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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)
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
sleyvas Posted - 16 Dec 2018 : 14:16:54
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There was mention in Blackstaff Tower of a huge battle in the Stump Bog that claimed Tsarra Chaadren (the Blackstaff after Khelben) along with a great deal of the Moonstar organization while fighting a cabal of vampire-wizards in 1399 - The Year of Fallen Friends. I'd love to know if that story is fleshed out anywhere else, it sounds intriguing to me. Were the vampires sending agents into Waterdeep to undermine the rule there? What led to this big showdown? Internet searches only turn up very cursory information, nothing in much detail beyond what I've already mentioned.

Makes me think... what if Vamp-Shoon turned a bunch of his former Zhents and found out that Khelben and the Moonstars was behind the "clone issue"? Any chance you can provide any more information? What page number it was maybe. Maybe any specific text (names maybe) that we may be able to google (I note I can often find things in the google books for FR novels where you can read small portions of books as a preview when I'm researching). For that matter, Vamp-Shoon may have turned a bunch of Zhents and they were researching things but never discovered the connection to the Moonstars and Khelben BECAUSE of this fight (and their research died with them).

There may even be some correlation of the year name... Vamp-shoon turns a bunch of Zhent friends into vampires... "Year of Fallen Friends".
VikingLegion Posted - 16 Dec 2018 : 01:36:05
There was mention in Blackstaff Tower of a huge battle in the Stump Bog that claimed Tsarra Chaadren (the Blackstaff after Khelben) along with a great deal of the Moonstar organization while fighting a cabal of vampire-wizards in 1399 - The Year of Fallen Friends. I'd love to know if that story is fleshed out anywhere else, it sounds intriguing to me. Were the vampires sending agents into Waterdeep to undermine the rule there? What led to this big showdown? Internet searches only turn up very cursory information, nothing in much detail beyond what I've already mentioned.
VikingLegion Posted - 16 Dec 2018 : 01:22:41
I also finished Blackstaff Tower 2 days ago. This book was very much a mixed bag for me. It read an awful lot like a Greenwood novel, as though the author was attempting to do an homage piece. That's probably why I really liked parts of it and really disliked others - the typical roller coaster ride I always experience with EG works! :)

The main villain, "Ten Rings", came off a bit comic booky. He made me think of, for VERY obvious reasons, The Mandarin from the Iron Man comics. Really cool artifact he was using, the Jhaarnan Hands, that allows him to "pre-load" ten magical rings onto a fake pair of hands and instantly swap any of them onto his own hands. D&D players will recognize that you can only wear one magical ring on each hand, so having extras are largely useless. But this item lets him switch say, a Ring of Flying for a Ring of Fire Resistance in a heartbeat if he suddenly finds himself fighting a red dragon. This gives him an awful lot of versatility.

I absolutely loved the "Ravencourt" area of Waterdeep. Basically there is a restless spirit of an old judge or magistrate there, and he animates an enormous tree to pass judgement on anyone that happens to get in range.

There was a very interesting bit mentioned by a gnome about the "Call to Waterdeep" that draws sentient species to this region, above and beyond the mundane advantages of a good harbor and defensible highland. I wonder if that is due to the presence of the God Stair, or Celestial Staircase or Infinite Stairway or whatever you want to call it.

As for this being book 1 of the "Ed Greenwood Presents" series, I felt it did a fairly poor job of filling in the details of the last 100 years, or even giving us a cursory recap. How many Blackstaffs (staves?) have there been between Khelben and the current guy that dies right off the start? But instead of a concise bit of catchup, the author chooses to fill the pages with obscure lore about present day Waterdeep including what felt like dozens of street names, shops, nominal NPCs, and so on. Much like his previous novel, Blackstaff, I felt this book was intended only for hardcore Forgotten Realms scholars and was fairly inaccessible to those with only middling knowledge of FR. That's fine to a degree, not everything can or should cater to the layman, but I don't think Schend's erudite style blended well considering the setting just experienced a 100 year time jump.

The story itself reminded me heavily of City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel. It centers around a group of callow young noble friends, exactly like the Gemcloak crew of the previous book. They play jokes on the town Watch, they banter on and on about current fashions, who is bedding who, etc. - basically a bunch of unlikable frat boys with too much privilege. The main noble in CoS (I can't recall his name) wanted to do more with his life and had the poetry thing he did on the side. The main noble in this book has a scholarly side and loves to collect books. Both lament that Waterdeep no longer has heroes like in the days of yore, and both express a desire to remedy that situation. Both books featured a villainous father-and-son teamup, with the father being overbearing and arrogant, and the son being a bit of a pushover that is desperate to win his father's approval.

Oh, and those curse words! Stlarn and tluin make an uncelcome reappearance, but now they are joined by the incredibly odd parharding! I had to look it up to make sure it wasn't an obscure English word I wasn't aware of, but sure enough it's another ludicrous FR special. Interestingly enough, there is a man in Wisconsin with a Facebook profile named Par Harding. I wonder if he's read this story... We've already been over how bizarre and unnecessary these swears are, but the lingual clumsiness carries over into many other names as well. Words like "armrarnra" (ok I think I made that one up) and similar ilk are so cumbersome off the tongue, I wonder why they can't just dial it down a bit from time to time and not try to make it sound so exotic.

Lastly, the big warrior Meloon weilds a mundane axe for about 75% of the book. In a fight with a wizard the haft of the axe gets disintegrated. Not 10 pages later there is a magical axe that can only be drawn from the stone by "one who is worthy." After 2 of the young nobles fail to lift it, Meloon of course is able to pick it up and instantly experiences a vision of how his ancestor(s?) once used this axe to do something or other. Holy tropes! It doesn't get much more contrived than that. I mean, couldn't he have just stashed his non-magical axe in favor of the upgrade? Did it have to get destroyed One. Room. Away. from the discovery of Azuredge?

So... as I mentioned, there were a lot of highs and lows in this book. Schend is a meticulous researcher and has insane amounts of Realms lore in his mind, as one would expect from the roles he performed at Wizards of the Coast. But I think he expects everyone to know as much as he does and his stories can get a little overwhelming at times with unecessary detail, and the tale suffers for it. Overall it was an ok read, but I was hoping for better in the opener of this series. Up next, book 2: Mistshore.
VikingLegion Posted - 15 Dec 2018 : 17:13:20
I finished another two books, the first of which is Avenger. I didn't have a whole lot of notes for this one. It's been a good trilogy thus far and this book did nothing to shake me off that perch. I really loved the description of Myth Drannor as Geran and company headed there to retrieve some mystical parchment pieces. It really summed up the ethereal, fey quality of the place as something far beyond a collection of people and dwellings:

" Myth Drannor is a strangely timeless place. Time doesn't touch the elves the same way it does the rest of us, of course, but there's something more to it than that. It's like living in a waking dream. The lords are so splendid, the ladies so fair, the songs so beautiful... there are days of toil and grief, but they're few and far between. The longer you remain, the more deeply you lose yourself in the dream. And I was lost here for years."

There was one part that I felt was a bit contrived. The port to Hulburg was frozen over, preventing water travel, but the ports of Hillsfar and Thentia were perfectly fine. I understand the Moonsea is a pretty large area, but so large as to have such different weather conditions? I could maybe buy it for Hillsfar/Hulburg, as one is on the southern coast and the other is northern. But Thentia doesn't look too far from Hulburg. Must be some kind of wind pattern coming down off the Galenas or something that chills Hulburg.

I liked Rhovann's runehelm golems. I wonder if those are statted up somewhere as an actual monster or if they were a unique creation for this series. After Rhovann's defeat, there was still a bit more of this book to go. Some of the Marstel and Vaasan material seemed a bit anti-climactic, though it might've been to setup a future storyline if there is to be more Hulburg in the novel line.

Good trilogy overall. After that I started in on the Ed Greenwood Presents: Waterdeep series with Blackstaff Tower.

Wooly Rupert Posted - 09 Dec 2018 : 17:11:31
Gamalon Idogyr is also a noble in Tethyr.
VikingLegion Posted - 09 Dec 2018 : 17:07:22
I finished Corsair several days ago but just couldn't find the time to post. The overall quality of this series continues, once again I'm really glad I chose this one as my introduction to the post-100 year time jump Realms.

I loved the map in the beginning of the book. I'm familiar with all the major cities/towns (Hillsfar, Phlan, Ruins of ZK, etc.) around the Moonsea region of course, but it was really nice to see some of the smaller/lesser-known/newer locales plotted down, like Rosestone Abbey, Sulasspryn, Thentia, and such. It really helps while reading the story, as there was a TON of boating around and criss-crossing all over the place in this one.

I really enjoyed the use of Sergen's dad as the big bad. Baker could've just as easily created some pirate lord out of the blue, but tying it to Sergen and the mysterious "traitor father" he touched upon in the first book was a nice bit of continuity. I'm sure he planned it this way from the very start, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Interesting and unforeseen choice to go with a Spelljamming vessel! That really caught me by surprise. Early on in my D&D fandom I shied away from Spelljammer as it was too "Star Trekkie" and didn't quite fit my fantasy sensibilities. But after getting heavily into Planescape and exploring more of the D&D multiverse, Spelljammer started to grow on me, bit by bit. The idea of these massive Elven or Illithid armadas fighting it out for territories and colonizing new worlds is fascinating. I definitely preferred the term "Sea of Night" over wildspace or phlogiston or whatever, just for flavor purposes. When Geran and crew were up on one of Selune's tears (I forgot the exact location) exploring the jungle, I very much expected them to be attacked by a pack of Girallon (4-armed white apes) as a nod to Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom novels. But instead we had Nothics - a very obscure Monster Manual entry that I don't think I've ever seen in any novel or module. Missed opportunity there Mr. Baker!

There was a name drop of someone called Gamelon Idogyr. I feel like I know that name from somewhere... Ok, I looked it up, he was a noble on the Rock of Bral (a Spelljammer location and adventure module) and also has some familial ties to Khelben Arunsun. He also apparently made a cameo in the novel Blackstaff.

This series seems a bit light on gods and clerics. There is the Cyricist in Hulburg, but I'm surprised how few holy men are employed by the town to aid their troops. It wasn't until Brother Larken was brought onto Geran's ship that I saw this role filled. There are also the monks of Lathander/Aumanator out in the abbey, but they don't get a whole lot of screen time. I wonder if, in the wake of the awful Spellplague, people have turned their backs just a bit on the gods not unlike the Dragonlance setting after the Cataclysm. Probably not, I'm most likely reading too much into this and the rest of the stories will be more deity-centric.

Overall, a very good book and continuation of the series. I'm now about halfway through the finale: Avenger.
Seravin Posted - 01 Dec 2018 : 17:00:04
I think he's missing flaws or a character arc over the series to make him interesting or memorable.
VikingLegion Posted - 01 Dec 2018 : 11:17:26
Yeah, I hear what you guys are saying. Geran is just a bit... bland? He's got the duelist thing going on, the cool sword-spells to augment his fighting. He has the interesting history of his time in Myth Drannor and being expelled. He's fairly chivalrous and good hearted (he cares for Mirya, he risked his life for Nimessa when she was about to be raped), but he's not above making the ruthless decision when the greater good is at stake. Also he has a bit of anger or darkness that comes surging out of him from time to time.


He's still lacking in some essential spark that makes a main lead interesting. He's not a bad protagonist, he's just not an excellent one that will stay with me long after reading the series.
Seravin Posted - 29 Nov 2018 : 19:56:42
Yah the main character in that series is really not memorable to me. I remember the lich and his patriarch more from that series than the hero. And usually Baker writes very intereting leads (well..I love Jack Ravenwild!).
Lamora Posted - 29 Nov 2018 : 19:44:50
I remember being very enthusiastic for Swordmage. Unlike others on this site, I really enjoyed Baker's Mythal trilogy. It was one of the only series that featured a protagonist that actively went out to get more powerful, and I really enjoy mage characters. So everything about that series pleased me. Then I read Swordmage, and it was a little bit of a letdown. I never connected with the main character. There were a lot of interesting things going on in the book such as the Lich, Myth Drannor, Vaasa, and the Spellplague stuff, but I just couldn't enjoy the MC. I was hoping to see a rise to power arc (personal or magical) which never materialized. I think what hurt my enjoyment of this novel was my expectations from the Mythal trilogy. I would have probably liked this trilogy more if I had not read the Mythal trilogy first.
VikingLegion Posted - 28 Nov 2018 : 12:25:58
I finished Swordmage a couple nights ago. I was amused by the opening Acknowledgements. They were, ostensibly, an explanation for the 100 year time jump. But it read to me as more of a /shrug your shoulders apology. "Hey guys, this is what happened. There's no use fighting it, let's just try to make the best of the situation."

But for all my trepidation of stepping into this new era, this book was very enjoyable. It was weird to see Myth Drannor thriving. Last I read they had just been re-liberated in Baker's other trilogy, and now they are back to being a full-fledged elven stronghold in the Dalelands/Moonsea region. And even though a lot of stuff is different, there were several comforting mentions that made me relax and remember this is still the Realms - Thar is still a bleak, orc/ogre/goblin infested land, the mention of Phlan brought back some good old fashioned Pools nostalgia, etc.

I liked how Baker touched on the feature called Changeland, without going overboard on the exposition. Think about it from the view of the human protagonists - it's been this way all their lives, so it's just not that extraordinary. It's like you or I viewing a giant redwood tree or a volcano; they are magnificent natural features and might fill us with awe, but not to the point where it's anything to freak out over. I also enjoyed how he described the process of memorizing and casting spells, a lot of good flavor text to really show the process of what goes on in a mage's mind both before and during the execution of a spell. If it was just as simple as rote memorization, a decent town clerk could be an archmage and there would be Elminsters on every street corner.

The level of detail in Hulburg was outstanding - everything from the economy, political structure, tradeskills, and even street addresses was well thought out. I have to think this was maybe a starting point town in a home campaign or something. The acknowledgments stated that Baker had been wanting to write this story for years. The vibe of the town worried me a bit at first, from the naming conventions and bustling business I had this 19th century Swiss-Austrian feel and thought there would be all kinds of printing presses, clockwork contraptions, firearms and the like. I really, really didn't want to see a large techno-industrial jump during the 100 year advance, and I'm glad to say this wasn't the case (at least in this region, we'll see what happens elsewhere).

I'm intrigued by the Vaasan Knights (plate-wearing sorcerers) that aided the orcs of Thar. Last I knew Vaasa and Damara had been united by Gareth Dragonsbane. But, like so many other storylines, that has been shredded. As for the other characters, I like Geran and Hamil. They haven't won me over completely but they're pretty solid characters. I had this weird theory regarding the duel Geran fought that got him kicked out of Myth Drannor. That indescribable surge of anger that led him to cut off his rival's hand that seemingly came out of nowhere... later in the book Mirya mentions joining some kind of mysterious Sisterhood and doing many things she was not proud of. I had thought maybe they were a coven of witches and she put a curse on Geran to sabotage his own happiness out of the spite she felt for him abandoning Hulburg and her. But I backed off this theory as the book went on. I've already started the 2nd book and it's been revealed that Mirya slept with a foreign official to blackmail and/or ruin his political standing, and that affair is how she got pregnant with her daughter. I was glad to see the oft' used twist of Geran leaving a child behind (unbeknownst) in his old hometown was not utilized. But that still leaves that group of women unexplained. Now I'm starting to lean towards a sect of Sharrans.

Anyway, it was a very good book and start to this trilogy. And a satisfying way to begin this new age of FR story-telling. As already mentioned, I'm currently reading Corsair and am about a third of the way through it.
Iahn Qoyllor Posted - 19 Nov 2018 : 08:56:30
Ditto Seravin, really liked Jack Ravenwild and the two Richard Baker books were both enjoyable and funny in equal measure.
Seravin Posted - 17 Nov 2018 : 09:27:11
The ONLY time I liked the deities being written a bit mortal like is Finder - because his ascent was so recent and his portfolio and number of followers was so small you'd have a lot of reason why he was not quite a true god yet (and even then he gave away his power). In Tymora's Luck the other gods treat Finder a bit like a child. Otherwise the way WotC let's the deities come off is a bit ridiculous and the MTV reality show analogy is very apt!

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

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

Some random thoughts on Crystal Mountain in no particular order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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