trying to pull one over on them or anything of the sort. To me Gods and inhabitants of the Realms should not be interacting directly; only through Chosen or priests etc. Avatars should be saved for RSE (I liked when Tempus appeared in the 3rd Shadow of the Avatar book to help the Dalesmen against the Zhents for instance).

Good call on waiting a while before the Empyrean Odyssey! Fortunately once the dust settles there is some solid 4E material to read even by a curmedgeon's standards.
VikingLegion Posted - 07 Oct 2018 : 22:31:23
Thank you George. You've been a valued part of this thread with your encyclopediac knowledge of the Realms. For my part I'm happy to keep it going all the way up to the final novel.

I just finished powering through Unholy, wrapping up the Haunted Lands Trilogy. I didn't have many notes for this one, I think I sort of fatigued out on the overall story. I did enjoy the twist with Malark betraying Tam and assuming control of the Unmaking. Other than that, this story (and indeed the whole trilogy) seemed to be just one big military engagement after another. Definitely not Byers best work.

Also it really irked me that after defeating Malark in an epic battle that was draining all their reserves, Szass was then able to easily dispatch 4 other zulkirs plus Aoth. I get it, his undead lifespan has allowed him a greater mastery of magic than other zulkirs. But c'mon, these guys are also masters of their craft. Szass should be able to beat any one of them easily, even any two of them in combination. But 4 plus a very powerful battlemage/leader of the Brotherhood of the Griffin? He slaughtered them with almost contemptuous ease, thus assuring the continued state of Thay as a boring necropolis instead of the magnificent and interesting nation it once was. Yay for WoW.

I see there's a Griffon trilogy coming up in the future, but honestly with Bareris and Mirror destroyed I'm not sure how interested I am in that. They were by far the more intriguing members of that group, Aoth is sort of one-note and not all that exciting.

Up next - I'm supposed to start the Empyrean Odyssey, but I just don't want to handle another RSE, Cosmos Shattering Event at this point. So I'll skip that for now and take on some more standard fare in a return to the Citadels series with book 2: Obsidian Ridge.

George Krashos Posted - 06 Oct 2018 : 02:30:50
I just wanted to tell you VikingLegion that I always enjoy your posts and commentary re the FR novel line. Always good to revisit old reads and sometimes get a different perspective on them. Much appreciated.

-- George Krashos
VikingLegion Posted - 06 Oct 2018 : 01:52:01
Originally posted by Seravin
That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!

Agreed. I'm knocking out one of these pretty much per week and that's in my spare time. If it was my job, I would consider these research and finish it in 2-3 days max. Somewhere in this thread is a quote from Elaine detailing her approach - she basically saw the Realms as a world and all existing products (novels, rulebooks, even video games) as the *history* of that world, and immersed herself fully. It'd be nice to see that level of commitment across the board. There's a lot I like about Byers writing style and sensibilities, but he does get some things really wrong from time to time.

That said, I finished Undead a couple days ago. My first note was "Spellplague, Ugghhh!" I knew I was getting closer to this unfortunate event and the subsequent ~100 year time jump, but I didn't realize it was going to happen right there in the middle of the trilogy. It was jarring, it was demoralizing, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I hate all the silly contrivances that have to take place to preserve a roster of characters - Aoth is magically preserved by the blue flame and doesn't age, Bareris turns undead, all the zulkirs extend their lifespans with magic, even the ones that might normally find such necromancy distasteful. I imagine I will encounter a similar degree of handwaving when I get to the Drizzt and Superfriends books of this time period.

I'm surprised that Aglarond and Rashemen haven't made any more aggressive moves against Thay during all this turmoil (before the blue fire, they're probably busy from that point.) It would seem the ripe time to weaken a country that has been a constant thorn in your side forever - if not to invade and annex land, at the very least to cripple their military, perhaps remove key generals and leaders, etc. Maybe they are too wary that the whole civil war is just a staged event to draw them into a trap. Or maybe they are just happy to not be the target of aggression and would rather not poke the bear. Do they at least have some kind of mutual defense pact where they assist each other during Thayan incursion?

Bareris and Tammith have this kind of dark, gothic, angsty teen romance thing going. I thought I was going to find it cheesy and tiring, but I'm actually liking it for some reason. Maybe it's just their sheer resignation and hopelessness - just two damned souls trying to make the most of a pretty grim situation. I do like the darkness and grittiness of this book, Byers certainly isn't adding any sunshine and flowers.

What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.

Up next, might as well finish it out with Unholy, about two thirds of the way through as of this writing.
Seravin Posted - 30 Sep 2018 : 13:55:26
Lynn Abbey's "Gift" was writen and came out first, and was an in-universe canon novel, so I think the onus is on RLB to carry her character's personalities onwards. If RLB had written it first and published it first, then Lynn would be the one reinventing the characters not RLB. So I think there is a responsibility in a shared setting to look into how the characters have been written and established in the canon material. It's just one book in this case (two if you count Red Magic from the Harpers which really had a lot of Szass) that you'd need to read before writing a Thay novel, on top of the sourcebook materials. I would say that her book followed the existing lore from the 2nd edition source material very, very well.

That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!

Szass' portrayal is mostly in line with previous books, in Simbul's Gift he was recovering from a major setback so barely present except in the Zulkir convocation where everyone was shocked at how awful/weak he looked.

VikingLegion Posted - 30 Sep 2018 : 00:55:59
Well I finally finished Unclean. Typing while recovering from rotator cuff surgery, so this will be brief.

Szazz Tam's personality - RLB conveys him with a very patient, almost gentlemanly demeanor. I really like it, it goes well as a counterpoint to the horror we all know he really is. I was just curious if that is consistent with other portrayals of him. I can honestly say I can't recall seeing his mannerisms, or any speaking lines for that matter in other products, just people alluding to how powerful and terrifyihng he is. Did he make an appearance in Simbul's Gift I'm forgetting?

Chapter 4 - sigh... Byers did it again, having demons and devils in close proximity to each other and not instantly going for each other's throats. This was one of the biggest bugaboos of the Last Mythal Trilogy and it rears its head again here. C'mon Richard, do your research. This ties hand-in-hand with Seravin's comment above about how he didn't read Simbul's Gift to get a better feel for the personalities of the various zulkirs. However, to soften that blow, who is to say that Lynn Abbey's vision is the correct one? I personally thought she knocked it out of the park with that book - the personalities, the tone and character of Thay itself, etc. - but does that mean her version of those people is the correct one? I've already stated I far prefer RAS's Alustriel to Ed's, even though Greenwood is the creator and therefore should be the final arbiter. So while it would be nice if Byers read Abbey's book and continued to write the characters in that manner, there obviously was no mandate for him to do so. Ahh, the perils and pitfalls of a shared sandbox world I guess.

I dig Tam's overall scheme in general. Create problems for your country, and then demonstrate you are the only one that can solve them. It had a very Augustus Caesar vibe to it, with barbarians threatening at the gate. I was a little disappointed though when he petitioned the council to install him as a supreme leader. That lacked subtlety. Far better to continue the charade until the people and fellow councilers *ask* you to assume that mantle and you *reluctantly* accept it for the good of the people. Szass Tam overplayed his hand and I thought it was clumsy.

Aoth, Baraeris, Mirror, and so on are ok. They haven't endeared themselves to me as characters, but I don't dislike them either. They are interesting enough where I'm willing to let them develop further. The bard's side plot with his lady becoming a mutated vampire subtype is the most interesting of the bunch.

All in all it is an ok book. I like the political maneuvering, the large scale battles are engaging. But it does suffer from the aforementioned weaknesses. On to book 2: Undead
Seravin Posted - 25 Sep 2018 : 17:47:11
As I typed that I felt, somewhere, Seravin twitch in disappointment over the terrible mis-handling of one of the most interesting magocracies in FR lore.

The dissapointing setting changes/Realms Shaking Events to make things more like Warcarft aside...

RLB wrote on Facebook that he hadn't read The Simbul's Gift before writing this trilogy. I think that is a really horrible disservice to the Realms as a shared setting, since The Simbul's Gift shows Thay in a light that I think is very true to Ed's vision and very much in line with the setting Source Material (Red Magic and the Thay box set). As well, characters from that book are written completely inconsistently (especially Aznar Thrull who is actually reckless as opposed to HUGELY paranoid to the point of madness in "Gift"). I don't understand how an author can be told to write a book on Thay and then not read one of the only novels actually set there before to see how the characters were handled. Or at least the editors. Nevermind that the Zulkir of Evocation has no contingency magic on his person despite it being a evocation school magic..sigh. I could go on, but I hated this book/series for more reasons than what it did to Thay.
VikingLegion Posted - 20 Sep 2018 : 02:05:19
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I have partially read the anthology Realms of War. I noticed the stories are arranged in order of their Dale Reckoning Year, so I figured I'd read the "safe" ones that occurred some time ago. I'll now put this back on the shelf and revisit the rest of the tales after I catch up in the main line of products.[snip]

Finished it up, here are the remainder:

The Siege of Zerith Hold - Jess Lebow - I barely remembered the characters from the novel that spawned this short story. I find the history of Tethyr/Erlkazar just doesn't stick in my head anyway. This was a solid, though unremarkable story of defenders beating back the typical goblinoid horde that outnumbers them 10:1. There was nothing wrong with it, it just didn't do much for me.

Mercy's Reward - Mark Sehestedt - Hordelands, love it. References to Frostfell, love it. More lythari, check. Really good story from an author that has been growing on me the more I see of his work.

Redemption - Elaine Cunningham - when I said I was sad at having read the last offering from EC, I was not aware of this story, so it came as an unexpected boon. I just got done saying Tethyr is "meh" for me, but E.C. always seems to make it more interesting to me with the elven/human conflict, the lythari (seeing a lot of them lately!), and so on. Good story, it brings back the elven assassin named Ferret. I savored it as slowly as I could, like that last spoonful of ice-cream at the end of the sundae!

Changing Tides - Mel Odom - I think I was a little bit alone in my admiration of the Threat from the Seas Trilogy, if I recall correctly. This story is yet another aquatic adventure in the region, and another pretty good one IMO. Here we have a morally vague treasure hunter getting caught between several factions: greedy humans, territorial sea-elves, and savage sahuagin (are there any other kind?) I still don't understand how an underwater wall manned by elves is supposed to hem in the sahuagin. If it doesn't reach to, and even above, the surface, what difference would it make at 10 feet or 600 feet high? Either way foes can attack at multiple angles, or simply swim above defenders causing them to abandon their post to intercept.

Chase the Dark - Jaleigh Johnson - I feel like a broken record here, but I really dig Jaleigh's style and vibe. It's very different from the traditional D&D writers, but not so out of tune as to be incompatible. I always find her stories to be refreshing and interesting.

Bones and Stones - RAS - an excellent short about the damage that is only realized after a battle. Some may criticize his choice to "recycle" portions of Drizzt's musings from one of the Obould novels. I thought it was a masterfully done job of interspersing one of the best examples of those journal thoughts with a simple story of two soldiers from opposing sides (Pwent and an orc) each trying to recover corpses for proper burial and honoring. It was no Dark Mirror, but it was one of his better shorts.

Second Chance - Richard Lee Byers - I haven't started the Thay trilogy yet, so this one made me nervous. I decided to read it and stop if my spidey sense went off over incoming major spoilers. That did not happen, this seems to be a very early engagement in the Thayan civil war that I already know is going to happen. Decent story of a young priest who loses his nerve and has to rekindle his courage. I don't feel the quality was up to Byers' usual standards, but it was ok.

And that does it for the Realms of War anthology. Fitting that it ended with with a Thayan tale, as the next book I plan to start is Unclean, the first of the Haunted Lands books. As I typed that I felt, somewhere, Seravin twitch in disappointment over the terrible mis-handling of one of the most interesting magocracies in FR lore.

VikingLegion Posted - 20 Sep 2018 : 00:52:00
I finished Neversfall a few days ago. My notes are extremely sparse, it just didn't feel all that remarkable to me, probably because I'm largely unfamiliar with the Shining South. I did like the formians as sometimes enemies/sometimes allies. I've said it many times before, but my background was mainly in Planescape before FR, and I've always felt formians had a lot of potential, precisely because they are not exactly evil, but so rigidly lawful that several of their actions can easily by interpreted as such. They were utilized well in this story. The main characters were believable and went through some decent development.

What drove me absolutely nuts was the piss-poor editing. By page two there were already major errors - like a character name being spelled differently in back-to-back paragraphs. I can understand this happening on page 180 or something, as mental familiarity sets in and an editor's concentration lapses, but on page 2? I've read that many people don't even notice a misspelling when it occurs wihtin the middle of a word, so long as the beginning and end are accurate. Also on page 2, "Adeenya had begun training behind her father's back, in preparation for join the Maquar." How can an editor be checked out by PAGE TWO?!?!? Elaine, how does this stuff make it to final print? Am I crazy?

Page 275 is the beginning of Chapter 21
Page 288 we have Chapter 29 - WHAT HAPPENED TO 22-28?
Page 295 brings us the final chapter, titled Chapter 24... naturally

So... a decent story overall, nothing particularly good or bad. I guess some slack should be given for a first time novelist, I can't imagine how nerve-frazzling that monumental task must be, as I've never made it past chapter 2 in my several aborted attempts at writing.
Irennan Posted - 12 Sep 2018 : 17:30:15
Originally posted by CTrunks

Plus, the Ondonti were once a thing, so it's not like there was zero precedent for 'good' orcs in the Realms. But it was probably also because of WoW (and WarCraft 3 before it).

The Ondonti date back to 2e, so they predate Warcraft 3 and WoW, though.
Irennan Posted - 12 Sep 2018 : 17:28:50
Originally posted by Seravin

I still *personally* don't think Ed would have peaceful orcs in great enough numbers to form a peaceful trading civilization, as it didn't happen in the OGB

Ed's Realms are much larger than what the OGB showed. For example, the OGB didn't include Eilistraee, but Ed has stated multiple times that Eilistraee had already been part of his Realms and campaign for a long time when TSR asked him for more drow deities. The same could be true for the orcs. In general, Ed's Realms are open to variety when it comes to these things. Then again, we can only speculate on this.

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