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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)
VikingLegion Posted - 23 Feb 2019 : 13:51:56
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

It's just odd that population is not fragmented between land-holders and inhabitants in any other source FR material (even Thay were slaves outnumber citizens by a wide margin but the cities there were always given in comparative numbers to other large Realms cities). In my opinion only - it was just poor editing that got "fixed" with this slavecount handwave when the powers that be wanted Waterdeep to be known as the largest/most important city in the Realms and having a city be 15-20x bigger than it didn't fit with that narrative so they nerfed it back to sub 200k and never referenced millions again post 2nd edition (now down to 60k post spell plague because genies or some nonsense sigh).

I still don't think that pre-refridgeration or modern transportation that a city surrounded by desert and unable to sustain lifestock would feed 2 million humans, regardless of how much they trade (Ruha made comments about that in the Parched Sea and feeding camels). There's a reason there wasn't large-scale cities surrounded entirely by desert in real life until modern tech.

Then again - a few magical permanent portals to the plain of water or bowls of everflowing water would solve 99% of my logic problems - magic is better than technology! I don't remember references to that in those sourcebooks you mention though, which is at odds with the Parched Sea sourcebooks that tell of how the Zhents created oases in Anauroch to sustain their supply chains. Maybe the Calim desert is just less hostile than Anauroch or Calimport has fertile lands buffering it before the desert? That would make sense.





I haven't finished Ghost King yet, probably need 2-3 more nights, but I came across this passage which is very germane to the conversation. It comes from one of the Drizzt musings that start some of the chapters. He's contemplating what far-ranging effects this "unraveling of the Weave" will have on the world. He seems to suggest magic is used far more than I thought for mundane tasks - like preserving foodstuffs, waste and sanitation, etc.:

"Do the farmers around the larger cities of Faerun, around Waterdeep and Silverymoon, know how to manage their produce without the magical aid of the druids? Without such magical help, will they be able to meet the demands of the large populations in those cities? And that is only the top level of the problems that will arise should magic fail! Even the sewers of Waterdeep are complicated affairs, built over many generations, and aided at certain critical points, since the city has so expanded, by the power of wizards summoning elementals to help usher away the waste. Without them - what?

And what of Calimport? Regis has told me often that there are far too many people there, beyond any sensible number for which the ocean and desert could possibly provide. But the fabulously rich Pashas have supplemented their natural resources by employing mighty clerics to summon food and drink for the markets, and mighty wizards to teleport in fresh sustenance from faraway lands.

Without that aid, what chaos might ensue?


I'm not saying that to contradict you Demzer. I didn't realize there was fertile land around Calimport, that is interesting and I'm glad you shared the info. It's likely that RAS might not even be aware of that (as several of us weren't) and simply freelanced that bit about clerics summoning food, which is a no-brainer to me - a 1st level spell that can circumvent one of the largest problems any civilization faces... But even still, I think there has to be a blend of traditional and magical means to deal with a population of that size. As a person with some experience in city management, I can tell you that just the drinking water and sewage removal alone wouldn't be remotely possible for a city of 2 million utilizing Medieval technologies only. For comparison sake, early Medieval London contained 8,000 inhabitants. Later on, Renaissance level technology boosted this population to 100,000 - still only 1/20th of what Calimport is said to contain.
Demzer Posted - 23 Feb 2019 : 11:36:32
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I still don't think that pre-refridgeration or modern transportation that a city surrounded by desert and unable to sustain lifestock would feed 2 million humans, regardless of how much they trade (Ruha made comments about that in the Parched Sea and feeding camels). There's a reason there wasn't large-scale cities surrounded entirely by desert in real life until modern tech.


Again, Calimport is not surrounded by a desert, it's at the mouth of the River Calim which is the big river that by itself stops the desert from expanding. Calimshan has lots of plains that are basically used only for lifestock and horses, the biggest food imports are grains, fruits and vegetables.

Please read the sources, there is no need for funky fantasy solutions and magic that can fail, everything works fine with geography, climate and money. Obviously this doesn't mean that every slave in Calimport gets 3 full meals a day or anything like that, but there is enough to keep the population up there in the triple/quadruple digits of thousands.
Seravin Posted - 22 Feb 2019 : 10:54:18
It's just odd that population is not fragmented between land-holders and inhabitants in any other source FR material (even Thay were slaves outnumber citizens by a wide margin but the cities there were always given in comparative numbers to other large Realms cities). In my opinion only - it was just poor editing that got "fixed" with this slavecount handwave when the powers that be wanted Waterdeep to be known as the largest/most important city in the Realms and having a city be 15-20x bigger than it didn't fit with that narrative so they nerfed it back to sub 200k and never referenced millions again post 2nd edition (now down to 60k post spell plague because genies or some nonsense sigh).

I still don't think that pre-refridgeration or modern transportation that a city surrounded by desert and unable to sustain lifestock would feed 2 million humans, regardless of how much they trade (Ruha made comments about that in the Parched Sea and feeding camels). There's a reason there wasn't large-scale cities surrounded entirely by desert in real life until modern tech.

Then again - a few magical permanent portals to the plain of water or bowls of everflowing water would solve 99% of my logic problems - magic is better than technology! I don't remember references to that in those sourcebooks you mention though, which is at odds with the Parched Sea sourcebooks that tell of how the Zhents created oases in Anauroch to sustain their supply chains. Maybe the Calim desert is just less hostile than Anauroch or Calimport has fertile lands buffering it before the desert? That would make sense.

Demzer Posted - 21 Feb 2019 : 23:37:29
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I'm not sure how a 2 million person city would feed itself in an arid dessert like Calimsham was meant to be though outside of trading with the fertile lands like Tethyr, but what resources did they have to trade? I'm not sure it works but this is a fantasy land so anything is possible.



Calimshan is not a desert, it is a country that is much more extended than the Calim Desert and mostly flat, with two great rivers that keep the desert from expanding and much of the land usable. Still, Calimshan has problems to sustain it's population and that's why it imports a lot of food.

Citing Empires of the Sands: "Calimshan has a very strong trading economy, dealing with nearly every other nation in the Forgotten Realms. There are many things - magical items, exotic spices, alchemical supplies, fine horses, gems, and silk - unique to Calimshan that the rest of the Realms wants."

As for Calimport itself, the brilliant Steven E. Schend explained in the Calimport supplement the fluctuating figures for it: in a nutshell, the official census counts only land-holders as true citizens, which tops at about 200000, plus around 5 slaves per citizens which are not counted in the census, bringing the total past the million. As all trade cities of Faerun (but on steroids since it's the biggest and it's been there for around 7 millennia, although not always fully inhabited) its population ebbs and flows with the seasons and events, rising almost to the impressive 2 million figure during the summer and dipping as "low" as around 900000. As already stated, Calimshan imports a lot of food-stuff (not meat, that is plentiful) and naval trade is preferred, that's why Calimport's docks can hold up to 600 ships at any one time.

I strongly suggest reading the Empires of the Shining Sea and Calimport game supplements to really understand Calimshan. I'll not speak about comparisons to Waterdeep, I'll just say that it's easy to mistake all the attention that the City of Splendors gets with it's actual size compared to other cities of the Realms that are basically never in the spotlight.
Seravin Posted - 21 Feb 2019 : 13:35:37
I'm torn on Ghost King - on the one hand I think it is one of my fave books Bob did - but on the other hand you can sense that he was forced to do certain things as a result of the changes to the Realms going on and I don't think he did those things particularly well (perhaps on purpose). Certainly later interviews you can tell he wasn't pleased with the direction, and unlike with Artemis being kept alive by his protests from 1st edition to 2nd edition, he wasn't able to shut down the time skip from 3rd to 4th edition and all that entails for his creations (initially anyway as well all know the Sundering and 5th edition just reboots everything).

That aside, the dark tone is kind of interesting and well done, and I do like the grim aspects of the book - it has a night of the living dead feel. Probably my fave of his books since Servant of the Shard, but I've never wanted to re-read it.
Madpig Posted - 21 Feb 2019 : 07:01:24
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

G

Up next I started RAS's The Ghost King. I read the back of the book, Bob's personal note in the beginning, and the other author's comments in the front, and it seems like something devastatingly sad is going to happen in this book. I told my wife that and she said, "IF HE KILLS GUENHWYVAR I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER OF HIS BOOKS!" (She's only read the original Dark Elf Trilogy so far.) I know that won't be the case, as I've seen Guen on the cover of future books, but obviously something dark is going to go down in this one. No spoilers, please!




I actually do wait your thoughts about this. It has rather darker tone than many of the other RAS books. And makes some characters unusually vulnerable.
VikingLegion Posted - 20 Feb 2019 : 21:28:01
Gylippus, we have some kind of weird mind-meld thing going on here. I had just finished The Fanged Crown, a book set in Chult at the time you finished Ring of Winter and came here to comment. Then, in my 2nd to most recent writeup of The Restless Shore I made reference to The Night Parade and lo and behold, that's the book you just finished reading! Strange things are afoot at the Circle K. Or maybe it's all just coincidence and I overthink things.

Anyhow, I recently finished The Edge of Chaos. This is the first and only Realms book by this particular author (Jak Koke) which is a shame, I'd like to see more of his work. This book took a theme I touched on in one of the Cordell works - pilgrims purposefully exposing themselves to Spellplague in the hopes of acquiring a scar that will give them amazing powers - and goes all in with it. It's sort of like playing the Ultimate Lottery - either you get fabulously rich or you are incinerated on the spot. I find it sad that the most disadvantaged members of society often turn to the most desperately unlikely means of improving their lots in life.

There were a lot of explicit and mature themes in this book, moreso than the average FR story. Koke does an excellent job of writing broken characters, the rogue Duvan who is used by various factions his entire life, Slanya the orphan with a secret so dark she can't even admit it to herself - just really interesting and deep development. I was able to call one of the big reveals, Tyrangal was obviously more than human.

But even with the interesting protagonists, something held me back from really investing in this book for the early portions of it. But the end really ramped it up by several levels. The ultimate fate of Vraith (the main baddie) was just amazingly fitting. Also one of the heroes made a sacrifice that was heart-breaking. I'm generally a fan of bleak endings as rarely do things work out nicely for everyone without major pain being endured. But every now and then I get really caught up and, despite myself, cheer for the happy Disney ending just because these guys have already experienced so much pain. But alas, it was not meant to be. And really I have to applaud the author for staying true to the story and gut-punching me, it is ultimately more memorable that way.

Up next I started RAS's The Ghost King. I read the back of the book, Bob's personal note in the beginning, and the other author's comments in the front, and it seems like something devastatingly sad is going to happen in this book. I told my wife that and she said, "IF HE KILLS GUENHWYVAR I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER OF HIS BOOKS!" (She's only read the original Dark Elf Trilogy so far.) I know that won't be the case, as I've seen Guen on the cover of future books, but obviously something dark is going to go down in this one. No spoilers, please!
Seravin Posted - 20 Feb 2019 : 15:13:47
The population of cities in the Realms is one of my big beefs with the editors from the 80s-2000s as it varies so widely from edition to edition. But in the early 90s, yes, Calimport was the largest city in the Realms with millions of people (bigger than Waterdeep) and dwarfed the larger cities in the "classic" Heartlands (like Suzail, Marsember, Tantras, Raven's Bluff, Saerloon, Selgaunt, Baldur's Gate, Zhentil Keep, Silvery Moon, etc which would all have been 50-150k at most). Then the next era Waterdeep was largest and Calimport would drop down in population, with no explanation. Poor continuity.

Has Ed spoken about the populations of most cities? He and Jeff Grubb wrote the amazing Forgotten Realms Adventures sourcebook which has detailed populations that make sense so I'm gonna go with that as being his vision.

I'm not sure how a 2 million person city would feed itself in an arid dessert like Calimsham was meant to be though outside of trading with the fertile lands like Tethyr, but what resources did they have to trade? I'm not sure it works but this is a fantasy land so anything is possible.
gylippus Posted - 19 Feb 2019 : 02:38:26
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Night Parade was a tough read for me, it feels the least "Realms" like of the Harper series; it's very HP Lovecraft to me. Interested to hear your thoughts. I liked Red Magic mostly because Thay under the Zulkirs representing all the schools of magic was such a cool idea (MUCH MUCH MUCH BETTER THAN LICH-KING THAY! ugh don't get me started on that). I liked seeing how Thay manipulated weather to create orange groves and fertile lands, used zombies as slave labour, and how centaurs were part of daily life there. I would have liked to see more of the Simbul's Aglarond in the novel though.



Yeah, I really liked the school specialist magocracy, it made for a unique country with great originality and tons of political intrigue as each school believes itself to be the strongest. You raise an interesting point about zombie slave labor. Now, I wouldn't want a decomposing man to harvest my produce, but I could certainly see utilizing them as miners - a job with a terribly high mortality rate, exhausting work conditions, exposure to bad air - things a zombie wouldn't be even remotely affected by. I don't know anything about "Lich King Thay", as my FR knowledge only took me up to the mid/late 1990s, but I can only surmise the obvious and that Szass Tam must have eventually succeeded in supplanting his fellow zulkirs. I'll let you know how I feel about that once I've crossed that bridge, but I suspect I'll feel the same way you do, in that a "necropolis" theme has been done before, and Thay has become less special.

I've been on the graveyard shift this week, which means LOTS of time to read whiling away the hours, and have finished two books, the first of which is The Night Parade. It's funny Seravin, I'm not sure we'll ever see eye-to-eye on anything :) As you mentioned, this book had a Lovecraftian vibe to it. Maybe it's the HPL superfan in me talking, or perhaps it's just that we're in October when my mind switches into creepy/horror mode, but I thought this book was TERRIFIC. Definitely the best of the Harpers series thus far (only Elfshadow even comes close) and lands in my top ten overall (covering only 1987-1991 at this time).

I thought it curious when you said it "feels the least Realms" to you, and wouldn't mind hearing you expound on that statement. Is it because of the horror theme in general? Or specifically the concept of the Night Parade? I didn't have a whole lot of the FR sourcebooks, so I don't know if these creatures have any kind of established canon, or if Ciencin went a bit off the reservation and just freelanced this story. In that vein, I've often wondered just how much personal freedom any FR author had back in those days. Was there strong communication between the various writers, or did they more or less have free reign to set up shop in their own little corners and do their thing with little editorial oversight? Back to it being "Realms/Non-Realms", well I guess maybe I don't have a strong notion of what that is supposed to mean. As an open sandbox type of shared world, I see it as a massive patchwork quilt of various styles and sensibilities - from swashbuckling to grimdark, serious to campy, and various levels of low/high magic fantasy dependent on the author and region being written about.

Anyway, to somewhat get back on track, I very much enjoyed this novel. As a lover of horror, this book gave me a bit of a Hellraiser feel, I pictured the various forms of the Night Parade members to be something like the Cenobites. But then there was also the aspect of them coming to town like some demonic gypsy carnival, playing their music, enchanting the public - this gave me a bit of a "Something Wicked This Way Comes" feel. Lastly, this book had some pretty seriously overt sexuality to it, which surprised me in that many of the TSR/WotC books of this age were teen targeted, and while flirting with sexual themes, rarely crossed a certain line. Night Parade gleefully went right over this limitation several times, which made me enjoy it even more for pushing the boundaries.

Again, maybe it's just because Halloween is right around the corner, but this book pushed all the right buttons for me. Sure, maybe it's a less conventional Realms book, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment of it one bit.



So, I just read Night Parade and I wanted t put in my 2 cents worth. I totally agree with VikingLegion that it is one of the best books in FR, at least out of the ones I have read. The characters are written on a much deeper level than many other books and the author introduces us to many interesting characters and then kills off most of them. I appreciate the fact that he kills many of the characters because some authors seem to have issues with killing their creations. Plus, this book was written in the early 90s and has a very strong female lead character, which is refreshing. Ok, on to some details.

I especially liked Lucius the mage. I was really starting t enjoy his character when he was killed, but his death fit the story and he went out on a noble note. Towards the end of the book I appreciated the fact that the author made me feel for Imperator Zeal and Tamara. I would have liked to see them live, but yet again their deaths were written well. Plus, I was enjoying the budding romance between Krystin and Ord. I would have liked to see those two characters in another book. If they are, let me know. Lord Sixx was well written. He was one of those villains you just loved to hate. On the other hand, you almost feel a little sorry for the Night Parade because they lost their own world and need the apparatus to make more 'monsters'. You really understand their motivations, which helps the story.

Someone mentioned that the book felt like H.P. Lovecraft. Funny you should say that, I definitely got that vibe, but I don't think it took away from the story. It was certainly different than many FR novels, but that is what makes it interesting.

One point. At the end of the book they mention there are 2 million people in Calimport and my jaw hit the floor. I have read a decent amount of FR novels back in the day and I always got the idea the biggest cities had like 100 - 200k people. For some reason, I just couldn't get over that number. The historian in me started thinking about how big that was. Yes, I know ancient Rome had over 1 million people, and probably Constantinople, and cities in India and China, but those were the most massive and grand cities in the entire world at their time. I also thought about how much food you would need to feed that many people. Anyway, maybe someone could fill me in on population levels in FR.

Lastly, who the heck was the guy on the cover of the book? He didn't look like Lord Sixx at all. He looks like an ice genie or something. So, yea, the cover art is terrible.
VikingLegion Posted - 17 Feb 2019 : 13:18:35
I finished City of the Dead several days ago but couldn't get around to posting. This book was... strange but also very charming. Rosemary Jones definitely writes far differently from anyone else in the Realms group of authors. There are some who would read this novel and undoubtedly say "This doesn't feel like a Realms book!" and I might agree, although honestly, after all this time, I'm not sure I even know what that means anymore (if I ever did?)

This book is full of quirky but likeable characters. The violence is almost invariably non-lethal, just wrestling and bludgeoning type stuff. Jone's Waterdeep seems to be a more fey and whimsical place. I think this book was written with more of a YA sensibility in mind, which normally would turn me off, but I found it to be delightful. Many of the character names were ridiculous - like Leaplow and Cadriffle, but it didn't bother me. There was a small fey creature called a thorn named Briarsting who rode around on an animated topiary dragon who reminded me so much of Sir Didymus - the little terrier knight who rode on the back of a sheep dog in the movie Labyrinth. This book was practically screaming for Tony DiTerlizzi or Brian Froud to provide illustrations. In fact, if City of the Dead were made into a movie (obviously that would never happen), it would almost certainly require the Jim Henson studios to provide the visual look.

There were no high stakes here, no universe-threatening evil. Just a couple of feuding nobles and a haunting curse that caused the dead within Waterdeep's cemetery to get very restless. Normally this confluence of so many YA elements would turn me off from a story, but in this exception I found it to be a very fun and enjoyable read.

I've gone back to the Wilds and am about halfway through The Edge of Chaos.
VikingLegion Posted - 17 Feb 2019 : 13:02:39
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

Yeah, in 4E, the genasi went from "very rare, almost entirely human individuals with some slight elemental thing" to "dime-a-dozen humanoids with weird skintones, neon stripes, and KEWL elemental mashups and tricks never even hinted at before!"

It's one of the many reasons I did not embrace 4E.



4e Initial Concept Team:

"What if Michael Bay made a fantasy video game, and then we made a tabletop adaptation of said game?"
Wooly Rupert Posted - 09 Feb 2019 : 14:04:21
Yeah, in 4E, the genasi went from "very rare, almost entirely human individuals with some slight elemental thing" to "dime-a-dozen humanoids with weird skintones, neon stripes, and KEWL elemental mashups and tricks never even hinted at before!"

It's one of the many reasons I did not embrace 4E.
VikingLegion Posted - 09 Feb 2019 : 13:20:44
I finished The Restless Shore a couple days ago. First off, I think James P. Davis is an underrated author. He does such a great job of conveying mood and a sort of creepy vibe I've found to be present in all 3 of the books I've read from him so far. He tends to write about out-of-the way, remote locations, never anything in the "mainstream". But I see he has a Waterdeep novel coming up, so that will be interesting for me to see if he changes up anything in his style.

I read this entire book not even knowing where the hell in the world it was set. I feared looking it up for spoilers, so I just researched it now. It's set in Akanul, which apparently is a transplant from Abeir that fused over to Toril as a result of the Spellplague. I still don't know all the ramifications of what happened during that event, the novels seem to just sort of nibble on the periphery without ever coming out and fully explaining things. I've always known there were "twin worlds" but still a bit more exposition on this end would be nice.

Genasi seem much different from anything I've known in my Planescape 2e experience. Now they can choose which element they belong to? Even more, they can alter it spontaneously? One of the main characters in this book favors her water aspect (much to the chagrin of her fire-loving family), but at several points in the heat of battle she goes all "Flame On!" I'm theorizing this is yet another 4e change, I know all the distinct elemental planes were merged into one dimension called the "Elemental Chaos" (yuck!) I don't know if that is supposed to be a wild maelstrom of all the elements swirling around, or if it's some kind of weird, undefined proto-matter that can take on the aspects of air, earth, fire, or water - and that's why these modern genasi can change on the fly. I guess it doesn't matter much, I'm just thinking out loud.

As for the story, we have a group of very broken adventurers trying to travel to an old town overrun by aboleth long ago in order to rescue a kidnapped sister of one of the protagonists. It was a really spooky, eerie tale (I really liked "The Choir") I know I'm guilty of using the term Lovecraftian far too much, but this story was just full of squirming, mutated, tentacled horrors, like a really twisted anime. For a long while I didn't really know who the main antagonist was, but once it became clear I thought it was such a cool and creepy idea. Davis's style is probably not for everyone (much like Ciencin and The Night Parade) but it worked for me.

Up next, I keep ping-ponging between The Wilds series and the EG Presents Waterdeep books. So, now I go back to the latter for the next installment: City of the Dead.
Seravin Posted - 08 Feb 2019 : 14:15:13
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Gylippus,
That's a pretty interesting coincidence that we both recently finished books that take place in Chult, albeit they are like 140 or so years apart from each other. My writeup of Ring of Winter is back on page 4 if you're interested. I definitely got the same British explorer vibe as you (I think anyone would, it was laid on pretty thick). My thoughts on the wombats: "The talking wombats, complete with cockney accents, were particularly painful to read, and I tried my hardest to ignore them completely." It was also one of the first and only things Seravin and I have ever agreed on :)



Lies and slander! We agree on most things...just not on the awesome-sauce that is Azure Bonds!

I don't really enjoy Eric's novels either, but he's not the worst offender for writing like a WB-style teen drama in the Realms' library!
Madpig Posted - 04 Feb 2019 : 06:24:57
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Last night I finished Downshadow. This was an up and down experience for me. I've had a hard time thus far getting into the works of Erik Scott De Bie, his style just doesn't suit me. But this book started off really dark and gritty, much more mature than his usual fare. It centers around a vigilante who prowls the streets at night, cleaning up the criminal element of Waterdeep while working a desk job by day among the Guard. It starts to get a little bit sillier with all the various newspapers acting like the Enquirer and other tabloid rags of their day, but I was still on board. Where it started to fall apart for me a bit was during the big Masquerade revel/ball held in the temple of Sune. The main character, Kalen, had no fewer than 8 female characters vying for his attention at one point, most of which were just typical fantasy-novel dumb, tropey sluts.

Araezra, the Captain of the Guard, was probably the most frustratingly written of them all. She is best known for two things - her almost unearthly beauty (of course) and the iron discipline that allowed her to become the youngest female ever to reach the rank of valabrar. Ok, so if she's this paragon of self-control, why is every other scene show her crying, pounding her fist into a wall, or showing some other form of hysterics because Kalen (the one man in Waterdeep she can't have) won't reciprocate her feelings?

The others followed various typical conventions - the damsel in distress, the uppity bitch, etc. The most interesting of them was Fayne, she had this manic "Harley Quinn" type quality to her that was exasperating at times, but interesting in a wicked kind of way for the most part.

Still, the story got almost completely lost for me for at least a third of the book and devolved into something that more resembled a cheesy teen drama on the CW channel. It got a little creepy when Kalen, who had taken in a young female waif with no memory, starts developing a budding romance with the girl who is like half his age. He seems to have a thing for saving helpless females (especially girls just budding into womanhood) who then of course have to express their gratitude in any way they can...

I thought this excerpt showed his pervy side the best:
"Kalen had seen Fayne nearly naked at the temple, but that had been different. A battle, when his blood was up. Now, her skin seemed smooth and soft.
She was so very vulnerable, deprived of clothing. She seemed younger and lighter - fragile.
Like Myrin."


But then, in the last 50 pages or so the book shifts gears back to being totally badass. The interactions between Kalen and Rath (a dwarven assassin who might've been the most compelling character) and also between Kalen and Fayne were terrific. Great writing, inspired dialogue and insight into their psyches, I couldn't believe it was the same book.

So again, a really uneven experience. The highs were very high, but the lows... well, you get the idea. Ed Greenwood absolutely gushes with praise for this story, both on the back of the book and again in the Intro. The silliness and.. well.. teenage-boy wish-fulfillment aspect of the revel (a banquet hall full of exotic, gorgeous women fighting over one man) read a lot like one of his novels, so I can see why he enjoyed it so much. It was worth reading for the good parts

Up next I go back to the Wilds series for the The Restless Shore.



My feelings of this novel were pretty much the same as yours. I have re-read it only once, and that means that the book was not too good. 2nd on the series I read again once too, but the 3rd was a really a struggle to go through even once.

I only liked the premise, really flawed hero on physical sense. As normally we have only superpeople as heroes.
VikingLegion Posted - 02 Feb 2019 : 21:37:27
Last night I finished Downshadow. This was an up and down experience for me. I've had a hard time thus far getting into the works of Erik Scott De Bie, his style just doesn't suit me. But this book started off really dark and gritty, much more mature than his usual fare. It centers around a vigilante who prowls the streets at night, cleaning up the criminal element of Waterdeep while working a desk job by day among the Guard. It starts to get a little bit sillier with all the various newspapers acting like the Enquirer and other tabloid rags of their day, but I was still on board. Where it started to fall apart for me a bit was during the big Masquerade revel/ball held in the temple of Sune. The main character, Kalen, had no fewer than 8 female characters vying for his attention at one point, most of which were just typical fantasy-novel dumb, tropey sluts.

Araezra, the Captain of the Guard, was probably the most frustratingly written of them all. She is best known for two things - her almost unearthly beauty (of course) and the iron discipline that allowed her to become the youngest female ever to reach the rank of valabrar. Ok, so if she's this paragon of self-control, why is every other scene show her crying, pounding her fist into a wall, or showing some other form of hysterics because Kalen (the one man in Waterdeep she can't have) won't reciprocate her feelings?

The others followed various typical conventions - the damsel in distress, the uppity bitch, etc. The most interesting of them was Fayne, she had this manic "Harley Quinn" type quality to her that was exasperating at times, but interesting in a wicked kind of way for the most part.

Still, the story got almost completely lost for me for at least a third of the book and devolved into something that more resembled a cheesy teen drama on the CW channel. It got a little creepy when Kalen, who had taken in a young female waif with no memory, starts developing a budding romance with the girl who is like half his age. He seems to have a thing for saving helpless females (especially girls just budding into womanhood) who then of course have to express their gratitude in any way they can...

I thought this excerpt showed his pervy side the best:
"Kalen had seen Fayne nearly naked at the temple, but that had been different. A battle, when his blood was up. Now, her skin seemed smooth and soft.
She was so very vulnerable, deprived of clothing. She seemed younger and lighter - fragile.
Like Myrin."


But then, in the last 50 pages or so the book shifts gears back to being totally badass. The interactions between Kalen and Rath (a dwarven assassin who might've been the most compelling character) and also between Kalen and Fayne were terrific. Great writing, inspired dialogue and insight into their psyches, I couldn't believe it was the same book.

So again, a really uneven experience. The highs were very high, but the lows... well, you get the idea. Ed Greenwood absolutely gushes with praise for this story, both on the back of the book and again in the Intro. The silliness and.. well.. teenage-boy wish-fulfillment aspect of the revel (a banquet hall full of exotic, gorgeous women fighting over one man) read a lot like one of his novels, so I can see why he enjoyed it so much. It was worth reading for the good parts

Up next I go back to the Wilds series for the The Restless Shore.
VikingLegion Posted - 02 Feb 2019 : 21:04:24
Gylippus,
That's a pretty interesting coincidence that we both recently finished books that take place in Chult, albeit they are like 140 or so years apart from each other. My writeup of Ring of Winter is back on page 4 if you're interested. I definitely got the same British explorer vibe as you (I think anyone would, it was laid on pretty thick). My thoughts on the wombats: "The talking wombats, complete with cockney accents, were particularly painful to read, and I tried my hardest to ignore them completely." It was also one of the first and only things Seravin and I have ever agreed on :)

I had forgotten about the paladins of Ubtao until I went back and re-read my writeup, especially the zombie lord dude who lives in a mansion on the back of a giant tortoise. I wonder whatever happened to that group, or if Ubtao is still even a deity in this new post-Spellplague Forgotten Realms.

Anyway, welcome aboard to this thread. On it's current page we are into the novels of 2009 or so. But if you're reading from the beginning and want to discuss any of the earlier stuff, absolutely feel free to quote an old post, even if it's way back on an early page. This thread is all about re-living the journey.



Seravin Posted - 27 Jan 2019 : 10:42:38
There's a reason Artus only gets his hands on the ring in the last few pages of the book - it is one of the most (if not the most) powerful artifacts in the Realms and a novel about a character who had it would be pretty boring as they'd be invincible and a godly force of power against even the likes of the Chosen.

The dagger without the ring I only remember having compass abilities, light and the spider power (because it came from the Spiderhaunt woods and the Centaurs there? - something like that). I don't remember him mentioning Dimension Door and it could be that Artus was unaware of that power (or that the Wiki is wrong).

I loved the book, and Ras Nsi in particular I thought was excellent for a character who was oblivious to his own evil and quite well written. The only part I think was odd was the Wombats, I think if I was editing I would have suggested they come out of the novel entirely as their comic relief didn't work for me and they don't seem to fit with the Realms/D&D (humanoid, intelligent wombat race isn't to my knowledge a thing).

gylippus Posted - 27 Jan 2019 : 03:26:20
Thanks for the reply. I respect your opinion. I went back to check the book and you are correct. The ROW enhanced the magic of Artus' dagger. I looked up the dagger on a wiki. Apparently it is +3, can shed light from its sapphire, can act like a compass, can control spiders, and cast dimension door. I don't remember dimension door ever being used or even talked about in the book until the very end. If Artus could use it for dimension door he would have been able to get out of a lot of situations in the book.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 27 Jan 2019 : 02:01:08
The Ring of Winter did not have a teleporting ability. The ring was enhancing the magic of Artus's dagger, making it much more powerful.

And yes, the ring was powerful. It's an artifact. The point of it is to be overpowered. In fact, one of the old 1E or 2E sourcebooks explicitly stated that artifacts were meant to break the rules.

This book was where Artus was introduced, but he's been in at least one short story and several sourcebooks since.

As for me, The Ring of Winter is one of my fave Realms novels.
gylippus Posted - 27 Jan 2019 : 00:59:03
Ok, I thought I would get in on this action. I read FR a long time ago and I recently started reading the books again. I am in the midst of a couple of trilogies but I just finished:

The Ring of Winter

Here is a short synopsis. A guy named Artus Cimber, who was once a Harper, has spent like a decade of his life looking for an ancient mythical artifact that is super powerful. He hears the ROW is in Chult and immediately sets out for the fabled land with his trusty friend Pontifax.

I don't think this book is horrible by any stretch, but some parts of it definitely made me not like it has much as I wanted to. First, the entire book seems molded after British explorers in Africa. Pontifax speaks like an English gentleman and Artus later meets two wombats that speak with English accents. Every time I read the English accent it totally took me out of the story. Plus, when they get to Chult the trading post has a tin roof. I couldn't get over the idea of a tin roof, which seemed completely out of place in FR.

The main character, Artus, is helpless most of the time. He has very few discernible skills. If I had to guess, I would call him a level 4 fighter. Pontifax is a mage and has more skills, but he is killed off in the first part of the book.

The main object of the book, the Ring of Winter, seems way too overpowered to me. It grants the wearer immortality as well as a crazy assortment of spells related to ice and water. Oh, did I forget to say that the ring can also instantly transport the wearer to anywhere in the Realms they have been to? Luckily, the ring isn't found until the very end of the book.

All in all, it is worth a read, but has anyone heard of Artus Cimber outside of this book? Considering he should be one of the most powerful people in the Realms and he is immortal you would think so, but I doubt it. If anyone else has read this book let me know what you think.
VikingLegion Posted - 26 Jan 2019 : 12:28:10
I finished The Fanged Crown a couple nights ago and found it to be quite a nice treat. I always feel a bit of excitement when I encounter a book by an author I've never read before. Is this going to be a diamond in the rough, or a total clunker? The first chapter started off a little weak, but it turned around quickly. Jenna Helland has solid writing skills, and she packed a bunch of Realms references into this book, showing me she knows her stuff, or at the very least did an admirable amount of research. I checked her profile and it seems she does mostly Magic: The Gathering stuff for WoTC.

The moment I really jumped on board was about 70 pages in when you see the origin of the relationships between several of the main characters. This book took place in a back-and-forth manner between the years 1469 and 1479, alternating each chapter between current day and a flashback. It was a little confusing at first, but very enjoyable once I got the swing of it. It didn't help that one chapter was mislabeled, but it was easy enough to figure out a few paragraphs in. The great thing about this book is she made protagonists that you get really interested in by virtue of their character, not because they are a wacky mix of the most bizarre races and classes. That's a trap I find some authors fall into, exotic doesn't always = interesting.

Here we have a dwarf, an elf, and a bunch of humans, none of which are all that exceptional. But you really start to care about them due to their shared history. The dialogue and banter within the party is pretty good. There's a lot of snarkiness and teasing between friends, and most of it works. As for the story, it's satisfyingly intricate, with some wicked reveals and a very nice twist at the very end with Yvonne. George, I'm not entirely sure what you refer to as to more questions, unless it's the tangled royal situation in Tethyr. But Tethyr is a nation I've never really understood well, and that was before a 100 year timejump, so I didn't get too bogged down pondering about it. This is a book I'd probably get more out of with a re-read, but there's so much more to read I just can't afford the time!

I'd have liked to have seen more about that nasty necromantic machine the Practitioner built. That thing was gross.

Up next, I go back to the EG Presents Waterdeep series for the (3rd?) book, Downshadow.
George Krashos Posted - 21 Jan 2019 : 02:45:41
Can't wait to hear what you have to say re The Fanged Crown. It was one that asked more questions than it answered from a Realmslore perspective. Prepare to have your brains picked!

-- George Krashos
VikingLegion Posted - 20 Jan 2019 : 13:17:35
I finished Key of Stars last night. This was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent trilogy. If you like cosmic horror mixed with your fantasy, it's a series worth checking out.

I have a note for "SKY KRAKENS!!!" The aboleth city of Xxiphu allows for a certain degree of mutation, and many of the kraken develop flight, patrolling around the city (once sunken, now floating over the Sea of Stars) in lazy circles. I just loved the imagery.

Speaking of aboleths, for a series titled "Abolethic Sovereignty", I oddly enough felt they got short shrift in this trilogy. They just sort of came out when there needed to be some mooks for the heroes to mow through. There were a few different types with varying abilities and such, but none of them felt like an actual character to me, with the possible exception of The Eldest, but even he (she? it?) wasn't very impactful on the storyline. Most of the bad guy role was performed by a traitor eladrin attempting to open a gate to the Far Realm and flood our reality with aberrations. Many years ago (1995) there was a D&D adventure titled "Night Below" that heavily featured aboleths. This was one of my favorite modules, it was actually a boxed set that could function as an entire campaign, bringing PCs from level 1 to 14. It was all about aboleths abducting and dominating surface dwellers, bringing them down into their subterranean city of Great Shaboath. The city was set up much like Thay, with 8 great towers of magic, each dedicated to a specific school and ruled over by a master specialist. Even though it was 20+ years ago, I remember running that adventure like it was last week. The aboleth were really the stars of the show. Sorry for the long tangent, but that's one of my few gripes with Cordell's trilogy - the aboleth feel almost like an afterthought here.

I really loved the big reveal about Captain Thoster's dark heritage. One of my favorite big bads from old-school D&D ends up being his sire, again one rooted heavily in Lovecraft lore.

I never did figure out exactly what Yeva was before her soul was transferred into the iron golem body. My guess is Githzerai but it was never confirmed. I'll have to check to see if there's a scroll to ask questions of Bruce R. Cordell.

Summary: a really strong post-Spellplague trilogy, though one that took place in the interim between the event and not at the full 100 year time jump. A truly bizarre cast of characters with just enough of a link to Stardeep to be recognizable. Definitely not for fantasy purists that prefer the meat and potatoes approach - there's a lot of alien, cosmic, and sci-fi embellishments going on here. But ultimately a very good read. The ending had a bit of tragedy to it, but was not unexpected, being heavily hinted at throughout book 3, if not earlier.

Up next, I think I'll take a peak into "The Wilds" series with Book 1: The Fanged Crown.
VikingLegion Posted - 12 Jan 2019 : 15:16:56
I also finished City of Torment. In this book the heroes descend into Xxiphu, the lost city of the aboleths, long dormant but now stirring. I have very few notes on this one, I just blasted through it in a few days. I think my favorite part was when the warlock, who lost his Fey pact with the Lord of Bats (either late in book 1 or early in book 2, I forget) forges a new pact with an even more remote patron. Cordell details several celestial (not in the goodly sense) beings that take the form of stars of various hues and temperaments. I'm not doing this part justice at all, but it was a great bit of cosmic horror added to the story, again I have to use the term Lovecraftian. It was excellently done.

There were some odd languages mentioned in one of the rituals, only one of which I think I recognize: Rellanic, Davek, and Supernal.

Despite the best efforts of the heroes, the city of Xxiphu rises as a vast monolith in the middle of the Sea of Fallen Stars. As cool as that imagery is, I think we have too many ancient "re-risen" empires. We now have Netheril returned in the form of Shadovar. Myth Drannor is repopulated with elves (or is it? I guess I don't know what effect the Spellplague had on it) Now there's an aboleth stronghold not that far off from Sembia. I believe the Imaskar Empire is trying to make a comeback as well over in the old lands where Mulhorand used to be.

Anyway, after much fighting and exploring, the heroes once again fail in their objective for the most part. Their saving victory is that the Eldest is still somnolent, so it's not as bad as it could be. I'm interested to see how this is going to go in the final book of the trilogy. It seems to massive an enemy for them to best outright, so it looks like this will be yet another new player on the scene. There was a nice callback to Stardeep with the mention of The Traitor, and how he fits into all this cosmology.

Up next, obviously is the finale of the series: Key of Stars.

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