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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2015 :  05:23:11  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
I didn't really care for those books, myself... But it was some of the human names that bugged me. Caledan Caldorian. Mari al'Marien. The repetition of sounds in both first name and surname bothers me -- in both cases, the first names are fine by themselves, and the surnames are fine by themselves, but putting them together is horrible.



It's funny you mention this, as it was one of the very first things I noticed on night 1 of reading this book. It got even worse about halfway through when they discover the tomb of the legendary bard, Talek Talembar. It seems this author is quite enamored with this type of naming convention. Imagine if he was the architect of the Realms - we'd have NPCs like Manshoon Mansharrion, Alustriel Alustair, and Khelben "Blackstaff" Khelbris.

As for the story itself, it was fairly mediocre. The construction of the "Fellowship" was pretty uninspired and filled with tropes: Caledan as the roguish, cynical "lone wolf" that is carrying the burden of a slain lover. Ferret is a thin, twitchy, greedy rogue. Morhion is the mysterious mage with inscrutable purposes. Tyveris, the big, bruising warrior that has sworn off combat for religious pursuits, only to be forced into taking up a sword again under duress. None of them were awful characters, just not anything I haven't seen plenty of times before.

I liked the shadevar's pursuit of the group outside of Iriaebor, it had a very "Nazgul hunting Frodo" vibe to it. Conversely, I loathed the chapter where Morhion communed with the spirit of a dead goblin (who was written with a cockney accent) out on the Fields of the Dead. The dialogue was so cringe-worthy, it had me wondering if Jeff Grubb ghost-wrote that chapter :)

But even despite the goofy naming conventions and bizarre ghost consultation, the story was adequate overall, though I'd probably consider it the weakest of the "Harpers" line thus far.

Next up is RAS's Starless Night.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 17 Dec 2015 :  06:08:01  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Starless Night. It was another page turner, as most of RAS's works are for me. I thought Cattie-brie really grew up quite a bit in this book. Also, by gaining "Cutter", she will have much more formidable melee abilities to compliment her already devastating range capability.

If I have one complaint it's that Salvatore often pushes believability to the very brink. Obviously he's putting the characters in near-impossible situations to ratchet up the drama and illustrate what great heroes they are, but sometimes it's a bit much - like Drizzt, Artemis, and Cat taking on pretty much the entire Baenre House Guard. And why do those drow, normally such deadly accurate shots, suddenly seem like they've all gone to the Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship? Even when they score a hit, the heroes shrug off the effects, becoming a bit groggy at worse, even though these darts can fell an ox instantly.

But aside from all that, this was another fun romp. I love how he writes the city of Menzoberranzan and all it's teeming, seething wickedness. Up next for me is Prince of Lies, which continues the "Cyric" story begun in the Avatars Trilogy.
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
116 Posts

Posted - 17 Dec 2015 :  07:11:35  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Starless Night. It was another page turner, as most of RAS's works are for me. I thought Cattie-brie really grew up quite a bit in this book. Also, by gaining "Cutter", she will have much more formidable melee abilities to compliment her already devastating range capability.

If I have one complaint it's that Salvatore often pushes believability to the very brink. Obviously he's putting the characters in near-impossible situations to ratchet up the drama and illustrate what great heroes they are, but sometimes it's a bit much - like Drizzt, Artemis, and Cat taking on pretty much the entire Baenre House Guard. And why do those drow, normally such deadly accurate shots, suddenly seem like they've all gone to the Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship? Even when they score a hit, the heroes shrug off the effects, becoming a bit groggy at worse, even though these darts can fell an ox instantly.

But aside from all that, this was another fun romp. I love how he writes the city of Menzoberranzan and all it's teeming, seething wickedness. Up next for me is Prince of Lies, which continues the "Cyric" story begun in the Avatars Trilogy.



I havent read Starless Night in many years, but i think that inaccuracy is due handcrossbows. I dont remember what is the max range of those. Surely lot less than longbow Catti is using. And was there not a potion of antidote in play?
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2015 :  19:15:20  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Madpig
I havent read Starless Night in many years, but i think that inaccuracy is due handcrossbows. I dont remember what is the max range of those. Surely lot less than longbow Catti is using. And was there not a potion of antidote in play?



It's a fair point - the longbow will certainly outclass a hand crossbow, but I'm talking about the drow missing uncontested shots - like the heroes are climbing a ladder or something and a dart thuds into the wall next to them. Under any other circumstances the drow are going to make those shots easily.

As for antidotes, in the previous book Pwent had his alcoholic beverage that burned the toxins away, but not so in this one. Drizzt did just quaff a few healing potions, as he needed to recover from the beating and torture at the hands of one of the Baenre daughters, but Cat and Entreri had no such protection. It did mention they took some extra flasks with them, so maybe we can handwave they used them when they got hit. Anyway, it was still a good book.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2015 :  20:01:13  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A few nights ago I finished Prince of Lies. I had strongly mixed feelings on this one, and quite a bit to say if I remember it all.

1. Artwork - it occurred to me I haven't talked about the art on any of these books yet, I guess because it's been mostly average, not really good or bad enough to mention. My favorite covers so far have been for Darkwalker on Moonshae - Laric fighting against one of the Sisters of Synnoria, Spellfire was pretty good as well, with Shandril blasting a dracolich. Other than that I can't think of one I really loved. I strongly disliked all of the early renderings of Drizzt until Lockwood comes along. Prince of Lies has an excellent Brom cover, one of the best and most iconic D&D artists IMO. In addition there is an illuminated map inside the cover that looks like something out of Milton or Chaucer, with all kinds of creepy demons on the border. Lastly, there are several full page illustrations spaced throughout the book, most of which are fairly good (just ignore Kezef the Chaos Hound on pg. 141). With all these added production values, as well as the expanded page count of 376 in a time when nearly every book was in the ~310 range, it feels like TSR really wanted this book to be a blockbuster success.

2. I like how James Lowder writes madness and mental illness. I saw some strong similarities in this Cyric book to his Lord Soth characterization in the Ravenloft novel Knight of the Black Rose. This book was very ambitious in scope, and while not all of it "worked", it was pretty enjoyable. My favorite moment is when Mystra is poking around the heads of her fellow gods, seeing how they all view the room they meet in. For instance, Oghma sees it as a vast library, whereas Torm pictures it like a military barracks. When she gets to Cyric she is shocked to find that everyone he is arguing with are simply other Cyrics, like some mad schizophrenic fighting against aspects of himself.

3. I dislike how the Fugue Plane works in Forgotten Realms. Coming from a Planescape background, I feel that all souls should gravitate towards the outer plane that most closely reflects their alignment/outlook, regardless of if they worship any specific deity. The idea of the Faithless and the False just doesn't sit well with me.

4. I also wasn't crazy about the giant Iron Man inquisitor suits that Gond built. I get uneasy about mixing magic and tech. Normally I just handwave techlike/clockwork creatures as golems or magically animated items, but these suits were specifically built as nonmagical, to show artifice can be the equal of sorcery. I struggled with these.

5. Mask as Godsbane all along, even as far back as the Halfling village? How could he have possibly known this lowly thief would one day rise to be a Greater Power? Or was he simply looking to seduce whoever came along and just by fate and circumstance ended up in Cyric's hand? That's a little too small world and coincidental for me. Also, if Mask was affected by the Cyrinishad why wouldn't he have spilled the entire plan to Cyric right then and there instead of continuing through with the deception up to Cyric's undoing? Unless I'm misunderstanding things, that was a major plot hole.

Ok, that's all I can recall for now. Prince of Lies was an extremely ambitious project that did some things very well and others not so much. Overall I thought it was a success though. Up next I've started in on Pools of Twilight - not because I wanted to, but because it just happens to be next in line and I have to finish that trilogy...
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 27 Dec 2015 :  05:57:58  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Pool of Twilight. It was written better than the previous two installments in this series. Actually I should say it was written less poorly. I thought the concept behind the Listle character was quite creative. Unfortunately that bit of good work was offset by the terrible elves living in the tree - Winebrook, Brookwine, and Primul - that encounter with Kern was straight up copy/pasted from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Something occurred to me upon finishing this book; I've now read 3 "Pools" novels and still have no idea what these things are. A naturally occurring phenomena? A creation of an archmage in days long past? Shaped by a deity for some unknown purpose? Why are some radiant, some dark, and some in-between? Are they more prevalent in the Phlan/Moonsea region? Evaine mentioned she's destroyed over 30 of them all over the continent, but I've never heard of them anywhere other than this localized region. Have any other authors utilized them other than Ward + Hong/Brown? Are they some kind of vestigial remnant from Ed Greenwood's early FR notes that Ward jumped on as subject matter but didn't stay relevant over the years?

Maybe some of these questions were covered in the books and I simply glazed over it. At any rate, I'm back on the Harpers series with Soldiers of Ice.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 06 Jan 2016 19:50:53
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 06 Jan 2016 :  20:11:42  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Soldiers of Ice several days ago. I really enjoy how David Cook describes various cultures of Faerun. He isn't content to simply make up a few names and whatnot, he really dives into the task and details all manner of customs, foods, philosophical outlooks, holidays, clothing, etc. I saw it first in Horselords where he did a magnificent job of teaching us Tuigan culture. In this book he actually made me engrossed with this remote ice-gnome warren and the roving tribe of gnolls they fight with. He also writes very convincing flawed characters who aren't ultra-confident and 100% right all the time. Martine, the Harper applicant, is constantly questioning herself, but still finds the courage to do what she believes is her duty.

The story itself was average, I wouldn't consider it good or bad. I was a little annoyed at how, at times, he would refer to Vreesar the gelugon as a fiend, and other times as an elemental. Now that I think about it, if this tear in reality that Martine was sent to close was a rift to the paraelemental Plane of Ice, why did a baatezu step out through it? I guess he had traveled there to set up some kind of kingdom, ruling over the local ice mephits?

At any rate, after finishing this story I checked my list (sorted by publication date) and was surprised at something: up to this point every book I've mentioned in this thread except for one has been a re-read. Everything that comes next (1994 and beyond) is completely new to me other than the RAS/Drizzt books, which I continued to read into the early 2000s. I had no idea the line of demarcation was so clear-cut, but there you have it. So everything from this point on, save a few exceptions, is new territory for me. On that note, I've already started in on Elfshadow Elfsong and am actually nearly done with it, I'll probably finish tomorrow.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 25 May 2016 08:27:01
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
775 Posts

Posted - 06 Jan 2016 :  20:57:26  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Elfshadow is fantastic, but then again I loved the Grubb and Novak books so you and I can't relate on taste sometimes :)

Vreesar was an ice devil from the frozen plane of hell ruled by Mephistopheles if I remember correctly; his stats are in the 2nd edition Villains book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelugon They may be elemental in nature but they're devils first and foremost. I would guess they can travel to the plane of ice, or at least the unique, named ones can?

I found Soldiers of Ice did a very good job in the setting, it did feel like a frozen wilderness and the life the heroes lived was well fleshed out for me. The gnoll shaman was a great character.

Also agree with you about the Pools, we never really got to know enough about them.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
29636 Posts

Posted - 06 Jan 2016 :  22:23:47  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Elfshadow is fantastic, but then again I loved the Grubb and Novak books so you and I can't relate on taste sometimes :)



I got to meet Jeff Grubb at GenCon, and I made a point of mentioning that I always recommend the books written by him and Kate Novak, and also those by Elaine Cunningham - and he immediately started gushing about how great a writer Elaine is. He is obviously as big a fan of her stuff as many of us are, if not a bigger fan!

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2016 :  06:36:58  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Elfshadow is fantastic, but then again I loved the Grubb and Novak books so you and I can't relate on taste sometimes :)



True, but we have found common ground on a few occasions :) I finished ElfshadowElfsong earlier today and all I can say is: Ok, I'm starting to see why people rave about Elaine Cunningham. I was lukewarm to her first novel and the short in the first anthology, but this book was exceptional. For me, the comedic line between something being witty versus descending into buffoonery is a very fine one. Elaine walks that edge with mastery in this story. Maybe it's because I know Dan isn't truly a fop, but rather a shrewd individual only playing the role for effect, which really makes the comedy work, whereas the Grubb/Novak goofiness just falls flat for me. Some of the dialogue amongst the "Music and Mayhem" adventuring party was absolutely priceless and had me laughing out loud (which draws some strange looks at work).

On a more serious note, I'm very impressed with how much research Elaine must've done for this story. I read in her bio she has a degree in music education, which really showed up, but then she also dropped all kinds of obscure references - former bardic colleges and so on. The riddles were extremely well constructed. On top of that she managed to include an impressive amount of references to other regions and happenings in the Realms at that time period - from the Moonshae Isles to the Earthfast Mountains. She actually mentioned the Moonshaes a multitude of times in the story, peoples and goods coming over from those lands to Waterdeep.... it made me have a rather strange thought. Purely baseless speculation on my part, but it made me wonder if, with her obvious love for bardcraft, if she also has some measure of affinity for Celtic/Gaelic culture and wishes she could've been assigned some stories in that region of Faerun. Again, I have zero evidence to back that claim, it was just an odd impulse I got while reading this tale.

Another thing to note is her exemplary character building. When Morgalla was first introduced I remember thinking "Great, a dwarf from Earthfast, she's going to be grumpy, tough, stoic, taciturn. And she aspired to be a bard? Ok, so add the "I don't fit in with my own people" trope onto the cardboard dwarf template. I've seen this before, *yawn*" But then as I got to see more of her, the things that really motivate her and make her tick, I really grew to appreciate the character. The same holds true for several other characters, I just singled out Morgalla because that was one that I thought was going to be a total snoozefest, but really exceeded my expectations.

I really didn't warm up to this book until roughly a third of the way in. At that point I was thinking it was OK, but nothing special, and that maybe I just don't see in Cunningham what others do. But then it really started to draw me in and really impressed me with its excellence. I forgot to mention above regarding character development, but Garnet was also very well done. I do so enjoy a villain that is a bit morally gray. She was a former hero who believes she is still doing the good and right thing. This makes for an infinitely more interesting antagonist than the moustache-twirling, clad-in-black cliché bad guy who isn't just evil, but Evil.

Ok I've rambled long enough. Terrific book, it might instantly go into my top 5 Realms novels (I'm too lazy to go back and compile a list, plus I still have ~2 decades worth to go). Up next in line is Greenwood's Crown of Fire.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 13 Jan 2016 17:52:43
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
775 Posts

Posted - 09 Jan 2016 :  00:56:37  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ah...Elfsong, not Elfshadow.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 09 Jan 2016 :  05:38:54  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Crud, I typed it wrong in both the post before it and during the review post! Ok, I fixed both of them to Elfsong, sorry for the confusion.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 13 Jan 2016 :  18:21:49  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Ah...Elfsong, not Elfshadow.



OK, fixed. My embarrassing gaffe notwithstanding, no comments on Elfsong? I liked Elfshadow well enough, I just thought Elfsong was a more impressive book by a good amount. Anyway, I've moved on and recently finished Crown of Fire.

I liked CoF better than Spellfire, it seemed less disjointed. But I've read several times that Spellfire got hacked up pretty bad by the editor(s) and was not the novel Ed intended. That said, even though CoF was a better book, it did suffer from some serious issues. The flight through the Hulack Forest became terribly repetitive. Shandril, Narm, and Delg get ambushed by a Zhent patrol, Shan hangs back while the other two struggle. Finally she unleashes spellfire in a killing blast. Then she weeps over being forced to kill. They walk 10 steps and get ambushed by another patrol, repeat process. It was the exact same fight half a dozen times.

Also, between this book and the previous, the number of minions of evil Shandril has destroyed has reached staggering proportions. She's killed at least 3 dracoliches, a couple of regular liches, dozens of mages of all different tiers, high priests, several *dozens* of beholders and uncountable hundreds (thousands?) of rank-and-file soldiers. I know it's a fantasy world and the next big NPC is just a random name generator away, but it strains credibility to see her cut down enemies in such ridiculous and escalating numbers. There just doesn't seem to be much thought put into the composition of the Black Network and how they can sustain under such ghastly losses. Add in several Zhents killing each other off in various backstabbing schemes and power bids, how is there anything left to be a threat? And every time Shandril eliminates a major threat there always seems to be some more powerful overlord observing invisibly, or scrying the scene from afar, who then says "Mwahahaaha, now that she is tired out from that fight it is time for me to join the fray!!" and we get this nonstop, madcap succession of combats.

That aside, I do very much enjoy the commitment to a more archaic English style in the dialogue. It brings out a flavor of the Realms that few other authors even attempt to play around with. Also, I think I mentioned this in the Spellfire comments, but I love the short blurbs and quotes at the beginning of each chapter, they really add a richness to the setting.

I've since started in on Siege of Darkness.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 13 Jan 2016 20:33:33
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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USA
29636 Posts

Posted - 13 Jan 2016 :  19:00:34  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There are actually a couple different versions of Spellfire out there, too.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 19 Jan 2016 :  19:47:51  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Siege of Darkness a few nights ago. Another solid installment in the Drizzt and Friends saga. Cattie continues to grow stronger, exerting her will over "Cutter". There's some good large-scale warfare, mostly on the outside peaks and valleys surrounding Mithril Hall. I really liked the elf who was leading the Silver Knights from Silverymoon. The rallying chant of "For the good of all goodly folk!" could've used a bit of work though. I'm surprised Berkthgar survived the fight, I figured his impetuous charge was typical berserker "attack without thinking" material, which would end up with him sacrificing himself in a heroic stand to make up for his tactical blunder.

Meanwhile, on the dark elf side, I was a bit surprised at how ruthlessly RAS offed several Matron Mothers. Maybe he wanted to shake up the power structure of Menzoberranzan, at least 4 were killed: Baenre sacrificed one before dying herself (that was the biggest one of course), also the psionic Matron Oblodra murdered one Matron Mother before getting herself killed - all 4 of which were a part of the ruling council.

There was a bit of obligatory silliness whenever the Harpell clan gets involved, but this was limited and easy for me to overlook. All in all this was another good read in the series, and I look forward to more when the identity of Errtu's "prisoner" becomes known. I know who it is of course, based on having read beyond this book, but I wonder if I knew who it was some ~20 years ago upon first reading, I don't remember.

Anyway, I've since started in on Troy Denning's Twilight Giants trilogy with book 1: The Ogre's Pact.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 25 Jan 2016 :  16:43:51  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Ogre's Pact a few nights ago and am not sure what to think of it. I was completely unfamiliar with this particular region in Faerun - it hasn't been mentioned in any previous novels, and whatever sourcebook details it (Savage North maybe?) must have eluded me. It's an intriguing concept though, a human kingdom set in the deep, cold mountains that has integrated with giant tribes, rather than war with them incessantly as we more commonly see elsewhere. I guess Denning really likes writing giants, as there are a ton of them in his Prism Pentad series as well.

Because of its remoteness, and my own lack of knowledge of the area, this book felt the least Realmsian to me. There were almost no references to other regions of Faerun, save one or two comments regarding the Anauroch Desert. And as Jon Umber (the Greatjon) would say, "Even their gods are wrong!" as everyone prays to giant and giant-kin deities (Hiatea, Vaprak, Surtr, etc.) instead of the more well-known Faerunian pantheon. Of course I understand the reasoning for this, but it was just one more step towards making this book feel removed from the rest of the Realms.

Well, since I made an ASOIAF reference, I might as well bring up another point. One of the main protagonists, Brianna, is a princess who is uncommonly tall/strong, and is considered not very pretty or feminine by her people. This bears more than a passing resemblance to Brienne of Tarth. My first thought was that Denning may have been influenced by George R.R. Martin, even if only subconsciously, but then I was surprised to see Brienne's first appearance was in 1998's A Clash of Kings, four years after the Twilight Giants trilogy began. Interesting.... or maybe just a big coincidence I'm over-analyzing.

Anyway, even with this story feeling (to me, at least) a bit removed from the Realms at large, it was a pretty good tale. The characters are enjoyable and pretty well thought out, the plot has some solid intrigue and twists, but I'm guessing it probably was not hugely popular and therefore won't generate much (if any) discussion here.

I'm currently about halfway through book 2: The Giant Among Us.
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Mirtek
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491 Posts

Posted - 26 Jan 2016 :  15:02:35  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Since the SCAG seemed to give this region more space than it has received in years and one of the next storylines will be about giants, this Region might receive a lot of attention
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2016 :  15:00:28  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mirtek

Since the SCAG seemed to give this region more space than it has received in years and one of the next storylines will be about giants, this Region might receive a lot of attention



Interesting bit of info, thanks for that. I finished The Giant Among Us a few days ago. For some reason I can't put my finger on, I didn't like it as much as the first book. Maybe it was the subplot of Tavis infiltrating the giants with his magical mask that makes him appear as something else (it was a little too reminiscent of Drizzt and his mask in some of the earlier RAS books). Whatever the reason, I struggled a bit to get through this one. I can't believe I didn't put together the identity of the big bad faster, it was right there smacking me in the face and I missed it. I guess I was off my game. On the positive side, I really enjoy two of the supporting characters - Basil the verbeeg and Avner. I'm particularly surprised I like Avner, as the punk kid/scamp that follows the main hero around is a trope I usually find annoying. but Avner has grown on me. Physically he's the most limited of the protagonists, but he's extremely clever and I enjoy how he outwits his opponents and uses every environmental advantage he can find to turn an encounter in his favor. It's more rewarding to read than the nigh-omnipotent hero that almost can't be bested due to preternatural skill (Drizzt) or magical might (Elminster).

I'm about a third of the way through the final book; The Titan of Twilight.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2016 :  16:20:37  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Titan of Twilight a couple nights ago, thus concluding this trilogy. Overall I'd say it wasn't particularly great or bad, just a solid series in a locale I didn't know much about prior to reading this.

I did get very annoyed with Brianna for doubting Tavis once again. We already explored this theme in the 2nd book, where she thinks Tavis has betrayed her and she turns on him, only to find out she was mistaken and takes him back. Doing the exact same thing again one book later, especially considering Tavis is a firbolg and thus incapable of lying or acting dishonorably, just made Brianna look foolish and incompetent.

The ending was very epic in scope, with all kinds of extra-dimensional weirdness going on, ancient beings returned from a bygone age, a mega-powerful artifact in play, etc. It concluded a bit open-ended, in that not everything was completely wrapped up or resolved, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. What happened to Sky Cleaver? What will Kaedlaw grow up into? The author allows the reader to come to his own conclusions. But I'll stop there, because I don't think a whole lot of people read this trilogy, so I'm pretty much talking to myself.

I'm excited to say up next is another anthology: Realms of Infamy.
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Jorkens
Great Reader

Norway
2949 Posts

Posted - 05 Feb 2016 :  08:57:46  Show Profile Send Jorkens a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hey, I read it, but then I'm weird.

The Ogre pact is one of my all time favorite Realms novels and one of the few that fits with my rpg Realms (along with Night Parade, Soldiers of Ice the Moonshae series, Spellfire and Shadowdale). To me this is an "Eastern" in the tradition of Fenimore Cooper and Ellis, with great ideas for giants and ogres. The rest of the series ok, but didn't hold up to the first one, even if the giant lore was great in all of them. The plot just became a bit t contrived, and as you said the Brianna doubting Tavis part became a bit too much as the series went along.

But, even if I like the series, the Firbolgs will always be as shown in the Monsterbooks. The Moonshae version, which are more like Verbeegs, could be primitive cousins, but the ones here are just boring.

No Canon, more stories, more Realms.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 05 Feb 2016 :  15:37:18  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree Jorkens, the giant/giantkin lore was excellent. I'm currently reading Realms of Infamy, wherein Denning wrote a short story titled Twilight. It's a great prequel/origin story that describes the events of Lanaxis's betrayal. It has a really epic, mythological feel to it, you definitely need to check it out if you haven't already, though I'm guessing you probably did many years ago.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 05 Feb 2016 :  18:11:03  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
...And this is why I say that Troy Denning is very much hit-or-miss. I read the first book of that trilogy, and because of it, never bothered with the other two, or the attendant sourcebook, FOR4Giantcraft -- though I do have the latter.

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Firestorm
Senior Scribe

Canada
789 Posts

Posted - 06 Feb 2016 :  00:13:33  Show Profile Send Firestorm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Elfshadow is fantastic, but then again I loved the Grubb and Novak books so you and I can't relate on taste sometimes :)



True, but we have found common ground on a few occasions :) I finished ElfshadowElfsong earlier today and all I can say is: Ok, I'm starting to see why people rave about Elaine Cunningham. I was lukewarm to her first novel and the short in the first anthology, but this book was exceptional. For me, the comedic line between something being witty versus descending into buffoonery is a very fine one. Elaine walks that edge with mastery in this story. Maybe it's because I know Dan isn't truly a fop, but rather a shrewd individual only playing the role for effect, which really makes the comedy work, whereas the Grubb/Novak goofiness just falls flat for me. Some of the dialogue amongst the "Music and Mayhem" adventuring party was absolutely priceless and had me laughing out loud (which draws some strange looks at work).

On a more serious note, I'm very impressed with how much research Elaine must've done for this story. I read in her bio she has a degree in music education, which really showed up, but then she also dropped all kinds of obscure references - former bardic colleges and so on. The riddles were extremely well constructed. On top of that she managed to include an impressive amount of references to other regions and happenings in the Realms at that time period - from the Moonshae Isles to the Earthfast Mountains. She actually mentioned the Moonshaes a multitude of times in the story, peoples and goods coming over from those lands to Waterdeep.... it made me have a rather strange thought. Purely baseless speculation on my part, but it made me wonder if, with her obvious love for bardcraft, if she also has some measure of affinity for Celtic/Gaelic culture and wishes she could've been assigned some stories in that region of Faerun. Again, I have zero evidence to back that claim, it was just an odd impulse I got while reading this tale.

Another thing to note is her exemplary character building. When Morgalla was first introduced I remember thinking "Great, a dwarf from Earthfast, she's going to be grumpy, tough, stoic, taciturn. And she aspired to be a bard? Ok, so add the "I don't fit in with my own people" trope onto the cardboard dwarf template. I've seen this before, *yawn*" But then as I got to see more of her, the things that really motivate her and make her tick, I really grew to appreciate the character. The same holds true for several other characters, I just singled out Morgalla because that was one that I thought was going to be a total snoozefest, but really exceeded my expectations.

I really didn't warm up to this book until roughly a third of the way in. At that point I was thinking it was OK, but nothing special, and that maybe I just don't see in Cunningham what others do. But then it really started to draw me in and really impressed me with its excellence. I forgot to mention above regarding character development, but Garnet was also very well done. I do so enjoy a villain that is a bit morally gray. She was a former hero who believes she is still doing the good and right thing. This makes for an infinitely more interesting antagonist than the moustache-twirling, clad-in-black cliché bad guy who isn't just evil, but Evil.

Ok I've rambled long enough. Terrific book, it might instantly go into my top 5 Realms novels (I'm too lazy to go back and compile a list, plus I still have ~2 decades worth to go). Up next in line is Greenwood's Crown of Fire.



I still think Richard Castle's character was modeled after Danilo Thann and Kate Beckett was modeled after Arilyn Moonblade
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Jorkens
Great Reader

Norway
2949 Posts

Posted - 06 Feb 2016 :  10:29:55  Show Profile Send Jorkens a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I agree Jorkens, the giant/giantkin lore was excellent. I'm currently reading Realms of Infamy, wherein Denning wrote a short story titled Twilight. It's a great prequel/origin story that describes the events of Lanaxis's betrayal. It has a really epic, mythological feel to it, you definitely need to check it out if you haven't already, though I'm guessing you probably did many years ago.



Too long ago to actually remember it, maybe I should dig it up again from one of the boxes.

And as usual the rule holds true. Me and Wooly never agree. But still never an argument through all these years.

No Canon, more stories, more Realms.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
226 Posts

Posted - 07 Feb 2016 :  08:05:21  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jorkens
Too long ago to actually remember it, maybe I should dig it up again from one of the boxes.

And as usual the rule holds true. Me and Wooly never agree. But still never an argument through all these years.



Yeah I'm in a similar boat with Wooly - I adored the original Moonshae Trilogy, he thought it was a snoozefest. He can't get enough Grubb/Novak, I can't get through their books fast enough. But hey, it would be a boring world if we all agreed on everything, right? I've got nearly the same thing going on with Seravin, we rarely see eye to eye - but if Elaine Cunningham's works keep progressing (I've now read two of her novels and two shorts), I think we'll find some common ground there.

Ok, enough of that. I finished Realms of Infamy tonight and was quite impressed with the consistently high level of quality maintained throughout. Most anthologies, in my experience, will have 1 or 2 bright gems, a few embarrassingly bad offerings, and then a whole lot of very average work, disposable stories that are neither good nor bad, and easily forgotten in short order. Infamy, while lacking that true home run story, nevertheless was strong all the way through, I can't think of even one total clunker.

Some notables:

So High A Price - is so far, my favorite Greenwood work. I'm lukewarm with his Shandril material, and didn't care for the short in the first anthology, but this one was several steps above.

The More Things Change - I've been hesitant with the Elaith Craulnober character, but Cunningham crushed it in this story. I have a bit more to say here, but will save it for a followup post if I remember to do so.

Blood Sport - Jander installments are always welcome for me, as I've really enjoyed Golden's work going back to the Ravenloft books.

Gallows Day - some entertaining characters, I can't read Pinch and not think of Captain Jack Sparrow from the pirate movies. I found this story entertaining, but I'm not sure it could hold up over a full length novel. I have King Pinch coming up fairly soon in my reading order, so I'll be putting that theory to the test in a short time.

The Greatest Hero/ Laughter in the Flames/ Vision - these 3 stories (King, Lowder, Moore) were extremely dark. Granted, it's an anthology dedicated to villains, but I was still surprised how far these authors went to push the envelope and deliver some delightfully disturbing fare.

A Matter of Thorns/ A Wringing of Hands - I was scared to read both of these, as they were by the authors who combined to write the first Pools book, but my fear was misplaced, as both were effective tales.

I've already mentioned Denning's Twilight a few posts above, a terrific prequel with excellent giant lore+mythology.

Not mentioned specifically, but still solid stories:

The Meaning of Lore - Barb Hendee
Raven's Egg - Elaine Bergstrom
The Third Level - Salvatore
Stolen Spells - Denise Vitola
The Walls of Midnight - Mark Anthony
Thieves' Honor - Mary H. Herbert

Even the ones I didn't much care for still weren't bad tales. This is one of the most solid anthologies I've read to date from all the TSR/WotC worlds. Up next is Elminster: The Making of a Mage.
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