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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)
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.
VikingLegion Posted - 12 Jan 2019 : 14:34:46
I finished the first two books of the Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy.

Book 1, Plague of Spells was really bizarre but excellent. I think Bruce R. Cordell is the perfect match for this subject material, and probably the only author in the WoTC stable that could've pulled it off so well. I mean, just in the opening we have a kuo-toa priestess exploring a drowned illithid city, fighting a vampiric mind-flayer, and discovering a relic of some Ancient One. I'm probably going to use the term Lovecraftian about a hundred times in the reviews of this trilogy, but man Cordell really nails this vibe of twisting, tentacled horrors from beyond time and space, eager to pounce on our reality and shred it asunder. He brings an almost sci-fi/cosmic aesthetic to traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy. A lot of times this approach (from other authors) doesn't work for my sensibilities, but here he pulls it off perfectly. His thoughts on Eastern Philosophy (or, more accurately, *Shou* philosophy, whose inspirations are obvious) were a really neat and interesting addition to the story. He also includes some poignant views on nationalism, racism and immigration, etc. He seems to have a wide, varied, and eclectic base of knowledge to pull from. My esteem for him grows with each book and he's definitely moving up the ladder for me.

Ok, let's get this out of the way. Something I touched on before in the Stardeep writeup: a monk named Raidon Kane... C'mon, might as well go with Sub-Zero Lee, or Ryu Norris. That was one of the few negatives I could find in this book. The other being the inaccuracy of the cover art. Don't get me wrong, it's a cool pic. But if that's supposed to be Raidon, well they got all the details wrong. Raidon is a half-elf/half-Shou with olive skin, slightly pointed ears, black hair, etc. This guy on the cover is a bulky, blonde-haired Western looking dude with perfectly rounded human ears, basically Guile in leathers. Boots instead of sandals. Angul is supposed to be a longsword strapped to his back, here we see a short gladius style blade belted at his waist. I like the art, it just seems there wasn't much information passed along there for sake of accuracy.

Speaking of Angul…. Angul!!! I love/hate this sword! I envy such single-minded determination and uncompromising clarity of purpose. Obviously Angul is capable of monstrously awful deeds, the ultimate example of "the ends justify the means." I don't agree with many of his/its decisions, but it reads as a very interesting character. "ALL ABERATIONS MUST BE PURGED!!" Cynosure - the sentient golem/defense system makes an early appearance as well. Another of my favorites from Stardeep.

But we also see some new and really compelling characters added. The Lord of Bats was awesome fun. Japeth is a bold move - a drug-addicted warlock that is both sullen and withdrawn (goth kid) but also witty and very charming, though mostly inadvertently. He's hooked on "Traveler's Dust", a red crystalline drug that dissolves in the user's eye and sends them on a voyage of euphoria where they experience ultimate confidence in themselves. Is it a real, physical/chemical addiction, or is the journey "Down the Crimson Road" more of a magical/metaphysical trek? Cordell is somewhat vague on this point (in book 1), allowing the reader to design their own theories. Personally I think the crystals are distilled tanar'ri ichor, but we'll see.

I thought this book has done the best job thus far of describing the Spellplague and the changes it has wrought on Faerun. Bonus points for that bit on the spellscar pilgrims - insane fanatics who willingly go into active spellplague lands, risking utter annihilation in the hope they may gain a useful mutation. In other historical news, there was brief mention of the Keeper of Tomes at Candlekeep disappearing under mysterious circumstances, but this was never expanded upon.

The story itself involves an ancient relic called the Dreamheart needed to awaken the Eldest - an aboleth of monstrous proportion and hideous strength. The heroes intent keeping this from coming to pass are the aforementioned monk and warlock, joined by a spoiled young noble brat who learns how to dreamwalk and manifest a powerful "ghostly warrior" form, a scared wizardess with a sketchy past, and a pirate captain (there seem to be a lot of those lately) with a strange connection to the sea and dubious heritage. They make for an unlikely, ragtag team, often bickering among themselves. The story ends on a cliffhanger, with one member betraying the rest by absconding with the Dreamheart for their own purposes. Overall it was an excellent story and a great start to this trilogy. Up next is book 2: City of Torment.
VikingLegion Posted - 05 Jan 2019 : 14:04:43
Ok, I know I said I was going to do a review last week for the first of the Geno Salvatore books, but I changed my mind and read all three as one big story. So this post covers the entirety of the Stone of Tymora Trilogy, which consists of:

The Stowaway
The Shadowmask
The Sentinels


My first question, in any writing collaboration, is to ask myself what percentage of the book feels like author X and how much is author Y. Being that this is RAS's son's first go-around, I figured I would be hard-pressed to hear his voice, or maybe he would lean on Dad's craft a bit to get by. There was an interesting choice made by having the entire trilogy written in first person perspective. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think it's a safe choice, as it's fairly easy to write in journal or diary form, I've tried and aborted several short stories over the years in this format. On the other hand, maybe it's a bit too safe and can come off as boring when you can't get into the heads of anyone but the one POV. The writing quality was adequate for the most part, aside from just a few glaring exceptions. I know the tone is intentionally for a younger audience, so I have to keep that in mind when evaluating it.

As for the story itself, it was of OK quality. It jumps around in time as semi-grown up Maimun relates his origin story to a group of pirates that have captured him, flashing back to him as a 6 year old boy, a teenager, and a young man. I had a tiny bit of confusion here and there with all the jumping, but overall the format worked. Maimun follows the CHOSEN ONE/DESTINY'S CHILD trope, because... well... Salvatore. Thankfully he is not massively overpowered or a wunderkind at any specific skillset, that was refreshing to see. He is a smart, clever, and curious lad, but not a devastating warrior or archmage. He does go through a 1-year montage of hardcore combat training that sculpts him into at least a capable fighter, but nothing too special. However he does become good enough to defeat his arch-nemesis in swordplay, the same dastardly villain that slew his mentor, despite him being a far more skilled combatant than Maimun, but oh well.

This trilogy makes use of frequent cameos by Drizzt and Friends. Maimun and Drizzt form some kind of odd companionship, with them intersecting at various times. Almost always this is so Drizzt can push him in a specific direction to keep him on track, like a videogame quest-giving NPC. Wulfgar, Bruenor, Cat, and such also make brief appearances, as do some of the lesser known characters like Sali Dalib - the unscrupulous Calimport merchant caricature. There was a ridiculous part where Maimun was looking to depart from Calimport and tried to buy transportation from Sali. He didn't have enough coin to buy a camel, but asked if he could rent one. Sali was worried about covering the potential cost if the camel should die, so instead he loaned out a pair of magical boots to Maimun that allow him to run at super-speed - charging exactly zero coin but extracting a promise that Maimun would return them when finished. True, Dalib planned to waylay the young man on the road and steal everything from him, but the logic behind the loan of an item that must be hundreds of times more valuable reeked of plot contrivance. Maimun steals the boots, but it's pretty justifiable considering Sali Dalib was going to have him murdered on the road. Later on Maimun also uses his friendship with Drizzt to gain access to the library in Silverymoon, where he then steals several books and scrolls, so his morality is a bit questionable. But I think the author(s?) wanted to show how his tough childhood forged him into a bit of a rogue to make him a better fit in the Pirate King book.

I disliked Deudermont's characterization in these books. He just came off as sort of wrong to me. Most of the details were accurate, but he seemed to be a bit angrier, obstinate, and unlikable. Obviously he was shoe-horned into this role in order to fill Maimun with feelings of betrayal and abandonment, so he could in turn abandon Deudermont. I just felt it was a bad fit.

The big twist at the end - that the Sentinel we thought was a Tymora follower and the one we thought was a Beshaba follower were actually switched!! - failed to deliver much on my end. It hardly made a difference, as they both used Maimun for their own purposes and I'm still not even sure why they wanted to unite the stones, which is the only way to destroy them (and thus the Sentinels). The entire Sentinel/Bearer/Stone plotline felt ill-conceived to me, with weird, overly elaborate rules (which often get ignored anyway for storyline expediency).

All in all it wasn't a bad read. The writing was competent for the most part, it just didn't do enough to impress me much. Up next I think I'll delve into Bruce R. Cordell's Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy with Book 1: Plague of Spells.
Mirtek Posted - 03 Jan 2019 : 07:28:36
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I see Kimmuriel is still massively overpowered. I get it, psionics are strong and not many people have much (if any) experience in countering it. But when he can scramble an archmage's mind and take them down in a heartbeat, c'mon... Mental domination of a peasant is one thing, but an established [i.e. high level] Overwizard of the Hosttower is not only mentally stronger than the average mook just by virtue of their experience, but a mage should have a much more disciplined mind and mental fortitude. But nope, Kimmuriel just has to glance her way and she is reduced to a gibbering buffoon. And that damned overused kinetic barrier... that power rears it's ugly head and makes any character utterly unbeatable. Why isn't Kimmuriel the master of the entire continent of Faerun? Who can possibly stand up to this guy, I have yet to see him get even marginally checked by anyone other than Jarlaxle, and even that is probably only due to respect and nothing more. I'm curious if Jarlaxle has, among his many totems and trinkets, an item that gives some protection against mental assault.

Well, at last Gromph puts fear into Kimmuriel, but yes he's stupidly overpowered.

And of kinetic barrier you've read nothing yet, that stupid thing becomes even more overpowered. I once joked that one day it would be used to Block attacks from Lloth, turns out i was not far away with my prediction
Seravin Posted - 30 Dec 2018 : 22:38:55
Oh and Jarlaxle has his eye patch that prevents him from being psionically dominated I beleive - however it wouldn't stop Kimmuriel from telekentically throwing a boulder on him or teleporting him into a volcano or any number of things psionics can do that don't involve telepathy or domination.
Seravin Posted - 30 Dec 2018 : 22:21:41
Yep - Kimmuriel is pretty much the Deus Ex Machina for RAS - he can take down arch mages, from Knellict in Vassa/Damara and Shade Princes and Host Tower Overwizards, nevermind leading BD and such. I do love Kimmuriel as a character but yes, mages would have defenses against psionics in the game mechanics. He can also teleport anyone anywhere at any time and apparently make everyone believe Drizzt is an aspect of a goddess taking down demon lords etc.... Kimmy can do it all!

Speaking of game mechanics, a LOT of people were upset that Robillard took out Greeth with a shocking grasp spell when D&D liches have always been immune to electricity (and cold). Not that Bob seems to care about mechanics in his writing, but he does play D&D and you'd think he'd at least be aware of common monster immunities.
VikingLegion Posted - 29 Dec 2018 : 21:29:50
It's funny you mention that, one of my notes or talking points for The Pirate King was "Is RAS getting more allegorical as the FR line goes on?" He makes a lot of points in this one on criminal punishment, and also on the effect of a power void and subsequent civil strife that occurs when a region is destabilized by the takedown of a longtime ruler, even if said leader is generally awful.

The Harpell's polymorphing of violent criminals raised some interesting points, but this was negated by some of the most ridiculous writing I've ever read from this author. When talking about the "harmless" rabbits, one of the Harpell's makes reference to "The one with the big teeth that could jump so high." He then goes on to take every line from the Monty Python scene and slap an FR skin on it: Lines like, "That rabbit was smokepowder!" instead of "dynamite" used in the original movie. Or, "It seemed as if he was posessed of the edge of a vorpal weapon, that one, giving nasty bites!" Just absolutely painful stuff. Worse than Grubb, this was Once Around the Realms level of awfulness.

We've briefly mentioned Drizzt's age discrepancies before in this thread, here we have it pretty definitively set at just a bit over 75.

The lich in Luskan did a neat trick with a magical staff and its Retributive Strike property. He places it over a fulcrum with a bowl or bucket tied off to each end, and liquid mercury dripping into each. The added weight of the metal on the outer edges eventually bows the staff to the point of snapping - magical dirty bomb! His revival of the mage Valindra left me with mixed feelings. I play the Neverwinter game on PlayStation, so it was cool to recognize one of the villains of that game and see how she got to that point. On the other hand, her transformation to lichdom seemed super-rushed and utterly lacking in the degree of painstaking preparation and ritual I had always associated with that process. She was killed, her body recovered from the field, Greeth waved his hand and boom! Insta-lich minion. No mention of alchemical reagents, no phylactery or soul transfer... nothing.

The character Maimun was nagging at me for most of this book. He was described as a pirate that had once sailed with Deudermont and learned all things nautical from him. I felt like I was supposed to recognize this character, but couldn't place where I'd seen the name before. I eventually gave up and figured I just didn't recall a minor character from earlier in the Drizzt books. Coincidentally, as soon as I finished The Pirate King, I jumped right into the RAS and his son Geno's collaboration. I have all 3 books in a big hardcover omnibus called The Stone of Tymora Trilogy, which, of course, features Maimun as the main character and tells his origin story.

The level of intrigue in Luskan is nicely done. You have the drow as mysterious shadow-backers, the pirate captains, the lich/Arcane Brotherhood, Deudermont and lords from Waterdeep trying to force their way in and show the Luskanites a "better way to govern themselves." I wasn't around for those earlier conversations Seravin mentioned, but I can easily see how and why this story was compared to some of our own real world events, particularly in the Middle East. I felt like this book had a bit less of Salvatore's trademark combat scenes and focused instead on politics. And while I can't say it was my favorite of his books, I did admire how ruthless he was. Greeth blows up half the city, Deudermont and Bramblebary are slain, Sea Sprite sunk, the heroes are fairly powerless in stopping the injustices of the world. This was definitely the Empire Strikes Back of RAS books, it's dark, gritty, and maybe just a bit depressing, but engaging at the same time.

I see Kimmuriel is still massively overpowered. I get it, psionics are strong and not many people have much (if any) experience in countering it. But when he can scramble an archmage's mind and take them down in a heartbeat, c'mon... Mental domination of a peasant is one thing, but an established [i.e. high level] Overwizard of the Hosttower is not only mentally stronger than the average mook just by virtue of their experience, but a mage should have a much more disciplined mind and mental fortitude. But nope, Kimmuriel just has to glance her way and she is reduced to a gibbering buffoon. And that damned overused kinetic barrier... that power rears it's ugly head and makes any character utterly unbeatable. Why isn't Kimmuriel the master of the entire continent of Faerun? Who can possibly stand up to this guy, I have yet to see him get even marginally checked by anyone other than Jarlaxle, and even that is probably only due to respect and nothing more. I'm curious if Jarlaxle has, among his many totems and trinkets, an item that gives some protection against mental assault.

Ok, that's all for now. As I already mentioned, I've started in on the Geno Salvatore stories. I think I'm already done with the first book, called The Stowaway. Review of that later tonight or at some point this weekend.


Seravin Posted - 20 Dec 2018 : 22:52:44
Pirate King was an interesting book; many people thought it was an allegory for the US invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan... I love Robillard (for some reason he just struck me as a neatly written mage!) and he gets a lot of show time in this book.
dazzlerdal Posted - 20 Dec 2018 : 12:32:31
Yeah the eladrin elf thing was a 4e monstrosity.
VikingLegion Posted - 20 Dec 2018 : 12:07:09
Last night I finished Mistshore. I said it when I first read one of her short stories in a "Realms of" (I forget which one), Jaleigh Johnson has one of the more unique voices amongst the FR writers. She seems to heavily bend, if not break, some of the D&D crunch in order to tell a good story. She also is very fond of the theme that magic is both painful and costly to the caster in some personal sense, whether it be physical, spiritual, or emotional. The main character, Icelin, is interesting right from the start. She's a snarky, vengeful little thing, with a perfect recall eidetic memory; aside from one very troubling gap she can't fill in. She shares some similarities to the protagonist in The Howling Delve, in that they both use a lot of fire magic, and both are concerned with the price of magic/being consumed by it. I don't know if the casting effects on the body are something all spellscarred must endure, or if Icelin is unique. Regardless, her characters are very well fleshed-out and easy to invest in. I haven't read this kind of development since the last Elaine Cunningham novel.

I liked Ed's introduction to the Mistshore region of Waterdeep - a tangled mass of wrecked hulls in an unused portion of the harbor that is home to thieves, lepers, and worse. The Watch is happy to ignore anything going on here - you don't bother us, we won't bother you. When Ed mentioned tentacled, half-fish/half-man monstrosities, I got a very Lovecraftian vibe, like this area will be a mini-Innsmouth or Dunwich.

The phantom performing troupe was also a really nice touch! There was one comment I found odd; one of the characters - a gold elf named Cerest - was referred to at one point as an eladrin. I had always known eladrin and elves to be very similar fey beings, but definitely distinct races. I wonder if this is a 4th edition simplification.

For some odd reason I almost always flip to the copyright page and check the cover artist before starting a book. This one was done by someone named Android Jones. Well that was interesting enough to look into! I checked out his website and found a bunch of fantastic pieces of digital art, really wild and thought-provoking stuff! Mods, feel free to delete this last paragraph if plugging another site violates any rules.

Up next in the reading order is a RAS book: The Pirate King. I got just through the prelude and was excited to see it is set Pre-Spellplague. I guess that makes sense for a series titled "Transitions". It will be interesting to see what, if any, contrivance he has to use to pull the characters with normal life spans from this era into the current one. I'm guessing some kind of magical stasis at the hands of an evil wizard.
Seravin Posted - 18 Dec 2018 : 04:08:03
What a great story arc from WotC. Sigh.
George Krashos Posted - 17 Dec 2018 : 00:14:31
It was never fleshed out. Basically it occurred after the Spellplague when Tsarra's guise as Khelben was revealed. After that, old enemies of the Blackstaff came a calling and practically destroyed the Moonstars, knowing he wasn't around to clean their respective clocks. I'll have a search through Steven's notes to see if there is anything more. I suspect that I know the identity of the group who took them down, but that means going back and reading some of the earlier "Blackstaff".

-- George Krashos

-- George Krashos

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