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Lamora
Seeker

USA
73 Posts

Posted - 18 Apr 2018 :  02:52:50  Show Profile Send Lamora a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I actually read the Watercourse Trilogy as my first books in the Realms outside Salvatore. Thus I had little to no clue what was actually going on when it talked geography and the Red Wizards. But there were many things I liked about the trilogy. I have always enjoyed people seeking out and plotting to obtain power. I will save my other thoughts until you complete the 3rd book though VL. Don't want any spoilers for you.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
322 Posts

Posted - 24 Apr 2018 :  22:20:35  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Scream of Stone at work today, thus concluding the Watercourse Trilogy. Once again, I found it to be of fairly good quality and definitely Athans' top achievement. There were a couple times when Phyrea and Pristoleph came off a bit like a cheesy romance novel, but I was able to power through those moments. Marek and Wenefir had some extremely good dialogue - really top notch stuff, like Varis + Littlefinger type quality. I also really enjoyed some of the conversations between Pristoleph and Devorast, particularly when they both, somewhat uncharacteristically, let their respective guards down and did something that almost resembled confiding in each other. That only makes sense if you've read the books and understand how supremely self-confident/arrogant both of those men are. I was a little confused during a couple descriptions of the head naga, in that she had functional arms. I'm not sure if she polymorphed those just for a specific purpose or what.

Lastly, I just had to have a few chuckles at times when it seemed everything kept going wrong for Devorast in his engineering endeavor. I'm currently in the midst of a full bathroom remodel that was supposed to take about 10 days but is now in its fourth week. Solve one problem and uncover three more. I feel ya, Ivar.

Up next I think I'm going to go back to the Classes well one more time and start the Wizards quartet. I'm not even sure what book 1 is, I have to go check the bookshelves.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
322 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2018 :  01:48:37  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Blackstaff today. Wow, this book has an awful lot to unpack, so let's get to it. I felt like I needed an advanced degree in Realms/Waterdeep studies in order to keep up with this story. It's definitely not for a Realms neophyte. I feel like my grasp of Realms lore is moderate to good, and I was bewildered at times by the sheer abundance of characters, ancient cities/civilizations, artifacts, and so on. This story is a loremaster's dream come true.

I loved the dialogue throughout, but particularly the conversation between Khelben and Yaereene. Some of the elven family history stuff was absolutely fascinating. I won't pretend to have retained it all, but it was really good reading. Schend uses just the right amount of... I don't know what to call it... period writing?, Auld English? What I mean to say is the dialogue sounds right and has the proper amount of gravitas - a touch Tolkeinesque; without being ponderous, heavy-handed, and overdone. Specifically when Khelben speaks, which fits perfectly with his advanced age.

Speaking of Khelben... I can't say I knew a whole lot of his specifics coming into this story, and the more I learned, sadly the less interesting I found him. He's ancient, he crafts convoluted plans that take years (decades) to come to fruition, he claims partial elven heritage (doesn't everyone, these days?), he's a Chosen of Mystra (isn't everyone, these days?), he can be irascible and abrasive to those around him, he smokes a pipe and likes to make interesting shapes out of the smoke... Elminster West?

Finding out more about the sharn was a nice payoff. I never knew much when it came to this enigmatic race other than they are dire enemies of the phaerimm and constructed that Wall to seal them under Anauroch. I fell for Khelbin's false sharn history briefly, until it was explained he likes to occasionally pen errant histories to throw others off. The real story behind them was also really cool too.

I was very surprised to see the multiple "Blackstaves" in Khelben's tower. I was always under the impression that he just had the one, super-iconic item that pretty much defined him. It's a strange association, but I immediately thought of the Iron Man comics where he has his base suit that he uses 95% of the time, but also has specialty suits based on specific missions - like a stealth one, an underwater one, an outerspace one, a "Hulkbuster", and so on. I wondered if Khelben enchants them all differently and chooses the best fit depending on whatever he anticipates needing.

There was mention in Waterdeep of a city defense team called Force Grey. Why is that name sound vaguely familiar to me? An adventuring group that decided to augment the normal city watch?

I really liked the visual depiction of Tsarra's sorcery. With her archery and wilderness background she was almost like some kind of arcane ranger, and the way she used her inherent/intuitive magical ability was interesting, especially how she took typical spells, like a Detect Magic for instance, and "saw" it through the lens of a hunter tracking prey through a superimposed forest-scape. Cool stuff.

I could've done without the tower/rocket ship.

Late in the book there is a great gathering of mighty wizards/sorcerers/priests/etc. from all throughout the lands. It read like a Who's Who Among Faerunian Spell Hurlers. I wanted to pause and look up all the names I didn't have any familiarity with, but there were so many it was just too daunting. As I already mentioned, the amount of lore was just off the charts in this book. Maybe just a tad too much?

I'm fascinated by Myeritar/Rhymanthiin. The High Moor has never been anything more than some blasted wasteland to me, inhabited by serpent folk spilled over from its eastern side, and fiends leaking out of Dragonspear castle on the other end. I never really looked for more detail of this region, now I know there's quite a bit more to delve into.

I enjoyed Frostrune's final fate. Soooo much more satisfying than simply "the bad guy is defeated."

Lastly, I'm leaving a fairly huge detail out with immense long-term ramifications for the Sword Coast, if not the Realms. But I will leave that unsaid just in case it can be considered a spoiler, even though this book is 12 years old.

I will be away next week, so the next update won't be for awhile, but I plan to take the next 2, maybe 3 books in the Wizards line with me:

Bloodwalk
Darkvision
Frostfell


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Hyperion
Seeker

23 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2018 :  08:38:30  Show Profile Send Hyperion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
There was mention in Waterdeep of a city defense team called Force Grey. Why is that name sound vaguely familiar to me? An adventuring group that decided to augment the normal city watch?


There is this now (http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/force-grey-giant-hunters) but I think it's unrelated, maybe people more expert in Realmslore know more?
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31056 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2018 :  10:18:10  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From the 2e City of Splendors boxed set, pages 73 and 74 of the Companion Guide to the City:

quote:

Force Grey
Whenever troubles grow beyond the power to be handled by the watch or the guard without significant loss of life, Piergeiron and the Lords can mobilize Force Grey, an elite cadre of loyal, powerful Waterdhavians able to match or exceed the power of the offenders at large. The group is headed by Khelben Arunsun, but only when the city faces its most dire threats. The current membership of Force Grey, in addition to 2-12 warriors of 7th level or greater, consists of a number of illustrious Northern adventurers.
Harshnag (CG frost giant male): A frost giant exiled from his people due to overly good tendencies, Harshnag lives on Mount Sar just outside the city; his cave is connected via a gate to Blackstaff Tower, and he is magically called, should his raw muscle power be needed for Force Grey.
Hrusse of Assuran (LN hm P15 of Assuran; STR 17, WIS 16): A vengeful, intense priest from the Inner Sea lands of Unther, Hrusse worships Assuran, the god of revenge (known here as Hoar the Doombringer). Taking the city's plight as his own when Hrusse is called to duty, any slight or insult or damage to Waterdeep or its Lords is never forgotten until properly avenged "in the eyes of Assuran."
Carolyas Idogyr (LG hef W7; DEX 18, INT 17, CHA 18): Of late, this young watch-wizard worked her way up through the ranks and joined Force Grey rather than retire to a less active life. Though she and Khelben know each other (her uncle Gamalon is a friend of the Blackstaff), Carolyas thinks Khelben is too conservative in his use of magic, and they disagree on this often.
Jardwim (NG hm R17; STR 17, CON 16): The official leader of the group, Jardwim is a ruthless, highly focused individual who believes if problems are harsh enough to merit calling in Force Grey, any resistance met by the group should be answered in lethal force. Jardwim hates to lose or even be fooled by anything; when this stocky ranger puts his concentration to his task, very little escapes him. He often travels with two blink dogs.
Maliantor (NG hf W11; DEX 18, INT 16): A former pupil of Khelben Arunsun, Maliantor is often referred to as "Blackstaff's Eyes," and is rumored to be one of his main agents in addition to her work with Force Grey. She often prepares scrolls with the spells needed to contain the problems she faces in battle.


As for Gamalon Idogyr, he was one of Steven Schend's personal characters. His first published appearance was a letter written to Elminster in a Dragon Magazine article about Spelljammer magical items; this article put Gamalon on the Rock of Bral and the Rock in the Tears of Selūne. He was later in the Lands of Intrigue boxed set, if I remember correctly.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 04 May 2018 10:20:32
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Hyperion
Seeker

23 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2018 :  10:52:49  Show Profile Send Hyperion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Nice to know, I have the book but I did not remember. Thanks.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31056 Posts

Posted - 04 May 2018 :  14:50:07  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hyperion

Nice to know, I have the book but I did not remember. Thanks.



I'm pretty sure Force Grey (renamed the Gray Hands in 3E, as I recall) appeared in another source, before that boxed set, but I can't recall which one. A quick search of the Waterdeep & The North pdf didn't provide any results.

Harshnag and Jardwim had cameos in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comic, as well.

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
http://www.candlekeep.com
-- Candlekeep Forum Code of Conduct

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I am the Giant Space Hamster of Ill Omen!
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5102 Posts

Posted - 05 May 2018 :  01:54:03  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Force Grey was first detailed in the City System boxed set.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
322 Posts

Posted - 15 May 2018 :  23:24:53  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Bloodwalk while on vacation. I had little expectations for this book and it turned out to be an amazing surprise. I'm guessing not many here have read it - it seems these Classes books weren't a runaway success. Add in an author that is not one of the headliners, and a cover that looks more like a Laurell K. Hamilton vampire romance than an FR book, and I wouldn't have a hard time assuming many gave it a pass.

I enjoyed the beginning nod to Ransar Pristoleph, as I had recently finished the Watercourse Trilogy. I always like it when the authors drop some references to other books, just to tie the line together. The writing quality was excellent throughout. The main villain is a resurrected "blood mage" with some interesting powers and a refreshingly original outlook. Rather than be slavishly beholden to her demonic patron, she has this sort of nonchalant, token piety - but all along she just does whatever strikes her whimsy. I particularly loved this line from her:
"It's not about good or evil," she said, "higher powers or faith. None of it matters in the end. It's about blood, who spills it and who owns it... that's all."

The main hero was equally interesting. An aasimar that has some strange affinity for shadow. I don't recall it ever being really explicitly detailed just how he acquired his skills, but he had this really cool dichotomy of light vs dark going on. Throw in a magical sword named Bedlam that screams shrilly during combat, a big black cloak that seems to have a life of its own, and a wide brimmed hat - Quin definitely had a heavy anime vibe going on. Hell, he even did the move where he walks down the street with the tip of his blade dragging along the cobblestones. I instantly recalled Vampire Hunter D, for those who might know what that is.

A heavy theme that seemed to recur throughout this story was that of characters trying to cast off various shackles imposed by those around them. Whether its a daughter rebelling against her mother, siblings trying to establish their own individuality, or a mixed-blood attempting to defy societal expectations, the line "I'm not like you" was repeated several times by different players. In every case it represented the character trying to explain why they are acting in a particular manner, when everyone expects them to do otherwise. I thought it was a neat trick by the author to re-utilize that line verbatim, even though it was coming from different mouths.

To sum up, I thought this book was exceptionally good. I looked up the author - James P. Davis - and am happy to see I have a few more of his offerings in my future. I hope he can maintain this degree of excellence in future novels. I will admit to being partially biased in this one, simply because his character of Quinsareth was *eerily* similar to an NPC I developed in a previous campaign, one that I went on to write a few short stories and thought about developing into a web comic, but never followed through on. I just couldn't believe how close he is to the vision I had in my head, his planetouched origin, his power set, clothing, attitude, it's uncanny....

Ok, sorry for the tangent. Give this book a shot if you're looking for something to read. I can find several copies online for about $5.50. Meanwhile, I've moved on to the next in the series, Darkvision.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
322 Posts

Posted - 19 May 2018 :  00:10:34  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Nothing on Bloodwalk, eh? A shame, but not surprising. I finished Darkvision today at work. I misplaced the little scrap paper I keep as a bookmark for each of these to jot down talking points, but here goes from memory:

Kiril the elven bodyguard was a fairly interesting character, mainly due to her association with Angul, the ultra-righteous sentient blade.

The overall plotline, of a unique type of extradimensional crystal that can be used to craft prosthetic limbs/organs that enhance people, wasn't something I really loved. It might've been just a tad too magi-tech, Eberronish for my tastes. That's not to say I hated it or anything, just not my particular cup-o-tea. I did like the Borg angle as it progressed though.

The big reveal with Ususi's sister Qarr was better than expected and caught me totally by surprise. Well done! Also, I learned a new word with this book - percipience.

There are some very interesting ramifications from this story in the re-emergence of the Imiskari, and the beginnings of a potential new empire in High Imiskar to complement Deep Imiskar. With Shade just having returned to Faerun and now another ancient, magic-rich and long forgotten faction coming back - it must be making a lot of the established leaders of the Realms a bit nervous.

Tomorrow I will start Frostfell, the fourth and final in the Wizards series.
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Veylandemar
Acolyte

11 Posts

Posted - 21 May 2018 :  07:25:26  Show Profile Send Veylandemar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
At the risk of mild spoilers, You can look forward to Bruce R. Cordell continuing plotlines with existing characters. Kiril and Angul will return in Bruce's entry in the Dungeons series, 'Stardeep'. His main story-arc continues into the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy.

Overall, I can definitely understand that his writing style doesn't necessarily feel 'Realmsian' but there's a respect and love of the lore in his stories, even if some elements that he implements and enjoys clash a little with the usual themes.
Stardeep in particular may come across as a little bit sci-fi or, as you've said, 'Eberronish', but it is a good read - As are most of 'The Dungeons'.

~V

Edited by - Veylandemar on 21 May 2018 07:25:44
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