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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 01 Jan 2018 :  22:21:47  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Venom's Taste the other night. I was reluctant to start this trilogy due to the bad taste in my mouth from the author's portrayal of Eilistrae in the WOTSQ series. I'm happy to say my fears were unfounded, this was a really interesting book. Set in Hlondeth on the Vilhon Reach, this is a place I've always been keen on exploring more deeply into - I have to admit, a kingdom dominated by yuan-ti is really intriguing. With all the vast and overwhelming number of species in D&D in general, it's nice to see a city that is not completely humanocentric. And yuan-ti are just so iconically D&D for me; like beholders and mind flayers, that this city scratched an itch I wasn't even aware I had.

I really liked how Lisa Smedman portrayed psionics in this book. I enjoy watching how different authors try to explain it - she used what read to me as some kind of yoga background to explain the poses and whatnot used to rejuvenate their mental strength each day and also hone their concentration. When it came to psion v psion combat, she utilized the old school 5 attack and defense patterns I grew up with back in the '80s. Loved it. It's especially interesting to start this book at this particular time, being there was another scroll going with some pretty good debate on psionic flavor in general called Vilhon Reach and psionic development: http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=22032

I liked the main character (Arvin) and his magical gadgets. He's a clever guy that isn't going to win many toe-to-toe confrontations, but utilizes his wits to get by. I'm interested to see how far he can push his latent psionic talent, I'm hoping by the 3rd book we get to see something like the confident, bad-ass Luke going to Jabba's palace and making demands. The villains are interesting, as is the plotline, it's just a really solid book all around.

About the only thing I had some issue with is at one point it is mentioned that Zelia (a yuan-ti) likes to keep her psionic abilities secret because, and I'm paraphrasing here, "psionic talent is so rare among the yuan-ti." I think that was a big miss by Smedman. As far as I know, yuan-ti have always been strongly associated with psionics in the earlier editions (I haven't played past 3.0), maybe not to the point of illithids or anything, but it's been a large part of their lore. I just looked up the race on Wikipedia and the fourth sentence in states: "They have formidable psychic abilities." That small nitpick aside, this was a great start to a trilogy and I'm excited to dive into book 2: Viper's Kiss
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fwah
Acolyte

1 Posts

Posted - 06 Jan 2018 :  04:53:09  Show Profile Send fwah a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've been stalking this thread for a while but wanted to give you a big THANKS for doing this and posting your thoughts.

Edited by - fwah on 06 Jan 2018 04:54:18
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 09 Jan 2018 :  00:01:37  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You're welcome Fwah, it's been quite a bit of fun.

Yesterday I finished Viper's Kiss. I'm really enjoying this trilogy so far. There's a fairly complex plot going that runs several layers deeper than I initially thought. I did get a tad confused at one point with some of the minor characters, but overall there's a nice level of intrigue. I think the main protagonist is a fairly inventive character, he doesn't read like a rehash of themes I've seen a thousand times. About the only thing I'm iffy about are his "secondary manifestations" when he fires up a psionic power - something we were talking about over in that other thread about the Vilhon Reach. I favor psionics to go off with little or no fanfare, they don't need to be full of flash and bang like wizardly or clerical spells. But that's an argument for a different time.

Marilith tanar'ri have always been among my favorite demonic type, so I was delighted to see one towards the end of this book. Also, that type just fit so perfectly with everything else going on in this story. I'm surprised (pleasantly so) how risqué Smedman is at times in this story, it's a tad more mature than standard FR fare, and that's what I tend to prefer. Good book overall, and good trilogy so far, let's see if she can bring it all together in the finale, which I started today: Vanity's Brood.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 09 Jan 2018 00:04:07
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 13 Jan 2018 :  02:39:03  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Vanity's Brood today. I very much enjoyed this trilogy. The psion's "secondary displays" annoyed me more and more as the story went on, but that is an almost inconsequential element of the books, and one I more or less /handwaved away. There were times in this book when the plot became a bit convoluted, with so many mind readers all dominating/controlling multiple pawns, getting into each other's heads, creating mind-seeds, altering each other's memories, and so on. Also the end conflict felt a little... I don't know, anticlimactic to me? But overall it was a very good trilogy when viewed as a whole. I especially liked how Arvin was a very clever and capable protagonist, yet he got his butt handed to him on several occasions. I never had that feeling that he's always going to win, which can get boring after awhile. I would recommend this trilogy to anyone with some interest in the Vilhon Reach, yuan-ti, or psionics. I found it to be a fun and engaging changeup from standard archwizard and highpriests archetypes.

Up next: I'm tempted to start Richard Baker's Last Mythal trilogy. But instead I think I want to knock out one more of the Priest standalone stories before I delve into another multi-book series. So that'll be Gross and Basingthwaite's Mistress of the Night.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 13 Jan 2018 02:42:26
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2018 :  21:50:10  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Nothing on the House of Serpents trilogy, eh? I must admit I was reluctant to start it and had pushed several other books ahead of it in my reading order - all based on how much I loathed Lisa Smedman's portrayal of Eilistraee's faithful in the WotSQ series. But since I've been given a mission by Ao to read all of these books (and that even included Once Around the Realms!), I had to get around to this trilogy eventually. My fears were completely unfounded, and it was a good read. If any of you are shunning it for the same reasons I did, I urge you to reconsider.

Also, I really liked the artwork on all 3 titles.

Ok, enough of that. A couple days ago I finished Mistress of the Night. I've liked most of the work from Dave Gross thus far, and Don Bassingthwaite's one contribution was pretty decent as well. Their collaboration did not disappoint, this was another solid book. I have no idea how two authors can work together and make a book without coming to blows. Years ago a friend of mine suggested working together to novelize the story of the D&D campaign I had DM'd for the last several years. I had no illusions of it ever going on to print and being successful, but I thought it could be a fun project to take on. We never made it out of the first chapter before "creative differences" derailed the entire endeavor. We spent weeks on the Prologue. I didn't want to be a jerk and pull the "Well I conceived, wrote, and DM'd the adventure, so my say should be final!" hand, but at the same time, don't you need one person with the authority to override and make the call on a dispute? Or does an editor work with both authors as some sort of neutral arbiter to settle it? Not something I'd want to try again any time soon.

As for the actual story: I liked how one of the protagonists was pretty much a jerk for most of the book before he turned himself around. Morally gray characters are almost always more interesting to me than heroes and villains that are 100% on the side of Good and Evil. I really liked Feena's struggle, being thrust into a position of leadership she had no desire for, but being forced to step up and accept the responsibility. There was some amazing Selune/Shar lore to be found in this book too. I was a little surprised at the relative lack of a twist ending. I had Julith, the very helpful, young priestess as the secret "plant" in Selune's clergy, simply because that is someone you'd least expect to be the traitor. But in the end it turned out to be the sourpuss priestess Velsinore. She was unlikable from the get-go, so I figured she was being thrown out there as an obvious distraction. Turns out the first suspect was the correct one, so maybe that in itself is the twist!

Up next is Richard Baker's Last Mythal trilogy, book 1: Forsaken House.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 23 Jan 2018 21:51:37
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2779 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2018 :  21:58:54  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Last Mythal is one enjoyable trilogy. Without spoiling too much, it also brought one of those rare constructive change to the Realms, rather than blowing up stuff--even tho it ended up handling it rather badly (WotC really lost an opportunity to have their cake and eat it too there). That said, it's sad that the events in the books have now been largely rendered null in 5e. It's also a shame--since WotC passed on the opportunity to have their cake and eat it too once again.

As for no comments on House of Serpents, I had heard that it was good, but I personally refused to read more of Smedman's stuff due to her total lack of respect towards my favorite aspects of the Realms both in WotSQ and far worse in LP.

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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CTrunks
Seeker

Canada
18 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2018 :  00:51:25  Show Profile Send CTrunks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I actually didn't mind the House of Serpents trilogy; I thought the first two books were pretty good, but I remember not liking the third book for some reason. I just haven't read it in a long while, because my copies got ruined by a bad water leak. If I remember correctly, the secondary manifestations were part of the rules for Psionics in 3rd edition, so their appearance in these novels may have been a case of including game elements in the story.
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Hyperion
Seeker

20 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2018 :  09:26:36  Show Profile Send Hyperion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I read and appreciated House of Serpents too, but has been more than ten years so I cannot say I remember it well. I hope to re-read it soon as I'm working my way through the Realms books as you are.
I too recall the first and, less so, the second book seemed better to me than the third, but as for the specific reasons, now it's hard to remember :)
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2018 :  22:46:30  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Forsaken House a couple days ago and found it to be excellent. I was hooked from the prologue, I've always wanted to see those last days of Myth Drannor novelized, and this gave me just a glimpse. The whole book is fairly terrific, and I don't know where to begin so I'm just going to throw a bunch of random thoughts out there (the first two being the only somewhat negatives):

1. I didn't care much for Sarya being able to bend the devils of Myth Drannor to her will. This is actually a comment for book 2, as I already knocked out over 100 pages today at work, but if I don't mention it now I will forget to later. Everything she said made sense as far as how she appealed to them, I can't find fault in the argument, but it still doesn't sit right. Even with devils being as logical, ordered, pragmatic, and self-serving as they are, I still don't buy it. Devils and Demons are like oil and water, I can't imagine them being able to lay aside their utter revilement of each other to cooperate for anything short of an invasion by a celestial host.

2. Some of the elven names seemed a bit clunky to me.

3. The scope of this book was dizzying and amazing. Part adventure, part history lesson, we jumped around both in time and geography: from far-off Evermeet, to the High Forest, to Evereska, to Cormanthor, and several locations in between. I wouldn't be able to recommend this book to anyone without a reasonably high Realms IQ, but the payoff is well worth it for those with the prerequisite background.

4. The telkiira and selukiira are awesome. I'm probably going to ramble here, but I've always held in the back of my mind the idea of some kind of magical version of our internet. Maybe some combination of psionics and telepathic based magic, combined with advanced Programmed Illusion spells to act as the "monitors" that display the information, I don't know, a mystical information superhighway to share information and instant communication - not unlike the All-Thing in Dan Simmon's Hyperion Cantos. These crystals in the Last Mythal Trilogy have a bit of that feel to them, with a bit of Superman's Fortress of Solitude info crystals mixed in. When Araevin first took the Nightstar and had his mind instantly inundated with magical knowledge and new spells, it felt like Neo learning martial arts or Trinity instantaneously downloading the required knowledge to fly a helicopter. I almost expected Araevin to say, "I know Kung-Fu..." The mind reels with possibilities of having multiple selukiira spread out among several high mages throughout the world and somehow having them linked or networked together. Each mage could then pursue his or her own areas of specialty, and then "upload" that info to the net for all colleagues to share. The World-Wide-Weave? Uggh, sorry for the rambling.

5. I had no previous knowledge of Myth Glaurach: The City of Scrolls, and need to find out more!

Edited by - VikingLegion on 31 Jan 2018 22:48:37
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Hyperion
Seeker

20 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2018 :  11:41:53  Show Profile Send Hyperion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree that the book is very good, and all the trilogy, one of the best I've read in the Realms.
I think Myth Glaurach was created by Baker in the book and later also mentioned in Lost Empires of Faerun, but probably did not appear in previous products? (if this is correct: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Glaurachyndaar)
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5001 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2018 :  14:57:44  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Myth Glaurach was first mentioned in the Ruins of Myth Drannor boxed set.

The best information on the place was presented by Eric Boyd in his Mintiper's Chapbook series here: http://archive.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/mc/mc20010829e

-- George Krashos

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

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2018 :  15:02:12  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the info George, I will get around to reading that someday.

I finished Farthest Reach yesterday and the brilliance of this trilogy continues. It's rather quickly rising to be amongst my favorite Realms series. Like before, my thoughts are a bit scattered so I'm just going to list off a bunch of random comments. Also, as before, I've already started the next book, so some of these thoughts might be a mix of books 2 and 3.

1. The demon/devil cooperation is still bugging me quite a bit...

2. I loved when one of the Dale representatives asked something along the lines of, "Well, can't we just let Elminster or the Knights of Myth Drannor handle this?" and Storm had to explain to him that they were currently off doing some other Realms-saving mission. It was a nice move by the author to keep the Deus Ex Machina that is the Sage of Shadowdale out of the equation, while also driving home the point that there's *always* some kind of arch-villain up to no good somewhere and you can't just rely on one guy (or group) to solve all your problems. It was effectively done and witty at the same time.

3. I really enjoy the domino effect that is going in the entire Moonsea/Dales region. Seiveril never intended this conflict to be anything more than elves vs. daemonfey for the heart of Cormanthyr. But then Hillsfar gets involved, Sembia wants in on the mix, the Zhents need to respond, etc. I think Baker did an exceptional job describing all the various powers of the area and how delicate a balance they were in, each checking the other from expansion, until this new conflict throws everything into a state of flux. As a quick aside, I play a lot of strategy/tactical based video games that involve multiple nations trying to dominate a region, either through diplomacy, warfare, sabotage, or other means. I couldn't help but think how enormously fun a game set in this time/area would be, allowing players to choose among the various factions.

4. Malthiir, the lord of Hillsfar, has these 4 bodyguards in armor that never speak or make anything resembling a human response. They all act in perfect unison, as if they are linked by one consciousness. I don't know if they're constructs, undead, elemental spirits bound to a suit of plate...? They're pretty intriguing, whatever they are.

5. Xalph reminds me more than a little of Jeggred from the WotSQ series.

6. Yep, I'm going to drop another Matrix reference - when Araevin completes the telmiirkara neshyrr (rite of transformation), he begins to "see" magic as a physical thing all around him, perceiving the strands, the warp and weft of the magical Weave. Again I couldn't help but think of Neo at the very end of the first Matrix when he finally accepts being "The One" and now perceives the world around him, the entirety of the Matrix construct, as ever-changing lines of code.

7. Loved Grimlight the behir. One of my favorite D&D monsters that just doesn't get enough spotlight! That might have been from book 1, I forget.

8. Maresa was shown levitating earlier in the series, due to her genasi (air elemental) heritage. When she is called upon to steal a portion of the crystal from the ophidian's altar, she tries to tiptoe down a stairwell full of snakemen and is forced to lightly step on one of their tails. I mean, she had the advantage of an invisibility spell from Araevin, and the ability to float? That should've been the easiest job in her thieving career. C'mon Maresa....

9. Sometimes I make very quick notes on a scrap paper of things I want to talk about when I finish a book. I have a single line scrawled on the back of my bookmark that says, "Hellgate is nov?" Anyone have a clue what that might mean? :)

95 pages into the third book, The Final Gate. This series is going by too quickly!!!


Edited by - VikingLegion on 03 Feb 2018 15:09:38
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 10 Feb 2018 :  23:17:49  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Final Gate a few days ago, and would put it in my top 5 Realms trilogies with little hesitation. It was explained how Malkezid (sp?) was controlling the devils and forcing them to cooperate with the demons and fey'ri, so I suppose that is something. Still don't love it, but ok. As before, here are some random notes, some of which may be from book 2 as I get events jumbled:

1. Miklos Selkirk - one of the very few Sembians I don't dislike, it was refreshing to see someone from that nation that doesn't fit the usual mold of money-grubbing merchant.

2. I was dismayed to see the Lathanderites evicted from Myth Drannor by Sarya. Ages ago I DM'd a campaign in which one of the players was a specialty priest of Lathander. His main goal was to become strong enough to one day make his way to the Dawnspire and bring aid to the beleaguered clerics there. I mean, reading this book in no way changes the fun we had 20 years ago, but I guess I just had a soft spot in my heart for those guys, holding out as they do against such fearsome forces all around them, raiding the surrounding ruins to try and help those in need. I built the entire end-game of my campaign around MD, it's pretty much my favorite aspect of the Realms, both the historical city and in its monster-infested ruin state. There's just insane amounts of adventure to be had there, with limitless potential to keep adding on additional areas - a new crypt just recently unearthed, a tower that previously had no access point, etc.

3. I was amused by Seiveril's comment after one particular victory where several elves were lost; "One more victory like that will be our undoing." I can't imagine Baker wasn't channeling Pyrhhus of Epirus on that one.

4. The weird realm of Losofyr and its ruler - The Pale Sybil - was super interesting. I've never read even a passing mention of this place anywhere else.

5. Araevin and crew travel to an infernal realm called The Barrens of Doom and Despair. They specifically said it was not the Nine Hells of Baator. Based on name alone I thought this was maybe The Gray Waste of Hades (I have a very 2ed/Planescapian background), but as soon as they got there I started to doubt that conclusion. Is this some new plane, a 3e re-name for an old one?

6. I figured out my cryptic note from the previous post: the story of Hellgate Keep (Ascalhorn) being razed by Harpers was glossed over very quickly in book 2. I was just wondering if that story was told in any more depth in another source - Dragon magazine, an adventure module, etc. It reminded me of the Lhaeo situation we discussed in this very thread - one minute he's a humble scribe of Elminster, the next he's Tethyrian royalty. For those who go mainly by the novel line, there are occasional big changes that occur beyond the books. I'd love to see some more detail on that Hellgate raid.

7. The imagery of the Waymeet was incredible. I loved the descriptions of the red-hot, infernal beams of iron grafted onto the delicate elven glass, slowly torturing and corrupting the entire demi-plane. Amazing stuff!

Ok, I think that does it. Great book, great trilogy. Unfortunately, I've been informed that many of the changes aren't going to resonate very long, which is a shame, because there were a lot of interesting developments established here. One thing I'm a little let down on is the conflict between Zhentil Keep and Hillsfar. I may be mistaken, but I think it was sort of left hanging. The Zhents were knocking on the doorstep and had Hillsfar at a severe disadvantage, but never finished their conquest. Not that I want them to, I'm no lover of Hillsfar and their bloodthirsty, xenophobic outlook, but they are an important foil to Zhentil Keep, and frankly the thought of the Black Network controlling more of the Moonsea region makes me yawn.

Ok, that's all I can think of for now. I've already gotten a few nights of reading into the next book. I went back to the Priests series with Maiden of Pain.
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CTrunks
Seeker

Canada
18 Posts

Posted - 11 Feb 2018 :  01:00:48  Show Profile Send CTrunks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Barrens of Doom and Despair, if I remember correctly, is just a part of the Realms cosmology. It's like how Arvandor, Dweomerheart, or the Demonweb Pits were treated as separate Planes.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
299 Posts

Posted - 13 Feb 2018 :  22:35:24  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CTrunks

The Barrens of Doom and Despair, if I remember correctly, is just a part of the Realms cosmology. It's like how Arvandor, Dweomerheart, or the Demonweb Pits were treated as separate Planes.


Yuck. The 2e Great Wheel planar configuration was so magnificent, it irks me when designers go and muck around with cosmology - either to differentiate a specific game world, or just to leave their mark. No need to reinvent the Wheel.

Moving on, last night I finished Maiden of Pain. This was written by a contest-winner, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It had its ups and downs. I thought the author tried to incorporate some Chessentian culture in his descriptions of the art and architecture. That was a nice touch, but ultimately I just didn't feel this was a very Realmsian story, other than a few names here and there.

Casting a Loviatan as the main protagonist was a very outside-the-box move. I can't say I had much sympathy for her or really got behind the character, but it was a bold stylistic choice nonetheless and I have to give credit for trying something different. However, the Cult of Entropy in Luthcheq had almost zero background or explanation to it. Is Entropy an actual FR deity? Or just some jumped-up regional icon/demigod? Also some of the character names were clumsy and the author also used occasional anachronisms, like describing a room as having French doors - that really bugs me and messes with immersion. All in all it was an ok effort by what I'm assuming is a first time published author. It was not without it's share of issues, but still light-years ahead of books like Once Around the Realms, Baldur's Gate, and Pool of Radiance.

Up next is the Greenwood/Cunningham collaboration: City of Splendors.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 13 Feb 2018 22:36:21
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