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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 21 Nov 2016 :  20:30:29  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ElaineCunningham

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Peg, the barmaid friend of Lilly, had about 10 seconds of relative screen time, but I still really felt for her when her friend was murdered. How does Mrs. Cunningham do that?




I'm going to assume (always a dangerous practice...) that this is NOT a rhetorical question, and try to give at least a partial answer.

Everyone has a story. Whenever a character walks onstage, they bring the totality of their experience, personality, and character. What they do or say during that short time doesn't tell their whole story. It might not even be a representative slice of that person's life. They might be a good person having a bad day, or a selfish person in a rare moment of altruism. I think writers need to have a sense of this tip-of-the-iceburg complexity when dealing with any character. I'm not claiming that every incidental character should have a complete backstory and detailed character sheet, but you do need to take the time to envision them as real people.

Visualization is extremely important. It's easy to throw adjectives on a page, but you need to take time to SEE the character. How do they move, and what small actions do they automatically do? This tells you something about their habits, and people are, by and large, the sum of their habits.

You also have to be able to HEAR them. What do they notice and comment upon? That tells you a lot about their values and personalities.How do they express themselves? That tells you a great deal about their personal history, outlook, personality, character, and class/education/occupation.

In short, you can do a lot in a few words if you spend a great deal of time thinking about fictitious people--even the people readers might see for only a few seconds.



I absolutely love this reply. Thank you for taking the time and giving us some insight into your process. Taking the Peg example just a bit further - just that one quick scene where she played the drinking game with Lilly (who lost on purpose to give Peg some coins) made me create a complete back history for Peg in my mind within seconds. And not only Peg, but the entire dynamic of the bar - Lilly, Hamish the tender, and all their relationships. I had Peg as the "little sister" type who's lived a life filled with tough breaks and disappointments. She's no angel, but she's basically a good kid who's just never had much go her way. The other staff have the dual task of looking out for her, but also disguising it in a way that isn't obvious, because they don't want to insult her pride. Such a small detail, and ultimately not very impactful in the greater story, but it's these little extra touches you put in that make your stories so delightful.

Again, thanks for the input. I'm sure I'm not the only one here that gets a thrill when seeing your name appear in the scroll.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 28 Nov 2016 05:10:09
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 28 Nov 2016 :  05:09:43  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters a couple days ago, and like all Greenwood books, I felt strongly divided:

I love the idea of a book split into 7 novellas, each centering on a different sister. I didn't realize it was going to be a linked story, I'm thinking that if it were seven unrelated tales, and not having it tethered to a central storyline would've allowed more freedom. That said, the linking of each segment was very well handled. Each sub-story was fun, fast-paced, and exciting, and I liked seeing how the whole thing came together by the end. Regardless of format, it was a great way to take these characters, who have made many cameos in several other works, and give them more of a spotlight - allowing readers who don't know a ton about them (like me) a chance to see more.

On the downside, the overt sexuality was a bit laughable at times. I chuckled a bit when reading about Qilue's stripper outfit, complete with nipple tassels. I feel like he is trying to write ultra-strong, independent female leads. But to me, many of the scenes and situations come off more like a sexually frustrated 14 year old boy doodling in his notebook while staring at the pretty girl in the front row of class. Trust me, I am in no ways averse to risqué content - I almost won't watch a TV show now unless it's on HBO or Showtime - the added level of gratuitous sex and violence is almost mandatory to make me believe and be immersed. But even still, Greenwood's usage of sexuality feels forced to me to the point where even a premium channel exec would be like "Nah, we can't shoot that scene as written. The audience is never going to believe the spell duel resulted in the sorceresses' clothes being completely blasted off again..."

Related to this topic, I was very surprised at the portrayal of Lady Alustriel. I guess I'd only read her from her interactions with Drizzt in the RAS books. I pictured her as a super-responsible, almost matronly figure - easily the most demure and refined of the Sisters. But here she is, slutting it up with the best of them, to the point of earning the nickname "Our Lady of Dalliances". I liked the image I had of her before reading her story, not out of any prudish sensibilities, but rather because she felt a bit different from the rest of her siblings. When she was making out with that obese merchant I wondered why all the "Mirt" type characters - fat, hairy, nasty, old men - are constantly scoring with these incalculably hot sex-goddesses. More wish fulfillment? Or some kind of "pep-talk" to the target audience that even an Average Joe can sometimes score with a babe?

Staying on the negative train just a bit longer, Qilue's story contained one of the most awful puns I've read in ages. The setup: Qilue is using an illusion to pose as a human woman named Namra. She is a bit on the plump side, not very attractive at all, but she is possessed of certain... "huge tracts of land" that are her greatest asset and most certain way to draw a man's eye. At a social gathering she is instructed to distract the men at a critical moment. To prepare for this she obtains a very skimpy gown, which: "allowed her - by dragging everything sideways - to lay bare one of the most formidable breasts in all of Scornubel. Namra had spent some time this evening gluing glittering emerald dust to her thumb-sized nipples."

Anyway, when the time comes for her to do her thing she starts subtly shifting to reveal more flesh:

When a few frowning, surreptitious clawings had no apparent effect, she practically tore open the front of her gown to get at her breastbone, hiking the emeralds - and the gown they were attached to - this way and that.
"Can I help, m'lady?" a dealer in southern silks purred at her shoulder. "I could not help but notice your obvious distress."
"Oh?" Namra purred. "Yes, 'dis dress'
is a trifle obvious, isn't it?"


Oh no... Ed.... why did you have to.... oh gods....

Ok, enough on the negativity. I guess it's usually easier to criticize the bad aspects than to praise the good stuff, but this was a pretty entertaining book overall. The interior artwork by John Foster was exceptionally good.

Up next is Spine of the World, which I've torn through in the last 2 days, I'll probably finish that up by tomorrow and have a review in soon.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 28 Nov 2016 05:13:04
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  04:33:53  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Spine of the World last night. My first thought was to wonder if people were disappointed when they first read this back in 1999. There are no Drizzt, Bruenor, Regis, or Cattie-brie appearances whatsoever, unless one counts the "memoir" type reflections of Drizzt at the beginning of some chapters - which I almost always enjoy immensely.

It's a story about Wulfgar's redemption, which I find I appreciate much, much more at age 40 than I did in my early 20s. I guess the years (and hopefully some small amount of wisdom that has seeped in) have altered my perspective on what I'm looking to get out of a fantasy novel.

The side story with the Ganderlay peasant family and the small fiefdom of Auck was puzzling to me at first. I just couldn't figure out why SO much space was being devoted to it, and to be perfectly frank I found it less than thrilling. But it is necessary groundwork for when Wulfgar and his rogue companion, Morik, eventually intersect with the other characters.

It was a pretty good story overall - some great moral gray-ground, which I don't necessarily usually associate with RAS books. His heroes are usually paragons of virtue, and his villains suitably dastardly. But this book had several characters that I alternated between liking and loathing. A large part of the story revolves around misunderstandings and little white lies that spiral out of control. When I can get frustrated with a book and want all the characters to just sit in a room together to work it all out, that's a good sign I've been sufficiently sucked in. Good stuff.

Next, I've returned to Mel Odom's "Threat from the Sea" trilogy with book 2: Under Fallen Stars.


EDIT: typed the wrong title for book 2

Edited by - VikingLegion on 30 Nov 2016 16:09:01
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
116 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  09:13:06  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Spine of the World last night. My first thought was to wonder if people were disappointed when they first read this back in 1999. There are no Drizzt, Bruenor, Regis, or Cattie-brie appearances whatsoever, unless one counts the "memoir" type reflections of Drizzt at the beginning of some chapters - which I almost always enjoy immensely.

It's a story about Wulfgar's redemption, which I find I appreciate much, much more at age 40 than I did in my early 20s. I guess the years (and hopefully some small amount of wisdom that has seeped in) have altered my perspective on what I'm looking to get out of a fantasy novel.

The side story with the Ganderlay peasant family and the small fiefdom of Auck was puzzling to me at first. I just couldn't figure out why SO much space was being devoted to it, and to be perfectly frank I found it less than thrilling. But it is necessary groundwork for when Wulfgar and his rogue companion, Morik, eventually intersect with the other characters.

It was a pretty good story overall - some great moral gray-ground, which I don't necessarily usually associate with RAS books. His heroes are usually paragons of virtue, and his villains suitably dastardly. But this book had several characters that I alternated between liking and loathing. A large part of the story revolves around misunderstandings and little white lies that spiral out of control. When I can get frustrated with a book and want all the characters to just sit in a room together to work it all out, that's a good sign I've been sufficiently sucked in. Good stuff.

Next, I've returned to Mel Odom's "Threat from the Sea" trilogy with book 2: Rising Tide.





I think I have to dig that book up from somewhere. I had quite similar feelings toward that book when it came out.

Another thing, wont it give you a headache to read stories and jump of to another?
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
775 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  12:48:32  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Spine of the World was so boring to me on first read (and this was in my 30s not 20s) but I should go back. I've had close friends succumb to alcoholism in the interim and I think I could better appreciate the storyline.

I also need to re-read the Seven Sisters anthology Silverfall; I think Alustriel and Sylune are the two classy lady sisters, with Alassra, Dove and Storm not really caring about etiquette and being classy so much (the Simbul was becoming much more monarchy due to ruling Aglarond of course but still not really a lady). Laeral liked to run around with the rogues of Waterdeep but now that she is a Lord I don't know how she acts in 5th edition (nor do I find myself overly caring since the novels are dead for now). Qilue I don't think is Ed's creation; more of a "let's make more things Drow because Drizzt" so I don't really take to her as a character or a concept.
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2555 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  13:30:48  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Spine of the World was so boring to me on first read (and this was in my 30s not 20s) but I should go back. I've had close friends succumb to alcoholism in the interim and I think I could better appreciate the storyline.

I also need to re-read the Seven Sisters anthology Silverfall; I think Alustriel and Sylune are the two classy lady sisters, with Alassra, Dove and Storm not really caring about etiquette and being classy so much (the Simbul was becoming much more monarchy due to ruling Aglarond of course but still not really a lady). Laeral liked to run around with the rogues of Waterdeep but now that she is a Lord I don't know how she acts in 5th edition (nor do I find myself overly caring since the novels are dead for now). Qilue I don't think is Ed's creation; more of a "let's make more things Drow because Drizzt" so I don't really take to her as a character or a concept.




Qilué was created by Ed and Steven Schend, actually, and so was the Promenade (they first appeared in 1991, IIRC). Eilistraee OTOH is purely Ed's creation, whom he merely made official when TSR asked him to create more drow deities. So they belong to the Realms too, and are drastically different from Drizzt, both in goals and attitudes.

Laeral gets a lot of spotlight in Ed's latest novel, Death Masks. She really doesn't want to be Open Lord, and the "politicking" and backstabbing going on disgust her, especially since she can't wipe all of that with her magic anymore and because she has much less freedom (both because of her position, and because her magic is weaker), but she tries her best to do what she perceives to be the right thing.

To all Facebook-using FR fans, you might be interested in checking out this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450517575051806/

Edited by - Irennan on 30 Nov 2016 13:35:31
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  16:19:15  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Madpig
I think I have to dig that book up from somewhere. I had quite similar feelings toward that book when it came out.

Another thing, wont it give you a headache to read stories and jump of to another?



Nah, it's not ideal, but I'm reading them pretty fast, so there's not a ton of time elapsed during the break. I will occasionally deviate from the publication date order I'm reading to finish a series, and I had meant to do that for the Threat From the Sea trilogy. But then I saw there was a Realms of the Deep published in between books 2 and 3, which must assuredly contain content I need to read before finishing that trilogy. That messed me all up. I was heading out the door, on the way to work and needed a new book to read. So rather than dig through the pile I simply grabbed the next one off the top, which happened to be The Star of Cursrah.

As you can see, only a few weeks have elapsed before I got back to the underwater adventure, so the characters and situations are still fresh in my mind.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  16:33:06  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Spine of the World was so boring to me on first read (and this was in my 30s not 20s) but I should go back. I've had close friends succumb to alcoholism in the interim and I think I could better appreciate the storyline.

I also need to re-read the Seven Sisters anthology Silverfall; I think Alustriel and Sylune are the two classy lady sisters, with Alassra, Dove and Storm not really caring about etiquette and being classy so much (the Simbul was becoming much more monarchy due to ruling Aglarond of course but still not really a lady). Laeral liked to run around with the rogues of Waterdeep but now that she is a Lord I don't know how she acts in 5th edition (nor do I find myself overly caring since the novels are dead for now). Qilue I don't think is Ed's creation; more of a "let's make more things Drow because Drizzt" so I don't really take to her as a character or a concept.




Yeah, I'd agree with you on all of those depictions - I also saw Alustriel as being one of the classier sisters. But Sevenfall certainly seemed to contradict that, Lustra acted more like Dove or Storm than I thought she would've.

As for the Simbul - in this book she comes off as guano-crazy - a borderline sociopath. I know she's a bit imbalanced and whimsical, I guess having that much power might cause one to get a bit unhinged at times. It may sound strange being that Ed is her creator and all, but I think Lynn Abbey got the character better. It's kind of like Dana Carvey does a better George Bush than George Bush.

Your Qilue take is pretty spot on as well. Here's how I imagine the meetings go:

WoTC Exec: More drow please
Ed G.: Well, everything can't be..
WoTC: More drow!
Ed: Ok, but...
WoTC: DROW DROW DROW DROW DROW!!!
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2555 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  16:44:20  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Your Qilue take is pretty spot on as well. Here's how I imagine the meetings go:

WoTC Exec: More drow please
Ed G.: Well, everything can't be..
WoTC: More drow!
Ed: Ok, but...
WoTC: DROW DROW DROW DROW DROW!!!



Qilué dates back to TSR era, actually. She first appeared in one of their magazines, IIRC (back in 1991, as I said). The last of 7 sisters was left up to DMs, but Steven Schend made her a drow, and he and Ed came up with a story for her (making her a shared chosen of Eilistraee and Mystra). As far as I can see, it wasn't something prompted by TSR (although it was surely approved by them)

And, as Ed has said, he had already created Eilistraee for his own world and use in his game, before TSR asked him for more drow deities, so a prominent priestess of the Dark Dancer would have come up anyway at some point. It's not something tacked on for more Drizzt/drow, there's actually some deep lore behind it all.

To all Facebook-using FR fans, you might be interested in checking out this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450517575051806/
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Paran
Seeker

18 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2016 :  21:05:31  Show Profile Send Paran a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I liked Wulfgar's plot in Spine of the World. The Auckney plot however was a chore to get through and it got good once it intersected with Wulfgar's.

Edited by - Paran on 30 Nov 2016 21:08:22
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 05 Dec 2016 :  05:49:24  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Under Fallen Stars a couple nights ago and continue to be impressed by this series. The characters are well done, the plot is interesting, and the general tone/style of the writing is high quality. I can't point to any one aspect and say it is terrific - it's just an exceptionally strong effort all around.

About the only gripe I might have is the whole prophecy angle. I know that 99% of the time the good guy(s) will defeat the big bad and save the world, but when stories use a prophecy/child of destiny/chosen one trope, it makes the whole thing feel even more predetermined. On the other hand, Iakhovas made some interesting comments that there is no prophecy, and that he contrived the whole thing for his own nefarious purposes, which would make for a wicked plot twist. On the other, *other* hand, it might end up being an ironic "self fulfilling prophecy", with his false hero actually ending up being his undoing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I eagerly look forward to book 3 and the conclusion of this trilogy. But there will be a couple books in between, right now I'm reading Denning's Beyond the High Road, which continues the Cormyr Saga.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
775 Posts

Posted - 05 Dec 2016 :  17:46:35  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good luck with Beyond the High Road. To me Ed and Jeff Grubb did a masterful job with Cormyr-meshing the history with a current day plot; giving the series over to Troy Denning to run with was not handled well and the book feels a disjointed mess. It was hard to get through this one. I really liked Parched Sea, it was a cohesive interesting book that really immersed me in the tribes of Anauroch. But Troy's other books have not been my faves.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 12 Dec 2016 :  06:45:33  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Good luck with Beyond the High Road. To me Ed and Jeff Grubb did a masterful job with Cormyr-meshing the history with a current day plot; giving the series over to Troy Denning to run with was not handled well and the book feels a disjointed mess. It was hard to get through this one. I really liked Parched Sea, it was a cohesive interesting book that really immersed me in the tribes of Anauroch. But Troy's other books have not been my faves.



I have to agree here, this was a tough book to get into, and even harder to stay into. Vangerdehast and the Royal Magicians were supremely annoying - constantly clashing with the Chauntean priest, even when he's clearly doing everything he can to help the kingdom. It reminded me a lot of how Denning wrote Vaerana Hawklyn - the Harper from The Veiled Dragon - just utterly rude, argumentative for no good reason, and thoroughly dislikable. I get that Vangey is supposed to be a bit crotchety, but I thought it was a bit overdone for he and the other wizard (Merula?)

I also felt like Denning tried to channel Greenwood a bit at times, and altered his writing style to be a bit more like EG, maybe for sake of continuity in the Cormyr saga. I had a few specific examples of this to cite as I was reading it, but now I've forgotten them and don't quite care enough to go back and look for them. On the plus side, there were a couple laugh-out-loud funny sexual remarks regarding the budding romance between Tanalasta and Rowen, so if he was trying to ape Ed, I thought he actually surpassed him in the risqué department with cleverness.

I had mixed feelings about the ghazneths. At first I was really annoyed - there's already so much bloat in D&D products with every new developer/author/edition/etc. introducing 50 new races or creature types, did we really need another new one? But as I learned more of them I started to see why that was necessary. I really liked how they each have a unique power. Sure, they all share flight, super speed, amazing strength/resilience, but then each one has a "specialty" that is somehow linked to their personality or particular brand of treason in life. It added a Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or Seven Deadly Sins type of vibe to the mix.

All in all, it turned out to be an ok book, but definitely one that took a little extra effort to push through. Currently I'm reading the undersea Anthology: Realms of the Deep. This is significant to me because it's the first book published in the year 2000. So while it's just the next book in my reading order, it feels like I've turned a corner of sorts. Hey at least I'm now in the same century as you guys! Going back to Darkwalker on Moonshae on page 1 of this scroll, we've now discussed 13 years worth of Forgotten Realms novels (109 books if you count the Double Diamond installments as 9 separate books).

Edited by - VikingLegion on 12 Dec 2016 06:57:06
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
116 Posts

Posted - 12 Dec 2016 :  08:59:48  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Your work is fantastic Vikinlegion! Your list has made me list of my own, about things to read. It seems that our readinghabits and likes are quite the same. Exept on Nethril trilogy. But I think that is because of me being non-native englishspeaker, and things that bothered you, did not stricke me at same level.
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Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3007 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2016 :  23:19:21  Show Profile  Visit Artemas Entreri's Homepage Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Excellent idea for a thread.

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

Check out my eBay store for great Realms/Dragonlance/Ravenloft/Dark Sun/etc series! http://stores.ebay.com/Remembered-Realms-and-Hobbies

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 17 Dec 2016 :  07:36:40  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
**Incoming LENGTHY post**

I finished Realms of the Deep a few nights ago. A few general thoughts before I go into specific entries:

1. I thought this was one of the stronger anthologies overall. Even the 2-3 stories I didn't like all that much were still decent, there wasn't that one unbearable entry that most short story collections have.

2. It was extremely well tied-in with the underwater arc going on in Mel Odom's Threat from the Sea trilogy. Was there a "Continuity Overlord" set up to make sure it all tied together properly? I see that the anthology was edited by Philip Athans, but my 3-book omnibus of Odom's trilogy doesn't list an editor, so I can't tell if it was the same person. I also wonder what kind of coordination, if any, WoTC engineered with the various authors. Did they all have to read books 1 and 2 (the 3rd hadn't come out yet) or were they simply given a general synopsis of what was going on?

3. That got me ruminating further along that vein of thought. Do FR authors get excited when another writer releases a book? Do they fast-track it on their reading lists in order to see what else is going on in Toril? Or do they primarily concern themselves with their own corners and niches of the world and not get overly involved in what someone else is doing in another region? Do they have some kind of private forum by invite only, where they discuss their books, bounce ideas off each other, or even solicit advice if they found they've written themselves into a nasty corner from which they are having a hard time escaping? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in such a gathering...

I'd be delighted if Elaine, who has popped into this thread twice now, could offer any insight on thoughts 2 and 3. :)

Ok, now on to the stories in Realms of the Deep:

Hard Choices - Lynn Abbey - I'm a sucker for her work, she has this really moody, evocative style of writing that I find very challenging but also very rewarding. She loves to write nuanced characters that have both good and bad in them (as she did incredibly well in The Simbul's Gift), and this short is no exception. Her malenti that doesn't seem to fit in either culture was extremely well done. Great start to the collection.

Fire is Fire - Elaine Cunningham - What a stirring, moving, and visceral description of a battle! I love how the main character starts out so arrogant, but is utterly humbled by the end. This story reminded me a ton of an old Dragonlance short back in the Tales series called From the Yearning for War and the War's Ending by Michael Williams; a hauntingly beautiful tale of the emotions surrounding war - from the bravado and patriotism of youth, to the greater appreciation of peace-time gained by those who have experienced the horrors of war firsthand. Anyway, with these two stories at the top of the batting order, this anthology gets off to a terrific start.

Passenger to Seros - Peter Archer - I didn't much care for this one. It had a bit of a goofy vibe for most of the way, then turned completely grim at the end. So while even though I normally favor dark, gritty fare, it just seemed incongruous with the rest of the tale. But as I mentioned above, even being one of the weaker entries in this book, it still wasn't a bad story.

The Place Where Guards Snore at their Posts - Ed Greenwood - a very average story that dealt with a bit of a tangential part of the undersea plot. I actually had to go back and re-skim it to re-familiarize myself with the story, and that's not a good sign. I wouldn't call it good or bad, but now we've hit our first official slump with two mediocre stories in a row.

Lost Cause - Richard Lee Byars - a tale about a remote outpost, all but left for dead by the demands of the ongoing war. A small group of militiamen are sorely pressed, when in comes a cocky new commander out of Waterdeep. He makes all the predictable mis-steps, ignoring the wisdom of his 2nd, underestimating the enemy, etc. After being thoroughly humbled, he finally starts to adjust his rigid stance and starts to work with his men, rather than lord over them. This felt like nearly a full-length novel but was somehow packed into 30 pages. Nice read, consider the slump over.

Forged in Fire - Clayton Emery - oh dear... this one had me laughing, but not in a good way. Here's a portion of the write-up I did on book 2 of the Netheril Trilogy 6 months ago:

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Well I finished Dangerous Games the other night. It's mostly more of the same odd style. In book 1 he used the term "scooched" at least a dozen times. In book 2 he's replaced this with "spanked" and "hams" (as in the backs of the thighs or thighs/buttocks) Two weapons clashing a parry spanked off each other. The crossbow bolt spanked off the floor and careened wildly. The elf "spanked Sunbright through the opening into semi-darkness, then shoved his hams from behind to keep him moving." [That last one is a direct quote] I challenge anyone here to read this book and find a run of 5 consecutive pages where he doesn't update us on what the asses of the characters are doing. Every fight has someone taking an arrow in the rump, or being knocked "on their hams" or "flexing their buttocks to break the hold". It's just utterly bizarre, like he made a game of how many backside references he could fit into one book.


Well here he's back at it again. Just 2 pages into the story we have this: "The pirate squatted so low her hams brushed the deck, then she stabbed upward to spear the marine's groin. Fast as thought, the lieutenant's blade spanked the pirate's cutlass so hard the tip bit the deck." Well, at least he's consistent, so there's that. I just thought it was funny that he used these two words, ham and spanked, so exhaustively in Dangerous Games, to the point where it was one of the only things I took away from reading that book and felt compelled to mention, and then goes and uses both of them in back-to-back sentences in this short story. Sorry for the derail, I guess I have a tendency to notice the strangest of things. Other than that, this was a fairly decent story.

One Who Swims with Sekolah - Mel Odom - More background on Laqueel and Iakhovas. Not absolutely necessary reading for that trilogy, but if you enjoy it (as I have, immensely), it's a solid entry that deals with a side-story that would've taken too much space to fit well in the main books.

The Crystal Reef - Troy Denning - excellent story that reminds us the sides in a war aren't always so cut and dry. Up to now we've seen the underwater races as the undeniably evil aggressors, and the humans as the virtuous defenders. Here we have humans, in all our destructive and imperial ways, using the pretext of defense to expand and conquer. This was one of the more moving stories, even though I knew from very early on it was going to end tragically, it was still quite sad. One of the top entries, maybe just behind Lynn and Elaine's.

The Patrol - malentis seem to be what authors gravitate towards when looking into the sahuagin race, they pop up in multiple short stories, as well as one of the main characters in Odom's trilogy having this mutation. Here was a very interesting take on an elf pretending to be a malenti to work as a double agent of sorts. Brilliant! I think it may fly in the face of official canon however, as I recall reading somewhere that sahuagin can always tell the difference between one of their own and an actual sea-elf. But hey, if we can /handwave that aside, it was a pretty cool concept. Unfortunately the rest of the story was very average and not particularly noteworthy.

Star of Tethyr - Thomas M. Reid - fairly exciting "coming of age" story of a young man getting his first taste of fighting and earning his stripes. It checked all the requisite boxes for a naval battle, and I do love dragon turtles!! Good, but not great.

Persana's Blade - Steven E. Schend - overall pretty decent, but I thought it suffered a tad from some technical errors and was just a tiny bit confusing. It felt like the author was trying to establish a kickass new character, perhaps one that could be utilized in later materials, though I'm not sure a triton has enough appeal or relatability to really catch on. I don't fully know what the main character transformed into at the end, and I thought that could've been explained a little more clearly and/or expanded on. But maybe that was the point, I don't know.

And the Dark Tide Rises - Keith Francis Strohm - another tragic ending, this anthology seems to have more than its share of those. If I were a more poetic man I'd try to make some kind of fancy and thematic comparison to the hungry, capricious, and uncaring nature of the sea, but I'm not, so I won't. Overall a good story of a young man of the "outcast" variety (not unlike Jherek from the Threat from the Sea trilogy) who follows a mysterious calling. Not the best tale of the bunch, but a pretty worthy ending.

A very solid anthology through and through, probably one of the more consistently good ones. Up next in my publication order is The Magehound, but I'm going to deviate from that (pass up a Cunningham book... blasphemy!?!?!) because the third and final book of the underwater saga is directly after that. So now it's on to The Sea Devil's Eye to conclude this story arc.




Edited by - VikingLegion on 17 Dec 2016 07:43:51
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2016 :  17:14:57  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Sea Devil's Eye a couple nights ago. I liked this one the least of the trilogy, but it was still pretty good overall. Jherek and Laaqueel's transformations felt somehow off to me. I'm not sure why, they've both been hinted at and percolating in the background for 3 full books, so it wasn't sudden or contrived, but still I didn't buy into them for some reason, particularly Laaqueel's.

On the plus side, I think the author did a wonderful job of writing the various underwater cultures. WAY back in page 2 or 3 of this thread we talked about how well David Cook wrote the Tuigans, I feel like Mel Odom did a similarly terrific job with the various underwater races, particularly the sahuagin. He had a much more massive task, having to also flesh out the mermen, tritons, sea-elves, locathah, koalinths, etc. - I feel like he must've spent an enormous amount of time researching, bugging fellow Realms historians, and so on before tackling this project. The amount of lore that went into the undersea cities and histories was staggering, I probably only retained about 30% of it. Myth Nantar, the whale bard, Iridea's Tear, was all amazing stuff. It makes me wonder if there is any fictional setting that has been so thoroughly and expansively developed as the Forgotten Realms.

But thus far not a single reply has been made regarding any of the 3 "Threat from the Sea" novels, nor the water-themed anthology, so I have to assume this series either snuck in under the radar and not many have read it, or I'm in the minority and it was not well-received. If the latter is the case, does anyone have any specific critiques? I did find a few, rather large plot holes in this trilogy, but I was able to overlook them because I felt the writing, in general, was well-above average.

Otherwise, it's on to The Magehound, which I just started in on last night.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 22 Dec 2016 :  19:12:22  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've read the books. I don't recall being particularly impressed by them. I liked that they were set underwater, but the overall plot didn't grab me.

I do recall being surprised by Jherek being a paladin of Lathander. The way his life had gone, I thought Ilmater would have been more appropriate. Especially given that he was utterly miserable but kept being told "Live, that you may serve." Not really a hopefully or rebirth kinda message, there.

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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
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Posted - 23 Dec 2016 :  02:01:48  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished The Sea Devil's Eye a couple nights ago. I liked this one the least of the trilogy, but it was still pretty good overall. Jherek and Laaqueel's transformations felt somehow off to me. I'm not sure why, they've both been hinted at and percolating in the background for 3 full books, so it wasn't sudden or contrived, but still I didn't buy into them for some reason, particularly Laaqueel's.

On the plus side, I think the author did a wonderful job of writing the various underwater cultures. WAY back in page 2 or 3 of this thread we talked about how well David Cook wrote the Tuigans, I feel like Mel Odom did a similarly terrific job with the various underwater races, particularly the sahuagin. He had a much more massive task, having to also flesh out the mermen, tritons, sea-elves, locathah, koalinths, etc. - I feel like he must've spent an enormous amount of time researching, bugging fellow Realms historians, and so on before tackling this project. The amount of lore that went into the undersea cities and histories was staggering, I probably only retained about 30% of it. Myth Nantar, the whale bard, Iridea's Tear, was all amazing stuff. It makes me wonder if there is any fictional setting that has been so thoroughly and expansively developed as the Forgotten Realms.

But thus far not a single reply has been made regarding any of the 3 "Threat from the Sea" novels, nor the water-themed anthology, so I have to assume this series either snuck in under the radar and not many have read it, or I'm in the minority and it was not well-received. If the latter is the case, does anyone have any specific critiques? I did find a few, rather large plot holes in this trilogy, but I was able to overlook them because I felt the writing, in general, was well-above average.

Otherwise, it's on to The Magehound, which I just started in on last night.



You'd have to thank Steven Schend for that. His "Sea of Fallen Stars" sourcebook remains one of the unheralded gems of FR design.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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Iahn Qoyllor
Seeker

United Kingdom
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Posted - 23 Dec 2016 :  09:59:43  Show Profile Send Iahn Qoyllor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sea of Fallen Stars is a wonderful sourcebook.

I struggled with Laaqeel and Jherek who both frustrated me but did enjoy how fleshed out the underwater realms were, especially Myth Nantar which I would have loved to have seen much more of.
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Seravin
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Canada
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Posted - 26 Dec 2016 :  01:28:36  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I read that series so long ago...I'm not sure it struck me as particularly good or bad. I just cared more about the dry land parts of the Realms than underwater. I did get the Sea of Fallen Stars sourcebook and it is an amazingly detailed and well written book.
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ElaineCunningham
Forgotten Realms Author

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Posted - 28 Dec 2016 :  01:47:03  Show Profile  Visit ElaineCunningham's Homepage Send ElaineCunningham a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion


2. ::snip:: I also wonder what kind of coordination, if any, WoTC engineered with the various authors. Did they all have to read books 1 and 2 (the 3rd hadn't come out yet) or were they simply given a general synopsis of what was going on?

3. That got me ruminating further along that vein of thought. Do FR authors get excited when another writer releases a book? Do they fast-track it on their reading lists in order to see what else is going on in Toril? Or do they primarily concern themselves with their own corners and niches of the world and not get overly involved in what someone else is doing in another region? Do they have some kind of private forum by invite only, where they discuss their books, bounce ideas off each other, or even solicit advice if they found they've written themselves into a nasty corner from which they are having a hard time escaping? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in such a gathering...

I'd be delighted if Elaine, who has popped into this thread twice now, could offer any insight on thoughts 2 and 3. :)




2. Most of the anthologies had a general theme, but didn't require a lot of coordination. This one was focused around a particular event, so more research was required. I definitely read the first book and possibly the second. (Long time ago--don't remember all the specifics.) Also, the editor--in this case Phil Athans--would start to manage continuity at the story proposal stage, before the actual writing starts. At that point, he'd work with the authors to get a balance of locations, themes, stories, and styles. When I'm writing for a themed anthology, I usually pitch 2 or 3 story ideas so the editor can choose the one that best serves the balance. (A very Harper-like notion, now that I think of it...)


3) Can't speak for any other FR writer, but when I started writing for the Realms, I read everything TSR published in the setting. Everything. Every novel, every short story, every game supplement, every copy of Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine. I'm a former history teacher, and this was the history, and I was damn well going to know it. More to the point, the Realms was my second home, and I enjoyed spending time there.

My reading patterns changed after TSR went into hiatus, and then was sold to WotC. I continued to read most of the novels, but with game products, I'd focus on areas of interest and places where I was working. I'd pretty much stopped reading anything before 4E came out. Not as a reaction to 4E, but because I was busy dealing with Life.

In the early days I had a great editor--Jim Lowder--and most of my lore questions and "OMG I painted myself into a corner!" issues would be directed to him. There was also a considerable amount of coordination with game designers. This was back in the day when people made phone calls instead of sending text messages, and I frequently chatted with Ed Greenwood, Bob Salvatore, Steven Schend, and others. There was lots of conversation. Ideas bounced hither and yon.

The zeitgeist shifted considerably over the years as the staff turned over (and over and over...) I got the sense that as time went on, the divide between fiction and games deepened and widened. There was less communication in general.

Keep in mind that this is the perspective of one freelancer. Others may have had a different experience.




Edited by - ElaineCunningham on 28 Dec 2016 01:58:40
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
775 Posts

Posted - 28 Dec 2016 :  20:25:01  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"Can't speak for any other FR writer, but when I started writing for the Realms, I read everything TSR published in the setting. Everything. Every novel, every short story, every game supplement, every copy of Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine. I'm a former history teacher, and this was the history, and I was damn well going to know it. More to the point, the Realms was my second home, and I enjoyed spending time there."

This paragraph gave me tingles of joy. That's exactly how I would treat the chance to write for the Realms, and how I believe everyone so blessed should do it!
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 29 Dec 2016 :  03:14:25  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

I've read the books. I don't recall being particularly impressed by them. I liked that they were set underwater, but the overall plot didn't grab me.

I do recall being surprised by Jherek being a paladin of Lathander. The way his life had gone, I thought Ilmater would have been more appropriate. Especially given that he was utterly miserable but kept being told "Live, that you may serve." Not really a hopefully or rebirth kinda message, there.



You are so spot on with that - everything about Jherek's life screamed endurance, patience, and perseverance under adversity. He's such a natural match for Ilmater, having Lathander as his mysterious benefactor/patron all along was indeed a surprise. Also, Laaqueel spends her whole life being a vicious predator, probably even more so than her kin in order to make up for her mutation that is perceived as a weakness, and then... Eldath?!?! seduces her away from Sekolah?

As mentioned in the previous post, I thought these were the worst elements of the trilogy

quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

You'd have to thank Steven Schend for that. His "Sea of Fallen Stars" sourcebook remains one of the unheralded gems of FR design.

-- George Krashos



Thanks for that info, I might just have to see if I can find a copy of that sourcebook relatively cheap, the lore was outstanding!
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 02 Jan 2017 :  20:48:37  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Magehound a few days ago. Now this was the Halruaa I was hoping to see, but was only teased at, in Murder in Halruaa.

It was one of the stranger books Elaine has penned, but it still carried her trademarks of strong character development and a complex, multi-layered plot. I had no knowledge of the jordaini before this read, what an interesting concept. I had more to say about this book as I was reading it, but I fear with the holiday whirlwind of the last couple weeks, it's all flown from my mind. I feel like I've had an feeblemind spell cast on me. Considering that Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is up next; perhaps that is a good thing.
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