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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 - 20 Oct 2019 : 16:29:09
I finished The Masked Witches a few days ago. The series makes an abrupt shift to the country of Rashemen (YES!) The reason is a flock? pride? of wild griffons has been found in one of the mountain ranges and tamed by a barbarian of the Griffon Lodge working with one of the hathran. It is determined this is some kind of portent, and they are to auction the griffons to whichever faction can help them out with their current infestation of undead. So the Brotherhood naturally shows up, having recently lost several of their mounts warring against the dragons in Chessenta. Also there is a mercenary team from Halrua, looking to strengthen their aerial superiority with a team of griffon riders they can deploy from their skyships, an Aglarondan captain, and a Shou trader from either Westgate or Thesk, I forget. Also you have native Rashemi who disagree with the witches' interpretation and believe the griffons should stay where they are, augmenting their own defense against Thay and other enemies. It all makes for a very fun bit of faction-against-faction intrigue.

I was glad to see one of my longstanding questions about the Wychlaren answered - their casting is a hybrid of the divine and arcane. I never quite knew if they were "witches" in the sense of female mages, or more like druidic, "Gaia/Pagan" nature spirit worshipers. I'm pleased to see it's a little of both.

There's also a rival group of hathran (called durthran) that were put down some years ago in a "War of Witches" that are now back as undead and looking to re-shape Rashemen in their image.

There was a really fun moment when two leaders are communicating over long distance by each possessing a piece of an imp that was bisected right down the middle. This "demonic walkie talkie" was probably more amusing to me than it should've been.

I've noticed Byers gets stuck with certain phrases he ends up using over and over. Like every time someone casts a spell they "wave their hand in a mystic pass" or "utter words of power". Aoth's eyes are described as "fire-kissed" (he's touched by the Spellplague) over and over, and so on. That nitpick aside, this was a pretty entertaining book. I found the transition from Chessenta to Rashemen to be very abrupt, the former storyline seems to be all but dropped for now, but it this is a good story in its own rite, so I'm fine with it.

Up next, naturally is book 5 to finish the series: Prophet of the Dead.
Seravin Posted - 11 Oct 2019 : 22:55:34
Wow, that's a lot for the physical books! I made the switch to ebooks a while back due to many physical moves for work; taking my library overseas just wasn't practical but I need my Realms books with me.
VikingLegion Posted - 11 Oct 2019 : 15:57:00
Last night I finished Spectral Blaze, the third of this 5-part Brotherhood of the Griffon. This is the book that annoyed me for so long, the last FR book I needed to complete my collection. After finally finding it for a somewhat reasonable $22, the seller backed out on me. I saw it next for $38, and in the time it took me to think it over during a lunchbreak, it had already sold. Then it was back to over $50 for awhile, when I finally saw a copy for $47, I pulled the trigger - hating it all the while. What a ridiculous amount to pay for an $8 book when it released.

Not much to note here, the story continues. I enjoy the intricacy of the game xorvintaal, at least what little I can glean about the scoring system. The characters seem to be gaining a bit more nuance and are slightly more interesting, though this is still not a strong part of the book or series. This one was nearly non-stop mayhem, like a Michael Bay summer blockbuster. I often think about how certain books would translate to the big screen as I'm reading them - this one is all explosions and massive CGI battles. A fun distraction if you like the occasional mindless eye-candy action flick.

That's all for now, tonight I'll start book 4: The Masked Witches. From the title I'm going to assume Rashemen gets involved in the struggle, which will certainly perk me up a bit, as that is one of my favorite regions in all of FR. Although I can't say I know what sort of developments to expect in this advanced timeline...
VikingLegion Posted - 05 Oct 2019 : 13:31:44
Last night I finished Whisper of Venom. My notes on this one are fairly sparse, as I may have blended elements of book 1 and 2 together.

A race of creatures called Purplespawn was mentioned. I think they are drow/dragon hybrids, but I can't find any information on them.

The dragonborn paladin duel between Patrin and Medrash was excellent. A follower of Bahamut and one of Torm, both goodly deities, was sad to see, as I liked both characters. But it sort of had to go down that way and it didn't disappoint. Like in the last book, I felt Byers was given a directive to showcase as much of the race/class stuff going on in this edition, and he did it well.

The concept of Xorvintaal is fascinating. Dragons, worried their internecine warring would eventually make their own species extinct, set up an elaborate game of subterfuge that would determine their pecking order. They use mortals as the chesspieces they push around. The rules are so convoluted that even many dragons cannot understand them fully. I first encountered this game in the Erin Evans novel The God Catcher and now it is a major component of this Byers series.

There was a skull lord in this book, just like on the cover of the most recent RAS book I finished. Are they one of the new "cool kids" for monsters, or just an odd coincidence? This book also introduced me to dragonspawn - humanoid dragons very similar to, but the antithesis of, dragonborn. They are created by some ritual wherein mages or priest of Tiamat perform over the eggs of dragons, warping them into this new form. I found this to be uncomfortably derivative of the draconians in the Dragonlance setting.

Overall this was a pretty good book. Much like the first, there was a TON of action - more large scale armies clashing in this one. Tchazzar, the red dragon, has been freed to lead Chessenta to victory against her enemies. But, ooops, he's maybe not the benevolent godking they were hoping for. Surprise, surprise, he's kind of a jerk. He must've been a fun character for Byers to write, he's massively megalomaniacal, utterly deluded, prone to explosions of anger and jealousy, etc. Aoth and Company are glad for the help this mighty being can supply. But at what cost?

Tonight I'll start book 3: The Spectral Blaze.
VikingLegion Posted - 05 Oct 2019 : 13:06:45
It was a productive reading week for me, I finished the first two installments of the Brotherhood of the Griffon quintet. I finished the other book I was reading at night, so now I can concentrate full force for the final push on this FR project.

First, The Captive Flame. It took me a little while to get back into Byers writing style. His cadence, chapter length (a personal bugaboo for me), and repetition of odd words that nobody else ever uses (palaver, for example) was jarring at first, but all came back to me as the book progressed. He always seems to teach me a new word, which I consider no mean feat. This time it was wergild.

This Brotherhood is not the easiest to cheer for. Their leader, Aoth, is a short, squat, bald, ugly Thayan fighter/mage with a dour demeanor and very loose morals. I salute Byers for going outside of the box and not giving his main protagonist all the usual qualities (handsome, dashing, tall, charming, etc.), but at the same time it does take a bit to invest in him and his crew - especially when he justifies certain... let's say morally gray actions with the line, "Hey, that's the life of a sellsword." Speaking of his crew, they don't immediately leap off the page either. Gaedyn the scout is an impeccable archer and a bit of a pretty-boy. He's probably the most interesting of the bunch, if only because of his unrelenting sarcasm, which can be charming at times, and make you want to punch him in the throat at others. He's the "Face" of this A-Team. Khouryn is a dwarf. He's stocky, solid, dependable, a good fighter, not very imaginative, misses his family and clan. You know... a dwarf. Jhesrhi is a mage that endured some kind of terrible trauma as a child, and now she is intensely uncomfortable around people. She is some kind of elemental arcanist, I think a sorcerer, and is far more comfortable whispering to the spirits of the earth and wind than her fellow humanoids. She has, arguably, the most interesting hook of all the characters. But even still she, and the rest, feel more like templates of characters than actual fleshed out entities at this point.

The story centers around the Brotherhood trying to restore their good name and refill the coffers after their recent disastrous campaigns in and around Thay. They take a job in Chessenta - a rabidly xenophobic Ancient Greece analog - to solve a series of murders. The sleuth portions of the book are done fairly well. This escalates to a greater degree of trust and more responsibilities, as the murders link to a far larger plot to invade Chessenta. The "heroes" must find and awaken an ancient red dragon that was once the savior/godking of this land in times past. There is tons of combat, and highly descriptive. Byers is a good author for transitioning to 4th edition and the more video-gamey playstyle and aesthetic they were pushing at the time. I feel like this book was about 10% tutorial on the various new class abilities and so on. But it wasn't so pervasive as to be heavy-handed, I thought he struck the right blend.

Last thought, the names of the dragons (and dragonborn clans, for that matter). I like the concept of dragons having huge, multisyllabic names. It goes well with their long lifespans, majesty, and arrogance. But sometimes it produces some really clunky, awful attempts. So while I like the idea of it, the execution often fails to work. There are several examples, but the most egregious offender to me is the dracolich ruler of Threskel who goes by the name of Alasklerbanbastos. After tossing this word around in my head several times, I finally settled on just calling him Mr. Alaska Bombastic, because... why not? Also that was the name of my Ska band back in high school (not really, I'm just checking if anyone is still paying attention). There were a bunch of really odd clan names too, I just found that one to be the most unusual and jarring, especially for a major villain.

Ok, up next is another review for book 2:
Seravin Posted - 28 Sep 2019 : 23:36:44
Menzo always felt very lawful evil to me, with strict rules in place with extreme penalties for breaking them, ruling houses by numbered order. Yes, there are even rules to ignore the rules...I never saw the chaos.

Last Threshhold just felt like Bob wanted to get into the next phase and bring the Companions back; I did like the Port Llast parts and anything with Kimmuriel is great, so having him take down the Shade Prince in his lair was fun for me, but we already had Kimmuriel be responsible for bringing down Knellict in his lair... BD is really a huge deus ex machina and Kimmuriel is just the tool to make anything happen that Bob wants. He probably could take down Elminster and the Simbul and Szass Tam at the same time if Bob needed it for the plot. Sigh. (And I love Kimmy!)

The ending did nothing for me because I was just waiting for Drizzt to join the other Companions so they could all come back together, and just made me hate Dahlia more I guess. I'm curious if the Brotherhood series is good! I didn't like how RLB wrote the Undead series so it would be good to get a book I like from him.
Irennan Posted - 28 Sep 2019 : 19:14:24
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I'm sure I've come across this theory before, but I found the whole concept of Drizzt being a Chosen of Mielikki *OR* Lolth to be really interesting. Of course it sounds counter-intuitive at first, but being how the Spider Queen loves to promote Chaos, and who has caused more of that in Menzoberranzan than Drizzt? I'm not ready to buy in on it yet, in fact I detest the idea of "Chosen" at all, but it's interesting to ponder. Several characters - the Netherese lord, Jarlaxle, etc. - are all trying to figure this out at the moment, I'll just have to wait and see where it goes.


Honestly, I've never liked this, mostly because it isn't in line with Lolth's behaviour. Lolth never promoted Chaos, she only promoted the negative side of it, i.e. strife.

She promotes the very exact thing that tyrants promote to keep people's attention focused on anything but their real issues. Meanwhile, chaos can also mean emergence of new ideas, of new perspectives, old beliefs being challenged and leading to periods of instability that are necessary for progress.

Lolth never allowed that; in fact, she has always done the opposite by enforcing censorship to ridiculous levels. Had she wanted to actually promote chaos, she would have abolished censorship, let new ideas emerge, and perhaps even let Eilistraee's and Vhaeraun's ideas be shared and discussed in the settlements under her control.

Instead, Lolth has always done all she could to keep the drow in the dark (heh), to expose them to only one lifestyle, one set of beliefs and ridiculous principles (love is weakness, loving your kid is weakness--lol), and to snuff any and all new ideas, with no room for discussion (oh, you believe that. Too bad, you die).

A true deity of chaos constantly wants change and renewal (for the better or the worse). Meanwhile, Lolth's society is the epithome of stagnation and nonsensical tradition, to the point of self-harm (and of not making much sense worldbuilding-wise). A ture deity of chaos can't be evil or good, otherwise they'd just promote strife and catastrophes, or a constant questioning of the status quo in order to find growth (constructive conflict, so to speak), rather than all sides of chaos.

On top of that "chaos" has often been used by the authors to justify nonsensical plans, which is simply bad storytelling (for example, her plan in WotSQ), as if "chaos" was some kind of all-encompassing solution to explain inconsistencies and plot holes (or as if chaos was the same as nonsense--as a matter of fact, even in nature, chaos follows its own rules, to the point that there's a branch of Mathematics that deals with this).

Irennan Posted - 28 Sep 2019 : 18:55:09
Brotherhood of the Griffon had some really neat characters. Too bad Byers had no time to tie loose ends, as WoTC pulled the rug from under his feet when they axed the entire novel line except for Drizzt.
VikingLegion Posted - 28 Sep 2019 : 17:09:57
I finished The Last Threshold yesterday. RAS has been on a bit of a mini-roll for me lately, recapturing some of that old magic. Although you can add Ambergris to the list of absurd names he comes up with. I liked it at first, the shortening of Amber Gristle O'Maul, a very proper dwarvish name. But then I looked up what ambergris actually is - a grayish, waxy substance secreted from the digestive track of sperm whales - and all I could do was shake my head...

I'm sure I've come across this theory before, but I found the whole concept of Drizzt being a Chosen of Mielikki *OR* Lolth to be really interesting. Of course it sounds counter-intuitive at first, but being how the Spider Queen loves to promote Chaos, and who has caused more of that in Menzoberranzan than Drizzt? I'm not ready to buy in on it yet, in fact I detest the idea of "Chosen" at all, but it's interesting to ponder. Several characters - the Netherese lord, Jarlaxle, etc. - are all trying to figure this out at the moment, I'll just have to wait and see where it goes.

The new Superfriends team Drizzt has assembled is growing on me more and more, horrible names not-withstanding (looking at you Ambergris and Afafrenfere… ugh!!!). They all bring something unique to the table, and the inter-party drama and tension is interesting in a way that the old Companions of the Hall, who mostly got along very well (other than post- Ertuu Wulfgar) didn't have. The bickering and feeling of possible impending betrayal certainly keeps them and me on our toes.

Something that has been bothering me for a long while now that I couldn't quite put my finger on... Drizzt's fighting style seems to be getting less and less effective. Let me explain: he is super quick, super accurate, skilled, dexterous, and the like. But it seems like he takes forever to down an opponent. He slices and dices and wears foes down, but meanwhile everyone else is "one shot: one kill" This even goes back to the old Companion days, where Wulfgar and Bruenor hit so hard with their hammer and axe they never, ever have to take a second swing at an opponent. Bruenor's big problem seemed to be burying his axe so deep in an orc's skull he needed a few seconds to extricate it. Cripes, Cattie-brie often took out multiple enemies with one arrow, as Taulmaril's shots go clean through the first orc and on to the second. Meanwhile, here's Drizzt spinning, dancing, weaving, slashing, somersaulting - still working on his first mook. I get it, there has to be some variation in the fighting styles to show they are indeed different, but it seems to work heavily against someone who is supposedly one of the premier bladesmen in all of modern fantasy, plinking away with what are essentially paper-cuts, bleeding out his opponents over time. If this were a video game I'd say that guy needs to work on his Crit% or something. Even Ambergris, a Cleric and not a warrior by trade, is downing every enemy in one shot.

There was a hilarious (to me) line in this book. Drizzt says something questionable to Artemis, who in turn looks at him "as though he were the offspring of an ettin." I thought this was a clever way of re-purposing the line "as if I had two heads", and this coming from a reader who normally detests such callbacks to our own real world phrases. It was like a Jeff Grubb line, only actually clever :)

I absolutely loved the chapters wherein the group (I can't bring myself to call them the companions, even with a lowercase "C") sets out to help Port Llast rebuild and prosper. I play a good deal of strategy/tactical video games, the type where you have to reinforce an area, mine resources, build structures, raise an army, train them up, etc. and this portion of the book felt very much like that. I enjoyed the process of them pushing back the sahuagin, gaining confidence in themselves, allying with some of the farmer-turned-bandits in the area to increase their population, it was a fun few chapters. Although I'm not crazy with how abruptly the "heroes" abandoned their charges. It left off with a somewhat jealous Luskan seeking possible retribution and/or forcing them to pay tribute. Hopefully the trade deal brokered by Ship Kurth keeps hostilities to a minimum.

I enjoyed the appearance of a necrophidius (death worm). I always get a kick out of the writers reaching way back into the history/lore of D&D to pull out monsters I remember reading about in my old Monster Manuals or Fiend Folio back in the '80s!

Is Bregan D'Aerthe a bit too much of a Deus Ex Machina? Between Jarlaxle's gadgets and Kimmuriel's raw godlike power, it seems they can swoop in and fix any situation. The rescue of Drizzt and Co from Draygo in the Shadowfell didn't feel right to me. Such a blatant display of power from the merc band, I can't imagine any amount of gold and/or cashing in of favors on Jarlaxle's part would've made that fly. Speaking of that part, I felt like Drizzt's acceptance of his slave status rang false. He just gave up too easily, it simply isn't in his character to resign himself with such little resistance.

How did Byok the lizard mount of Tiago function so easily in the bitter cold of Icewind Dale? Magic, I guess?

This book felt different from many RAS books in that there were so many long passages of time between some events. Days or more would go by in between some chapters, I think the captivity in the Shadowfell ended up being several months. Then there was an 18 year interlude when they fell asleep in the enchanted wood of Iraludoon. Another poster in this thread (forgive me for not recalling which) mentioned that the RAS 4th edition books felt somewhat like he was just riding it out, pacing himself until the next big upheaval. I have no idea what The Sundering is, but I think that's coming up for me in the near future.

Lastly... that ending! Oh man, obviously I know there are more Drizzt books, but if I was reading this back in 2013, I legitimately would've thought Drizzt died at the very end. I felt so bad for Guenhwyvar, she just got back and recovered from her awful ordeal, and now the book closes with Drizzt bleeding out from a head wound, slowly fading to black on top of Kelvin's Cairn while Guen roars forlornly into the unforgiving night sky. It was a powerful bit of writing and had my heart in my throat even knowing it can't be the end.

Up next, I really, really, really want to start the 6-part Sundering series that rotates authors, but I have to take a step backwards and read the Brotherhood of the Griffin quintet - a series I've been putting off for a long while due to not owning book 3. But I've since acquired it and thus that is what I'll tackle next. So, last night I started book 1, The Captive Flame.
Seravin Posted - 25 Sep 2019 : 16:53:25
Me as well. The blow suffered in Crown of Fire alone to the Zhentarim at the Citadel of the Raven should have set the Black Network back by decades, but nope, they're ready to start another war with unlimited manpower and wizards / beholders /armies right away again.,. The logistics never work well for me in terms of army defeats not setting anyone back. Where are all these people coming from and who is funding it all?
Mirtek Posted - 24 Sep 2019 : 23:34:23
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
Cormyr, much like Zhentil Keep, apparently has an endless supply of young men and women to keep filling out the ranks after absolutely atrocious loss of life over and over. And we're not just talking about unskilled soldiers, I mean war-wizards. I guess Ed's vision of the Realms is that there are hardly any "normal" folks, but just about everyone is capable of advancing in classes. I always felt that 98% of the population are your farmers, blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, and so on. But the classes you'd find in your Player's Handbook are the more exceptional folk. But here we see more absurd body counts, and yet it never seems to make the slightest difference. It just makes the deaths feel fairly meaningless to me. There's no consequence or substance to an entire patrol of Purple Dragons and accompanying casters getting wiped out.
That'S something that has been bothering me too for quite some time
VikingLegion Posted - 21 Sep 2019 : 20:18:05
I recently finished Lesser Evils. What a terrific book. My notes are fairly sparse, as I was enjoying the story too much to record my stray thoughts.

I did wonder about how fully has Netheril/Shade replaced Sembia. Last I knew, from the Kemp novels, they had insinuated themselves fairly deeply into Sembian politics. It seems this book has intimated they have gone a step further and basically just subsumed the entire nation.

I felt like Tam, the Harper/Selunite was a bit weakly developed in the previous Brimstone Angels novel, but here he gets fleshed out quite a bit more. His daughter Mira started off fairly shallow as well but really grew on me as the book progressed. I've said it before but it bears repeating, Evans is an exceptional character builder, right up there with Cunningham and Kemp. Another example is Dahl. He felt like a throw-in character to me at first. But I really felt his frustration, how he wants so badly to be respected and admired but hides it behind an ultra cynical and sarcastic exterior. In about half a book he went from a forgettable extra to someone I could really identify with. Brin took a step backwards in this one to me, he didn't have much room to breathe with everything else going on. He's the "Hawkeye" of this Avengers team.

The gist of the story is like some grand treasure hunt, like a really good Indiana Jones yarn where the Netherese/Shades and the Zhents serve as dual adversaries to our intrepid group of explorers. I really enjoyed all the cutaway scenes to the Hells, where Lorcan spends some time amongst his peers when he's not making life difficult for Faredeh. The ancient vault they discovered went from being fairly cliché to really interesting once you start to realize there's a strange sentience to the place that keeps everyone on their toes with shifting conditions, illusions, devious moving traps, etc. It was like there was just a splash of a horror vibe thrown in - DaVinci Code meets Thirteen Ghosts. I loved it.

They keep mentioning "ritual magic". I skipped 4th edition D&D mechanics entirely (not a knock, I just wasn't in the loop for those years) and I have a hard time grasping what they mean. The term ritual to me always meant having multiple casters working together on a spell, like a coven of witches casting something beyond the power of each of them individually. But that's clearly not what they are referring to here. Evans did mention how the nature of spellcasting changed fundamentally after the Weave was shredded, but she fell just short of laying it clearly out to me what is meant by ritual casting. Anyone with a 4e background care to explain? Not looking for anything in-depth, just a little blurb about what is different in layman terms.

Wonderful book overall, up next I've moved on to RAS's The Last Threshold and am about 100 pages in.
VikingLegion Posted - 21 Sep 2019 : 19:55:09
quote:
Originally posted by Madpig
I dont remember that much on Enraged, but I think it was said in Shadows of Avatar trilogys first outing, that El is really good swordsman. And also his statlines atleast in 3.X edition actually reflects this. El is actually only mage that it actually makes sense. As he has been limited to not using magic multiple times. And he even was ftr/rog/cle before being mage.



Yeah, I get it - he has some ability with the blade. But this seemed like a feat beyond even the best swordsmen of the Realms, like truly epic level warrior stuff. Wow, I really wandered away for some time and forgot to finish this review. Some other parts I really liked:

The "airblade" spell developed by Mreldrake. Just really nasty stuff and so hard to counter. It did require a massive amount of concentration to maintain and control it though, so that balanced it out at least a little bit.

The mindmeld Elminster performs with the jail warden and the two war wizards. He did this in the previous book as well to calm down the hysterical Arcastle by opening up himself fully to the others. It worked well in that book and it worked well in this one as well. I don't know why I enjoyed it so much, I just think Ed writes this scene very well. It makes the snarky, always-right, god-like Elminster a bit more warm, more vulnerable, more relatable, Hells even a little bit likeable.

Elminster's weariness. I just commented on the last RAS book how I enjoyed the change in character of Drizzt. His nigh-eternal optimism and spotless moral conviction has been dinged up a bit of late, a result of the relentless evil and injustice of the world around him. El seems to be experiencing a similar wearing down, which I find brings more to the character.

Felt neutral about:
Hesperdan makes a surprising return in dragon form! I had sort of forgotten about his guy, being that Ed weaves so many disparate story threads all at once. But here he is, returned as Alorglauvenimaus (sp? who cares) the black dragon. The very same one I mentioned in my previous half of this review that Elminster has to trick out of its lair. Later in the book he gets destroyed by El and several war wizards. It was a worthy end for a typical mook, but for someone that's been around so many centuries and involved behind the scenes as a shadow puppeteer for so long - it felt like a bit of an ignominious way to go out.

Things I'm not crazy about:
Manshoon's seemingly limitless power. He's a vampire that apparently suffers zero effects from sunlight. He can split his mind and "ride" multiple subjects simultaneously. He mentions the mental strain and headaches from time to time, but it never seems to stop him from accomplishing exactly what he wants to do. He teleports all over the realm, always exactly where he needs to be to keep pushing his schemes forward, as though there were 10 of him working together. His spells, much like Elminster's, seem utterly mutable and able to do anything he wants them to do. I know this is a big theme with Ed, the major archmages don't really cast prepared spells with specific effects so much as mold or tease the Weave into whatever shape or purpose they desire. It's a cool concept, but post Spell-plague I figured these guys would be a little more adherent to the "rules". Nope, here they are, just as godlike as ever, making every other support character around them feel like so much chaff.

99 out of 100 males in these books are super rapey. It's like all they do is wait and wait around all day until they find a female by herself and it's game on. It doesn't matter if they're the scoundrel in the alley or the guard in the castle or whatever mission they might be involved in, as soon as any woman shows the slightest inkling of vulnerability, every man around her gets into line to force themselves on her sexually.

Cormyr, much like Zhentil Keep, apparently has an endless supply of young men and women to keep filling out the ranks after absolutely atrocious loss of life over and over. And we're not just talking about unskilled soldiers, I mean war-wizards. I guess Ed's vision of the Realms is that there are hardly any "normal" folks, but just about everyone is capable of advancing in classes. I always felt that 98% of the population are your farmers, blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, and so on. But the classes you'd find in your Player's Handbook are the more exceptional folk. But here we see more absurd body counts, and yet it never seems to make the slightest difference. It just makes the deaths feel fairly meaningless to me. There's no consequence or substance to an entire patrol of Purple Dragons and accompanying casters getting wiped out.

Lastly, Elminster inhabited the same body for like 4,000 years, but now he can't seem to go a week without getting his current meat sack destroyed. He's possessed nobles, commoners, wizards, a drow priestess.... it seems as soon as he got this "flow around as ash and inhabit any other body" ability, he has become an absolute moron when it comes to self-preservation. Or maybe he just doesn't feel any need to protect his shell like he used to? I don't know, it just seems off to me.

And that's it! Sorry for the long break between halves of a review, but I got caught up reading the next Erin Evans book and forgot all about this. Review coming next:

Seravin Posted - 09 Sep 2019 : 10:53:03
Sorry I haven't been contributing much lately, the post 4th edition books were hardly my fave. I really hated what they did with the Simbul, in particular in these books so stopped reading even Ed's works. I did continue on with Bob's stuff through the Companions and the 5th edition Sundering stuff.

I just remember the Elminster Must Die/Enraged stuff being typical Ed in Cormyr writing that was so full of lore but very hard to follow plot and story wise; lots of characters introduced then taken away, lots of "sexy", and occasional brilliance. But the Simbul has always been my fave Chosen and to see the state of her in these books just wasn't appealing.
Madpig Posted - 09 Sep 2019 : 06:07:42
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Elminster Enraged. I can't believe I read it so fast, I really just had to bear down and tell myself to read ~100 pages a day.

As per my usual, it was a very up-and-down experience:

Elminster, in a drow priestess form (does it seem at times like Elminster is obsessed with inhabiting female bodies?), finds himself beset by 20 drow warriors and with limited magic at his disposal. His swordsmanship is up to the task of course, and he dispatches several of them via the blade. So not is he only the greatest archmage of all time, he's also a better swordman than Drizzt…

There was a really fun scene when he is trying to come up from the Underdark and the only available path takes him through a black dragon's lair. As a distraction he casts a spell he calls The Awakening that activates every magical item in the hoard, causing various wands and rings and necklaces and whatever other bauble to discharge their spells and properties all at once. The ensuing chaos is impressive, as fireballs and lightning bolts go careening all around the cavern, knocking over stalactites and some hitting the dragon. El then casts a very advanced form of remote telekinesis on a chest of sapphires, flying it out of the cave and making the dragon give chase. He flies it all over the valley outside, zigzagging wildly to keep the dragon occupied like my cat chasing after the laser pointer.

Oops, have to run, but much more to say. I'll come back and edit this later.



I dont remember that much on Enraged, but I think it was said in Shadows of Avatar trilogys first outing, that El is really good swordsman. And also his statlines atleast in 3.X edition actually reflects this. El is actually only mage that it actually makes sense. As he has been limited to not using magic multiple times. And he even was ftr/rog/cle before being mage.
VikingLegion Posted - 07 Sep 2019 : 13:49:38
I finished Elminster Enraged. I can't believe I read it so fast, I really just had to bear down and tell myself to read ~100 pages a day.

As per my usual, it was a very up-and-down experience:

Elminster, in a drow priestess form (does it seem at times like Elminster is obsessed with inhabiting female bodies?), finds himself beset by 20 drow warriors and with limited magic at his disposal. His swordsmanship is up to the task of course, and he dispatches several of them via the blade. So not is he only the greatest archmage of all time, he's also a better swordman than Drizzt…

There was a really fun scene when he is trying to come up from the Underdark and the only available path takes him through a black dragon's lair. As a distraction he casts a spell he calls The Awakening that activates every magical item in the hoard, causing various wands and rings and necklaces and whatever other bauble to discharge their spells and properties all at once. The ensuing chaos is impressive, as fireballs and lightning bolts go careening all around the cavern, knocking over stalactites and some hitting the dragon. El then casts a very advanced form of remote telekinesis on a chest of sapphires, flying it out of the cave and making the dragon give chase. He flies it all over the valley outside, zigzagging wildly to keep the dragon occupied like my cat chasing after the laser pointer.

Oops, have to run, but much more to say. I'll come back and edit this later.
VikingLegion Posted - 07 Sep 2019 : 13:28:47
Addendum to previous post about Charon's Claw. I don't believe the sword is destroyed. When they tossed it over the edge into Mount Doom, err, I mean the primordial fire pit of Gauntlgrym, they all expected Artemis to die soon thereafter, as his lifeforce was tied up with the blade. This, of course, did not happen. They theorized perhaps now his unnatural lifespan is over and he will start aging again normally. But, shortly before the blade went in, the dwarf Ambergris turned traitor on her Shade cohorts and tossed one of the wizards down the shaft, Vader/Palpatine style. He said earlier that he had no flying magic available when she asked, but he could've well been lying to her. Or maybe he has a featherfall contingency charm on his person, or he got hung up on a rocky outcropping, or any number of things. I think maybe he was down there, laying low, pretending to be dead when the sword went flying over the edge. He then enacted a quick telekinesis spell to snatch it out of the air. I don't think Drizzt or any of the crew watched over the edge to see Claw fall into the lava.

Just my theory anyway, we'll see what happens.
VikingLegion Posted - 02 Sep 2019 : 20:15:02
I just finished Charon's Claw. I liked this one better than the last few RAS books. Dahlia is finally becoming more of a character to me. Don't get me wrong, I still don't like her, but I do feel as though she's developed a bit more. I also enjoy the sort of shiftless, rudderless Drizzt. It's definitely a different direction, he's always been so morally sure, it's interesting to see him flounder a bit, makes him less stuffy and also works well with this somewhat post-apocalyptic Realms I find myself currently in. I guess the Drizzt character did need a new angle, he went from very reckless and fun loving in the original Crystal Shard series, and slowly morphed into more of a beacon of goodness and proper behavior, sometimes to the point where it becomes tiresome.

There was a shadovar monk named Afafrenfere. C'mon... seriously? That's just a shade less dumb than the wizard Adaderbear or whatever it was from the short story in the ghost woods a little while back.

I really liked the possible budding romance between Entreri and Dahlia. I didn't see it coming at first, but as soon as it started to materialize I thought, "ahh, that makes so much sense" based on their similar "broken" backgrounds, mutual ruthlessness, and so on. I love how jealous Drizzt gets, knowing he just can't ever relate to her on the same level as Artemis. This is an interesting plot development that made for good reading and an exquisite degree of tension among their little group dynamic. As I already mentioned, Dahlia's character grew by leaps and bounds for me in this book, even her proclivity to take dangerous lovers (so they had a chance to kill her in their eventual duel, thus ending her pain), it all started to come together.

Charon's Claw, on the other hand, has grown tiresome for me. I just feel like we've seen all of this before in the form of Khazid'hea (Cutter).

I loved the Nojheim callback when Drizzt was seriously considering trading Claw away to have Guenhwyvar returned to him. Ultimately he couldn't consign another sentient creature to slavery, even one as vile as Artemis, because of his experience with the little goblin so many years ago. I've also started to like Effron quite a bit more. Yes, he's hideous, twisted, nasty, etc. But he hasn't exactly had an easy go of life, and his hatred for Dahlia is certainly justified and deserving of some sympathy. I feel about him much the way I do about Ephialtes from the 300 story - he's a miserable, detestable being, but he was the aggrieved party first, and I'm a big fan of vengeance.

Up next, I start Elminster Enraged. It has a hefty 391 page count, so this one might take a little while....
Demzer Posted - 26 Aug 2019 : 12:03:29
Well my initial thoughts on this exchange on the Thunder Blessing would be "Why the f#@k when the dwarves get something good you want it to turn into a curse? That's racist!" *cue internet memes*

... POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
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Anyway if I remember correctly about at the time of the Thunder Blessing (with "about at the time" meaning within a few years) we saw also the elves deciding to get back to mainland Faerun and find ways to prosper together with the other demihuman races, Tiamat and Bahamut (or all draconic gods) raining eggs down from the sky (after the end of the Rage) and the orcs trying to establish a permanent and stable kingdom.
All of this coming slightly after the Time of Troubles, when the power of gods was directly tied to the number and fervor of their worshipers, to me speaks of various non-human pantheons trying to carve their place again in wider Faerun to increase their power by boosting their powerbase.

Of course everything blew up after about 10 more years and we were back to scheduled tropes
Gary Dallison Posted - 25 Aug 2019 : 20:24:38
That is an awesome idea for dwarves and the thunder blessing, and if no one objects i will be stealing it.

My own take on souls is that they are just a piece of positive energy. They can be infinite because they grow as people accumulate experience, thus increasing the amount of energy. Splitting a soul does indeed split that energy but it can be replenished in the usual manner (learning, trying, self improvement).

I'm not going to have moradin do the thunder blessing as I don't do gods, but a suitably epic ritual involving rediscovered elder runes could do the job.
VikingLegion Posted - 25 Aug 2019 : 20:12:33
Veylandemar,

I actually like your hypothesis better than the book! :)

If Moradin can invoke the Thunder Blessing with no ramification, why doesn't every deity with a strong racial following not do the same in order to bolster their flock? I dig your explanation that the "dilution" of the soul essence causes some problems down the road.

On the contrary, not to get too philosophically deep or anything, but I once read (was it from this very book?) that souls are infinite things, so if it gets split, well... Infinity divided by two is still infity. But I don't like the idea of any commodity being endless or non-finite, so that's why I find your reasoning behind the Stoneplague to be more satisfying


*****************SPOILERS BELOW***************


than a plot cooked up by some underdark baddies that can actually kill a god - that was a bit of a reach for me. Anyway, like you I thought it was a decent read, even if the resolution fell a bit flat.
Veylandemar Posted - 24 Aug 2019 : 05:27:22
quote:

In other news, yesterday I finished The Gilded Rune. This was an ok book. It centers around Torrin, a human that is absolutely convinced he is really a dwarf that Moradin errantly cast into a human body. This is the same Torrin from one of the recent anthologies. The short story was a fun and interesting read, though I had some misgivings that this character's gimmick would be strong enough to carry an entire full-length novel. The story revolves around an affliction called the Stoneplague (there sure are a lot of plagues... Spellplague, Abyssal Plague, etc.) that slowly calcifies dwarves, turning their blood into mud and their flesh into rock. Torrin, by virtue of his human body, is immune to the Stoneplague and believes it is his gods-given destiny to solve the mystery, that this is the reason Moradin placed his "dwarven soul" into a human body.




I've been waiting for ages for you to get to this book, VL.
While I haven't read it since its' release back in 2012 there were quite a few things about the story that stuck with me - Mostly how I thought the story was going to play out.

Due to the little lore snippets around the Mordinsamman and the dwarven mythology, I thought that the Stoneplague was going to be something a bit more of a divine folly.
It felt to me as if it was building up towards a uniquely Dwarven crisis due to the events of the Thunder Blessing, whereby Moradin increased the dwarven population on Toril by splitting dwarven soul in two and increasing the frequency of twins among his people.

I thought that the direction things were going was that now, a few generations later, those split souls were seeing diminishing returns - Each generation saw the souls further split, leading to a point where this Divine Boon became the problem and the diminished souls now present amongst the Dwarven people was the cause of the Stoneplague - They literally didn't have strong enough fragments of their souls left to keep them from reverting to the stone and clay that Moradin forged the first dwarves from.

But then midway through it turned out to be Dueregar or Derro magic.

I do recall thinking early in the book that Torrin might be a bit flat and gimmicky due to being the 'human who wants to be a dwarf', but likewise I thought it a case of him being uniquely positioned to help his chosen society.

While it has been the better part of seven years, I do believe I enjoyed the book even if I was somewhat disappointed by the antagonist. But that's my own fault for reading too far into things!

~V
Wooly Rupert Posted - 22 Aug 2019 : 21:55:55
Hmm, I may have to give that one a try. It sounds interesting, and there might be some useful background for a dwarven NPC I created.
VikingLegion Posted - 22 Aug 2019 : 21:45:48
quote:
Originally posted by Iahn Qoyllor

VikingLegion - missing your posts mate! Did Rose of Sarifal break you or are you just taking a much needed break?



Nope, still here! To answer both you and 12swords - yes I had been averaging about a book a week, but my reading rate has taken a large hit of late. Nothing to do with any specific FR book. I generally try to read about 30 pages a day at work, and another 20 or so at night before bed. I have some larger, more valuable, non-D&D books I've been looking to read for some time, so I use my nighttime reading for those, not wanting to continually lug them back and forth from home to work to home, possibly damaging them and so on. So that's knocked out about 40% of my reading progress on the FR line.

As for Gary, The Rose of Sarifal had very little I can recall regarding any pre-1400s Moonshae lore, other than to say that the Kendrick line faltered heavily and was failing even before the Spellplague shattered human domination of these isles. I don't know if your Realms takes place after the events of the 2nd trilogy, but if so you are probably in the 1370s? As I'm sure you're aware, High King Keene dies in 1373 defending the realm against a red dragon, and Queen Alicia is left to fend off the incursion of Fae in the form of leShay and various fomorians and so on. Apparently whoever is the heir of Keene and Alicia sounds like they were very ineffective/incompetent, and the humans were being rapidly driven out and/or enslaved before the Spellplague came and pretty much put a nail in their coffin.

In other news, yesterday I finished The Gilded Rune. This was an ok book. It centers around Torrin, a human that is absolutely convinced he is really a dwarf that Moradin errantly cast into a human body. This is the same Torrin from one of the recent anthologies. The short story was a fun and interesting read, though I had some misgivings that this character's gimmick would be strong enough to carry an entire full-length novel. The story revolves around an affliction called the Stoneplague (there sure are a lot of plagues... Spellplague, Abyssal Plague, etc.) that slowly calcifies dwarves, turning their blood into mud and their flesh into rock. Torrin, by virtue of his human body, is immune to the Stoneplague and believes it is his gods-given destiny to solve the mystery, that this is the reason Moradin placed his "dwarven soul" into a human body.

Smedman did a really nice job bringing out some nuances of dwarven culture. The beginning of each chapter had quotes from a book called the Delver's Tome, little parables and nuggets of knowledge to help dwarves live a proper life. Similar to Ed Greenwood's snippets from various plays, treatises, and journals, I really enjoy the added life these things bring to the books. Smedman also made use of several proverbs, sayings, aphorisms, etc. to bring out more dwarven culture, particularly the outlook of members of the Delver's Guild. Like when Torrin decides he is investigating a dead end and wants to follow another lead, he calls it "digging in another direction." Or when he is considering a rash action, where you or I might use the phrase "rocking the boat", she instead goes with "tipping the ore cart." It's little nuances like this I very much enjoy and add quite a bit to the story in their own little way.

It was very late in the book (page 322 to be exact) when Torrin enters a large melee and it dawned on me that this was just the 2nd combat encounter in the entire book! That felt strange to me and made me wonder how many authors throw extraneous fights into their stories just to break up the pacing or because they feel they need to have lots of sword swinging and fireballs exploding to hold a reader's interest. This book focused much more on the mystery, a large conspiracy, and a few plot twists. All in all it was a decent whodunit. Nothing amazing you have to rush out and purchase, but a solid tale, particularly if you like dwarves.

Up next is Charon's Claw.
Iahn Qoyllor Posted - 22 Aug 2019 : 08:42:35
VikingLegion - missing your posts mate! Did Rose of Sarifal break you or are you just taking a much needed break?

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