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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 22 Feb 2016 :  21:15:20  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Elminster: The Making of a Mage last week and have put off writing about it, through a combination of having quite a bit to say, little free time, and just plain laziness.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the idea of a young El who detests magic. I figured he was going to be a prodigy from Day 1, casting cantrips from his crib on instinct alone. To go in the other direction, having him revile spellcasters to the point of swearing a blood oath against them was unexpected and a lot of fun. I'm also in awe of Ed's world-building ability. Not only did he create the contemporary Realms, but then to come up with kingdoms and nations from the past is impressive. Anyone can sketch out a map and come up with a few cities and whatnot, but to have hundreds or even thousands of years of back history, long-deceased nations and organizations, is no small feat.

I also enjoy, for the most part, Ed's dialogue. When it's on, it's incredibly fun, witty, and entertaining. When it misses, it can be a bit cringe-worthy. But I commend him for really taking a hard swing instead of playing it safe. His style definitely sets him apart from any other Realms author I've read to date.

On the negative side, I didn't care for the Myrjala/Mystra character at all. As the goddess of magic, shouldn't the furtherance of the Art be her primary concern? Shouldn't she be neutral, if not completely disinterested, in such trivial matters as peasant's rights? I would think a kingdom ruled by magelords, where magic is supreme, should be right up her alley. Instead she comes off as this benevolent "for the common people" protector, working to take down those who are furthering her sphere of interest the most. I guess the only (weak) counterargument I can make is that she finds the magelords heavy-handedness counter-productive to the furtherance of Art, as it builds resentment among the masses.

And why is her power-level so up-and-down throughout the story? At the end she mentions she has a spell that can essentially make all metal temporarily non-existent, thus guaranteeing a peaceful victory feast. Where was this spell for the other 300 pages? If she could hit the EZ button, why was she in danger of being overwhelmed by a small patrol of guardsmen when Elminster first encountered her? Was it all to play the role of damsel in distress so he could feel like he rescued her? Why all the subterfuge? He was looking for a good teacher, she's the goddess of magic.... it could've just gone like this:

M: "Hi, I'm Mystra, I'll teach you."
E: "Sounds good, let's start."

Was the love story really necessary? I know that Greenwood's Elminster writings are often very self-indulgent, but bedding a goddess? C'mon, even Drizzt doesn't get to tap Mielikki (that I know of anyway). Also, unless I misunderstood, these two passionate lovers, who battled against all odds and now have found peace and time to be together, for no reason I can determine other than wildly uncontrollable horniness, hook up with other people during the Bacchanalian victory feast. Mystra takes Helm Stoneblade off to another room, while Elminster enjoys a drunken orgy with a series of young court followers. It's moments like these when the story makes me think it is written by a junior high school kid doodling naked pictures in his spiral notebook of the cute girl who sits a table in front of him in science class. I'm no puritan by any stretch of the imagination, I just found it weird that these two characters, who fought through thick and thin while being desperately in love with each other, finally vanquish the big bad and celebrate by splitting up to have sex with as many randos as they can.

Mystra transforming Elminster into a woman was a bit of a shark-jumper for me as well. You just know, stashed in some drawer or basement chest, there exists another 20-30 pages cut from this novel wherein "Elmara" experiments with her new form.

All that aside, this novel was a great historical read, supplying all manner of interesting backstory. I was most excited by the blurb at the very end, teasing at Elminster traveling to Myth Drannor. Of all the portions of his history, this is the era I'm most interesting in learning more of, though I see that book is in 1997, and I'm still working 1995, so it will be a ways off. That said, the next book in my reading by publication order is book 1 of the Shadow of the Avatar trilogy, but if I read that I'm going to want to finish the series, which would make for 4 straight Greenwood novels. Instead I will knock out a couple standalones first, starting with King Pinch.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
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Posted - 22 Feb 2016 :  22:16:23  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

On the negative side, I didn't care for the Myrjala/Mystra character at all. As the goddess of magic, shouldn't the furtherance of the Art be her primary concern? Shouldn't she be neutral, if not completely disinterested, in such trivial matters as peasant's rights? I would think a kingdom ruled by magelords, where magic is supreme, should be right up her alley. Instead she comes off as this benevolent "for the common people" protector, working to take down those who are furthering her sphere of interest the most. I guess the only (weak) counterargument I can make is that she finds the magelords heavy-handedness counter-productive to the furtherance of Art, as it builds resentment among the masses.



The reason is that tyrants who use magic to rule tend to hoard that magic -- by keeping it out of the hands of others, they insure they are not challenged. So Mystra opposes tyrants, because they actively do their best to insure magic does not spread.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 26 Feb 2016 :  16:05:00  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
The reason is that tyrants who use magic to rule tend to hoard that magic -- by keeping it out of the hands of others, they insure they are not challenged. So Mystra opposes tyrants, because they actively do their best to insure magic does not spread.



It's as good an explanation as any. But there was mention of at least one of the older magelords having 4 or 5 apprentices so they aren't complete misers with the Art. So, to your point, they certainly aren't opening it up to the common man. But isn't that a bit of a staple with magic? The crotchety old teacher that only takes on a very limited and select body of students? Even higher-magic stories with academies and such usually have extremely stringent entrance requirements.

Anyway, moving on, I finished King Pinch last night. Normally I can't get into any story where a thief is the main protagonist. Even if you try to fill them with roguish charm and create this sort of dashing ne'er-do-well, at the end of the day they're still nothing more than a parasite that makes a living by leeching off of others. This is why I don't bother with shows like The Sopranos or Sons of Anarchy - I would just spend the entire time hoping the "hero" gets captured or killed. However... I ended up liking this book despite my best efforts not to :P I mentioned it before in Horselords and Soldiers of Ice, David "Zeb" Cook does a terrific job immersing the reader in a culture. I don't know if any FR author prepares as well for a story, I feel like he must spend months of research before ever writing the first page. And don't even get me started on his work with the Kara-Tur and Planescape settings, I could gush for days on those.

I really enjoyed the dialogue in King Pinch, particularly the lingo used by Pinch and his gang, even if I didn't always 100% understand every bit of it. It is very reminiscent of Sigilian vernacular, which makes sense as the Planescape campaign came out about a year before this story, so clearly Mr. Cook was very much into this sort of London gutter-speak and recycled a good deal of the work done on Planar Cant.

All told, it was a fun tale, with a good blend of action, intrigue, sneaking about, and witty conversations. About the only major criticism I can make for this book is the shockingly high number of typos, but that's just being nitpicky on my end. The story itself was quite well done. Tonight I will attempt to start Once Around the Realms - a book I've been warned repeatedly against reading. So if this is to be my final entry in this thread and you don't hear from me again, it's probably because I've lost my sanity and/or burned my own eyeballs out.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 26 Feb 2016 16:08:31
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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USA
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Posted - 26 Feb 2016 :  18:34:51  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
The reason is that tyrants who use magic to rule tend to hoard that magic -- by keeping it out of the hands of others, they insure they are not challenged. So Mystra opposes tyrants, because they actively do their best to insure magic does not spread.



It's as good an explanation as any. But there was mention of at least one of the older magelords having 4 or 5 apprentices so they aren't complete misers with the Art. So, to your point, they certainly aren't opening it up to the common man. But isn't that a bit of a staple with magic? The crotchety old teacher that only takes on a very limited and select body of students? Even higher-magic stories with academies and such usually have extremely stringent entrance requirements.



A teacher taking on only a few apprentices, or an academy with strict entrance requirements, are still making magic available to others. Tyrants who rule by magic usually try very hard to make sure that no one else has magic. So it's not the same thing.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 27 Feb 2016 :  00:02:45  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Tonight I will attempt to start Once Around the Realms - a book I've been warned repeatedly against reading. So if this is to be my final entry in this thread and you don't hear from me again, it's probably because I've lost my sanity and/or burned my own eyeballs out.



Oh dear. Well, Volo is a fun character. But this book is probably the worst written in terms of plot and "real world" references. If you hated "we're not in the Realms anymore" you're going to puke buckets from the references to Jaws, Tarzan, Geronimo, etc.
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Iahn Qoyllor
Seeker

United Kingdom
39 Posts

Posted - 29 Feb 2016 :  09:04:28  Show Profile Send Iahn Qoyllor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm trying to read all the Forgotten Realms books still - now read 253. Unfortunately Seravin, in my view Once Around The Realms is the worst by quite a way...
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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

512 Posts

Posted - 29 Feb 2016 :  17:10:26  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Iahn Qoyllor

I'm trying to read all the Forgotten Realms books still - now read 253. Unfortunately Seravin, in my view Once Around The Realms is the worst by quite a way...

Guess you haven't read the novelization of the baldurs gate games yet ;)

Edited by - Mirtek on 29 Feb 2016 17:10:50
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 29 Feb 2016 :  19:08:48  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
Oh dear. Well, Volo is a fun character. But this book is probably the worst written in terms of plot and "real world" references. If you hated "we're not in the Realms anymore" you're going to puke buckets from the references to Jaws, Tarzan, Geronimo, etc.



And the A-Team, Moby Dick, Blazing Saddles, Gilligan's Island, Rita Hayworth, Three Men and a Baby, Fantasy Island, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Anheiser Busch, Jules Verne (the jewels of Verne... c'mon), and a few other more obscure ones like naming the ship Drizzt was on The Leominster, and I'm sure many others that got past me. And why do all the characters keep saying "By Eo"? Is this supposed to be the overgod Ao? What's the joke here? Some terrible take on Old MacDonald Had a Farm? The humor is so terrible in this book I don't even know where he's going at times.

This book was quite simply the worst sci-fi/fantasy I've ever been subjected to. I know there's a temptation in any review to hyperbolize whatever you've been exposed to most recently: That was the greatest touchdown catch I've ever seen! That cover was the best live musical performance of all time! But this is no knee-jerk reaction. This book was atrocious. The puns were so bad as to make Piers Anthony cringe in disgust. I don't know what this author was thinking. If I were Ed Greenwood I'd be pissed at this guy taking my creation and making an utter mockery of it. To a lesser degree, but still valid, I'd be annoyed if I were RAS or Cunningham and he used my characters in such a cheap fashion simply to name-drop. Is that an overreaction on my part? I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, but I truly feel Thomsen slapped the Realms in the face by writing this garbage.

And it wasn't just the horrendous puns, anachronisms, and general buffoonery. From a technical standpoint the writing was just plain bad. There was annoying repetition of terms/titles, awful dialogue, completely flat action scenes (as in he didn't even make an effort), all the tropes and tired clichés like villains expounding on their master plan - just inexcusable. Towards the end the author started blowing through sections of the Realms in record time - like a page and a half for the Undermountain. It was almost as though he realized how bad this book was and couldn't even stand his own work anymore.

Just dreadful in every way a book can fail. I try to always come up with some positives and negatives to offset each other in every write-up, but this book has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Lastly, while I consider myself to be about the most un-P.C. person around (I tend to laugh at humor that most find a bit risqué), I was a bit surprised at the Asian character who used the phrase "Rots Ah Ruck!" as the trigger for his spellcasting. While not offended, I still shook my head and thought, "Really? You went there?"

There's no silver lining to this book, and no reason why it ever should've seen print. I can imagine the pitch - a non-stop, whirlwind tour of the entire Realms, showcasing various regions and cultures in a madcap, whimsical adventure! It could've actually worked if the author treated the source material with an ounce of respect instead of using it as a background to share his lame humor. This had a very open-mic comedy club feel to it, where the performer is so bad you feel embarrassed for him and hope the set ends before he gets pelted with bottles.

I'm starting the Shadow of the Avatar trilogy tonight, hopefully it makes me forget all about this mess.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 29 Feb 2016 :  21:55:08  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's the thing about Once Around the Realms---the IDEA of the book, a fast action showcase where characters have an imperative to get around the Realms quickly (Volo being a master traveller and fun character) is great and would have been an awesome book to get new readers into the Realms, letting them see a smattering of areas then buying more books that showcase Waterdeep or Cormyr or the Dalelands or Thay or where ever. I love the IDEA of this book, but the execution was as bad as you said. It should never have been published. And God help me, I've read it twice now.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 07 Mar 2016 :  03:43:02  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
I love the IDEA of this book, but the execution was as bad as you said. It should never have been published. And God help me, I've read it twice now.



You have the endurance of Ilmater, to withstand such punishment twice my friend.

I finished Shadows of Doom a couple nights ago. I really liked this book, in fact I'll say that it's Greenwood's best offering yet - though considering I've only read from 1987-1995 and am a full 2 decades behind you guys, I'm probably the least qualified to make such a statement!

I'm not even sure if it's anything exceptional he did in this book, it was just fairly strong throughout and seemed to avoid some of the elements I found disagreeable in his earlier works. I will say that I particularly liked how he handled the horror of combat. It's easy for us to sit back, detached from the situation and say "yeah, I could kill a man under those circumstances". But it can't (and shouldn't) be an easy thing to take a life, even when fully justified. So his scenes where the peasantry of the High Dale were roused to anger in reclaiming their home - bashing in Zhent skulls with farming implements, rocks, or even their bare hands, and breaking down in sobs all the while - was especially poignant. Also, Sharantyr's mini-meltdown was well done, showing even someone with a boatload of combat experience can still reach a point where the killing is just too much.

On the downside I found the overall story of the book to be a bit puzzling. It starts with Elminster losing his magic amid a time of great upheaval in the Realms. With all that going on as background noise, why suddenly *now* is the time we absolutely must liberate this dale situated between Cormyr and Sembia from Zhent influence? Two weeks ago I had no plans whatsoever for the liberation of the High Dale, but now, with everything else going on and being stripped of my spellcasting and more vulnerable than I've been in 1,000 years, I just HAVE to get down there and foil this Zhent plot. For the longest time I thought the entire High Dale situation was just window dressing for something greater - maybe Elminster trying to recover a powerful artifact that would give him finer control over Mystra's investiture of power within him? A clue as to what is going on in the upcoming ToT and how to help weather the storm? Somewhere around page 200 it dawned on me that this is the actual story.

Maybe I missed some critical element earlier in the book. I do read mostly at work and get interrupted frequently. The only thing I can think of is vaguely recalling Elminster saying he didn't want to sit cowering in Shadowdale while he was weakest, which would invite every mage or villain out to make a name for himself to come wreak havoc there, so he wanted to be seen out in the wide world doing his typical things to maybe bluff people into thinking he still has his powers. That made more and more sense as I was typing it, so maybe I've answered my own question. I'll go with that unless someone else can provide a better answer.

That aside, this was a very good book. I've already jumped into the 2nd in the series Cloak of Shadows.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 11 Mar 2016 :  16:18:44  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Cloak of Shadows a couple days ago. It wasn't a bad book, but definitely a bit of a disappointment when compared against the first. I guess maybe I just don't care that much for the Malaugrym. A sinister race of extra-dimensional beings each with unique, mutable forms intent on conquest and abduction - I've already seen that theme in The Night Parade, and I thought TNP were more sinister, creepy, and imaginative. Also, there seem to be too many "alien" like races already in this niche - Night Parade, Phaerimm, Shaarn, and probably others I haven't even gotten to yet.

And now that his magic has been fully restored we revert back to the ludicrously overpowered version of Elminster. I liked the Clark Kent side of book 1 much more, when he had to use his wits and what few magical devices he carried to get by. Now that he's back to being Superman he just snaps his fingers and annihilates entire armies of bad guys. I don't know if it was a reverse gravity spell or telekinesis, but at one point he lifted over 1,000 orcs off the ground and then sent them crashing into an equal number, killing all in less time than it took me to type this sentence. Yawn.

Speaking of Superman, Elminster's night of "Ao errand running" where he flies and/or teleports all across Faerun, saving caravans, defeating archmages and giant magic-sucking constructs, summoning the avatars of both Eldath and Mielikki instantly to his side to settle a druidic debate - that entire section played out like a comic book.

But where this book really lost me was in Elminster's encounter with Ao. This is the god of the gods, a being that causes the divine pantheon of Faerun to cringe in terror. Yet here we have a mortal making wisecracks and snarky commentary to, like two old friends just hanging out sharing a beer. Here's a snippet:

"Perhaps you should be the god of all magic in Faerun."
El put his hands behind his head and frowned. "What? Would ye ruin my life and my usefulness both at once?"
Ao regarded him thoughtfully for a moment and then nodded. "You're right... all too often, Elminster Aumar. Try to stay out of the grievous sort of trouble that beset the gods of your world.

Ugghh. Maybe I just have a completely different sensibility where fantasy deities are concerned, but this scene just doesn't work for me one bit. It starts with the overgod feeding Elminster's ego, taking a sarcastic comeback, and then allowing the mortal to overrule his opinion. He then follows all that up with a request, not a command. It's just too much Elminster ego stroking. He shouldn't be able to talk like that to a regular god, never mind the entity the gods revere as their god. Being in the presence of a normal power - Mystra, Helm, Gond, Bane, whoever, should drive a mortal to the brink of sanity, whether they revere that particular god or not. But an overgod? One utterance from this mighty being should completely unhinge a mortal's mind, if not discorporate his body in the process. Yet here we have Elminster all but reprimanding him and making snide jokes, as if he were hanging out at the local tavern with some Harper or KoMD buddies. And why does Ao have to pause and consider anything? He should rip the thoughts directly out of Elminster's head and calculate all possibilities in less than a nanosecond, not sit there scratching his chin before acquiescing to the mortal. This scene missed on every level for me.

As I said in the opening, this wasn't a bad book - it just was a step back from the first of the trilogy, re-introducing several Greenwood stylistic choices that I was hoping he had left behind. It had its enjoyable moments, so if this write-up sounds overwhelmingly negative, that is not my intention. It's just the bad stuff, particularly the Ao encounter, really stood out. At any rate, I've since moved on to All Shadows Fled and am nearly done with it already.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 11 Mar 2016 16:23:15
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 14 Mar 2016 :  04:34:32  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished All Shadows Fled last night, thus concluding The Shadow of the Avatar trilogy. As mentioned, I highly enjoyed book 1, had some issues with book 2, and found book 3 to be pretty much right smack in the middle of the others in terms of enjoyment.

The Malaugrym still haven't won me over as BBEGs. However, we didn't have any awful scenes of Elminster mouthing off to an overgod, so that certainly helped. Lhaeo was rather calmly revealed to be Tethyrian nobility with no fanfare. I vaguely knew something like that to be the case due to inadvertently reading too deep into a wiki. I figured the "big reveal" would've come in one of these Elminster books, but this was just sort of an offhanded comment, as though it were now common knowledge. I guess that nugget of lore must've come up in a gaming supplement or a Dragon magazine article at some point.

Having several main heroes "die" only to be resurrected takes quite a bit of the drama out of things. Ithar and Belkram each died at least once, as did Sharantyr and the female paladin of Chauntea who's name eludes me at the moment. Then of course we get Sylune, who has been a disembodied ghost for 2 years but now has not one, but two bodies constructed for her (she blows through the first one fairly quickly). Why did nobody - Elminster, Storm, The Simbul, etc. - think to do that for her before this point. It seems like a pretty easy process. She owned one body for a matter of days before it exploded in the Battle of Mistledale. Now she's already been granted another.

I've always found resurrection magic to be very troubling from a fantasy novel standpoint. It's imperative that it exists for gaming purposes, but it's really a world-changer from a story standpoint. Assassination attempts on kings would have to be completely different, either capturing and hiding the remains forever, or utterly disintegrating them and maybe even spreading the ashes out among other planes of existence.

Ok, enough rambling digression. This was a decent book, neither good nor bad, which ultimately is how I view the series - with one strong book, one rough book, and one average. Up next in my order is Masquerades.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 14 Mar 2016 :  23:41:16  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think, but am not certain, that Lhaeo's past was revealed first in one of the Jeff Grubb written Forgotten Realms comics, but I would need to go back and re-read that. Lhaeo certainly wields his royal sword in the comic and it eludes he is much more than a simpering lisping fop...and it would predate All Shadows Fled in terms of publication date.

I liked All Shadows Fled for the battle of Mistledale, I thought that was handled well (did I get the book right? think so). Agree with you on the handling of resurrection magic; Ed is one of the only Realms novelists who considers it. I like the Manshoon clones as a way to bring a big bad guy back from the dead rather than say when Fzoul was rez'd at the end of Crown of Fire after Shandril tore him a new one. Are you reading Hand of Fire soon? That was a tough tough book to get through for me but I feel I could give it another go now.

I really enjoy Masquerades, but find it sort of the weakest of the Alias/Olive/Dragonbait books, which is still an amazing book in my opinion!
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 04 Apr 2016 :  16:55:46  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

Are you reading Hand of Fire soon? That was a tough tough book to get through for me but I feel I could give it another go now.



I just checked my master list and see that Hand of Fire is written in 2002. I'm currently still working through 1995, so I don't see myself getting to that for quite some time. Even at 1 book/week I won't be there for at least ~15 months.

quote:
I really enjoy Masquerades, but find it sort of the weakest of the Alias/Olive/Dragonbait books, which is still an amazing book in my opinion!



Well, to the surprise of perhaps nobody, Seravin and I disagree once again :) I found Masquerades to be the best of the Alias/Olive/Dragonbait books thus far, and by a wide margin at that. The overt silliness that irked me in the previous works was nearly absent here. There were, of course, several humorous moments - but it was done with enough restraint to make it feel like proper comic relief and not a distraction. There was a great blend of intrigue, investigation, action, character development, some effective twists and big reveals, it just sort of worked for me on all levels.

Last night I started to dip into Daughter of the Drow. I'm just two chapters in but my gut tells me this is going to be quite a treat.
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Lamora
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USA
69 Posts

Posted - 05 Apr 2016 :  02:15:50  Show Profile Send Lamora a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Daughter of the Drow was a great read. It really showcased the drow without the OP-overtones Salvatore writes in. Though I guess it is logical that elves in their 100s+ will be better wizards/swordsmen than humans who only live 60ish years, so maybe Salvatore can be forgiven for writing the drow as the 'best' in the Realms. Plus it really shows the Drow from a completely different viewpoint from any other look at them. Fun-loving, chaotic, and backstabbing. Its a fun read.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 15 Apr 2016 :  05:32:46  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Last night I finished Daughter of the Drow. With each Cunningham story I finish I find myself more and more firmly on the Elaine bandwagon. This book was very well done. Her character development is a notch above most others. I disliked Liriel for much of the story, but she's starting to grow on me and I can see why she had to start the way she was, in order for her transformation (which I'm hoping to see more of in later novels) more believable and impactful. Fyodor was awesome right out of the gate. It's easy to fall into a trap writing "berserker" types, but she managed to give him some nuance and made a really interesting character.

If I can make one cynical observation, does she come a bit... uncomfortably close to RAS material at times?

- Drizzt and Liriel are both prodigiously talented "Wunderkind/Chosen One" types, each with demeanors that don't match the rest of their kind (though Liriel does have a lot more of the typical drow nastiness, to be fair). I suppose this is unavoidable in writing a drow protagonist, so I'll cut some slack there.

- As far as I know all drow have red eyes in both the visible light spectrum as well as infrared, aside from these two exceptions (purple for Drizzt, golden for Liriel).

- Nisstyre and Jarlaxle are both eccentric males (red hair on one, bald and outrageous fashion for the other) that are leaders of rogue drow companies comprised of dispossessed males, bent on making profit at any cost. Dragon's Hoard and Bregan D'Aerth share many similar qualities, though I guess DH has the added detail of wanting to overthrow Lolth's stranglehold on drow religious matters.

- lastly, it was mentioned very early on that Fyodor once had a snowcat companion. I immediately thought of Guenhwyvar, but this idea was let go and never further developed outside of that one sentence.

Now, I know some have said RAS's works mirror Tolkein's quite a bit, and I've always let that slide as a form of homage. So I'm trying to take the same view of Elaine's work. She clearly is a big fan of Menzoberranzan and all the Underdark groundwork RAS laid out, so maybe this is her following in his footsteps. I have no idea how many more Liriel stories there will be, it will be interesting to see where she takes what she's started here.

Tonight I started in on Nobles Book 2: War in Tethyr.
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2729 Posts

Posted - 15 Apr 2016 :  05:37:59  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

- As far as I know all drow have red eyes in both the visible light spectrum as well as infrared, aside from these two exceptions (purple for Drizzt, golden for Liriel).




Drow can have green, black, brown, gray, amber and even rose eyes. Blue and purple mean human/elven ancestry.

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
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 26 Apr 2016 :  20:13:57  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished 3 books recently but couldn't carve out much time to get on here for write-ups. The first was War in Tethyr.

I had no expectations for this book whatsoever, having very little knowledge of the region, and no previous experience with the author - Victor Milan. Reading the back of the book had me worried. An orc paladin? Oh I see, he's going to use oddball characters in the hopes that weird = memorable = good. Just a few pages in my trepidation was soon dispelled, as I found the quality of writing to be exceptional. I remembered thinking; even if the story doesn't wow me, at least it won't be a painful read. To make a comparison, I find landscape paintings to be boring, but I can still appreciate good brushwork and technique, if that makes any sense. Milan's dialogue and overall writing style is excellent and really immersed me in the setting, as opposed to most TSR/WotC writers that have their characters speak exactly as you or I would if we were transplanted to a fantasy-medieval setting.

The book felt very allegorical at times, especially in regards to the political climate of Tethyr. There were parts about the rights of common citizenry to bear arms, the pros/cons of wealth redistribution, and so on, as though the author were trying to subtly insert some of his own views on government. I'll say no more on it for fear of locking the thread.

Kudos for utilizing a Deepspawn - one of my all-time favorite D&D monsters.

On the downside, I don't know why the author made so many things speak. The main character's horse was never explained (or really necessary IMO). Ditto for the magical idol she stole from Thay. At times it felt this novel wasn't really planned out, but rather he was winging it from chapter to chapter. The wheels completely fell off in the last 15 pages or so, for me it almost felt like a different writer finished it up. But thankfully this was epilogue territory after the main plot had been resolved, so it wasn't too devastating.

All in all, even with a few warts, it was a really fun and interesting read.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 26 Apr 2016 20:27:07
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 26 Apr 2016 :  21:07:49  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's one of the few that I never finished. I got to page 100 and couldn't handle any more of it.

I've read some of his BattleTech stuff. Not great, but not bad.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  00:07:31  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

That's one of the few that I never finished. I got to page 100 and couldn't handle any more of it.

I've read some of his BattleTech stuff. Not great, but not bad.



But... but... you were a third of the way through. I don't think I've ever gotten 100 pages into a book and not just plowed ahead to finish it. I've started the Sword of Shannara on 3 different occasions in the last 2 decades, but never got past page 30, maybe 40 before wandering away.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  00:31:35  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The 2nd book finished was Curse of the Shadowmage. Like the previous novel and short stories involving this stable of characters, I found it to be pretty average. The odd naming convention (Caledan Caldorien/ Talek Talembar) was finally explained, so that was one annoyance cleared up. I guess I never really bought in to this cast of characters - Caledan, Mari, Tyveris, Ferret, etc. The closest I came to liking any of them is the mage, Morhion. But even he is derivative and shallow. An aloof, unfriendly mage that is suffering from a "dark passenger" curse, this being the spectral knight that drinks his blood once a month - I've seen this motif before when it was done (and way better) by Raistlin and the parasitic Fistandantilus.

This was probably the best story in the line, and it had some good moments, but overall just an ok experience.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  00:41:36  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

That's one of the few that I never finished. I got to page 100 and couldn't handle any more of it.

I've read some of his BattleTech stuff. Not great, but not bad.



But... but... you were a third of the way through. I don't think I've ever gotten 100 pages into a book and not just plowed ahead to finish it. I've started the Sword of Shannara on 3 different occasions in the last 2 decades, but never got past page 30, maybe 40 before wandering away.



100 pages is my cutoff point. If the story hasn't grabbed me by then, I've no reason to think it will.

Some books do start slow, admittedly, and I've read books where I was still waiting for something to happen on page 50. So while 100 pages is often a significant chunk of a book, I think it's also a sizable enough chunk that I can say I gave it a fair shot.

There's honestly only been a handful of books that I did that with.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  14:02:48  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

That's one of the few that I never finished. I got to page 100 and couldn't handle any more of it.

I've read some of his BattleTech stuff. Not great, but not bad.



Wooly...I can't believe it but this is the same for me. I couldn't get past about the 3rd quarter of the book. I was into none of the characters and Zaranda felt so Mary Sue to me I was bored.

I liked the butler bugbear character though, wish we got more of him. Poor Lhaeo having to marry Zaranda, when he was dating a babe like Storm.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  14:04:55  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

The 2nd book finished was Curse of the Shadowmage. Like the previous novel and short stories involving this stable of characters, I found it to be pretty average. The odd naming convention (Caledan Caldorien/ Talek Talembar) was finally explained, so that was one annoyance cleared up. I guess I never really bought in to this cast of characters - Caledan, Mari, Tyveris, Ferret, etc. The closest I came to liking any of them is the mage, Morhion. But even he is derivative and shallow. An aloof, unfriendly mage that is suffering from a "dark passenger" curse, this being the spectral knight that drinks his blood once a month - I've seen this motif before when it was done (and way better) by Raistlin and the parasitic Fistandantilus.

This was probably the best story in the line, and it had some good moments, but overall just an ok experience.



I enjoyed that series. Morhion was the best character for me as well, I don't know why and Mari end up together though, it seems an odd pairing. Poor old Caledan.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 27 Apr 2016 :  20:16:12  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
I enjoyed that series. Morhion was the best character for me as well, I don't know why and Mari end up together though, it seems an odd pairing. Poor old Caledan.



Yeah, it was a funny ending. Caledan seemed to get thrown away like yesterday's trash, while Mari and Morhion, the guy who's defining characteristic is showing no emotion or human attachment, are implied to get together. But just months later, in the anthology Realms of Magic there is a short story about Morhion (The Magic Thief) that makes it fairly clear he is living alone in his tower. So I guess things with Mari just don't work out.

Speaking of that book, it is the 3rd and final that I finished in my marathon reading last week. I felt this collection of short stories was weaker than the previous two. For an anthology about magic, there was a curiously high number of stories featuring tech - smokepowder and firearms specifically. There were at least two, if not 3 stories involving guns, and the Morhion story had him create his own smokepowder bomb to blast a gate open after losing his magical powers temporarily. He used typical materials, charcoal and nitre from an alchemist shop he broke into - which I believe flies in the face of Realms canon regarding the rarity and complexity regarding the making of smokepowder. I've never paid too much attention to it, as I blanket-ban it from my campaigns. I just found it odd that an anthology dedicated to magical stories is chock full of firearms and non-magical weaponry. My distaste for guns in fantasy made all of these stories misses for me, although The Magic Thief was decent.

Even worse, the introduction with Justin Tym and Tym Waterdeep Limited. Ugghh... why this guy was allowed to write anything ever again after the abomination that was Once Around the Realms is utterly beyond me. Thankfully the Prologue and Epilogue were only a handful of pages, but even still... not a great way to kick it off.

Guenhwyvar was a decent story that shed some light on one of my favorite characters. Actually, to contradict that, it raised more questions than answers. In one of the RAS books it was stated that Guen is some kind of Astral personification of the Panther/Hunter spirit, but in this story she appears to have very mortal origins. There was no explanation as to why she is 3x larger than a typical panther and much more intelligent to boot. The odd circumstances of her being enchanted into the figurine (involving a portable hole) explain some of the anomalies between how she works vs. a typical Figurine of Wondrous Power, so that was good. A decent, but not great story.

The Quiet Place by Christie Golden might've been the best of an average bunch. I've yet to read a Jander story I haven't liked, and this one forced him into an agonizing, gut-wrenching decision. You just have to feel for this dude, he never catches a break.

The First Moonwell was an interesting history regarding the Earthmother and her Children. Not a great story as far as big events or excitement, but still a good and unique read.

Red Ambition is probably my favorite Jean Rabe offering, as I don't normally enjoy her work. I thought this was one of the more engaging stories in the collection.

conversely: The Direct Approach was my biggest disappointment of the bunch and easily my least favorite Elaine Cunningham work thus far. As the final story in the book I was really looking forward to a strong finish, but this one missed on all levels.

Six of Swords by William Connors was a creepy, effective tale, though the ending was weak.

Not specifically mentioned (and not enjoyed by me) are:
Smoke Powder and Mirrors - Jeff Grubb
The Eye of the Dragon - Ed Greenwood
Every Dog His Day - Dave Gross
The Common Spell - Kate Novak/Grubb (the best of the "misses" IMO)
The Luck of Llewellyn the Loquacious - Allen Kupfer
Too Familiar - David Cook
Thieves' Reward - Mary Herbert (another decent story)
The Wild Bunch - Tom Dupree
A Worm Too Soft - J. Robert King
Gunne Runner - Roger E. Moore

After a bit of a rest, tomorrow I will start in on Escape from Undermountain.

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