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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2018 :  17:07:22  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Corsair several days ago but just couldn't find the time to post. The overall quality of this series continues, once again I'm really glad I chose this one as my introduction to the post-100 year time jump Realms.

I loved the map in the beginning of the book. I'm familiar with all the major cities/towns (Hillsfar, Phlan, Ruins of ZK, etc.) around the Moonsea region of course, but it was really nice to see some of the smaller/lesser-known/newer locales plotted down, like Rosestone Abbey, Sulasspryn, Thentia, and such. It really helps while reading the story, as there was a TON of boating around and criss-crossing all over the place in this one.

I really enjoyed the use of Sergen's dad as the big bad. Baker could've just as easily created some pirate lord out of the blue, but tying it to Sergen and the mysterious "traitor father" he touched upon in the first book was a nice bit of continuity. I'm sure he planned it this way from the very start, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Interesting and unforeseen choice to go with a Spelljamming vessel! That really caught me by surprise. Early on in my D&D fandom I shied away from Spelljammer as it was too "Star Trekkie" and didn't quite fit my fantasy sensibilities. But after getting heavily into Planescape and exploring more of the D&D multiverse, Spelljammer started to grow on me, bit by bit. The idea of these massive Elven or Illithid armadas fighting it out for territories and colonizing new worlds is fascinating. I definitely preferred the term "Sea of Night" over wildspace or phlogiston or whatever, just for flavor purposes. When Geran and crew were up on one of Selune's tears (I forgot the exact location) exploring the jungle, I very much expected them to be attacked by a pack of Girallon (4-armed white apes) as a nod to Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom novels. But instead we had Nothics - a very obscure Monster Manual entry that I don't think I've ever seen in any novel or module. Missed opportunity there Mr. Baker!

There was a name drop of someone called Gamelon Idogyr. I feel like I know that name from somewhere... Ok, I looked it up, he was a noble on the Rock of Bral (a Spelljammer location and adventure module) and also has some familial ties to Khelben Arunsun. He also apparently made a cameo in the novel Blackstaff.

This series seems a bit light on gods and clerics. There is the Cyricist in Hulburg, but I'm surprised how few holy men are employed by the town to aid their troops. It wasn't until Brother Larken was brought onto Geran's ship that I saw this role filled. There are also the monks of Lathander/Aumanator out in the abbey, but they don't get a whole lot of screen time. I wonder if, in the wake of the awful Spellplague, people have turned their backs just a bit on the gods not unlike the Dragonlance setting after the Cataclysm. Probably not, I'm most likely reading too much into this and the rest of the stories will be more deity-centric.

Overall, a very good book and continuation of the series. I'm now about halfway through the finale: Avenger.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 09 Dec 2018 17:12:42
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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USA
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Posted - 09 Dec 2018 :  17:11:31  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Gamalon Idogyr is also a noble in Tethyr.

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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2018 :  17:13:20  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished another two books, the first of which is Avenger. I didn't have a whole lot of notes for this one. It's been a good trilogy thus far and this book did nothing to shake me off that perch. I really loved the description of Myth Drannor as Geran and company headed there to retrieve some mystical parchment pieces. It really summed up the ethereal, fey quality of the place as something far beyond a collection of people and dwellings:

" Myth Drannor is a strangely timeless place. Time doesn't touch the elves the same way it does the rest of us, of course, but there's something more to it than that. It's like living in a waking dream. The lords are so splendid, the ladies so fair, the songs so beautiful... there are days of toil and grief, but they're few and far between. The longer you remain, the more deeply you lose yourself in the dream. And I was lost here for years."

There was one part that I felt was a bit contrived. The port to Hulburg was frozen over, preventing water travel, but the ports of Hillsfar and Thentia were perfectly fine. I understand the Moonsea is a pretty large area, but so large as to have such different weather conditions? I could maybe buy it for Hillsfar/Hulburg, as one is on the southern coast and the other is northern. But Thentia doesn't look too far from Hulburg. Must be some kind of wind pattern coming down off the Galenas or something that chills Hulburg.

I liked Rhovann's runehelm golems. I wonder if those are statted up somewhere as an actual monster or if they were a unique creation for this series. After Rhovann's defeat, there was still a bit more of this book to go. Some of the Marstel and Vaasan material seemed a bit anti-climactic, though it might've been to setup a future storyline if there is to be more Hulburg in the novel line.

Good trilogy overall. After that I started in on the Ed Greenwood Presents: Waterdeep series with Blackstaff Tower.

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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2018 :  01:22:41  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also finished Blackstaff Tower 2 days ago. This book was very much a mixed bag for me. It read an awful lot like a Greenwood novel, as though the author was attempting to do an homage piece. That's probably why I really liked parts of it and really disliked others - the typical roller coaster ride I always experience with EG works! :)

The main villain, "Ten Rings", came off a bit comic booky. He made me think of, for VERY obvious reasons, The Mandarin from the Iron Man comics. Really cool artifact he was using, the Jhaarnan Hands, that allows him to "pre-load" ten magical rings onto a fake pair of hands and instantly swap any of them onto his own hands. D&D players will recognize that you can only wear one magical ring on each hand, so having extras are largely useless. But this item lets him switch say, a Ring of Flying for a Ring of Fire Resistance in a heartbeat if he suddenly finds himself fighting a red dragon. This gives him an awful lot of versatility.

I absolutely loved the "Ravencourt" area of Waterdeep. Basically there is a restless spirit of an old judge or magistrate there, and he animates an enormous tree to pass judgement on anyone that happens to get in range.

There was a very interesting bit mentioned by a gnome about the "Call to Waterdeep" that draws sentient species to this region, above and beyond the mundane advantages of a good harbor and defensible highland. I wonder if that is due to the presence of the God Stair, or Celestial Staircase or Infinite Stairway or whatever you want to call it.

As for this being book 1 of the "Ed Greenwood Presents" series, I felt it did a fairly poor job of filling in the details of the last 100 years, or even giving us a cursory recap. How many Blackstaffs (staves?) have there been between Khelben and the current guy that dies right off the start? But instead of a concise bit of catchup, the author chooses to fill the pages with obscure lore about present day Waterdeep including what felt like dozens of street names, shops, nominal NPCs, and so on. Much like his previous novel, Blackstaff, I felt this book was intended only for hardcore Forgotten Realms scholars and was fairly inaccessible to those with only middling knowledge of FR. That's fine to a degree, not everything can or should cater to the layman, but I don't think Schend's erudite style blended well considering the setting just experienced a 100 year time jump.

The story itself reminded me heavily of City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel. It centers around a group of callow young noble friends, exactly like the Gemcloak crew of the previous book. They play jokes on the town Watch, they banter on and on about current fashions, who is bedding who, etc. - basically a bunch of unlikable frat boys with too much privilege. The main noble in CoS (I can't recall his name) wanted to do more with his life and had the poetry thing he did on the side. The main noble in this book has a scholarly side and loves to collect books. Both lament that Waterdeep no longer has heroes like in the days of yore, and both express a desire to remedy that situation. Both books featured a villainous father-and-son teamup, with the father being overbearing and arrogant, and the son being a bit of a pushover that is desperate to win his father's approval.

Oh, and those curse words! Stlarn and tluin make an uncelcome reappearance, but now they are joined by the incredibly odd parharding! I had to look it up to make sure it wasn't an obscure English word I wasn't aware of, but sure enough it's another ludicrous FR special. Interestingly enough, there is a man in Wisconsin with a Facebook profile named Par Harding. I wonder if he's read this story... We've already been over how bizarre and unnecessary these swears are, but the lingual clumsiness carries over into many other names as well. Words like "armrarnra" (ok I think I made that one up) and similar ilk are so cumbersome off the tongue, I wonder why they can't just dial it down a bit from time to time and not try to make it sound so exotic.

Lastly, the big warrior Meloon weilds a mundane axe for about 75% of the book. In a fight with a wizard the haft of the axe gets disintegrated. Not 10 pages later there is a magical axe that can only be drawn from the stone by "one who is worthy." After 2 of the young nobles fail to lift it, Meloon of course is able to pick it up and instantly experiences a vision of how his ancestor(s?) once used this axe to do something or other. Holy tropes! It doesn't get much more contrived than that. I mean, couldn't he have just stashed his non-magical axe in favor of the upgrade? Did it have to get destroyed One. Room. Away. from the discovery of Azuredge?

So... as I mentioned, there were a lot of highs and lows in this book. Schend is a meticulous researcher and has insane amounts of Realms lore in his mind, as one would expect from the roles he performed at Wizards of the Coast. But I think he expects everyone to know as much as he does and his stories can get a little overwhelming at times with unecessary detail, and the tale suffers for it. Overall it was an ok read, but I was hoping for better in the opener of this series. Up next, book 2: Mistshore.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2018 :  01:36:05  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There was mention in Blackstaff Tower of a huge battle in the Stump Bog that claimed Tsarra Chaadren (the Blackstaff after Khelben) along with a great deal of the Moonstar organization while fighting a cabal of vampire-wizards in 1399 - The Year of Fallen Friends. I'd love to know if that story is fleshed out anywhere else, it sounds intriguing to me. Were the vampires sending agents into Waterdeep to undermine the rule there? What led to this big showdown? Internet searches only turn up very cursory information, nothing in much detail beyond what I've already mentioned.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
7684 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2018 :  14:16:54  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

There was mention in Blackstaff Tower of a huge battle in the Stump Bog that claimed Tsarra Chaadren (the Blackstaff after Khelben) along with a great deal of the Moonstar organization while fighting a cabal of vampire-wizards in 1399 - The Year of Fallen Friends. I'd love to know if that story is fleshed out anywhere else, it sounds intriguing to me. Were the vampires sending agents into Waterdeep to undermine the rule there? What led to this big showdown? Internet searches only turn up very cursory information, nothing in much detail beyond what I've already mentioned.



Makes me think... what if Vamp-Shoon turned a bunch of his former Zhents and found out that Khelben and the Moonstars was behind the "clone issue"? Any chance you can provide any more information? What page number it was maybe. Maybe any specific text (names maybe) that we may be able to google (I note I can often find things in the google books for FR novels where you can read small portions of books as a preview when I'm researching). For that matter, Vamp-Shoon may have turned a bunch of Zhents and they were researching things but never discovered the connection to the Moonstars and Khelben BECAUSE of this fight (and their research died with them).

There may even be some correlation of the year name... Vamp-shoon turns a bunch of Zhent friends into vampires... "Year of Fallen Friends".

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
5368 Posts

Posted - 17 Dec 2018 :  00:14:31  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It was never fleshed out. Basically it occurred after the Spellplague when Tsarra's guise as Khelben was revealed. After that, old enemies of the Blackstaff came a calling and practically destroyed the Moonstars, knowing he wasn't around to clean their respective clocks. I'll have a search through Steven's notes to see if there is anything more. I suspect that I know the identity of the group who took them down, but that means going back and reading some of the earlier "Blackstaff".

-- George Krashos

-- George Krashos

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

Canada
865 Posts

Posted - 18 Dec 2018 :  04:08:03  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What a great story arc from WotC. Sigh.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 20 Dec 2018 :  12:07:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Last night I finished Mistshore. I said it when I first read one of her short stories in a "Realms of" (I forget which one), Jaleigh Johnson has one of the more unique voices amongst the FR writers. She seems to heavily bend, if not break, some of the D&D crunch in order to tell a good story. She also is very fond of the theme that magic is both painful and costly to the caster in some personal sense, whether it be physical, spiritual, or emotional. The main character, Icelin, is interesting right from the start. She's a snarky, vengeful little thing, with a perfect recall eidetic memory; aside from one very troubling gap she can't fill in. She shares some similarities to the protagonist in The Howling Delve, in that they both use a lot of fire magic, and both are concerned with the price of magic/being consumed by it. I don't know if the casting effects on the body are something all spellscarred must endure, or if Icelin is unique. Regardless, her characters are very well fleshed-out and easy to invest in. I haven't read this kind of development since the last Elaine Cunningham novel.

I liked Ed's introduction to the Mistshore region of Waterdeep - a tangled mass of wrecked hulls in an unused portion of the harbor that is home to thieves, lepers, and worse. The Watch is happy to ignore anything going on here - you don't bother us, we won't bother you. When Ed mentioned tentacled, half-fish/half-man monstrosities, I got a very Lovecraftian vibe, like this area will be a mini-Innsmouth or Dunwich.

The phantom performing troupe was also a really nice touch! There was one comment I found odd; one of the characters - a gold elf named Cerest - was referred to at one point as an eladrin. I had always known eladrin and elves to be very similar fey beings, but definitely distinct races. I wonder if this is a 4th edition simplification.

For some odd reason I almost always flip to the copyright page and check the cover artist before starting a book. This one was done by someone named Android Jones. Well that was interesting enough to look into! I checked out his website and found a bunch of fantastic pieces of digital art, really wild and thought-provoking stuff! Mods, feel free to delete this last paragraph if plugging another site violates any rules.

Up next in the reading order is a RAS book: The Pirate King. I got just through the prelude and was excited to see it is set Pre-Spellplague. I guess that makes sense for a series titled "Transitions". It will be interesting to see what, if any, contrivance he has to use to pull the characters with normal life spans from this era into the current one. I'm guessing some kind of magical stasis at the hands of an evil wizard.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 20 Dec 2018 12:09:09
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dazzlerdal
Great Reader

United Kingdom
4260 Posts

Posted - 20 Dec 2018 :  12:32:31  Show Profile Send dazzlerdal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah the eladrin elf thing was a 4e monstrosity.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
865 Posts

Posted - 20 Dec 2018 :  22:52:44  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Pirate King was an interesting book; many people thought it was an allegory for the US invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan... I love Robillard (for some reason he just struck me as a neatly written mage!) and he gets a lot of show time in this book.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 29 Dec 2018 :  21:29:50  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It's funny you mention that, one of my notes or talking points for The Pirate King was "Is RAS getting more allegorical as the FR line goes on?" He makes a lot of points in this one on criminal punishment, and also on the effect of a power void and subsequent civil strife that occurs when a region is destabilized by the takedown of a longtime ruler, even if said leader is generally awful.

The Harpell's polymorphing of violent criminals raised some interesting points, but this was negated by some of the most ridiculous writing I've ever read from this author. When talking about the "harmless" rabbits, one of the Harpell's makes reference to "The one with the big teeth that could jump so high." He then goes on to take every line from the Monty Python scene and slap an FR skin on it: Lines like, "That rabbit was smokepowder!" instead of "dynamite" used in the original movie. Or, "It seemed as if he was posessed of the edge of a vorpal weapon, that one, giving nasty bites!" Just absolutely painful stuff. Worse than Grubb, this was Once Around the Realms level of awfulness.

We've briefly mentioned Drizzt's age discrepancies before in this thread, here we have it pretty definitively set at just a bit over 75.

The lich in Luskan did a neat trick with a magical staff and its Retributive Strike property. He places it over a fulcrum with a bowl or bucket tied off to each end, and liquid mercury dripping into each. The added weight of the metal on the outer edges eventually bows the staff to the point of snapping - magical dirty bomb! His revival of the mage Valindra left me with mixed feelings. I play the Neverwinter game on PlayStation, so it was cool to recognize one of the villains of that game and see how she got to that point. On the other hand, her transformation to lichdom seemed super-rushed and utterly lacking in the degree of painstaking preparation and ritual I had always associated with that process. She was killed, her body recovered from the field, Greeth waved his hand and boom! Insta-lich minion. No mention of alchemical reagents, no phylactery or soul transfer... nothing.

The character Maimun was nagging at me for most of this book. He was described as a pirate that had once sailed with Deudermont and learned all things nautical from him. I felt like I was supposed to recognize this character, but couldn't place where I'd seen the name before. I eventually gave up and figured I just didn't recall a minor character from earlier in the Drizzt books. Coincidentally, as soon as I finished The Pirate King, I jumped right into the RAS and his son Geno's collaboration. I have all 3 books in a big hardcover omnibus called The Stone of Tymora Trilogy, which, of course, features Maimun as the main character and tells his origin story.

The level of intrigue in Luskan is nicely done. You have the drow as mysterious shadow-backers, the pirate captains, the lich/Arcane Brotherhood, Deudermont and lords from Waterdeep trying to force their way in and show the Luskanites a "better way to govern themselves." I wasn't around for those earlier conversations Seravin mentioned, but I can easily see how and why this story was compared to some of our own real world events, particularly in the Middle East. I felt like this book had a bit less of Salvatore's trademark combat scenes and focused instead on politics. And while I can't say it was my favorite of his books, I did admire how ruthless he was. Greeth blows up half the city, Deudermont and Bramblebary are slain, Sea Sprite sunk, the heroes are fairly powerless in stopping the injustices of the world. This was definitely the Empire Strikes Back of RAS books, it's dark, gritty, and maybe just a bit depressing, but engaging at the same time.

I see Kimmuriel is still massively overpowered. I get it, psionics are strong and not many people have much (if any) experience in countering it. But when he can scramble an archmage's mind and take them down in a heartbeat, c'mon... Mental domination of a peasant is one thing, but an established [i.e. high level] Overwizard of the Hosttower is not only mentally stronger than the average mook just by virtue of their experience, but a mage should have a much more disciplined mind and mental fortitude. But nope, Kimmuriel just has to glance her way and she is reduced to a gibbering buffoon. And that damned overused kinetic barrier... that power rears it's ugly head and makes any character utterly unbeatable. Why isn't Kimmuriel the master of the entire continent of Faerun? Who can possibly stand up to this guy, I have yet to see him get even marginally checked by anyone other than Jarlaxle, and even that is probably only due to respect and nothing more. I'm curious if Jarlaxle has, among his many totems and trinkets, an item that gives some protection against mental assault.

Ok, that's all for now. As I already mentioned, I've started in on the Geno Salvatore stories. I think I'm already done with the first book, called The Stowaway. Review of that later tonight or at some point this weekend.



Edited by - VikingLegion on 29 Dec 2018 21:37:29
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
865 Posts

Posted - 30 Dec 2018 :  22:21:41  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yep - Kimmuriel is pretty much the Deus Ex Machina for RAS - he can take down arch mages, from Knellict in Vassa/Damara and Shade Princes and Host Tower Overwizards, nevermind leading BD and such. I do love Kimmuriel as a character but yes, mages would have defenses against psionics in the game mechanics. He can also teleport anyone anywhere at any time and apparently make everyone believe Drizzt is an aspect of a goddess taking down demon lords etc.... Kimmy can do it all!

Speaking of game mechanics, a LOT of people were upset that Robillard took out Greeth with a shocking grasp spell when D&D liches have always been immune to electricity (and cold). Not that Bob seems to care about mechanics in his writing, but he does play D&D and you'd think he'd at least be aware of common monster immunities.

Edited by - Seravin on 30 Dec 2018 22:22:48
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
865 Posts

Posted - 30 Dec 2018 :  22:38:55  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh and Jarlaxle has his eye patch that prevents him from being psionically dominated I beleive - however it wouldn't stop Kimmuriel from telekentically throwing a boulder on him or teleporting him into a volcano or any number of things psionics can do that don't involve telepathy or domination.
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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

533 Posts

Posted - 03 Jan 2019 :  07:28:36  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I see Kimmuriel is still massively overpowered. I get it, psionics are strong and not many people have much (if any) experience in countering it. But when he can scramble an archmage's mind and take them down in a heartbeat, c'mon... Mental domination of a peasant is one thing, but an established [i.e. high level] Overwizard of the Hosttower is not only mentally stronger than the average mook just by virtue of their experience, but a mage should have a much more disciplined mind and mental fortitude. But nope, Kimmuriel just has to glance her way and she is reduced to a gibbering buffoon. And that damned overused kinetic barrier... that power rears it's ugly head and makes any character utterly unbeatable. Why isn't Kimmuriel the master of the entire continent of Faerun? Who can possibly stand up to this guy, I have yet to see him get even marginally checked by anyone other than Jarlaxle, and even that is probably only due to respect and nothing more. I'm curious if Jarlaxle has, among his many totems and trinkets, an item that gives some protection against mental assault.

Well, at last Gromph puts fear into Kimmuriel, but yes he's stupidly overpowered.

And of kinetic barrier you've read nothing yet, that stupid thing becomes even more overpowered. I once joked that one day it would be used to Block attacks from Lloth, turns out i was not far away with my prediction
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
373 Posts

Posted - 05 Jan 2019 :  14:04:43  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ok, I know I said I was going to do a review last week for the first of the Geno Salvatore books, but I changed my mind and read all three as one big story. So this post covers the entirety of the Stone of Tymora Trilogy, which consists of:

The Stowaway
The Shadowmask
The Sentinels


My first question, in any writing collaboration, is to ask myself what percentage of the book feels like author X and how much is author Y. Being that this is RAS's son's first go-around, I figured I would be hard-pressed to hear his voice, or maybe he would lean on Dad's craft a bit to get by. There was an interesting choice made by having the entire trilogy written in first person perspective. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think it's a safe choice, as it's fairly easy to write in journal or diary form, I've tried and aborted several short stories over the years in this format. On the other hand, maybe it's a bit too safe and can come off as boring when you can't get into the heads of anyone but the one POV. The writing quality was adequate for the most part, aside from just a few glaring exceptions. I know the tone is intentionally for a younger audience, so I have to keep that in mind when evaluating it.

As for the story itself, it was of OK quality. It jumps around in time as semi-grown up Maimun relates his origin story to a group of pirates that have captured him, flashing back to him as a 6 year old boy, a teenager, and a young man. I had a tiny bit of confusion here and there with all the jumping, but overall the format worked. Maimun follows the CHOSEN ONE/DESTINY'S CHILD trope, because... well... Salvatore. Thankfully he is not massively overpowered or a wunderkind at any specific skillset, that was refreshing to see. He is a smart, clever, and curious lad, but not a devastating warrior or archmage. He does go through a 1-year montage of hardcore combat training that sculpts him into at least a capable fighter, but nothing too special. However he does become good enough to defeat his arch-nemesis in swordplay, the same dastardly villain that slew his mentor, despite him being a far more skilled combatant than Maimun, but oh well.

This trilogy makes use of frequent cameos by Drizzt and Friends. Maimun and Drizzt form some kind of odd companionship, with them intersecting at various times. Almost always this is so Drizzt can push him in a specific direction to keep him on track, like a videogame quest-giving NPC. Wulfgar, Bruenor, Cat, and such also make brief appearances, as do some of the lesser known characters like Sali Dalib - the unscrupulous Calimport merchant caricature. There was a ridiculous part where Maimun was looking to depart from Calimport and tried to buy transportation from Sali. He didn't have enough coin to buy a camel, but asked if he could rent one. Sali was worried about covering the potential cost if the camel should die, so instead he loaned out a pair of magical boots to Maimun that allow him to run at super-speed - charging exactly zero coin but extracting a promise that Maimun would return them when finished. True, Dalib planned to waylay the young man on the road and steal everything from him, but the logic behind the loan of an item that must be hundreds of times more valuable reeked of plot contrivance. Maimun steals the boots, but it's pretty justifiable considering Sali Dalib was going to have him murdered on the road. Later on Maimun also uses his friendship with Drizzt to gain access to the library in Silverymoon, where he then steals several books and scrolls, so his morality is a bit questionable. But I think the author(s?) wanted to show how his tough childhood forged him into a bit of a rogue to make him a better fit in the Pirate King book.

I disliked Deudermont's characterization in these books. He just came off as sort of wrong to me. Most of the details were accurate, but he seemed to be a bit angrier, obstinate, and unlikable. Obviously he was shoe-horned into this role in order to fill Maimun with feelings of betrayal and abandonment, so he could in turn abandon Deudermont. I just felt it was a bad fit.

The big twist at the end - that the Sentinel we thought was a Tymora follower and the one we thought was a Beshaba follower were actually switched!! - failed to deliver much on my end. It hardly made a difference, as they both used Maimun for their own purposes and I'm still not even sure why they wanted to unite the stones, which is the only way to destroy them (and thus the Sentinels). The entire Sentinel/Bearer/Stone plotline felt ill-conceived to me, with weird, overly elaborate rules (which often get ignored anyway for storyline expediency).

All in all it wasn't a bad read. The writing was competent for the most part, it just didn't do enough to impress me much. Up next I think I'll delve into Bruce R. Cordell's Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy with Book 1: Plague of Spells.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 12 Jan 2019 :  14:34:46  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished the first two books of the Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy.

Book 1, Plague of Spells was really bizarre but excellent. I think Bruce R. Cordell is the perfect match for this subject material, and probably the only author in the WoTC stable that could've pulled it off so well. I mean, just in the opening we have a kuo-toa priestess exploring a drowned illithid city, fighting a vampiric mind-flayer, and discovering a relic of some Ancient One. I'm probably going to use the term Lovecraftian about a hundred times in the reviews of this trilogy, but man Cordell really nails this vibe of twisting, tentacled horrors from beyond time and space, eager to pounce on our reality and shred it asunder. He brings an almost sci-fi/cosmic aesthetic to traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy. A lot of times this approach (from other authors) doesn't work for my sensibilities, but here he pulls it off perfectly. His thoughts on Eastern Philosophy (or, more accurately, *Shou* philosophy, whose inspirations are obvious) were a really neat and interesting addition to the story. He also includes some poignant views on nationalism, racism and immigration, etc. He seems to have a wide, varied, and eclectic base of knowledge to pull from. My esteem for him grows with each book and he's definitely moving up the ladder for me.

Ok, let's get this out of the way. Something I touched on before in the Stardeep writeup: a monk named Raidon Kane... C'mon, might as well go with Sub-Zero Lee, or Ryu Norris. That was one of the few negatives I could find in this book. The other being the inaccuracy of the cover art. Don't get me wrong, it's a cool pic. But if that's supposed to be Raidon, well they got all the details wrong. Raidon is a half-elf/half-Shou with olive skin, slightly pointed ears, black hair, etc. This guy on the cover is a bulky, blonde-haired Western looking dude with perfectly rounded human ears, basically Guile in leathers. Boots instead of sandals. Angul is supposed to be a longsword strapped to his back, here we see a short gladius style blade belted at his waist. I like the art, it just seems there wasn't much information passed along there for sake of accuracy.

Speaking of Angul…. Angul!!! I love/hate this sword! I envy such single-minded determination and uncompromising clarity of purpose. Obviously Angul is capable of monstrously awful deeds, the ultimate example of "the ends justify the means." I don't agree with many of his/its decisions, but it reads as a very interesting character. "ALL ABERATIONS MUST BE PURGED!!" Cynosure - the sentient golem/defense system makes an early appearance as well. Another of my favorites from Stardeep.

But we also see some new and really compelling characters added. The Lord of Bats was awesome fun. Japeth is a bold move - a drug-addicted warlock that is both sullen and withdrawn (goth kid) but also witty and very charming, though mostly inadvertently. He's hooked on "Traveler's Dust", a red crystalline drug that dissolves in the user's eye and sends them on a voyage of euphoria where they experience ultimate confidence in themselves. Is it a real, physical/chemical addiction, or is the journey "Down the Crimson Road" more of a magical/metaphysical trek? Cordell is somewhat vague on this point (in book 1), allowing the reader to design their own theories. Personally I think the crystals are distilled tanar'ri ichor, but we'll see.

I thought this book has done the best job thus far of describing the Spellplague and the changes it has wrought on Faerun. Bonus points for that bit on the spellscar pilgrims - insane fanatics who willingly go into active spellplague lands, risking utter annihilation in the hope they may gain a useful mutation. In other historical news, there was brief mention of the Keeper of Tomes at Candlekeep disappearing under mysterious circumstances, but this was never expanded upon.

The story itself involves an ancient relic called the Dreamheart needed to awaken the Eldest - an aboleth of monstrous proportion and hideous strength. The heroes intent keeping this from coming to pass are the aforementioned monk and warlock, joined by a spoiled young noble brat who learns how to dreamwalk and manifest a powerful "ghostly warrior" form, a scared wizardess with a sketchy past, and a pirate captain (there seem to be a lot of those lately) with a strange connection to the sea and dubious heritage. They make for an unlikely, ragtag team, often bickering among themselves. The story ends on a cliffhanger, with one member betraying the rest by absconding with the Dreamheart for their own purposes. Overall it was an excellent story and a great start to this trilogy. Up next is book 2: City of Torment.
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VikingLegion
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Posted - 12 Jan 2019 :  15:16:56  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also finished City of Torment. In this book the heroes descend into Xxiphu, the lost city of the aboleths, long dormant but now stirring. I have very few notes on this one, I just blasted through it in a few days. I think my favorite part was when the warlock, who lost his Fey pact with the Lord of Bats (either late in book 1 or early in book 2, I forget) forges a new pact with an even more remote patron. Cordell details several celestial (not in the goodly sense) beings that take the form of stars of various hues and temperaments. I'm not doing this part justice at all, but it was a great bit of cosmic horror added to the story, again I have to use the term Lovecraftian. It was excellently done.

There were some odd languages mentioned in one of the rituals, only one of which I think I recognize: Rellanic, Davek, and Supernal.

Despite the best efforts of the heroes, the city of Xxiphu rises as a vast monolith in the middle of the Sea of Fallen Stars. As cool as that imagery is, I think we have too many ancient "re-risen" empires. We now have Netheril returned in the form of Shadovar. Myth Drannor is repopulated with elves (or is it? I guess I don't know what effect the Spellplague had on it) Now there's an aboleth stronghold not that far off from Sembia. I believe the Imaskar Empire is trying to make a comeback as well over in the old lands where Mulhorand used to be.

Anyway, after much fighting and exploring, the heroes once again fail in their objective for the most part. Their saving victory is that the Eldest is still somnolent, so it's not as bad as it could be. I'm interested to see how this is going to go in the final book of the trilogy. It seems to massive an enemy for them to best outright, so it looks like this will be yet another new player on the scene. There was a nice callback to Stardeep with the mention of The Traitor, and how he fits into all this cosmology.

Up next, obviously is the finale of the series: Key of Stars.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 12 Jan 2019 15:18:12
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