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gylippus
Acolyte

14 Posts

Posted - 15 Mar 2019 :  01:57:33  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
So, I finally started my own thread. I am reading Forgotten Realms novels mostly in order, but it just depends on what strikes my interest at any given point in time.

I just finished 'Crypt of the Shadowking' by Mark Anthony, the 6th book in the Harper series.

First off, wow! I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a joy to read and never felt like a chore, like some of the other books I have slogged through. Apparently, this is Mark Anthony's first book as sole author and he did a fantastic job. The characters are memorable and the plot has a few layers that make it more than a point A to B book.

Caledan - He is the main character, a former harper and a bard. I kind of got a Han Solo vibe from him, but he was different enough to keep my interest. On the other hand, I always thought bards could cast spells. Yes, he does some shadow magic at the end, but he doesn't cast anything else the entire book. According to the wiki he is a level 9 bard (2e). So what makes him a bard and not just a fighter that plays an instrument?

Mari - The love interest, but also an independent character with her own personality. I like the fact she is not the 'traditional' beauty or damsel in distress.

Tyveris - Definitely one of my favorite characters. It is cool to see a Tabaxi from Chult in the book. Although I really got more of a feeling he was like a Samoan rather than a slender native of Chult. It was nice to see a mix of a monk/priest with a warrior. I also couldn't help but think of Cadderly, since he is also a disciple of Oghma.

Ferret - His character was a bit of a stereotype, but he sacrificed himself for the party and was very noble in the end.

The only small complaint I have is that the shadevar seemed very much like a Nazgul. I couldn't help but think how the Nazgul couldn't follow Frodo into Rivendell because Glorfindel caused the river to magically sweep them away. There was a very similar scene in the book, when they cross a river to flee the shadevar. Still, it is a minor quibble with an otherwise great book.

I think there is a sequel to this book so now I have to go find it on eBay. Plus, it would be interesting to know if there is more material that covers shadow magic.

Edited by - gylippus on 15 Mar 2019 02:00:31

Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
889 Posts

Posted - 15 Mar 2019 :  19:10:08  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So my nitpick on this book that has nothing to do with the author is the Shadow/shade/shadowmaster/etc overuse in the Realms. We have the Maulgrym, that are from the plane of shadow, shapeshifters who are mortal enemies of the chosen..then there are the Shade, the wizards of Netheril from the city of Shade that moved to the plane of shadow to avoid disaster then came back and are completely overused from 3rd edition onwards ruining Sembia and other aspects of the Realms (Tilverton? Ordulin?), then there is the Shadowking and the Shadevar, completely unrelated to the above two...and we also have Shar and all things Shar does that involve Shadow including the Shadow Weave.

Mix in some Drow and it's emo paradise! I doubt Mark Anthony was aware of any of the above when he wrote this as the Maulgrym were cut from Spellfire and not really mentioned and the other shadow aspects didn't come out until 3rd edition onwards (Shar was barely in the early editions FR material and novels).

So this is not Mark Anthony's fault - it just gets very confusing in retrospect to have unrelated Shadevar, Shadowmasters, Shadowkings, and Shade And Shade Princes all in the same shared universe going on. In my opinion :)

I love the two Shadowking books, and I think Shadevar are quite interesting in their depiction. When this novel came out we hadn't seen Peter Jackson's LOTR movies so I think resemblance to the Nazgul from the movies can be excused, although if you're referencing Tolkien's creations from the book I can understand that as well. They seem much more brutal than Nazgul to me, just silent, deadly unstoppable killers. Great villains and concepts, and quite an inovative way to kill them.

My big beef with the over plot of this novel is that the Zhents are just able to completely take over a peaceful, major trading city on a key trade route and the Harpers and neighbouring cities/kingdoms that are allied do literally nothing for how long? While the people suffer. I don't really understand how Zhentil Keep and the Zhenterim are such major players and have armies, compared to say the Cult or the Knights of the Shield that seem to have operatives and major mages but not huge vast armies of zergs to throw at the Dales or Cormyr or Iriaebor in this case. They suffer so many massive defeats (how many did Shandril kill in Crown of Fire alone with her raid on the Citadel of the Raven?). Are there just tens of thousands of people willing to become Zhents from the world for cash? Okay then.

It just doesn't ring true that no one from Waterdeep to Cormyr to Sembia would care that the Zhents took over a key trading route city and locked away the peaceful rulers. And the people just..accept it too. I dunno. I didn't buy that. And the Harpers sending Mari..alone? What? that's their plan? Berdusk is right next door to Iriaebor.

I also think it would have been neat if the library in the Snowflake Mountains they visit was the Edificant Library! :)

The character are generally very neat, and the sequel is pretty cool. It deals with the Harpers trying to silence renegades in a way that is in line with the Harper sourcebook (which is great). For Caledan, bards casting spells, or paladins doing any magic aside from lay hands, or rangers casting spells, just wasn't much of a thing in the novels. He was more of a fighter/rogue in this book than a bard to me. But still a good character, with lots of fun adventures in the city as they try to incite rebellion.
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gylippus
Acolyte

14 Posts

Posted - 15 Mar 2019 :  22:09:59  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

So my nitpick on this book that has nothing to do with the author is the Shadow/shade/shadowmaster/etc overuse in the Realms.



Good post! I will defer to your knowledge of shadows and shades because I obviously haven't read nearly as much about the realms as you have. I had no idea those other things existed. I do agree that it can be confusing. I found myself wondering, "what exactly is shadow magic?" What kind of spells can you cast? It seems that people can only access it by playing instruments. There was a reference in the book about a woman who played a flute that could make shadows dance. Okay, so then what other useful things can you do besides lock a shadow king up in a tomb with 7 notes? Not to nitpick the book, which I liked, but I found 7 notes to be somewhat underwhelming. I mean, what happens if someone just accidentally plays those seven notes? I think it would have been better if it was actually a prolonged song. In the book they said it took something like a week or more for Talek to lock the shadow king up. Why did that struggle take so long when Caledan did it in 2 minutes? Maybe it was the fact the shadow king didn't have full power, I have no idea.

I do agree with your observation about other cities taking note of what was going on and trying to stop it from happening. Those Zhents just seem to pop up everywhere without much opposition. And yet again the Harper's plan was a lack of a plan...

Still, I enjoyed the book much more than Red Magic or the Ring of Winter. It is one of the best Harper books so far. Although I have to go back and read Elfshadow.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31913 Posts

Posted - 16 Mar 2019 :  02:22:22  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've not read this book since they were still publishing Harpers novels... And part of the reason is the names. The story was not all that, to me, but the names turned a mediocre book into a disliked one. Caledan Caldorian. Mari al'Marien. Talek Talembar. Each individual name would be fine, by itself -- Caledan is an okay name, and Caldorian is a cooler one. But together? No. Repeating entire syllables in the given and surnames is just painful, and it's worse because the author was clearly enamored of that naming scheme, because he kept doing it!

The names bugged me enough that they kept throwing me out of the story. And when something in the story throws you out of it, there's a problem.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
889 Posts

Posted - 16 Mar 2019 :  08:06:32  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think we raised that in Viking's post about the names...Caledan Caldorian was intentional and discussed in the sequel book; but yah the alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds) of the characters' names is kind of odd I agree. Mari al'Marien is ridiculous, in particular if Caledan Caldorian is deliberate for a plot point then don't do the same thing incidentally with your side characters, Mark Anthony :)

I think if you could get past the names Wooly the story is actually quite fun, and not badly crafted in my opinion. The sequel does a decent job too.

I'm curious Gylippus, what did you not like about Ring of Winter? Could you do your review here? That's always been one of my faves aside from the talking badgers I don't have any issues with it and I know it's generally a fan fave around here. But I'm sure there are legit criticisms I'd like to hear of the book too!
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31913 Posts

Posted - 16 Mar 2019 :  16:03:12  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't recall finding the story all that interesting, either.

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
http://www.candlekeep.com
-- Candlekeep Forum Code of Conduct

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I am the Giant Space Hamster of Ill Omen!
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