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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 30 Dec 2015 :  15:10:47  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Re-reading this one and I absolutely love it, way more than I remember.

In particular, the stuff on Thay and the Zulkirs: the convocation with the chairmaster, the alliances, the discussion of recent events in Thay that lead Szass Tam to go into hiding, Aznar Thrull's incredible cunning/paranoia (which makes his reckless behaviour in the Undead series ridiculously! out of character), everything about Lauzoril and his double life.

This is why I absolutely love Thay as a mageocracy with strict rules governing how the Zulkirs can move against eachother, instead of ruled by Szass and overridden with undead, the uniqueness of Thay ruled by "equal" Zulkirs is fascinating.

Also great in the book is the way the Simbul is written; I love this character and this book gives such a great look at her daily life, rather than Elminster in Hell (which I also like) which is basically her blasting her way through something. In this book she is always having to pull her punches and constantly has spells too strong to subdue someone without killing/injuring them. Alustriel's numerous appearances and their interactions as the two queen Sisters is fascinating.

I recommend this book for anyone who skipped it but is interested in Thay's Zulkirs (pre-4e events of course).

I really, really hope they undo in 5e and bring back Thay under all the Zulkirs with Szass taking a beating so we get back to this. Some other land (ruled by Larloch maybe) can be the undead kingdom.

Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3085 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  00:27:20  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It's been a long time since I've read this one, but I remember that I thought it was average though I can't remember why. Maybe a re-read is in order.

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
8696 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  01:47:36  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I liked this book too, though there were a few things that irked me. The idea that there was this person who basically worked as an oversight to the council of Zulkirs was one such thing. The other was that they made Lauzoril a follower of Kelemvor, though it did state that he did also have devotion to Beshaba and Tymora as well. Personally, I see him more as a Mask or Leira worshipper, maybe even Sune.

But, I really appreciated the scene with Tam showing up all messed up.... and I agree, having Tam booted out of modern Thay and turning some other area into an undead kingdom is appealing.... especially if Thay, Tam's new kingdom, the retreating Imaskari, and rerisen Mulhorand and Unther are all vying against each other.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5779 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  02:02:10  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I actually liked the Chairmaster idea - otherwise Thay is a land of pure anarchy. I've always longed for Ed to do Thay "properly", but its 4E iteration destroyed that opportunity utterly. As a big honking land of undead it has lost all nuance and Szass has descended into caricature.

-- George Krashos

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

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  03:19:19  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Artemas Entreri

It's been a long time since I've read this one, but I remember that I thought it was average though I can't remember why. Maybe a re-read is in order.



One of the main characters, a half-elf named "Bro", is not fun to read about (in my opinion) and compared to the goings on of the Simbul, Alustriel, and all the amazing Zulkirs; it kind of brings down the story. Although he is just a regular Joe caught up in it all and supposed to be the relate-able character so I get his point, I just find his plot line kind of slow. I think that's maybe why some people don't find this book great (and I didn't think it was super on first reading a decade or so ago).

BUT -- if you read it for Thay and the Simbul and ignore Bro's story, it's amazing.
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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  03:25:33  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I liked this book too, though there were a few things that irked me. The idea that there was this person who basically worked as an oversight to the council of Zulkirs was one such thing. The other was that they made Lauzoril a follower of Kelemvor, though it did state that he did also have devotion to Beshaba and Tymora as well. Personally, I see him more as a Mask or Leira worshipper, maybe even Sune.

But, I really appreciated the scene with Tam showing up all messed up.... and I agree, having Tam booted out of modern Thay and turning some other area into an undead kingdom is appealing.... especially if Thay, Tam's new kingdom, the retreating Imaskari, and rerisen Mulhorand and Unther are all vying against each other.



I *think* Lauzoril was supposed to be worshipping death due to his family and where he put his home (in Thay's version of the Fields of the Dead) but he found Moander and Myrkul's rotting and death gross and distasteful; when Kelemvor took over he was happy to combine his heritage/family history of Death God worship with an appealing diety who viewed death in a more positive/neutral tone. The two minor characters in his family that plotted against Tam were undead and kept bringing up his family's history with necromancy (and his daughter going for necromancy).

I agree - The scene where Szass is forced to show up at the convocation and sit in the Larloch Chair where he was messed up was awesome. Loved seeing him lick his wounds for once; even if we all know he will come back stronger than ever :)

Also agree with George, the Zulkirs needed someone neutral and SOME protocols they have to follow to bring them together to govern a few times a year or else Thay would be anarchy. Or just another giant undead kingdom with a cartoon villain lich king.

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Demzer
Senior Scribe

714 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  09:51:29  Show Profile Send Demzer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Great novel if read while searching for bits and pieces about Aglarond, Thay, the Yuirwood, the Zulkirs, ecc... . Even has Chosen actions that don't completely overshadow everything else in the book or turn it into a walk in the park for the protagonist(s).
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Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3085 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  17:36:19  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

quote:
Originally posted by Artemas Entreri

It's been a long time since I've read this one, but I remember that I thought it was average though I can't remember why. Maybe a re-read is in order.



One of the main characters, a half-elf named "Bro" ...



Why do authors make name choices like that?

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 31 Dec 2015 :  18:04:11  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
To the author's credit, the name is Ebroin but they call him "Bro" derogatorily; and the whole "bro" phase wasn't a thing back when this book came out. Still it irked me when I read it because I kept thinking frat boy.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
8696 Posts

Posted - 01 Jan 2016 :  00:05:06  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

I actually liked the Chairmaster idea - otherwise Thay is a land of pure anarchy. I've always longed for Ed to do Thay "properly", but its 4E iteration destroyed that opportunity utterly. As a big honking land of undead it has lost all nuance and Szass has descended into caricature.

-- George Krashos



While it might make sense to keep the Zulkirs orderly, it was a little heavy handed in that it portrayed this formerly non-existent person as someone that even the Zulkir's feared. But what irked me most about it is that its definitely not a factor in their canon government, and I don't see it getting formed in a power hungry magocracy. Some place like Halruaa, Netheril, Imaskar, yes.... but Thay was founded on the principle of "I'm gonna do what I want to do with magic and no one gets to tell me otherwise". Thay's greatest strength is its versatility to have someone just stroll out into another country and start wreaking havoc.... this unpredictability is also their greatest weakness. If it weren't for the fact that merchants would suddenly quit selling food and arms to a country that they're about to attack, the enemy many times wouldn't even know an attack was coming.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Gyor
Master of Realmslore

1373 Posts

Posted - 02 Jan 2016 :  22:29:27  Show Profile Send Gyor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think Thay is more like it used to be, Szass Tam is still around, but his power has diminished enough that there are living Zulkir's are back, and he's lost some power, although it sounds like he's still first among equals as he used to be.
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2148 Posts

Posted - 03 Jan 2016 :  13:10:13  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is slightly off topic, but as far as the other Zulkirs go... when Tam took over Thay, we don't actually see most of them killed. Even in the last battle scene the "deaths" are anything but final. "Hey, archmage, jump down off that cliff, I'm sure you won't featherfall or teleport before you die." "Hey Zulkir of Conjuration, I'm going to planeshift you... because of course you would not know how to plane shift back to Toril" Etc. Etc. Etc.

On the Szass Tam is boring now note... anyone have any idea why WOTC felt the need to do that to EVERY powerful undead character? Vecna.. he's a god now. Acerak... he's merging with the negative plane. ST... replaces a nation with a bunch of skeletons and zombies because those are soooo powerful :P P.S. we already had several big areas (ruined cities/mythals/etc) filled with undead before they made Thay that way. It must be a fetish or something.
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1996 Posts

Posted - 04 Jan 2016 :  01:13:22  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

As a big honking land of undead it has lost all nuance and Szass has descended into caricature.

Yup.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

While it might make sense to keep the Zulkirs orderly, it was a little heavy handed in that it portrayed this formerly non-existent person as someone that even the Zulkir's feared.

It only makes sense that looking at a place closer, one may see what isn't readily noticeable from afar, however.
Zulkirs having a "grey cardinal" as an arbitrator, and this position being held by a "little secretary Joseph" style politician makes sense, too.
quote:
But what irked me most about it is that its definitely not a factor in their canon government, and I don't see it getting formed in a power hungry magocracy.

It's a bit like saying that in a power hungry magocracy they don't need to eat or sleep.
quote:
but Thay was founded on the principle of "I'm gonna do what I want to do with magic and no one gets to tell me otherwise".

...until they run into each other. At which point it becomes obvious that a fighting with equals or near-equals is dangerous, or at best too costly. They need some conflict resolving mechanism. Simply to remain functional as a single country - if everyone ego-tripped all the time and ignored others whenever can get away with this, they won't even be able to agree on meeting times.
Does this really need to be said?

quote:
Thay's greatest strength is its versatility to have someone just stroll out into another country and start wreaking havoc.... this unpredictability is also their greatest weakness. If it weren't for the fact that merchants would suddenly quit selling food and arms to a country that they're about to attack

Slow down here and zoom in.
Why do all those merchant act as one? Because one Zulkir sent couriers who told them so? That's great, but another Zulkir wants them to buy and sell product of his lands and sees the actions of the first one as an attempt to undermine him financially. And may be right about this, after all.
See the problem? This way everything clogs, with Zulkirs (and those who follow them or pretend to do so) too busy ruining each other's investments rather than expanding by trade or conquest.
Then what prevents backstabbing once our Zulkir drew a lot of forces out of Thay?..
"Might makes right" alone simply cannot work in the long run unless they can consolidate power internally first, and the one left on top has enough of loyal retainers to have some rest. Every one of them needs some legal restraints.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
8696 Posts

Posted - 05 Jan 2016 :  00:10:23  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You are right. It cannot work. Their attempt to consolidate their government was founded purely on a principle that they could do whatever they wanted and might made right. This ended up with a war immediately after they established their freedom. They then were pulled together by threat by Escalthar "the Black Star" to the Council of the Black Star, in which they finally agreed that they would form a magocracy centered around heads of 8 schools of magic. Escalthar then left. If anything he would have been the closest thing to a chairmaster, and that was only through threat of his everlasting curse... so threat through might backing it. So, over the next few centuries, did Thay advance? No, they've been too busy cutting each other's throats. This is the Thay we know and the one that I love. Its also the reason why someone like Tam COULD theoretically rise up against his fellow Zulkirs as presented. However, its also the reason his back is turned those same Zulkirs can come back in and reestablish rule. Now, could the NEW Thay be less like the old and have something like a body to serve to keep the Zulkirs themselves in check (essentially a congress).... yes, they could, and maybe the new Thay SHOULD develop this after having been involved with other countries for the last 100 years.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1996 Posts

Posted - 05 Jan 2016 :  03:21:28  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

You are right. It cannot work. Their attempt to consolidate their government was founded purely on a principle that they could do whatever they wanted and might made right. This ended up with a war immediately after they established their freedom. They then were pulled together by threat by Escalthar "the Black Star" to the Council of the Black Star, in which they finally agreed that they would form a magocracy centered around heads of 8 schools of magic.

Limiting it to 8 players in itself doesn't change anything. There are still 8 Zulkirs on top not answering to anyone. If it was left up to their independent whims and tug-o-wars, most of the time Thay could not act as a single political entity.
They could not even reliably assemble to vote on something if there's a slightest conflict of interests (and that's all the time): they could start to argue about e.g. when and where, and no one backs off, and then if some of them arrived and others didn't, the rest would argue the legitimacy of a council with such an incomplete quorum, etc. It's sheer madness.
At an absolute minimum, they need procedures reliably allowing their council to act as one entity. And a mechanism implementing these procedures not entirely hanging on any one Zulkir or his flunkies.
They must have some. It won't be foolproof, but nothing is absolutely foolproof. Just enough that it worked most of the time.
quote:
Escalthar then left. If anything he would have been the closest thing to a chairmaster, and that was only through threat of his everlasting curse... so threat through might backing it.


quote:
So, over the next few centuries, did Thay advance? No, they've been too busy cutting each other's throats. This is the Thay we know and the one that I love.

Yet it didn't fall apart either. Thay prospers, in its own terms.
Occasional backstabbing and intrigues are not unheard-of in much better places. Thay just got more.
That's still cuddly compared to being unable to formulate any unified law or policy unless 8 mutually hating vicious lunatics agree on it and everyone being effectively at war with everyone.

A chairmaster or some equivalent is the only plausible solution, IMHO.
It's just like with an arbitrator in a criminal community: his power comes from consensus of the others, not from being the fastest gun or having most thugs. He's respected and feared, but he's not a rival to the major players.

In case of Thay, the tricky part is primary selection of candidates to this position, since there aren't any independent operators as such.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5779 Posts

Posted - 05 Jan 2016 :  05:19:23  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh and one other thing, Szass excepted - but he was someone else before he was Szass - Ed is on the record as stating that the zulkirs are not necessarily the most powerful wizards of their particular school in Thay. They're just the ones who want political power. That creates a whole new vista of accountability and checks and balances ...

-- George Krashos

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

USA
3943 Posts

Posted - 05 Jan 2016 :  11:31:08  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

Oh and one other thing, Szass excepted - but he was someone else before he was Szass - Ed is on the record as stating that the zulkirs are not necessarily the most powerful wizards of their particular school in Thay. They're just the ones who want political power. That creates a whole new vista of accountability and checks and balances ...

-- George Krashos



The Illuminati really control Thay!

Seriously though...I loved this take on Thay.

The Old Grey Box and AD&D for me!
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Veritas
Learned Scribe

204 Posts

Posted - 13 Jan 2016 :  21:42:42  Show Profile  Visit Veritas's Homepage Send Veritas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This was one of my least favorite Realms novels. I remember purchasing it when it came out and giving it a couple of reads (I had spare time then) but it didn't work for me. I felt the writing was flat, the characterization weak and off-putting, and the characters unlikable.

No matter what boon she received, I have a hard time believing the Simbul would have made the concession she did at the end to one of the most prominent leaders of her nation's sworn enemy.

I miss the classic Thay, however, which created far more opportunity for intrigue than the modern incarnation. You could have told many of the same Szass Tam and undead stories with a classic Thay, particularly for areas under his sway, that you can do now, but the country has less personality, less competing power groups, less ladders to climb, and thus a less fulfilling well to draw on for stories.
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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2020 :  17:49:05  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Re-reading again - and man I do love this book. The author REALLY gets D&D and the Realms and the Chosen and their powers and limitations. I love how the Simbul's Synestodweomer spell (spelling on that is totally wrong) is used without reference to it specifically. She just has to heal someone and says something like "there goes another spell I needed that I have to use to heal this idiot instead" like it's common place, which for her it would be, but for any other mage save maybe Elminster or Alustriel its a total miracle that she can convert spells into healing magic. But it is written like its nothing...sigh.

This book is great.

For anyone who still reads these posts and remembers, I'm trying to understand the novel a bit more - is it that the Spymaster's mentor took over Bro's dad's identity based on how much he knew of him from spying on Bro? Or did the Yuirwood interfere and merge the Spymaster's mentor with Bro's dad's reincarnated form? I was so confused by this whole thing as I'm re-reading...I don't think I ever quite got this.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
33244 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2020 :  03:12:06  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've really got to read this novel... Some of the other novels in that series turned me off from reading more of them, but since then, I've heard nothing but good things about this one.

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Thauramarth
Senior Scribe

United Kingdom
674 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2020 :  09:31:47  Show Profile Send Thauramarth a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just want to second all that - itís an excellent Realms novel that really gives you a good feel on how some of the high- level NPCs (the Simbul, and, especially, Lauzoril) lead their lives. It also does a good job at properly referencing recent events in Thay as depicted in gaming products. Hell, the novel made me like Lauzoril so much that I used him in my 1340s Realms campaign as an NPC foil / occasional patron / manipulator, where he worked sometimes with and sometimes against the PCs, who (unwittingly) helped him along on the path to becoming Zulkirí

Club Secretary of the Dragons on the Hill RPG Club of London, UK: http://dragonsonthehill.co.uk/.
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Seravin
Master of Realmslore

Canada
1036 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2020 :  14:22:53  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Try and read it Wooly - I really feel it's the closest any book gave me to how I would write a high level character in a book (if I was a writer I mean!); and it just..seems extremely well aligned/edited to be in sync with the lore, Ed's thoughts, past Chosen/Thayan character writings, the magic system at the time...I just can't say enough about the book. The way the sisters use their actual names when mind speaking to eachother is great - I feel like the author read the Seven Sisters sourcebook cover to cover before even beginning to plot the novel.

It *is* densely written and a lot goes on so that even I (who have read it like 4 times now) can't really quite follow certain twists with the "Old Man" in the Yuirwood, time travel, and Rizcarn.

The scene with Alustriel, the Simbul and the elder elven Sages in Evermeet is delicious as well. And I also love how Aznar Thrul is written as being the most suspicious man on the planet; he's written so well compared to the Undead series were RLB didn't even bother to read the sourcebooks or this book or Red Magic before he started writing leading to massive inconsistencies... Grr. (I won't go down that road again don't worry).
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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
684 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2020 :  16:59:37  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd have to reread, but it was my single favorite Realms novel for a long time. The characterization and character development was awesome, which shouldn't be surprising from such an excellent author--Lynn Abbey (Thieves' World among others). That said, her other Realms novel, the name is escaping me, fell flat for me.
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