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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 16 Nov 2019 :  12:38:04  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Not to derail or anything, everyone feel free to continue the wonderful conversation going on in the last page. But in the meantime I've finished The Adversary.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Erin Evans is one of the best character builders around (with a nod to Elaine, the ultimate in that respect). I swear, if I didn't know better I'd say she was tricking me into reading (and enjoying!) a cheesy teen romance novel - like some kind of guilty pleasure I don't want to admit to. Her depiction of the sisters is so spot on, I feel like I've known them for years. Their fears and insecurities are so well-developed. Lorcan's ability to prey upon and manipulate them is scary good - to the point where I hope Erin never notices me and decides to psychologically destroy me. Seriously, I often think about that when I read things like Game of Thrones, or watch a movie like Silence of the Lambs. For the author to be able to conceive of such darkness and deviousness, do they have to have a little bit of it in them? Erin, if you ever read this, I'M JUST KIDDING, PLEASE DO NOT CONDEMN MY SOUL TO THE NINE HELLS.

Speaking of, her depiction of the Hells, all the fiendish plotting, back door deals, and overall hierarchy is amazing. It's funny, the actual story itself - a concentration camp filled with Chosen being harvested in some Shar plotline (you know, that Sundering thing) takes a backseat, at least in my mind, to the development of the tiefling sisters, Farideh's relationship with Lorcan, and the Hellish machinations.

Very good book, I can't wait to see the next step in this story. But up next is book 3 [edit, book 4] of the Sundering: The Reaver.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 23 Nov 2019 17:02:39
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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1137 Posts

Posted - 17 Nov 2019 :  10:05:52  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I really like Erin in interviews and I see the appeal of her books but for some reason I couldn't force myself to finish the 2nd book in the Brimstone Angels saga...I guess I need to power through and try again because people I trust have raved about them and I'm sure I'll enjoy them in the end.

Sorry for the de-rails Viking, the community needs a place to vent the death of the FR novels I suppose!
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 19 Nov 2019 :  21:24:22  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Reaver. I can't say I cared for it much, at least early on. I tend to dislike books where the main characters are scum. In Byers' Brotherhood of the Griffon quintet the main group were mercenaries - who by definition are killers for money - but they had some dim spark of honor or scruples in their own way. Now Byers has gone even farther along the evil spectrum and casted a bloodthirsty, completely immoral pirate as the main character. Accompanying him is a self-serving Red Wizardess, and lastly a boy Chosen of Lathander (it's a weird group that got thrown together by fate). Several of the early alliances really strained credulity - you just had to /handwave a bit and let it happen.

The young boy, Stedd, seems to exude goodness and innocence - so much so that the pirate and Red Wizard start behaving in ways that seemed very out of character. It was hard to tell how much of this was him simply growing on them (unlikely, WAY too much of an alignment change) or if he was sending out a supernatural aura that was slowly and subtly shifting them along towards some semblance of goodness. I don't know... I'm all for a good redemption arc, but when it's forced like that simply by being in the presence of a Chosen and not because it's what the characters would've chosen for themselves, it seems so much less authentic.

Priests were able to cure spellplague effects in this one, I'm not sure I've seen that allowed anywhere else? Did Byers go off the reservation on that one?

There was a cool region called Gulthandor with a Narnia-like talking godking lion. I'd look into the area further but I don't know if it's all going to go away post-Sundering.

The ritual towards the end wherein the Emerald Enclave link the power of Silvanus to that of a newly risen Lathander (see what I did there?) in order to combat the nigh-eternal storms of Umberlee was really cool. All the various sylvan creatures of the area showed up to link their own power to the ritual, and the way Byers wrote it was so awesome to visualize. Easily my favorite aspect of this book.

Overall it was ok, some hits, some misses, but generally the weakest of the Sundering series thus far. Up next is Troy Denning's The Sentinel.
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
148 Posts

Posted - 21 Nov 2019 :  13:53:18  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Not to derail or anything, everyone feel free to continue the wonderful conversation going on in the last page. But in the meantime I've finished The Adversary.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Erin Evans is one of the best character builders around (with a nod to Elaine, the ultimate in that respect). I swear, if I didn't know better I'd say she was tricking me into reading (and enjoying!) a cheesy teen romance novel - like some kind of guilty pleasure I don't want to admit to. Her depiction of the sisters is so spot on, I feel like I've known them for years. Their fears and insecurities are so well-developed. Lorcan's ability to prey upon and manipulate them is scary good - to the point where I hope Erin never notices me and decides to psychologically destroy me. Seriously, I often think about that when I read things like Game of Thrones, or watch a movie like Silence of the Lambs. For the author to be able to conceive of such darkness and deviousness, do they have to have a little bit of it in them? Erin, if you ever read this, I'M JUST KIDDING, PLEASE DO NOT CONDEMN MY SOUL TO THE NINE HELLS.

Speaking of, her depiction of the Hells, all the fiendish plotting, back door deals, and overall hierarchy is amazing. It's funny, the actual story itself - a concentration camp filled with Chosen being harvested in some Shar plotline (you know, that Sundering thing) takes a backseat, at least in my mind, to the development of the tiefling sisters, Farideh's relationship with Lorcan, and the Hellish machinations.

Very good book, I can't wait to see the next step in this story. But up next is book 3 of the Sundering: The Reaver.



I think everyone has their pet dislike. Like Woolys war of the spiderqueen series. Mine is Evan's books. I like her writing style and character building etc, but big BUT is that I get kind of Twilight vibe from her books. And I really tried to like them.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 23 Nov 2019 :  17:23:36  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Sentinel today. Right off the bat I read the main character is named Kleef. Oh boy... Kleef. I think I probably harp on names more than anyone (although Wooly comes close). I just find it hard to believe an author would spend weeks, months, (longer?) to sketch out an initial concept for a story, build it, refine it, keep submitting drafts and tinkering around - but yet doesn't take just a few minutes to think about one of the most important details possible.

I see Malik makes another appearance - Denning's old pre-Spellplague pawn of Cyric and vaguely stereotypical Arabic conman. He was just as wheedling and annoying as I remembered him, but for some reason I found him to be mildly entertaining this time around. Not sure why.

There has been just a tiny bit of overlap in these Sundering novels - like the boy Stedd from the previous book, The Reaver, mentioned breaking out of the concentration camp featured in The Adversary. In this current book we see the captain of the ship they used being the same as the one from a previous one. It's a nice touch, having some interlocking pieces. But honestly it's so little it barely makes a dent, and this series seems like it didn't have much in the way of overall concept design other than to say Shar is up to something and it involves Chosen - and then letting the 6 authors all go their own ways.

This story involved a group of various Chosen - one each of Helm, Siomorphe (the deity I despise above all others), Sune, and Myrkul (but really Cyric) trying to transport an artifact to a specific destination in order to prevent an earth primordial from abandoning Toril, which in turn would somehow strengthen Shar in some vague way that I kinda, sorta understand. It didn't feel like the most inspired of efforts, but it wasn't a bad book. The characters had an interesting dynamic, lots of intrigue, plots within plots, and so on. An ok book, but nothing necessary unless you are a completionist.

Up next, naturally is the final book of the series, The Herald.
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Renin
Learned Scribe

USA
266 Posts

Posted - 24 Nov 2019 :  20:35:07  Show Profile Send Renin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The biggest part I liked of The Reaver was when I went 'Oh! This is one way they are fixing up the Spellplague nonsense! Good job, you!"
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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

584 Posts

Posted - 28 Nov 2019 :  23:57:06  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There was a cool region called Gulthandor with a Narnia-like talking godking lion. I'd look into the area further but I don't know if it's all going to go away post-Sundering
The lion was Nobanion, some lion demigod who really hasn't been that important in published realms. IIRC he was reduced to the weakened corrupted state he's encountered in the novel after losing to Malar shortly after or during the spell plague
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2019 :  11:45:41  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mirtek

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There was a cool region called Gulthandor with a Narnia-like talking godking lion. I'd look into the area further but I don't know if it's all going to go away post-Sundering
The lion was Nobanion, some lion demigod who really hasn't been that important in published realms. IIRC he was reduced to the weakened corrupted state he's encountered in the novel after losing to Malar shortly after or during the spell plague



Yeah when they first saw him he was covered in blue flame and driven to a mad, feral, aggressive state. Once they purged that plague-fire from him he regained his normal mind and became a pretty important ally for a short while. It was an interesting chapter, I had not previously heard anything about this character or entire region.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 30 Nov 2019 :  12:30:27  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm about 30 pages from finishing The Herald, but not sure when I'll have time for a writeup, so I'm just going to do this one now. If anything earth-shattering happens in the last chapter or two, I'll come back and amend this.

I liked the initial premise: Elminster, Storm, and Amarune are traveling across Faerun to locations of magical significance, trying to repair "Weave anchors" to stabilize magic. This small but steady approach was keeping them occupied for a bit, until the major events forced them to abandon it and go after the two biggest stationary wards in the Realms - Candlekeep and Myth Drannor.

Speaking of Candlekeep, I really liked how Ed described the place, from its architecture, to the magical shielding in place, to the overall mood - you can tell he has a great reverence for places of learning and preserved knowledge. The Prefects were especially cool once they were roused to defend the keep. I really enjoyed these segments until all hell broke loose. It was silly how many monks had been covertly slain and replaced by various agents. The Shadovar had several plants there, but so too did the Moonstars, Elminster, Larloch, towards the end it felt like there might be more imposters than actual monks. It was very Greenwood in its utter lack of subtlety and "MORE is better" approach. When contemplating who else might be after the mighty magics stored in Candlekeep, Telamont Tanthul muses how "thousands of archmages are ready to pounce." I've always felt the term archmage should refer to the undisputed masters of wizardry, and there would rarely be more than a handful extant at any one time. But I have to remind myself, this is Ed's Realms and numbers don't ever matter.

Lady Alustriel and Laeral also appear, answering a question I had as to what they've been up to for the last 100 years. Apparently posing as monks. For a century. I have a weird question about them and Storm... In the past I've seen all their hair being described as free flowing and lively, as though constantly stirred by a non-existent breeze. Or they can change the styling on a whim with concentration alone and no manual manipulation required. But in this book their hair now functions as some kind of additional appendage(s), fully prehensile and capable of wielding multiple weapons at once, picking up and throwing man-sized opponents, grasping walls and/or tree limbs to steady them, etc. Has it always been this way and I just somehow missed it? Or is this a post-Spellplague augmentation?

I had a strange thought regarding Shar while reading this book. The entire Sundering series sees Shar's hand in several simultaneous schemes to seize power:
1. The abduction (and draining) of Chosen in a massive concentration camp.
2. The attempt to drive an earth primordial away so she can claim dominion over the Underdark caverns and strengthen the link between the Shadowfell and Toril.
3. The opening of her "eye" and the all-consuming Maelstrom in Sembia as part of The Night Cycle.
4. Seizing on the power of the wards in MD and CK to warp the Weave forever into her Shadow Weave, claiming dominion over magic for all time.
5. Etc.

Isn't all this ambition, this striving for victory, antithetical to her portfolio of despair, hopelessness, ennui? I feel like Shar is a fundamental contradiction at her core. As are her followers: they profess to worship a deity that considers hope to be anathema, but then they all have their own various plots and schemes to gain power. They all hope to rise to greatness within her church... shouldn't that make them the very worst and most faithless worshippers?

Ed's baelnorn are incorporeal spirits? I always considered them as being good-aligned elven liches - and therefore possessing physical, tangible bodies. I guess they're more like ghosts than liches, that surprised me.

Towards the end, as Myth Drannor is on the brink of being overwhelmed, Elminster comes up with a rather interesting solution to distract the thousands of mercenaries assailing the city. He has "collected" several powerful enemies over the years, plunging them into a magical stasis to keep them sealed away from the Realms. I'm not sure why that would be preferable to outright destroying them, but I'll just go with it. He, along with the Srinshee, Laeral, and Alustriel, teleport several of them into the midst of the mercenary camps, releasing them from stasis at the same time. The beasts - a black dragon, a dracolich, two beholders, and an illithid - are a bit confused at the abrupt awakening, and naturally lash out with maximum violence. I thought this was a really cool and creative idea. But at the same time, isn't it a little too convenient? El mentions that this is a great last resort weapon, because "If I fall in battle they'll all be released anyway." But where was this concern or issue in previous Elminster books? Like when he was disintegrated and sent to Hell. Wouldn't that condition be enough to release all these baddies long before now? I'll try not to think about it too much, because this was a fun chapter.

Ok, that's what I have for now. About 30-40 pages left in this one and things aren't looking great. Larloch is super-charged up from the magical strength of Candlekeep. Telamont is zeroing in on the utter annihilation of Myth Drannor, his sons are slaying every baelnorn in sight and plundering crypt after crypt after crypt. The heroes are down to just a handful of pocket resistance, it feels like the reborn glory of Myth Drannor is going to be short-lived in the grand scheme of things.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 08 Apr 2020 13:53:04
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2019 :  11:50:32  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well... I wrote that last bit before actually finishing the book, figuring nothing too earth-shattering would happen in the last 40 pages.

I was wrong.

Myth Drannor is completely, utterly, and irrevocably destroyed after suffering a full on impact with the Shade city of Thultanthar. This bothered me much more than I thought it would. My primary attraction to the Forgotten Realms lies more in the ancient history than in the contemporary players and goings-on. What I've always loved about FR is the idea that at any time a person can potentially discover remnants of a previous kingdom - by falling into a tunnel while digging in your backyard, or breaking down a mysterious brick wall that doesn't match the rest in a dungeon, whatever.

Myth Drannor was always one of the big kids on the block for me as far as iconic/historic locations. I preferred it as a demon-haunted ruin, but even after the Coronal restored it to a fully functional city in the Byers series, I still entertained and enjoyed the thought that at any moment a new sub-basement could be discovered, a vault so ancient even the guardian baelnorn may no longer remember the family name.

But now.... nothing. Absolutely nothing could've survived the 100,000 megaton impact of that magnitude. Even sub-crypts buried multiple floors deep would've been utterly annihilated. The amount of lore, history, magical trinkets, guardians, etc lost in that collision must have been immense. Myth Drannor not only ceased to exist in that moment, the idea or potential of Myth Drannor was forever wiped away from the face of the Realms. This saddened me so much that I had to take a small break from FR and read another book in the interim.

But, back to the grindstone. Yesterday I finished Night of the Hunter. I turned on this one fast. As soon as Cattie-brie delivered her spiel about how the Song of Mielikki told her that orcs and goblinkin are irredeemable and must be slaughtered, I decided I didn't like this new reiteration of the Companions of the Hall. It goes against everything Drizzt stands for, against everything RAS has written up to this point. It reeks of contrivance and/or game design mandates to erase any challenging "gray" grounds of morality and reduce the setting to a rather boring black and white contest. Cat's speech was totally out of character (not that I have any idea who or what her character is anymore after the umpteenth transformation), but it read more like religious-backed demagoguery, a calling for ethnic cleansing. I hated it. The term "murder hobo" gets thrown around when discussing the actual role of D&D "adventurers", and never is it more apt than here. The Companions, sans Drizzt, joke about going off to kill some orcs and all have a hearty laugh over the prospect. These guys can all get wiped out for all I care. They are no heroes.

In other news, Yvonnel (sp?) Baenre is back. Sort of. Her memories, cunning, and a good portion of her personality has been psionically transplanted into Quenthel. House Do'Urden is being reconstituted. So it really is starting to feel like a Greatest Hits compilation. As I said before, I give RAS a ton of leeway on this front - he is just trying to repair what a bunch of execs tore down. Plus the nostalgia is fun for a bit. But, like Star Wars Episode Seven, at some point it starts to feel like I've already seen this movie.

I know this review is overwhelmingly negative. There were several fine aspects of this book. I just got so mad over Cat's speech early in the book it really biased me for the remainder. Plus I'm still more than a little butt-hurt over the annihilation of Myth Drannor. Guys, I seriously considered just concluding this project altogether. But with 11 or 12 books to go, I have to see it through. Up next is Rise of the King.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 14 Dec 2019 11:51:23
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5950 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2019 :  14:09:13  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Keep going. I, for one, enjoy your reviews/analysis.

-- George Krashos

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

USA
517 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2019 :  15:26:26  Show Profile Send AJA a Private Message  Reply with Quote

I agree with George in that I hope you keep going. I stopped reading FR novels long ago, so I also enjoy having you slog through them for me read through and give your thoughts . Also;
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
Myth Drannor not only ceased to exist in that moment, the idea or potential of Myth Drannor was forever wiped away from the face of the Realms.

About that....turns out that "100,000 megaton impact" was largely....artistic license (novels, everybody!). Here's Ed on it;
(http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=18725&whichpage=17, about halfway down)

quote:
Ed: Ah, yes. Over the years, I have been slowly trained to resist including every last game-relevant lore detail in my novels, in the interests of shaping a better narrative storyline. Guess I erred too far in pruning, this time around. Sorry; this should have made it into my final draft, but didn’t (in the interests of keeping the pacing and the “fog of war” feel up). My bad.

When the POSSIBLE danger of Thultanthar crashing became apparent (i.e. when the city started flying towards Myth Drannor, not when what El did became obvious) the Srinshee contacted all the Myth Drannan baelnorn she could and commanded them to get to the Tree of Souls and magically shield and defend it, warping the Weave to form a protective barrier around it (so when Thultanthar came crashing down, it would punch through the city like a spike, and protect the Tree). This was done, and the Tree has survived. There has been some consternation among certain readers about Myth Drannor being entirely in ruins, but not so. Like any city that’s been fought through, a big cleanup is in order, but Thultanthar is a pretty small city, and Myth Drannor, being “at one with the forest” [growing trees as dwellings, trees and moss and open forest terrain everywhere, not human-habit “pave over everything” architecture, is a very large (in footprint) city. So a relatively small area of Myth Drannor was pancaked under the shattered remnants of Shade.

Ed: The 4e population figures are ROUGHLY correct, but the siege took some time to develop (mercenary armies being mustered in Sembia and then marched north), so the elves had warning, so many of their skilled artisans, pregnant shes, young children and families with young children, ailing elderly, wounded, and so on, GOT OUT (to Semberholme first and foremost, and to Evereska and elsewhere, too). Anyone who wanted to relocate rather than fight was given that option, without shame or recrimination.

In other words, the city was down to 6,400 or so “determined and able defenders” before the siege started, and they took heavy losses in the fighting by being worn down under the weight of sheer numbers; although they were inflicting very heavy losses on the attacking mercenaries, they were slowly beaten back - - and the very “open” nature of the city made it very hard to defend. The Coronal sent some vital individuals out of the fighting by making them envoys that she sent to elven communities all over the Realms to try to get volunteer reinforcements (few of which arrived on time). So in that way she saved another hundred or so.

However, the defenders died rather than surrender or flee, so the elves still in the city were reduced to around 1000 when it became apparent that the city couldn’t be held, and the children, wounded, and elders still in the city were rushed out through the gates (as seen near the end of THE HERALD). The Coronal and Fflar were literally fighting back to back at the end, with a handful of defenders still standing, when Thultanthar came down - - and almost all of that last handful made it out to Semberholme.

So at the end of THE HERALD, a few blocks of central Myth Drannor are rubble, under the shattered remnants of Thultanthar. Scavengers (monsters) are roaming the corpse-littered vicinity, and there’s minor damage to the outlying city, which is abandoned - - probably not for long. The surviving mercenaries are foraging/pillaging/behaving like brigands, and Sembia is in such disarray that there’s no chance of Sembia (or for that matter, any other realm) “reaching in” to annex or occupy the ruins. Perhaps 5,000 elves perished defending Myth Drannor - - and yes, the Tree of Souls survives. All indications are that the

NOTE: I excised Ed's comments on some novel characters here, since I don't know if that would constitute spoilers for VikingLegion: follow the link above if you wish to read them

Many things were left “up in the air” for later stories, or for DMs to decide for themselves, for their campaign. Certain matters will be revealed in my NEXT Realms novel.
Hope this helps. Sorry for causing upset to some Realms readers!
Ed

(whether that makes you feel better or worse, I leave up to you)


AJA
YAFRP

Edited by - AJA on 14 Dec 2019 15:28:35
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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1137 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2019 :  22:41:09  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Keep going Viking! I too had many problems with the Herald. So two of the Chosen were just posing as monks for 100 years? While the Simbul suffered immensely and Storm and Elm tried so hard to restore her sanity, they just..acted like monks. For 100 years. I mean..it was all just so weird.

I love Ed's world building as much as or more than anyone, but some of the plot lines in his books are just objectively bad. IDK what to say about Myth D getting nuked but not really in Ed's candlekeep responses - my thinking is that the orders were to restore the Realms back to the good old days, where Myth Drannor was a monster infested shell of an elven empire in an ancient forest---and this action brought MD back to that state if you don't think too hard.

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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
3291 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2019 :  17:18:18  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Mielikki thing makes no sense at all. There have been multiple cases of goblinoids coexisting with humans and not being evil. Heck, Eldath, who's friend to Mielikki, showed that orces can create peaceful societies. Drizzt is an example of the same theme, and Mielikki is far too well aware of him. Eilistraee is another example of this theme, and Mielikki's friends with her as well. There' no way Mielikki would say stuff like that, not to mention she has no reason to do that. She only cares about people living in harmony with nature, her point isn't general goodnes, so it makes no sense for her to even express herself on the matter. That's just Catti being the proverbial ass and using her goddess as an excuse. In any case, lore being distorted is quite common in RAS' recent stuff, and he's always used Mielikki as some paragon of good and embodiment of Drizz's idea of good, so whatever.

As for Myth Drannor, you still have the ruins, as AJA pointed out. Not that it matters musch, since only RAS get to rewrite the same plot over and over and pass it as new novels these days, and RAS doesn't acknowledge anything in FR that isn't Drizztland (and when he does, he usually doesn't even bother to check any lore whatsoever).

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

USA
480 Posts

Posted - 28 Dec 2019 :  16:11:04  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by AJA


I agree with George in that I hope you keep going. I stopped reading FR novels long ago, so I also enjoy having you slog through them for me read through and give your thoughts . Also;
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
Myth Drannor not only ceased to exist in that moment, the idea or potential of Myth Drannor was forever wiped away from the face of the Realms.

About that....turns out that "100,000 megaton impact" was largely....artistic license (novels, everybody!). Here's Ed on it;
(http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=18725&whichpage=17, about halfway down)
*SNIP*



Thank you so much for that AJA. Also thanks for cutting it off at that point (but providing the link for others) so I can still be surprised by the next couple EG novels. That was excellently done on your part and you've successfully talked me down from the proverbial ledge. In the meantime, I've finished two books, but holidays being particularly chaotic, hadn't been able to write about either. But they kind of go hand-in-hand anyway, so here I'll just do one big review for both Companions of the Codex II and III: Rise of the King and Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf.

As mentioned earlier, Cat's religious call for ethnic cleansing really soured me on the ol' gang, so I may come off a bit more snarky and sarcastic. By the way, isn't it funny that now that Cat is a cleric everyone seems to be taking much harder and more lethal wounds in combat? Convenient.

About halfway through the first book I was thinking how much of a great relief that Athrogate and his stupid rhyming hadn't made an appearance, and then - I kid you not - he showed up not 3 pages later.... *groan*

I love what's going on with Afafrenfere (even if that's one of the all-time dumbest names) and his linkage with Kane, the original Grand Master of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose. I have a soft spot in my heart for the monk class, I've played them in every iteration of D&D, and any video game that offers the class I jump all over it. I suspect RAS feels the same way. I recall reading somewhere long ago that he originally wanted his first novel series to feature a monk as the main protagonist but TSR shot that idea down. He then created Danica to be the companion of Cadderly and he's since managed to sneak them in here and there throughout his lengthy writing career. I really enjoy Kane being some kind of spectral passenger within Afrerejerefegertfsaere and imparting some of his experience, technique, and overall learnings to the young martial artist. Afa was a fairly bland character for me before this, so it was a much-needed injection to make him vastly more interesting, as well as INSANELY more powerful. Quivering Palm technique for the win!

I'm so sick of Dahlia. Just go away already. A non-drow set up as a Matron Mother in a newly reconstituted House Daermon N'a'shezbaernon - give me a break. Yeah, I know it's just Quenthel flaunting her authority and doing it as an insult to the rest of the council, but I can't imagine this being allowed to stand, no matter how iron Quenthel's grip has become on Menzoberranzan. And as other posters have pointed out a couple pages back in this thread, if Lolth/Menzo are supposed to be all about chaos, why such a rigid hierarchy and why has Baenre been allowed to rule supreme for so long?

Not sure about Doum'wielle. I know there is a graphic novel called "Cutter" that is about To'sun Armgo and Khazzid'hea (sp?) I guess it's not necessary to read the comic, but at this point I wonder how much background detail I'm missing. After a longish redemption arc wherein Tos'un renounces his drow ways and marries/has children with a Moon Elf, apparently he throws it all away, convinces his daughter to murder his son in a duel of worthiness for the sentient blade, and then tries to maim/cripple his wife in an escape attempt? No doubt the malignant weapon had a heavy influence on these events, but it seems pretty silly to me how thoroughly both Tos'un and Doum'wielle fell under its spell.

I really like the large-scale conflict between the orcs (backed by drow, frost giants, white dragons) against the goodly folks of the Silver Marches. There's some good strategic warfare writing that I tend to be more interested in than the smaller scale melees.

I did not care for the whole "Darkening" plotline, as I just can't see Lolth being so powerful as to make an entire region of Faerun go to perpetual twilight. Why haven't we seen something like this before? Where are the gods of light to counter her? Also Drizzt's "rapture" moment when it was dispelled felt ridiculous to me, even more so when it was revealed to be Gromph pulling all the strings.

As per usual, Kimmuriel can do anything.

At some point, Drizzt and Tiago are going to have to have an epic showdown. It's been flirted with several times now, but always postponed. I feel like that duel is going to be magnificent. As this trilogy ended we have the orcs routed utterly, the giants/dragons dead or returned to the deep north, and the drow mostly scattered. But Q'Xorlarrin/Gauntlgrym still stands and I feel that will have to be the final battlefield.

Up next I take a RAS break and continue with Erin Evans tiefling twins in Fire in the Blood.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 28 Dec 2019 16:12:07
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 12 Jan 2020 :  14:13:21  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Fire in the Blood yesterday. As mentioned, I've really enjoyed Erin Evans' work up to this point, but this one fell a bit flat for me. The teenage-girl angst thing has worn thin, especially in the case of Farideh. It was so disappointing to see her sleep with Lorcan after denying him for so long. I mean, I guess it always had to happen - the trope of the girl falling for the "bad boy" that will only hurt her, never realizing a better option (the nerdy good guy that will treat her better) is right in front of her face and she doesn't realize it. It's not that the scenario wasn't believable, in fact it was too believable, too formulaic, too trite - and I was hoping for something more original and outside-the-box from the author.

Her character development continues to be superb, I feel like I know these guys as well as some people in real life, I just didn't like some of the decisions they made, the overall direction of the story. Speaking of story, this book was fairly weak on it overall. I guess the main plotline is Brin and where he stands in the line of succession among Cormyrean royalty. Yeah that Brin, the least interesting character of the gang getting 90% of a novel devoted to him. And at a whopping 629 page count, more like two novels... There was lots of royal intrigue and gossip, tons of disposable nobles coming in and out with their various plots and schemes, honestly it read more like a Greenwood novel. My favorite part of the Brimstone Angel series is seeing the various machinations of the Nine Hells and their rulers. That aspect was conspicuously light in this one. It did pick up quite a bit towards the end, but it felt like too little, too late, as I was mostly checked out by that point.

All in all, this one was a bit of a miss for me, though not without some great individual moments. Up next is Ed Greenwood's Spellstorm.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 19 Jan 2020 :  16:01:32  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Spellstorm a few nights ago. As is ever the case with EG books, I found it to be a rollercoaster of up and down experiences. Therefore, in no particular order:

This book had a very interesting premise. An old Cormyrean noble has discovered "The Lost Spell" - an incantation of such extreme power it was called Azuth's crowning achievement. He puts it up for auction and invites several powerful mages to his estate, which happens to be surrounded by some strange spellstorm that suppresses the reliability of magic. This naturally attracts some of the biggest, most ambitious movers and shakers of the magical world. Elminster also attends at the behest of Mystra, who hopes that if they are all forced to spend time together, they may come to some type of accord and draft up rules of conduct for all spell-hurlers (this IMO was the weakest part of the overall plot).

Predictably all those egos under one roof (and being trapped in the manor) doesn't go well, and they start offing each other in all manner of ways. This read sort of like a 13 Ghosts meets Clue, and I found it to be a fun concept. Unfortunately it is riddled with a bunch of disposable characters that never really develop past two dimensions. I had the same problem reading this that I did watching The Witcher series - if I were to turn the page and find the manor blew up, killing all inside instantly, I simply wouldn't care. There's zero buy-in or investment on my end.

Elminster's description of Cormyrean nobility (or any nobles I suppose) on page 237 was spot on and very appropriate for rich people of all ages and worlds - including our own.

Ed, I mean Elminster has access to psionics now? Did I miss when that happened, or has it been there all along? I've read every El book from Making of a Mage up to my current present and I can't recall any exposure or training in this discipline. I know he has levels in Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and of course Wizard. Is he just a psionic wild talent with marginal ability? Did it come along with him being selected as a Chosen of Mystra? Or did Ed just happen to take a peek over at what RAS is doing with Gromph and decided his archmage can't fall behind?

darvorr - well now we have a name for the cloths that people use to wipe their arses after defecating. I recall a thread here on CK a while back regarding bras and underwear, so now we have another bit of minutia regarding the lives of all Faerunians. I'm not sure we need this level of detail, but ok....

I had never heard of the organization called The Twisted Rune, but now I'm a bit intrigued...

Ed's humor normally falls pretty flat for me. But this book had a line where Mirt and Myrmeen talk about cabbage and for some odd reason it had me snort-laughing out loud at work. I hope nobody heard me.

The solo interviews with each archmage, wherein they are allowed to state their case to Lord Halaunt about why they are the most worthy to receive the Lost Spell was excellently done. Probably the best part of the book. It was fun to see the various tactics each would employ - from honeyed words and grand designs on improving the Realms, to downright threats, both subtle and un. Some of them were such eloquent liars, they even had me fooled! I was like, "Yeah that seems fair, you should accept that bid" and then they turn out to be completely full of crap. I guess I should never be entrusted to hand out such power.

I'm not sure Ed understands what a vampire is. Did he make Manshoon one just because vamps were so culturally big at the time? In what ways does Manshoon behave like a vampire at all? It is specifically mentioned that he does not have the typical vulnerability to sunlight, so I'll give him a pass on that one. But what about EVERY other bit of vampire lore that is completely ignored? In this story Manshoon is assaulted three times by poison/venom from the Serpent Queen lady, once while he is in gaseous form! He eats and drinks with all the rest of the mages at their regular mealtime (which I know some vampires *can* do, they just don't derive any sustenance from it), and even complains when it looks like one of the morningfeasts isn't ready on time. Never once does he even casually mention a bloodthirst, a desire to drain anyone else in the house, how he's managing it over the course of 4 or 5 days, nothing! Lastly, he gets pummeled multiple times in physical encounters - Mirt really trashes him with punches and kicks. So now Mirt is a high level monk capable of magical unarmed strikes? Manshoon even takes a kick to the family jewels that doubles him over like a living man with a regular biology, not an undead being that should be all but impervious to pain, "critical hits" to the nuts, and so on. There is nothing even remotely vampire-like about Manshoon other than his ability to turn into mist.

This book had a ton of filler dialogue, specifically about Elminster, Mirt, and Myrmeen cooking meals. I felt like close to 100 pages were about them prepping and baking and testing the food and going down to the basement to retrieve stores. It was utterly bizarre. It felt like this was an 80 page novella that needed to be bulked up to full novel format.

Speaking of that Serpent Queen: it was mentioned she was a former festhall dancer. Another one of the mages in attendance - Alastra - is a Harper that uses her beauty and large breasts to often influence conflicts to her advantage. She was also a dancer before learning the Art. Combine that with the origin of El's descendant Amarune and it seems to me that a great many beautiful, talented female spellcasters have to take one level of "stripper" as a prerequisite to becoming wizards. It must be to hone their agility for all the dexterity-requiring somatic components, right? *groan*

Ok, up next is another RAS book, Archmage.



Edited by - VikingLegion on 19 Jan 2020 18:42:45
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Dalor Darden
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Posted - 19 Jan 2020 :  19:27:45  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Elminster has always had psionic ability since the beginning before psionicist was a class.

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AJA
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Posted - 19 Jan 2020 :  19:41:15  Show Profile Send AJA a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Spellstorm was after I stopped reading Realms novels. Interestingly, I was recently re-reading an old Forging the Realms article on the Lost Spell; it was published in 2013, a few years before the novel;
https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/hunt-lost-spell (fairly general info, I can't imagine it would spoil anything of the plot except for the nature of the Lost Spell itself).

I would totally read a novel of nothing but "Elminster, Mirt, and Myrmeen cooking meals." Or Elminster and Manshoon; make it an odd couple pairing, like Snoop and Martha

I believe that Steven Schend was originally the one to go with vampire Manshoon, though I'd have to go back and check. Cloak and Dagger, maybe?

And as for Realms-terms for various toiletries, much like discussion on bras and underwear (and other bodily functions and words for cursing and sex workers) you can thank your fellow Candlekeepers for that. They asked! (Ed merely "observes and reports on the natives," as he is know to say)


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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 19 Jan 2020 :  21:13:01  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by AJA



I believe that Steven Schend was originally the one to go with vampire Manshoon, though I'd have to go back and check. Cloak and Dagger, maybe?




I believe you are correct. And I will forever maintain that that is one of the best Realmslore books we've ever been given.

The Twisted Rune dates back to 2E; they were described in 1996 in the Stardock module, and again in Lands of Intrigue in 1997. They were also covered in the 3E Lords of Darkness

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 19 Jan 2020 :  21:19:12  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dalor Darden

Elminster has always had psionic ability since the beginning before psionicist was a class.



Indeed. He's listed with psionic abilities in the Hall of Heroes book, from early 2E -- 1989.

I checked the OGB, too, but it doesn't give detailed stats.

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George Krashos
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Posted - 20 Jan 2020 :  02:51:36  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by AJA



I believe that Steven Schend was originally the one to go with vampire Manshoon, though I'd have to go back and check. Cloak and Dagger, maybe?




I believe you are correct. And I will forever maintain that that is one of the best Realmslore books we've ever been given.

The Twisted Rune dates back to 2E; they were described in 1996 in the Stardock module, and again in Lands of Intrigue in 1997. They were also covered in the 3E Lords of Darkness



They were actually first mentioned in FOR4 Code of the Harpers. And Elminster, as noted, has always had a talent for the "Invisible Art" (I hate using the term "psionics" in a fantasy context).

-- George Krashos

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AJA
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Posted - 21 Jan 2020 :  01:35:56  Show Profile Send AJA a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Dragon Magazine #110 (my first subscription issue and on my short list of best Dragon covers), the article All About Elminster had him as PSIONIC ABILITY 266, Attack/Defense Modes All/All.
quote:
Elminster rarely uses his psionic abilities in combat against non-psionics; he will sometimes use his disciplines while traveling. He possesses the minor disciplines body equilibrium, cell adjustment, object reading, and sensitivity to psychic impressions, and the major disciplines energy control and mind bar.



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Veylandemar
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Posted - 21 Jan 2020 :  03:25:03  Show Profile Send Veylandemar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
[
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

I believe you are correct. And I will forever maintain that that is one of the best Realmslore books we've ever been given.

The Twisted Rune dates back to 2E; they were described in 1996 in the Stardock module, and again in Lands of Intrigue in 1997. They were also covered in the 3E Lords of Darkness



The Twisted Rune also made a brief and non-canon-due-to-novelization appearance in Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (PC).
They were a very high levelled hidden encounter that the player could unwittingly bumble upon through the sheer misfortune of having a Rogue Stone gem on their person, which acted as a portal key to a hidden pocket plane when wandering the Athkatlan docks.

The encounter is brutally unfair at low to mid levels and challenging at higher ones due to a propensity to cast instant-kill and petrification spells on the protagonist - Even when completely out of line of sight and spell range!

From memory, the encounter consists of a named vampire, an ulhoon, a beholder, an archmage and a priestess and they are entirely unimpressed by the party barging in on their gathering.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 26 Jan 2020 :  15:03:54  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well ok then, I guess there is plenty of precedent for Elminster's psionics. I just don't think I've ever seen it mentioned in a single one of the novels, that I can recall anyway. And I can honestly say I've never really looked at an Elminster stat block. I have all the Deities and Demigods, Legends and Lore, Faiths and Avatars, etc. books - so if I wanted to get an idea of what El's stats looked like, I'd just take a gander at any of the pantheon greater gods, then multiply everything by 5 and figure that's probably ballpark Elminster on a bad day before he puts on his gear and buffs up. :P

Anyway, I finished Archmage last night. Here's a random thought that's been simmering in the back of my mind for I don't know how many years: Why is being transformed into a drider considered the ultimate punishment for a drow? They revere spiders. They revere power. A spider-drow hybrid or tauric form is devastatingly powerful as well as beautiful to their sensibilities. Lolth herself often appears in drider form (she did in this book on the Abyss while chatting with Errtu.) It is often said that gods create their followers in their own image. So again, how is driderification(?) a punishment and not the ultimate reward? I recall WAY back in Homeland it was mentioned that the process warped and distorted the body, making the once beautiful drow portion of the creature all bloated and gross looking. But it seems that angle has been played down or even removed over the years.

My least favorite part of this book is that Yvonnel's personality has been copied by Methil yet again, this time to be implanted into the young daughter of Gromph. Her "template" was already inserted into Quenthel to make her more formidable, I really hate the idea that now she is wholesale reborn into a younger form for a couple reasons. First, the "multiplicity" effect - I feel like it's kinda hackish to be able to do this, if that were the case a strong psionicist could take the most powerful leader in the Realms and make like 500 copies and form an unstoppable super-army. I feel like something should be lost with each new iteration, a dilution effect if you will. Second, we already saw the oddness of Cat, Bruenor, Regis, and Wulfgar having their old souls stuffed into Muppet Baby bodies and reliving their lives as uncannily precocious children. Now we're going to see a replay with Yvonnel 2.0 in Menzoberranzan? Feels like it's all been done before and I wasn't a fan of this development.

I was interested to see the named demons Marilith and Nalfeshnee. I didn't realize that the different demon forms had a "prime" that they derived from. I really liked the sword duel between Drizzt and Marilith, that was well done.

I guess I never really understood just what the Faerzress was and it's link to the lower planes. Gromph is being tricked into thinning the boundary, thus resulting in certain "inviolable" rules being broken, most notable of which is the 100 year banishment to a demon or devil that is defeated on the Prime Material plane.

I enjoyed the Harpell's use of the reverse gravity spell. I saw the whole scene shaping up and had a feeling it was going to be used in that manner. I wasn't so sure about Catti-Brie's usage of offensive spells against the demons, I had to look up 5e demons to see what their resistances are (I think they change subtly from edition to edition...) It looks like all demons have poison immunity, and just about all of them have resistance to fire and lightning, so it's justified that Cat was at least doing partial damage. Only the mighty balors have complete immunity to fire, so her choice of primarily fireballs and lightning bolts was ok, if not terribly optimized. I snicker a bit at how "boring" a wizard Cat is, like every player new to D&D that wants to make a wizard just for the big "BOOM" spells!

I'm still a bit confused as to why Jarlaxle and Kimmuriel ordered the Xorlarrins to abandon the fight when they seemed to have the advantage. Was it to force them into being more indebted to House Baenre? It just didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Demogorgon... an old favorite of mine going all the way back to my 10 year old self reading Monster Manuals even though I didn't have a gaming group to play in, just being fascinated by him and Orcus and several others. I like how his aura of madness shook up even the heavyweights like Gromph and Kimmuriel, who are normally in complete control of every situation. I can't wait to see where this goes.

But... up next in the reading order is a return to the tiefling twins in Ashes of the Tyrant.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 26 Jan 2020 15:11:09
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