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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
952 Posts

Posted - 05 Mar 2019 :  14:15:51  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

They should be near impossible to kill permanently due to the phylactery but for some reason Ed's Spellfire books completely ignore this core concept of what a Dracolich is. Sigh.



I'm fairly certain Ed wouldn't have ignored this core concept of something he created... It's been stated, more than once, that the editorial axe bit very deeply into Spellfire -- a third of the book or more was cut out.



Damn the editorial scissors! I'd loved to have seen the real cut of this book. I'm not convinced that this was simply cut content though due to the way the cell talks about the dracoliches being gone forever and what a great cost it was to chase Spellfire (and it was with the Shadowsil, the other mage, and the hoard gone from one dracolich).

I think here perhaps the lore didn't line up with the story Ed wanted, and so was ignored. Or perhaps you're right and the idea of a phylactery was too complicated to tell in a debut novel. I do know in a 2nd edition sourcebook (draconomicon or the Cult sourcebook) they reference those 3 Spellfire dracoliches as having reanimated from rock lizards or something and the cult trying to get them back to full power. So it was addressed later!
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
32281 Posts

Posted - 05 Mar 2019 :  20:22:38  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

They should be near impossible to kill permanently due to the phylactery but for some reason Ed's Spellfire books completely ignore this core concept of what a Dracolich is. Sigh.



I'm fairly certain Ed wouldn't have ignored this core concept of something he created... It's been stated, more than once, that the editorial axe bit very deeply into Spellfire -- a third of the book or more was cut out.



Damn the editorial scissors! I'd loved to have seen the real cut of this book. I'm not convinced that this was simply cut content though due to the way the cell talks about the dracoliches being gone forever and what a great cost it was to chase Spellfire (and it was with the Shadowsil, the other mage, and the hoard gone from one dracolich).

I think here perhaps the lore didn't line up with the story Ed wanted, and so was ignored. Or perhaps you're right and the idea of a phylactery was too complicated to tell in a debut novel. I do know in a 2nd edition sourcebook (draconomicon or the Cult sourcebook) they reference those 3 Spellfire dracoliches as having reanimated from rock lizards or something and the cult trying to get them back to full power. So it was addressed later!




I'm seriously doubting Ed would ignore lore that he created. Dracoliches came from his pen.

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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4659 Posts

Posted - 05 Mar 2019 :  21:17:26  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ed did say he had to rewrite large bits to fit in with the edits wanted.

Shargrailar isn't permanently dead either. I think his phylactery is in that 3e adventure set in sildeyuir, I'd like to think Ed had a hand in that nugget

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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5545 Posts

Posted - 06 Mar 2019 :  01:07:36  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It's the Grail of Shargrailer but I don't think it is her phylactery.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4659 Posts

Posted - 06 Mar 2019 :  22:14:52  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I guess I just assumed that like the holy trail it would have contained Shargrailar blood and I vaguely recall dracoliches needed some dust or somethung from their body to complete the transformation.

I figured it would be typical of the cult to betray the Dragon it was for (didn't they want to give it to a fang dragon) and give her a gift that would result in them transforming into Shargrailar.

Apologies for the side track, continue reviewing novels. Even though I never read them myself it's always nice to see what are good or bad ones and why.

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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 08 Mar 2019 :  01:07:40  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
/continuing to review novels

Today I finished The Fall of Highwatch. I really, really enjoy Mark Sehestedt's writing style. He does an absolutely fantastic job introducing the nuances of different cultures, you feel like you know these disparate groups and societies. I'd put him nearly on par with Dave "Zeb" Cook in that regard, whom I hold as the gold standard at this particular craft. Sehestedt, much like James P. Davis, seems to thrive when writing on obscure, remote, frontier areas. Here we have a lonely fortress occupied by Tormish knights, guarding a pass in Narfell that sees various Nar, Damarans, dwarven clans, etc. pass through for trade, hunting, and migratory purposes. Through treachery, the fortress is overcome (as one might surmise from the title) and nearly all the defenders are slaughtered aside from the 17 year old daughter of the High Warden.

It turns out she's got a whole lot going on for her than simply being a somewhat sheltered brat. Her lineage leads her and a couple companions on a harrowing trek through the wilds and enemy territory, and even into the Feywild where the author's prose is particularly brilliant. We have more eladrin here - was there some kind of mandate by the D&D 4e team to stuff these guys into EVERY storyline possible? They are popping out of the woodwork even more prevalently than monks lately! Anyway, Sehestedt's fey perfectly ride that line of being alternately playful and utterly capricious and uncaring. I think he writes fey about as good as anyone I've seen. The icy palace of Ellesthorn and its Winter Queen were just excellent. She is served by a court of mixed eladrin, elves, and something new to me called Uldra. At first I thought they were just arctic halflings that were particularly close to nature and Faerie, but they are actually a unique race of fey.

The side characters were great. Lendri has appeared before in Frostfell, and he is joined by several mysterious fey that are never quite exactly defined, other than by some of their characteristics and flashes of their backstories. Every one of them was interesting in their own way. Another bonus - in this remote region of the Realms, the whole Spellplague influence was really light. Other than one spell-scarred individual, who's power could really be explained away in any number of ways, this book would work well even for a reader that hated the direction of FR and still pines for more 1300's DR stuff (do I know anyone like that???)

Lastly, here are a couple quick passages that I particularly liked. They don't necessarily fit any of my above points, I just really enjoy them for their primal quality:

"You have to understand, Hweilan, your world... your cities and walls and castles and fires that keep out the night. Your wizards waving their wands and warriors strutting with their swords on their hips... they think they've tamed the world. Made it serve them. And maybe in their little cities and towers they have. They've tamed it by keeping it out. By hiding. But there are powers in the world that were ancient when the greatest grandfathers of men still huddled in caves by their fires and prayed for the gods to keep out the night. These older powers... they don't fear the dark or the things that stalk in it. They revel in the dark. They are the things that stalk it. You speak of good and evil. When a wolf pack takes down a doe, are they evil? When a falcon takes a young rabbit, is it evil? Or are they merely reveling in their nature?"

"They killed my family! Do you remember what you told me? 'The world isn't a nice place,' you said. 'Fools say it's unforgiving, but that's why they're fools. The world doesn't forgive because it doesn't blame. And the world doesn't blame because it doesn't care.' You were right, you bastard. The world doesn't care. But there are people in the world who do. I loved my family. They loved me. And they're dead now. Murdered. And those who did it are sitting in my home. My home!"

Good stuff. Tonight I will start in on book two: Hand of the Hunter.
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gylippus
Seeker

52 Posts

Posted - 10 Mar 2019 :  01:31:58  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Last night I finished Red Magic. This is the lone entry in the Forgotten Realms by Jean Rabe, but I've read a bunch of her Dragonlance work not all that long ago.

I'm convinced she has a secondary hobby in the fashion industry, because every character she writes - regardless of race, class, or gender - is absolutely obsessed with clothing. The first thing any of her characters do upon reaching a new town or city is go clothes shopping. I noticed this initially in her Dragons of a New Age trilogy, then again in the Dhamon Saga. And now, in Red Magic we have a centaur and two humans (one being a druid that cares nothing for civilization or its conventions) immediately hitting the tailor as soon as they arrive in Amruthar. I chuckled a bit and said "Wow, that is so Rabey..." Every book she writes could be trimmed by about 30 pages if she didn't go into exhaustive detail over the character's outfits - color schemes, fabric and texture descriptions....

Other than that, this was a fairly average story, much like Parched Sea. To her credit, she did make me feel a strong revulsion for Maligor, the BBEG. I mentioned way back in the original post that wildlife and environmental conservation resonates deeply with me, and to see how this red wizard so callously tortures the trapped animals for his own sick, twisted ends (mainly in the creation of his darkenbeasts), and the deplorable conditions he kept them in, got me invested in the story. So his eventual defeat, while fairly predictable, was still quite satisfying.

I had a big problem with Galvin wildshaping himself into a darkenbeast to fit in with the flock. This is a druid turning himself into an utter abomination/corruption of nature. Putting game mechanics aside, even if he could get over his revulsion over such a vile form, I don't think he could physically make the transformation.

Well that finishes everything up to 1991 except for Canticle, but I really don't want to start a quintet that will carry all the way into 1994 just now. So instead I'll continue to pick around it, continuing with the Harpers series. Tonight I'll start The Night Parade.



Dredging up old posts again. I finished Red Magic tonight. I think the book is fine and I definitely like the characters of Wynter, Galvin, and Brenna. The book did make me think about a couple of things.

I hate to keep bringing population numbers up. I understand this fantasy and sometimes you just have to go with it, but I tend to keep thinking of population density and the economy of these kingdoms. I saw somewhere online that Thay has over 4 million people. This seems like a large number to me and the book doesn't seem to hint at anywhere close to those numbers. Keep in mind the main characters walked a good portion of this country in around 3 - 4 days. I am thinking the average daily rate of walking is around 20 miles or so on flat ground. Maybe some people can walk faster and certainly some rangers or druids can go much farther, so that is open to interpretation. But this means the country can't be that big in terms of square miles. How 4 million people can fit in this area I have no idea.

Okay, on to the story.

1. Why didn't Maligor have any means of communicating or keeping an eye on his tower when he left for the mines? It seems like a powerful magician like him could have established some magical means of doing so. Instead, Brenna and Galvin have a pretty easy time of taking his tower when he is gone.

2. Maligor could have killed the main characters in the mine. When he was a fog and turned into human form and 'shot' Galvin with a spell why didn't he just use a fireball? Or lightning bolt? Or any other spell that would have killed them all right away. According to the wiki Maligor is level 20 (2e) so he definitely had the spells to do so.

3. The entire Harper plan seemed to lack common sense. First, why do Harpers wear jewelry that obviously identifies them? This is like a CIA agent having a CIA identification card when spying in the Soviet Union. Secondly, the plan was a lack of a plan. Let's just send some agents to Thay and hope they find something.

4. Seemed like Asp died too easily also. For some reason, I was expecting more from her, but she basically fell off a cliff.

5. Too bad there are not more stories with Galvin. I liked his character quite a bit and would have looked forward to him becoming even more powerful. I believe he is around level 11 (2e), which puts him up there with some of the most powerful druids.

Next up, Elfshadow, which I read a long, long time ago. After that, maybe I will continue with Crypt of the Shadowking or go back and finally finish the third book in the Giants of Twilight Series. Not looking forward to that...
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
32281 Posts

Posted - 10 Mar 2019 :  05:41:51  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gylippus


5. Too bad there are not more stories with Galvin. I liked his character quite a bit and would have looked forward to him becoming even more powerful. I believe he is around level 11 (2e), which puts him up there with some of the most powerful druids.


I want to say he was in one of the early Realms of... anthologies, but it's been a long time, and I won't swear to it.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
952 Posts

Posted - 11 Mar 2019 :  08:07:46  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Gyllipus maybe you can start your own thread? Would love to discuss the novels you're reading (I have a lot to say about the contrivances in Elfshadow's ending) and I feel bad for clogging up Viking's amazing post with discussions off topic.
While I love Red Magic for being one of the few books that depicts Thay's cities and countryside - I think The Simbul's Gift does Thay best.
When I re-read Red Magic, as much as I nostalgia love it, the writing doesn't seem that great for the general plot. To note: Szass using the Harpers to thwart Maligor *covertly*--by giving them a huge undead army...? What?! Maligor would know Harpers don't use undead armies but the Zulkir of Necromancy does, so why not just come out and directly attack Maligor instead? Why use Harpers at all except contrivance to keep them alive? I don't think Szass should have been involved in the Harpers to the extent he was, it should have been more of a covert spy operation with a deadly strike rather than the Harpers leading an undead army which makes NO SENSE and reads like fan fiction to me. But the start of the book and everything up until Szass Tam capturing them is pretty well done.

Edited by - Seravin on 11 Mar 2019 11:16:28
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gylippus
Seeker

52 Posts

Posted - 11 Mar 2019 :  23:56:42  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Gyllipus maybe you can start your own thread? Would love to discuss the novels you're reading (I have a lot to say about the contrivances in Elfshadow's ending) and I feel bad for clogging up Viking's amazing post with discussions off topic.
While I love Red Magic for being one of the few books that depicts Thay's cities and countryside - I think The Simbul's Gift does Thay best.
When I re-read Red Magic, as much as I nostalgia love it, the writing doesn't seem that great for the general plot. To note: Szass using the Harpers to thwart Maligor *covertly*--by giving them a huge undead army...? What?! Maligor would know Harpers don't use undead armies but the Zulkir of Necromancy does, so why not just come out and directly attack Maligor instead? Why use Harpers at all except contrivance to keep them alive? I don't think Szass should have been involved in the Harpers to the extent he was, it should have been more of a covert spy operation with a deadly strike rather than the Harpers leading an undead army which makes NO SENSE and reads like fan fiction to me. But the start of the book and everything up until Szass Tam capturing them is pretty well done.



Yes, this is my last post in this thread. I will start a new one after I finish the next book I am reading. Sorry for dredging up old posts Viking! Plus, you are so far ahead of me I have no chance of ever keeping up with your reading pace.

I pretty much agree with everything you said Seravin. I didn't follow any of that plot logic myself. Like you said, it would be obvious Szass was attacking Maligor because of the undead army. I also just remembered that all of the high level apprentices went with Maligor to the mines, yet we don't see a single one of them in the mine battle. There are a lot of plot holes, but at least we got a decent character in Galvin.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 16 Mar 2019 :  21:47:05  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Hand of the Hunter yesterday, another excellent book by Mark Sehestedt. My notes are fairly sparse on this one, I guess I don't have too much to say other than it's a solid continuation of the Chosen of Nendawen series.

I see the capital of Damara has been altered in the edition change from Heliogabalus to just Helgalab. Solid idea, as the original shared a name with a real-world Roman emperor. I wonder if I'll ever get filled in (from the novels) on how Gareth Dragonbane and his Super Friends ended up fairing during the initial Spellplague. I vaguely recall seeing somewhere that Drizzt and Kane meet somewhere, I don't know if that's going to happen in one of the Transitions books or if Kane, due to his monkey-mastery will outlive all the other humans of that particular adventuring group and meet Drizzt in the current timeline.

As for Nendawen "The Hunter", I love the description of an 8-foot tall humanoid with an antlered helm - obviously drawing heavy inspiration from The Wild Hunt mythos of European folklore. I still don't know exactly what he is, some kind of primordial or nature spirit or lesser power. Whatever he is, he is *not* nice, exhibiting all the ruthless and uncaring aspects of predatory Nature. Hweilan, the main protagonist, has gone from pampered castle girl to total badarse. Her arc reminds me a little bit of Arya from Game of Thrones. There were other GoT similarities as well, like being forced to eat a heart to complete a ritual, but nothing too blatant.

Tonight I will start book 3 of the trilogy: Cry of the Ghost Wolf.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2019 :  18:24:03  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Cry of the Ghost Wolf today, thus concluding the excellent Chosen of Nendawen trilogy. I won't say too much on it, being that there haven't been any comments on books 1 or 2 yet, leading me to believe nobody else has read it.

This one was maybe just a step behind the other two. Still very good, but perhaps just a tiny bit underwhelming. But when taken in its entirety, this was one of the better story arcs, with very interesting characters and really evocative writing. It left off on a bit of tease regarding the heritage of the main character, as though a future work was possibly planned. But there is nothing I can find, so I assume this is the end of the road for Hweilan and Co, unless she appears again in one of the short story collections.

Speaking of which, up next is the anthology Realms of the Dead.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 24 Mar 2019 18:24:43
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5545 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2019 :  22:20:36  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I didn't mind the Chosen of Nendawen books save for this seminal aspect: the far too close to Earth choice of cultures (i.e. American Indian). That might not have been so bad had the author not so diligently scattered pseudo-American Indian speech throughout the narrative and told the reader it was Elvish. Just ... no. Destroyed my suspension of disbelief every time.

-- George Krashos

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

Edited by - George Krashos on 24 Mar 2019 22:21:03
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 30 Mar 2019 :  12:52:38  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

I didn't mind the Chosen of Nendawen books save for this seminal aspect: the far too close to Earth choice of cultures (i.e. American Indian). That might not have been so bad had the author not so diligently scattered pseudo-American Indian speech throughout the narrative and told the reader it was Elvish. Just ... no. Destroyed my suspension of disbelief every time.

-- George Krashos



Hmmm, I definitely see what you're saying, but rather than bother me, I thought it really brought a sort of primal, barely-touched-by-civilization vibe to it that I found very enjoyable. A rough and tumble feel that I think works well with the Cold Lands, which I've always viewed as semi-frontier regions in my own head canon. To each their own I suppose.

Yesterday I finished Realms of the Dead, an anthology where each story features undead and is spread throughout all various periods of time. Overall this was a very strong anthology, only two stories didn't do much for me. The standouts, to me, were:

The Resurrection Agent - my first exposure to Erin Evans, about who (whom? I never know when to use that) I've heard so many great things. The hype is justified, as this was the weirdest, most imaginative and innovative story of the collection. Here we have a story of a spy that is intentionally sent into the most suicidal of missions, nearly always resulting in her murder. She is then brought back to life to testify against her killer. Her "handler" always severs her pinky finger before each mission to have something to bring her back with if the original body can't be recovered. There is a really neat plot twist when she is forced to fight one of her former bodies, now re-animated as a wight or ghoul. Excellent stuff!

A Prayer For Brother Robert - normally I'm not crazy about Phil Athans' work, but this one knocked it out of the park for me. Two words: Crawling Claws. This is an old-school D&D monster going all the way back to the late 70s, but how often do they get a chance in the spotlight? I want to say there was a short adventure set in Yhaunn that featured them, but I'm really stretching my memory on that one. This story had a bit of a B-movie horror feel, but in the most enjoyable way.

The Bone Bird - another fine example of how consistently strong Jaleigh Johnson's storytelling is. I wasn't familiar with this particular form of undead - an "entomber" - but it seems to be a super-strong, hulked-out zombie type.

Pieces - Richard Lee Byers - an update on Bareris and Mirror

Soul Steel - Lisa Smedman - a very cool vengeance story about an elf that makes an ill-advised pact with a lich

Wandering Stones - Bruce R. Cordell - really weird tale about a dragon tracking a woman to a ghost-infested town. The lore was strange in this one, not like anything I recognize in the Realms, but then again I'm a bit lost in this Post-Spellplague world. Cool reveal at the end, portending some mysterious event that is left unresolved.

Feast of the Moon - Cristopher Rowe - a satisfying tale about a stubborn Malarite on a ritual hunt.

The King in Copper - Richard Baker - backstory on the Hulburg area and the reason why it is so taboo to steal from the dead in this region.

Dusty Bones - Rosemary Jones - a side story of the Carver family we met back in City of the Dead.

The Many Murders of Manshoon - Ed Greenwood - a sprawling, rambling mess where everyone is either a shape-shifter or utilizing illusion magic. Also highlighted is the endless supply of Zhentarim. They are cut down like mayflies and yet there is always a never-ending line of them to take their place.

A Body In A Bag - Erik Scott de Bie - I can't decide on this story about a love-struck tiefling trying to win the heart of a goth necromancer girl. It was either a charming, witty romance tale, or a cheesy teenage groan fest.

Iruladoon - RA Salvatore - I can't even remember what this was about even though it was the one I read last. I just looked it up, there was a wizard named Addadearber and a ranger on some remote, haunted forest on the shores of Lac Dinneshir in Icewind Dale. It was some sort of ghost/primal nature spirit type story, but it didn't do a whole lot for me.

Up next, building off my excitement of having read Erin M. Evans short story, I delve into one of her novels: The Ghost Catcher.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 30 Mar 2019 :  13:17:37  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by gylippus


5. Too bad there are not more stories with Galvin. I liked his character quite a bit and would have looked forward to him becoming even more powerful. I believe he is around level 11 (2e), which puts him up there with some of the most powerful druids.


I want to say he was in one of the early Realms of... anthologies, but it's been a long time, and I won't swear to it.



You are correct. Galvin appears in the story Grandfather's Toys in the anthology Realms of Valor. I recall thinking it was a pretty ho-hum story and it didn't make the cut of the ones I detailed in that writeup. I think it was about a bunch of clockwork menaces in some remote tower, or something like that...
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Taleras
Learned Scribe

75 Posts

Posted - 02 Apr 2019 :  04:04:31  Show Profile Send Taleras a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
Iruladoon - RA Salvatore - I can't even remember what this was about even though it was the one I read last. I just looked it up, there was a wizard named Addadearber and a ranger on some remote, haunted forest on the shores of Lac Dinneshir in Icewind Dale. It was some sort of ghost/primal nature spirit type story, but it didn't do a whole lot for me.



The first time I read this one, I had no idea what it was about. After getting through a chunk of the Drizzt novels I believe it is referring to some spoilery stuff that I won't mention here around the Gauntlgrym era.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
952 Posts

Posted - 02 Apr 2019 :  08:45:03  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
The Many Murders of Manshoon - Ed Greenwood - a sprawling, rambling mess where everyone is either a shape-shifter or utilizing illusion magic. Also highlighted is the endless supply of Zhentarim. They are cut down like mayflies and yet there is always a never-ending line of them to take their place.


Did the women find a way to be inappropriately dressed as well at some point? Just a hunch...as well Zhentarim are FR's stormtroopers. An endless supply of fodder. Only it doesn't make near as much sense since Faerun is not a galaxy with cloned troops capable of hyperspace transport. I never understood the Zhentarim numbers (never mind the mages they have) nor how they maintain standing armies at the Citadel of The Raven and Darkhold in a world building context. Cult of the Dragon cells (with dracoliches to back them up) and Knights of the Shield covert guilds, and Maulgrym and other enenimes make much sense in a world building way to me than Zhentarim.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
426 Posts

Posted - 03 Apr 2019 :  20:59:55  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

quote:
The Many Murders of Manshoon - Ed Greenwood - a sprawling, rambling mess where everyone is either a shape-shifter or utilizing illusion magic. Also highlighted is the endless supply of Zhentarim. They are cut down like mayflies and yet there is always a never-ending line of them to take their place.


Did the women find a way to be inappropriately dressed as well at some point? Just a hunch...as well Zhentarim are FR's stormtroopers. An endless supply of fodder. Only it doesn't make near as much sense since Faerun is not a galaxy with cloned troops capable of hyperspace transport. I never understood the Zhentarim numbers (never mind the mages they have) nor how they maintain standing armies at the Citadel of The Raven and Darkhold in a world building context. Cult of the Dragon cells (with dracoliches to back them up) and Knights of the Shield covert guilds, and Maulgrym and other enenimes make much sense in a world building way to me than Zhentarim.



I tend to view it as a large portion of the rank-and-file soldier Zhents (not the mages, whose numbers are just ludicrious) might not necessarily be all card carrying Banites/Cyricist types. Some might just be from disadvantaged areas, moving to Zhent controlled regions simply to get work. "Hey, it's a tough world and if my choices are me and my family starving, or I have to go crack a few kneecaps as a thug/enforcer, well that's what I'm going to go do even if I find the work distasteful." I like to think they're not all caricature bad guys. The mages, on the other hand.... it seems like every single one is a sneering, preening, power-mad wannabe tyrant, with very little nuance between them. That's why I barely even read the names anymore, just sort of gloss over them because they are so eminently disposable.
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VikingLegion
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USA
426 Posts

Posted - 03 Apr 2019 :  22:14:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yesterday I finished The God Catcher. Much like my first Elaine Cunningham novel, I liked it a lot while not absolutely loving it. And yet, immediately I could tell that this is an awesome talent that is going to create wonderful things, exactly as EC went on to do. I loved the imagery of a neighborhood springing up around the "corpse" of a giant statue that went rogue and then defunct during the chaos of the Spellplague. Cool cover art too, it made me think just a little bit of Ready Player One and the "stacks" built for the poorer section of society.

Erin M. Evans seems to know quite a bit about the thieving arts. I feel like I could pick a lock and detect traps after reading this book. The knowledge was very in depth, like a tutorial. Just how does she know so much about roguish skills??? :)

The great game that dragons participate in was very intriguing. I wonder if that was primarily her creation or if it exists in other FR lore.

The characters were excellent in this story. Not to make too many Elaine comparisons, but it was a similar level of development going on. I particularly liked Feremmo Magli, the dapper assassin. It's nice to see a contract killer who enjoys his work and isn't the brooding, angsty, all-black wearing type. Magli read something like a dark mirror version of Danilo Thann to me. Early on in the story it was mentioned that the main character had some Uskevren blood in her on her mother's side. I was very much hoping to see more of that lineage and who, exactly, her grand (and possibly great-grand) parents were, but that avenue sort of trailed away with no more information.

Anyway, very good debut novel for Mrs. Evans, I'm eager to see more! Up next I stayed with the EG Presents series for Circle of Skulls.


Edited by - VikingLegion on 03 Apr 2019 22:19:40
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Zeromaru X
Master of Realmslore

Colombia
1363 Posts

Posted - 08 Apr 2019 :  02:07:20  Show Profile Send Zeromaru X a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

The great game that dragons participate in was very intriguing. I wonder if that was primarily her creation or if it exists in other FR lore.



The Xorvintaal was created for core D&D during 3.5 (IIRC, it debuted in the Monster Manual V), and Erin Evans adapted it to the Realms in this novel. Richard Lee Byers later expands in the lore of the Xorvintaal in the three first novels of the Brotherhood of the Griffon series.

Long ago, in the distant past, they fell into decay. The philosopher’s path... The river of glory... Even the saints resting in the darkness rise up without response and block the way...
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VikingLegion
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USA
426 Posts

Posted - 10 Apr 2019 :  02:27:31  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Excellent, thanks for that Zeromaru!

I finished Circle of Skulls yesterday. I kinda feel like James P. Davis doesn't get his due. He writes really creepy, super evocative stories. He incorporates some great visuals too, I can "see" several of his scenes playing out for me in great cinematic fashion. He taps into my teenage anime-nerd phase where all the protagonists wear black dusters and do that sword-drag-on-the-ground move - I know you know what I'm talking about!

Anyway, this book showed a really dark and seedy side of Waterdeep. It's easy to assume there is a nasty underbelly to the city, but this particular brand of rot is not among the usual culprits in the squalid areas, but instead among the upper crust - as several noble/aristocratic families are secret members of a cult of Asmodeus; venerating a devil-god in exchange for material prosperity. I particularly liked the mobs of ahimazzi - soulless ex-nobles who have nothing more to give and become near mindless (but not undead) shuffling cannon-fodder.

If I have some criticisms of Davis they are:

1. I tend to get a little lost at times in his stories. I don't know if I'm just not a careful enough reader, or if he is slightly unclear at times.

2. His protagonist in this book was so similar to the one from Bloodwalk I had to look up the previous book to make sure it wasn't the same guy. Both are reluctant heroes. Not quite anti-heroes, but definitely not in it for the most noble of reasons. Both also have celestial roots, cool outfits/swords, and some of those anime moves I mentioned previously. These guys were near clones.

Aside from that one gripe, I liked this story quite a bit. In fact, the entire "Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep" series has been well above average and exceeded my expectations. Up next: tonight I will start Unbroken Chain by Jaleigh Johnson, who has been another very pleasant surprise for me.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 10 Apr 2019 02:28:37
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VikingLegion
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USA
426 Posts

Posted - 17 Apr 2019 :  01:34:13  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Unbroken Chain yesterday. I'm guessing no one else has read it, and that's a shame because this book was terrific. I don't even know where to start, I'm having trouble ordering my thoughts.

First, before I forget: Jaleigh Johnson is excellent. I picked her out in one of the anthologies early on, I couldn't put my finger on it exactly, but something about her storytelling really stood out from all the other voices in that collection (I believe Elaine commented on it right after, also touting the praises of this author.) That short story was no fluke, she's been consistently good in everything I've read from her, and I think this was her best yet.

This book focuses on a city of shadar-kai in the Shadowfell. I know, I know... too many shadow-related creatures... Well Seravin, if you thought Sembia took a turn for the worse with the gothic/shadow transformation, this book probably isn't for you. It's basically like "What if D&D made a pitch for a Hot Topic clothing line." I say that *mostly* in jest, but these guys do have some serious teen-angst angle going for them. Due to the gloomy and overall depressing nature of their home plane, they experience a phenomenon called The Fading, where they become so apathetic they literally melt away, surrendering their souls to the environment. So, to combat this, they have to *feel* as strongly as possible - some turn to cruelty and ambition, some become thrill-seeking adrenaline junky types, some resort to "cutting" to focus their thoughts (yep, more goth/teen stuff).

But all that edginess aside (and it might be hard for some to get by), the exploration of their city and culture was absolutely fascinating. Reading this book gave me the same sense of wonder and excitement that I haven't felt since teenage me read Homeland and got to see how the mysterious and enigmatic (at that point) drow lived their day-to-day lives. These guys share some similarities to dark elves (with a reversed color palette swap) mostly in their fanaticism. The cynic in me says that was a calculated move by WoTC to come up with "The Next Drow", but these guys are unique enough to stand up by themselves. Rather than being all agility-based, stealthy killers, the shadar-kai (at least in this city) lean more towards the platemail and greatsword aesthetic. I can see their armour being highly stylized and very gothic/baroque, with all kinds of protrusions and swirling designs, faces carved into the pauldrons and kneecaps and so on - not entirely unlike the old school githyanki illustrations. An even better visual comparison might be the armour of the Necromongers (cheesy name, but they looked cool as hell) from The Chronicles of Riddick, for anyone that might remember that mostly forgettable movie. These shadar-kai are practically begging to be illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.

If I can continue my ramble to an even greater tangent - I think many of us older fans have been, perhaps unfairly, dismissive of anything that came about in the 4e era. I know I never gave it a fair chance. But after reading the book Arts and Arcana, and liking a good deal of what I saw, I'm trying to keep a more open mind on the lore aspect. Yeah, it's not what we all grew up reading and playing. It's something very different in nearly all ways - visually, philosophically, etc. - but that doesn't mean there isn't some cool stuff in there to mine from.

Back to the book: the main character is an outcast from a small, primitive backwater settlement, transplanted to an enormous city of shadar-kai. He must learn to adapt to a vastly different lifestyle from everything he's ever known. It's your fish-out-of-water story where he needs to overcome his own fears and lack of trust to adjust to a new way of living. Naturally, as he gains friends and status, there are those around him that are jealous and can't stand to see him succeed. There's so much more than just this going on, but this post is getting on the long side so I'll leave the rest for anyone that may give this book a chance, which I strongly urge.

Up next: today I started in on Elminster Must Die.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 17 Apr 2019 01:37:03
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
143 Posts

Posted - 17 Apr 2019 :  08:04:04  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion



Up next: today I started in on Elminster Must Die.



Have to say that El must die (and that trilogy overall) was quite painful read at times. As I am non native Eng speaker, it was sometimes quite hard to keep track. And I mostly read in Eng all the time. Also El and Drizzt stories are like Batman or Superman stories: yes there might be troubles, but they will always prevail in the end.
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Seravin
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Canada
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Posted - 17 Apr 2019 :  11:00:15  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have to say, I couldn't get through that series. I hated the time skip and spell plague and reading this series just didn't work for me. I like Ed's novels almost entirely because of the lore and occassionally the characters (I love the Knights and Rangers 3 and Chosen). Elminster was kind of pathetic, everyone was dead, meh..and the point of 4th edition was to erase the previous lore and start over 100 years ahead fresh, so..nope. Add that with Ed's "loose" writing style with Deus Ex Machina and complicated backstories/characters that die in one page or chapter and I can't be bothered.
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VikingLegion
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USA
426 Posts

Posted - 20 Apr 2019 :  15:39:04  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
*Sigh*, no discussion on Unbroken Chain, as I suspected. Though I'm excited there is a sequel not too far ahead in my reading order.

As for Elminster Must Die, I just finished powering through it in a Herculean effort to just get it done. This book had basically everything I dislike about EG novels: the absurd body counts, the excessive snarkiness, confusing/improbable plot lines, a dizzying cast of throwaway characters, weird/creepy sexuality that reads more like how a 12 year old boy thinks sex works, and - of course - Elminster's nigh omnipotence, even when supposedly handicapped.

It took me all of 10 pages or so before I was already rolling my eyes. There is a scene where Storm is spying on Elminster and The Simbul during their lovemaking, and silently wishing it were she, and not her sister, getting it on with him. Ok, first of all... watching your own sister getting intimate with anyone is pretty sketchy to begin with. But to see her banging a decrepit, scrawny, old vulture of a man and thinking "Oh, I got to get me some of that" is even weirder. To make matters infinitely worse, said old man is the man who RAISED STORM AS HER FATHER. I remember reading in earlier Elminster books how El recalled when he first was given care of the girls, how they were so young and small he would bounce them around on his knees and delight them with simple magic tricks. Now he's screwing one while another peeks at them from behind a tree, wishing she were the one making love to him. It's really weird pervy old-man wish fulfillment writing.

As for the story, I kinda liked this old, tired, magic-denied version of Elminster. I figure it would make for a more interesting tale, him having to rely on his wits and clever usage of whatever magical baubles he could scrounge up, rather than the normal godlike command of magic, with an actual goddess to bail him out of any jam. It started off fairly well, but I didn't like the turn it took as El started slaughtering Cormyrian war wizards and high knights that were, for the most part, simply just doing their jobs and trying to apprehend a felon. Of course Elminster was able to justify his theft of magical items from the Crown, and thereby further justify his killing of said agents as purely self defense, but it was an ugly look on him, no doubt.

My favorite character ended up being Thirsty the stirge - a trained pet of the villainous noble Marlin Stormserpent, whose beak was often coated in a paralytic poison. Lord Delcastle was fairly amusing at times, but he came off a bit too much like a Danilo Thann Lite.

Manshoon showed up as the mastermind behind a very tortured, convoluted plot. But even his competently executed plan didn't ultimately change much, as Elminster's ashes still retained enough sentience and was able to possess the body of his great-granddaughter, who happens to be a stripper/pole dancer at a local Suzailan club, because... well, why not? At one point, as she is getting naked for bed, Elminster - who is hiding in her room under a pile of dirty laundry - has to subdue her. He lunges out and wrestles her down to the bed, grabbing whatever parts of her unclothed anatomy he can during the wild tumult. But I suppose this is the least weird thing he's done with his own female family members...

So now he's in her body, sort of acting as a mentor to train her as the next great Defender of the Realm, but able to mentally assert his complete control in those times where he needs to take the reigns. Also there is a hint of Mystra returning at the very end, so I suppose I can look forward to Elminster regaining his godlike status in the not too distant future. Also, Mirt the Moneylender comes completely out of left field, having spent the last 100 years or so trapped within a magical hand axe, so there's that. I had some more notes on this one, but honestly I'm tired of beating a dead horse, so I'll just end it here.

Up next is Gauntlgrym.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 20 Apr 2019 15:40:26
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