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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 30 Sep 2018 :  00:55:59  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well I finally finished Unclean. Typing while recovering from rotator cuff surgery, so this will be brief.

Szazz Tam's personality - RLB conveys him with a very patient, almost gentlemanly demeanor. I really like it, it goes well as a counterpoint to the horror we all know he really is. I was just curious if that is consistent with other portrayals of him. I can honestly say I can't recall seeing his mannerisms, or any speaking lines for that matter in other products, just people alluding to how powerful and terrifyihng he is. Did he make an appearance in Simbul's Gift I'm forgetting?

Chapter 4 - sigh... Byers did it again, having demons and devils in close proximity to each other and not instantly going for each other's throats. This was one of the biggest bugaboos of the Last Mythal Trilogy and it rears its head again here. C'mon Richard, do your research. This ties hand-in-hand with Seravin's comment above about how he didn't read Simbul's Gift to get a better feel for the personalities of the various zulkirs. However, to soften that blow, who is to say that Lynn Abbey's vision is the correct one? I personally thought she knocked it out of the park with that book - the personalities, the tone and character of Thay itself, etc. - but does that mean her version of those people is the correct one? I've already stated I far prefer RAS's Alustriel to Ed's, even though Greenwood is the creator and therefore should be the final arbiter. So while it would be nice if Byers read Abbey's book and continued to write the characters in that manner, there obviously was no mandate for him to do so. Ahh, the perils and pitfalls of a shared sandbox world I guess.

I dig Tam's overall scheme in general. Create problems for your country, and then demonstrate you are the only one that can solve them. It had a very Augustus Caesar vibe to it, with barbarians threatening at the gate. I was a little disappointed though when he petitioned the council to install him as a supreme leader. That lacked subtlety. Far better to continue the charade until the people and fellow councilers *ask* you to assume that mantle and you *reluctantly* accept it for the good of the people. Szass Tam overplayed his hand and I thought it was clumsy.

Aoth, Baraeris, Mirror, and so on are ok. They haven't endeared themselves to me as characters, but I don't dislike them either. They are interesting enough where I'm willing to let them develop further. The bard's side plot with his lady becoming a mutated vampire subtype is the most interesting of the bunch.

All in all it is an ok book. I like the political maneuvering, the large scale battles are engaging. But it does suffer from the aforementioned weaknesses. On to book 2: Undead
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 30 Sep 2018 :  13:55:26  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Lynn Abbey's "Gift" was writen and came out first, and was an in-universe canon novel, so I think the onus is on RLB to carry her character's personalities onwards. If RLB had written it first and published it first, then Lynn would be the one reinventing the characters not RLB. So I think there is a responsibility in a shared setting to look into how the characters have been written and established in the canon material. It's just one book in this case (two if you count Red Magic from the Harpers which really had a lot of Szass) that you'd need to read before writing a Thay novel, on top of the sourcebook materials. I would say that her book followed the existing lore from the 2nd edition source material very, very well.

That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!

Szass' portrayal is mostly in line with previous books, in Simbul's Gift he was recovering from a major setback so barely present except in the Zulkir convocation where everyone was shocked at how awful/weak he looked.


Edited by - Seravin on 30 Sep 2018 14:08:47
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 06 Oct 2018 :  01:52:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
That's not a huge ask in my opinion for an author and certainly what any of us would do if writing a Realms novel!



Agreed. I'm knocking out one of these pretty much per week and that's in my spare time. If it was my job, I would consider these research and finish it in 2-3 days max. Somewhere in this thread is a quote from Elaine detailing her approach - she basically saw the Realms as a world and all existing products (novels, rulebooks, even video games) as the *history* of that world, and immersed herself fully. It'd be nice to see that level of commitment across the board. There's a lot I like about Byers writing style and sensibilities, but he does get some things really wrong from time to time.

That said, I finished Undead a couple days ago. My first note was "Spellplague, Ugghhh!" I knew I was getting closer to this unfortunate event and the subsequent ~100 year time jump, but I didn't realize it was going to happen right there in the middle of the trilogy. It was jarring, it was demoralizing, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I hate all the silly contrivances that have to take place to preserve a roster of characters - Aoth is magically preserved by the blue flame and doesn't age, Bareris turns undead, all the zulkirs extend their lifespans with magic, even the ones that might normally find such necromancy distasteful. I imagine I will encounter a similar degree of handwaving when I get to the Drizzt and Superfriends books of this time period.

I'm surprised that Aglarond and Rashemen haven't made any more aggressive moves against Thay during all this turmoil (before the blue fire, they're probably busy from that point.) It would seem the ripe time to weaken a country that has been a constant thorn in your side forever - if not to invade and annex land, at the very least to cripple their military, perhaps remove key generals and leaders, etc. Maybe they are too wary that the whole civil war is just a staged event to draw them into a trap. Or maybe they are just happy to not be the target of aggression and would rather not poke the bear. Do they at least have some kind of mutual defense pact where they assist each other during Thayan incursion?

Bareris and Tammith have this kind of dark, gothic, angsty teen romance thing going. I thought I was going to find it cheesy and tiring, but I'm actually liking it for some reason. Maybe it's just their sheer resignation and hopelessness - just two damned souls trying to make the most of a pretty grim situation. I do like the darkness and grittiness of this book, Byers certainly isn't adding any sunshine and flowers.

What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.

Up next, might as well finish it out with Unholy, about two thirds of the way through as of this writing.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 07 Oct 2018 22:16:38
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5339 Posts

Posted - 06 Oct 2018 :  02:30:50  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I just wanted to tell you VikingLegion that I always enjoy your posts and commentary re the FR novel line. Always good to revisit old reads and sometimes get a different perspective on them. Much appreciated.

-- George Krashos

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

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 07 Oct 2018 :  22:31:23  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you George. You've been a valued part of this thread with your encyclopediac knowledge of the Realms. For my part I'm happy to keep it going all the way up to the final novel.

I just finished powering through Unholy, wrapping up the Haunted Lands Trilogy. I didn't have many notes for this one, I think I sort of fatigued out on the overall story. I did enjoy the twist with Malark betraying Tam and assuming control of the Unmaking. Other than that, this story (and indeed the whole trilogy) seemed to be just one big military engagement after another. Definitely not Byers best work.

Also it really irked me that after defeating Malark in an epic battle that was draining all their reserves, Szass was then able to easily dispatch 4 other zulkirs plus Aoth. I get it, his undead lifespan has allowed him a greater mastery of magic than other zulkirs. But c'mon, these guys are also masters of their craft. Szass should be able to beat any one of them easily, even any two of them in combination. But 4 plus a very powerful battlemage/leader of the Brotherhood of the Griffin? He slaughtered them with almost contemptuous ease, thus assuring the continued state of Thay as a boring necropolis instead of the magnificent and interesting nation it once was. Yay for WoW.

I see there's a Griffon trilogy coming up in the future, but honestly with Bareris and Mirror destroyed I'm not sure how interested I am in that. They were by far the more intriguing members of that group, Aoth is sort of one-note and not all that exciting.

Up next - I'm supposed to start the Empyrean Odyssey, but I just don't want to handle another RSE, Cosmos Shattering Event at this point. So I'll skip that for now and take on some more standard fare in a return to the Citadels series with book 2: Obsidian Ridge.


Edited by - VikingLegion on 07 Oct 2018 22:32:51
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 11 Oct 2018 :  14:48:25  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was half expecting you to like this series so I'm glad I'm not the only one who disliked it (although my dislike is more like hate for this trilogy for a number of reasons already listed).

quote:
What was up with Tam summoning Bane and then wheeling and dealing with him? For some reason I absolutely HATED this part of the book. It seems so out-of-character for Szass, even if he sees himself as the manipulator hoodwinking a deity. It just seemed to come from left field and took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Maybe Seravin or someone else can articulate better why I completely loathed this development, it just didn't work for me in any way.


The thing for me is, in all the other depictions of Tam that I can recollect: Red Magic, Simbul's Gift, and Crusade (from the Empires trilogy the only good RSE imho) - Szass Tam is previously written as someone who is almost noble, well spoken, above gross displays of his vast power, and happy to work through agents and behave very pragmatically even with Harpers or "good" beings. So he does come across out of character in this part of the book to me. Generally I hate when "mortals" (I know that's not the case with Szass but bear with) deal with Gods anyway - nevermind trying to pull one over on them or anything of the sort. To me Gods and inhabitants of the Realms should not be interacting directly; only through Chosen or priests etc. Avatars should be saved for RSE (I liked when Tempus appeared in the 3rd Shadow of the Avatar book to help the Dalesmen against the Zhents for instance).

Good call on waiting a while before the Empyrean Odyssey! Fortunately once the dust settles there is some solid 4E material to read even by a curmedgeon's standards.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 12 Oct 2018 :  14:07:57  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Obsidian Ridge last night. I'm guessing I'm the only one who has read this, so discussion will be non-existent. It wasn't a great book, but it had its moments. There were some goofy elements, like a night-prowling vigilante named The Claw who was basically Batman with a dash of Wolverine sprinkled in. Add in some terrible dialogue like, "I'll get you for this, Korox! You'll be dead soon, and so will the Claw!" and it came off very comic-booky.

The story was set in Erlkazar in 1366. I just can't seem to avoid this area of late. It's not a region I find particularly interesting, but I can only go where the books take me. Anyway, we have a king of a young nation (only recently liberated from Tethyr) defending his land against a mad wizard and his flying mountain fortress. I've always really liked the cloud castle theme - from Jack and the Beanstalk, to the flying citadels of the Dragonarmy in the Dragonlance books, to the floating enclaves of Netheril, to several D&D adventures featuring cloud/storm giants up there in there flying castles - it really gets my imagination fired up. Anyway, this immortal mage needs a new bride every few decades, as he drains their life-force to power his own longevity. He has his eye on the king's daughter. It forces an interesting moral dilemma - give up your one and only daughter but save thousands of your subject's lives?

There were some sideplots involving a criminal organization distributing an illegal drug called Elixir. That same group had their own princess kidnapping/ransom scheme going, so it was amusing to see the king struggling with his decision when handing over the princess wasn't even an option at that point (as she had been abducted by thugs.) There was a Deepspawn, one of my favorite monsters, so that was awesome. There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong? All in all it was an ok book. The writing quality was mostly sub-par, but it was a quick and easy read with a few interesting elements. I've read far worse (looking at you Once Around the Realms - still the gold standard for hideousness).

Up next, still not into committing to a trilogy right now, so I'll keep going with the standalone Citadels. Due up is Shield of Weeping Ghosts, which I'm cautiously optimistic for, as I really liked the author's previous work: Bloodwalk.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 12 Oct 2018 14:09:24
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Demzer
Senior Scribe

658 Posts

Posted - 12 Oct 2018 :  14:42:41  Show Profile Send Demzer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There were clerics of Waukeen casting divine spells, wasn't she destroyed during the ToT or am I remembering wrong?



During the ToT, to try and sneak back to her home plane, Waukeen left her divinity in trust to Lliira and started a plane hopping journey to smuggle herself back home as a super powerful mortal. Graz'zt reneged on his part of the bargain when she showed up in the Abyss and she was held captive there until 1371 when she was freed by adventurers (a playable module from late 2E called For Duty and Deity).

From 1358 until 1371 the Joybringer kept answering prayers of the Waukenaars and granting them spells. After 1371 Waukeen was back on full divinity (albeit with a much reduced pool of faithful since over her absence a lot converted to the direct worship of Lliira).
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 21 Oct 2018 :  19:40:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks Demzer, good info.

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

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

Australia
5339 Posts

Posted - 22 Oct 2018 :  05:10:22  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I liked lots of Shield, but the author's description of the key maguffin was confusing and it took several reads before I twigged that effectively he was trying to harness the Blood War to fight of the Narfelli demons. I think. Not the worst FR book for totally confusing plotlines but it had its moments. James P Davis did his homework though, as he asked me what the name of the Narfelli ruling family at the time was - Crell.

-- George Krashos

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

United Kingdom
41 Posts

Posted - 01 Nov 2018 :  15:12:19  Show Profile Send Iahn Qoyllor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Love your posts VikingLegion and apologies for not saying that more often. Always very incisive and interesting. I genuinely look forward to your posts and views on your new reads.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 03 Nov 2018 :  18:57:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks Iahn. I figured since I was going to take this journey regardless, might as well chronicle it and see if I can stir up some nostalgia (or some trouble!) with other FR readers. It's been a pleasure and I'm thankful for every poster who chimes in with their own thoughts and experiences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After finishing this book I next tackled part 1 of the Empyrean Odyssey: The Gossamer Plain.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

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

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

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

Decent book overall. I'm guessing Seravin hated it with a passion so I'm eager to see some counterpoints. Up next I will continue with book 2: The Fractured Sky.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

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

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

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


Edited by - Seravin on 04 Nov 2018 10:24:19
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

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

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

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

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

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 12 Nov 2018 :  00:13:55  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Adon committed suicide because of Cyric (and eventually got to Dweomerheart so who knows), in one of the Cyric is Crazy Ain't it Cool books wrote by Troy Denning...yet again, a bad god is able to totally mess directly with a mortal somehow never happens that a good god mortals cause novel plot reasons. Good gods are worthless in the Realms and never do anything apparently, while the evil gods directly intervene in the lives of mortals and cause all kinds of havoc with their Chosen and faithful. Sigh.

I had totally lost faith in WotC by the time all that happened and couldn't be asked to read those post trilogy Avatar books.

Edited by - Seravin on 12 Nov 2018 00:15:50
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2991 Posts

Posted - 12 Nov 2018 :  00:59:12  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Both Mystra's and Helm's demises were just ridiculous IMHO. For Mystra, it's like a running gag. For Helm, it was some kind of nonsensical soap-opera drama. Then again, there's a reason why 5e era WotC completely erased the end-3e/transition to 4e era of FR novels, to the point of avoiding to mention them like they were some kind of dirty secret.

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 12 Nov 2018 00:59:39
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

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

Some random thoughts on Crystal Mountain in no particular order:

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

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

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

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

Ok, I guess that ends one era and begins a new one. There's nothing for it but to press on. Up next is Richard Baker's Swordmage.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 17 Nov 2018 01:21:42
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 17 Nov 2018 :  09:27:11  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The ONLY time I liked the deities being written a bit mortal like is Finder - because his ascent was so recent and his portfolio and number of followers was so small you'd have a lot of reason why he was not quite a true god yet (and even then he gave away his power). In Tymora's Luck the other gods treat Finder a bit like a child. Otherwise the way WotC let's the deities come off is a bit ridiculous and the MTV reality show analogy is very apt!

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


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Iahn Qoyllor
Seeker

United Kingdom
41 Posts

Posted - 19 Nov 2018 :  08:56:30  Show Profile Send Iahn Qoyllor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ditto Seravin, really liked Jack Ravenwild and the two Richard Baker books were both enjoyable and funny in equal measure.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 28 Nov 2018 :  12:25:58  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Swordmage a couple nights ago. I was amused by the opening Acknowledgements. They were, ostensibly, an explanation for the 100 year time jump. But it read to me as more of a /shrug your shoulders apology. "Hey guys, this is what happened. There's no use fighting it, let's just try to make the best of the situation."

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

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

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

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

Anyway, it was a very good book and start to this trilogy. And a satisfying way to begin this new age of FR story-telling. As already mentioned, I'm currently reading Corsair and am about a third of the way through it.
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Lamora
Learned Scribe

USA
77 Posts

Posted - 29 Nov 2018 :  19:44:50  Show Profile Send Lamora a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I remember being very enthusiastic for Swordmage. Unlike others on this site, I really enjoyed Baker's Mythal trilogy. It was one of the only series that featured a protagonist that actively went out to get more powerful, and I really enjoy mage characters. So everything about that series pleased me. Then I read Swordmage, and it was a little bit of a letdown. I never connected with the main character. There were a lot of interesting things going on in the book such as the Lich, Myth Drannor, Vaasa, and the Spellplague stuff, but I just couldn't enjoy the MC. I was hoping to see a rise to power arc (personal or magical) which never materialized. I think what hurt my enjoyment of this novel was my expectations from the Mythal trilogy. I would have probably liked this trilogy more if I had not read the Mythal trilogy first.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 29 Nov 2018 :  19:56:42  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yah the main character in that series is really not memorable to me. I remember the lich and his patriarch more from that series than the hero. And usually Baker writes very intereting leads (well..I love Jack Ravenwild!).
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
365 Posts

Posted - 01 Dec 2018 :  11:17:26  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, I hear what you guys are saying. Geran is just a bit... bland? He's got the duelist thing going on, the cool sword-spells to augment his fighting. He has the interesting history of his time in Myth Drannor and being expelled. He's fairly chivalrous and good hearted (he cares for Mirya, he risked his life for Nimessa when she was about to be raped), but he's not above making the ruthless decision when the greater good is at stake. Also he has a bit of anger or darkness that comes surging out of him from time to time.

But...

He's still lacking in some essential spark that makes a main lead interesting. He's not a bad protagonist, he's just not an excellent one that will stay with me long after reading the series.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
860 Posts

Posted - 01 Dec 2018 :  17:00:04  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think he's missing flaws or a character arc over the series to make him interesting or memorable.
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