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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 07 Sep 2019 :  13:49:38  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Elminster Enraged. I can't believe I read it so fast, I really just had to bear down and tell myself to read ~100 pages a day.

As per my usual, it was a very up-and-down experience:

Elminster, in a drow priestess form (does it seem at times like Elminster is obsessed with inhabiting female bodies?), finds himself beset by 20 drow warriors and with limited magic at his disposal. His swordsmanship is up to the task of course, and he dispatches several of them via the blade. So not is he only the greatest archmage of all time, he's also a better swordman than Drizzt…

There was a really fun scene when he is trying to come up from the Underdark and the only available path takes him through a black dragon's lair. As a distraction he casts a spell he calls The Awakening that activates every magical item in the hoard, causing various wands and rings and necklaces and whatever other bauble to discharge their spells and properties all at once. The ensuing chaos is impressive, as fireballs and lightning bolts go careening all around the cavern, knocking over stalactites and some hitting the dragon. El then casts a very advanced form of remote telekinesis on a chest of sapphires, flying it out of the cave and making the dragon give chase. He flies it all over the valley outside, zigzagging wildly to keep the dragon occupied like my cat chasing after the laser pointer.

Oops, have to run, but much more to say. I'll come back and edit this later.
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
147 Posts

Posted - 09 Sep 2019 :  06:07:42  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Elminster Enraged. I can't believe I read it so fast, I really just had to bear down and tell myself to read ~100 pages a day.

As per my usual, it was a very up-and-down experience:

Elminster, in a drow priestess form (does it seem at times like Elminster is obsessed with inhabiting female bodies?), finds himself beset by 20 drow warriors and with limited magic at his disposal. His swordsmanship is up to the task of course, and he dispatches several of them via the blade. So not is he only the greatest archmage of all time, he's also a better swordman than Drizzt…

There was a really fun scene when he is trying to come up from the Underdark and the only available path takes him through a black dragon's lair. As a distraction he casts a spell he calls The Awakening that activates every magical item in the hoard, causing various wands and rings and necklaces and whatever other bauble to discharge their spells and properties all at once. The ensuing chaos is impressive, as fireballs and lightning bolts go careening all around the cavern, knocking over stalactites and some hitting the dragon. El then casts a very advanced form of remote telekinesis on a chest of sapphires, flying it out of the cave and making the dragon give chase. He flies it all over the valley outside, zigzagging wildly to keep the dragon occupied like my cat chasing after the laser pointer.

Oops, have to run, but much more to say. I'll come back and edit this later.



I dont remember that much on Enraged, but I think it was said in Shadows of Avatar trilogys first outing, that El is really good swordsman. And also his statlines atleast in 3.X edition actually reflects this. El is actually only mage that it actually makes sense. As he has been limited to not using magic multiple times. And he even was ftr/rog/cle before being mage.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 09 Sep 2019 :  10:53:03  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sorry I haven't been contributing much lately, the post 4th edition books were hardly my fave. I really hated what they did with the Simbul, in particular in these books so stopped reading even Ed's works. I did continue on with Bob's stuff through the Companions and the 5th edition Sundering stuff.

I just remember the Elminster Must Die/Enraged stuff being typical Ed in Cormyr writing that was so full of lore but very hard to follow plot and story wise; lots of characters introduced then taken away, lots of "sexy", and occasional brilliance. But the Simbul has always been my fave Chosen and to see the state of her in these books just wasn't appealing.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 21 Sep 2019 :  19:55:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Madpig
I dont remember that much on Enraged, but I think it was said in Shadows of Avatar trilogys first outing, that El is really good swordsman. And also his statlines atleast in 3.X edition actually reflects this. El is actually only mage that it actually makes sense. As he has been limited to not using magic multiple times. And he even was ftr/rog/cle before being mage.



Yeah, I get it - he has some ability with the blade. But this seemed like a feat beyond even the best swordsmen of the Realms, like truly epic level warrior stuff. Wow, I really wandered away for some time and forgot to finish this review. Some other parts I really liked:

The "airblade" spell developed by Mreldrake. Just really nasty stuff and so hard to counter. It did require a massive amount of concentration to maintain and control it though, so that balanced it out at least a little bit.

The mindmeld Elminster performs with the jail warden and the two war wizards. He did this in the previous book as well to calm down the hysterical Arcastle by opening up himself fully to the others. It worked well in that book and it worked well in this one as well. I don't know why I enjoyed it so much, I just think Ed writes this scene very well. It makes the snarky, always-right, god-like Elminster a bit more warm, more vulnerable, more relatable, Hells even a little bit likeable.

Elminster's weariness. I just commented on the last RAS book how I enjoyed the change in character of Drizzt. His nigh-eternal optimism and spotless moral conviction has been dinged up a bit of late, a result of the relentless evil and injustice of the world around him. El seems to be experiencing a similar wearing down, which I find brings more to the character.

Felt neutral about:
Hesperdan makes a surprising return in dragon form! I had sort of forgotten about his guy, being that Ed weaves so many disparate story threads all at once. But here he is, returned as Alorglauvenimaus (sp? who cares) the black dragon. The very same one I mentioned in my previous half of this review that Elminster has to trick out of its lair. Later in the book he gets destroyed by El and several war wizards. It was a worthy end for a typical mook, but for someone that's been around so many centuries and involved behind the scenes as a shadow puppeteer for so long - it felt like a bit of an ignominious way to go out.

Things I'm not crazy about:
Manshoon's seemingly limitless power. He's a vampire that apparently suffers zero effects from sunlight. He can split his mind and "ride" multiple subjects simultaneously. He mentions the mental strain and headaches from time to time, but it never seems to stop him from accomplishing exactly what he wants to do. He teleports all over the realm, always exactly where he needs to be to keep pushing his schemes forward, as though there were 10 of him working together. His spells, much like Elminster's, seem utterly mutable and able to do anything he wants them to do. I know this is a big theme with Ed, the major archmages don't really cast prepared spells with specific effects so much as mold or tease the Weave into whatever shape or purpose they desire. It's a cool concept, but post Spell-plague I figured these guys would be a little more adherent to the "rules". Nope, here they are, just as godlike as ever, making every other support character around them feel like so much chaff.

99 out of 100 males in these books are super rapey. It's like all they do is wait and wait around all day until they find a female by herself and it's game on. It doesn't matter if they're the scoundrel in the alley or the guard in the castle or whatever mission they might be involved in, as soon as any woman shows the slightest inkling of vulnerability, every man around her gets into line to force themselves on her sexually.

Cormyr, much like Zhentil Keep, apparently has an endless supply of young men and women to keep filling out the ranks after absolutely atrocious loss of life over and over. And we're not just talking about unskilled soldiers, I mean war-wizards. I guess Ed's vision of the Realms is that there are hardly any "normal" folks, but just about everyone is capable of advancing in classes. I always felt that 98% of the population are your farmers, blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, and so on. But the classes you'd find in your Player's Handbook are the more exceptional folk. But here we see more absurd body counts, and yet it never seems to make the slightest difference. It just makes the deaths feel fairly meaningless to me. There's no consequence or substance to an entire patrol of Purple Dragons and accompanying casters getting wiped out.

Lastly, Elminster inhabited the same body for like 4,000 years, but now he can't seem to go a week without getting his current meat sack destroyed. He's possessed nobles, commoners, wizards, a drow priestess.... it seems as soon as he got this "flow around as ash and inhabit any other body" ability, he has become an absolute moron when it comes to self-preservation. Or maybe he just doesn't feel any need to protect his shell like he used to? I don't know, it just seems off to me.

And that's it! Sorry for the long break between halves of a review, but I got caught up reading the next Erin Evans book and forgot all about this. Review coming next:

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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 21 Sep 2019 :  20:18:05  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I recently finished Lesser Evils. What a terrific book. My notes are fairly sparse, as I was enjoying the story too much to record my stray thoughts.

I did wonder about how fully has Netheril/Shade replaced Sembia. Last I knew, from the Kemp novels, they had insinuated themselves fairly deeply into Sembian politics. It seems this book has intimated they have gone a step further and basically just subsumed the entire nation.

I felt like Tam, the Harper/Selunite was a bit weakly developed in the previous Brimstone Angels novel, but here he gets fleshed out quite a bit more. His daughter Mira started off fairly shallow as well but really grew on me as the book progressed. I've said it before but it bears repeating, Evans is an exceptional character builder, right up there with Cunningham and Kemp. Another example is Dahl. He felt like a throw-in character to me at first. But I really felt his frustration, how he wants so badly to be respected and admired but hides it behind an ultra cynical and sarcastic exterior. In about half a book he went from a forgettable extra to someone I could really identify with. Brin took a step backwards in this one to me, he didn't have much room to breathe with everything else going on. He's the "Hawkeye" of this Avengers team.

The gist of the story is like some grand treasure hunt, like a really good Indiana Jones yarn where the Netherese/Shades and the Zhents serve as dual adversaries to our intrepid group of explorers. I really enjoyed all the cutaway scenes to the Hells, where Lorcan spends some time amongst his peers when he's not making life difficult for Faredeh. The ancient vault they discovered went from being fairly cliché to really interesting once you start to realize there's a strange sentience to the place that keeps everyone on their toes with shifting conditions, illusions, devious moving traps, etc. It was like there was just a splash of a horror vibe thrown in - DaVinci Code meets Thirteen Ghosts. I loved it.

They keep mentioning "ritual magic". I skipped 4th edition D&D mechanics entirely (not a knock, I just wasn't in the loop for those years) and I have a hard time grasping what they mean. The term ritual to me always meant having multiple casters working together on a spell, like a coven of witches casting something beyond the power of each of them individually. But that's clearly not what they are referring to here. Evans did mention how the nature of spellcasting changed fundamentally after the Weave was shredded, but she fell just short of laying it clearly out to me what is meant by ritual casting. Anyone with a 4e background care to explain? Not looking for anything in-depth, just a little blurb about what is different in layman terms.

Wonderful book overall, up next I've moved on to RAS's The Last Threshold and am about 100 pages in.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 28 Sep 2019 16:18:58
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Mirtek
Senior Scribe

543 Posts

Posted - 24 Sep 2019 :  23:34:23  Show Profile Send Mirtek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
Cormyr, much like Zhentil Keep, apparently has an endless supply of young men and women to keep filling out the ranks after absolutely atrocious loss of life over and over. And we're not just talking about unskilled soldiers, I mean war-wizards. I guess Ed's vision of the Realms is that there are hardly any "normal" folks, but just about everyone is capable of advancing in classes. I always felt that 98% of the population are your farmers, blacksmiths, coopers, farriers, and so on. But the classes you'd find in your Player's Handbook are the more exceptional folk. But here we see more absurd body counts, and yet it never seems to make the slightest difference. It just makes the deaths feel fairly meaningless to me. There's no consequence or substance to an entire patrol of Purple Dragons and accompanying casters getting wiped out.
That'S something that has been bothering me too for quite some time
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 25 Sep 2019 :  16:53:25  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Me as well. The blow suffered in Crown of Fire alone to the Zhentarim at the Citadel of the Raven should have set the Black Network back by decades, but nope, they're ready to start another war with unlimited manpower and wizards / beholders /armies right away again.,. The logistics never work well for me in terms of army defeats not setting anyone back. Where are all these people coming from and who is funding it all?
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 28 Sep 2019 :  17:09:57  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Last Threshold yesterday. RAS has been on a bit of a mini-roll for me lately, recapturing some of that old magic. Although you can add Ambergris to the list of absurd names he comes up with. I liked it at first, the shortening of Amber Gristle O'Maul, a very proper dwarvish name. But then I looked up what ambergris actually is - a grayish, waxy substance secreted from the digestive track of sperm whales - and all I could do was shake my head...

I'm sure I've come across this theory before, but I found the whole concept of Drizzt being a Chosen of Mielikki *OR* Lolth to be really interesting. Of course it sounds counter-intuitive at first, but being how the Spider Queen loves to promote Chaos, and who has caused more of that in Menzoberranzan than Drizzt? I'm not ready to buy in on it yet, in fact I detest the idea of "Chosen" at all, but it's interesting to ponder. Several characters - the Netherese lord, Jarlaxle, etc. - are all trying to figure this out at the moment, I'll just have to wait and see where it goes.

The new Superfriends team Drizzt has assembled is growing on me more and more, horrible names not-withstanding (looking at you Ambergris and Afafrenfere… ugh!!!). They all bring something unique to the table, and the inter-party drama and tension is interesting in a way that the old Companions of the Hall, who mostly got along very well (other than post- Ertuu Wulfgar) didn't have. The bickering and feeling of possible impending betrayal certainly keeps them and me on our toes.

Something that has been bothering me for a long while now that I couldn't quite put my finger on... Drizzt's fighting style seems to be getting less and less effective. Let me explain: he is super quick, super accurate, skilled, dexterous, and the like. But it seems like he takes forever to down an opponent. He slices and dices and wears foes down, but meanwhile everyone else is "one shot: one kill" This even goes back to the old Companion days, where Wulfgar and Bruenor hit so hard with their hammer and axe they never, ever have to take a second swing at an opponent. Bruenor's big problem seemed to be burying his axe so deep in an orc's skull he needed a few seconds to extricate it. Cripes, Cattie-brie often took out multiple enemies with one arrow, as Taulmaril's shots go clean through the first orc and on to the second. Meanwhile, here's Drizzt spinning, dancing, weaving, slashing, somersaulting - still working on his first mook. I get it, there has to be some variation in the fighting styles to show they are indeed different, but it seems to work heavily against someone who is supposedly one of the premier bladesmen in all of modern fantasy, plinking away with what are essentially paper-cuts, bleeding out his opponents over time. If this were a video game I'd say that guy needs to work on his Crit% or something. Even Ambergris, a Cleric and not a warrior by trade, is downing every enemy in one shot.

There was a hilarious (to me) line in this book. Drizzt says something questionable to Artemis, who in turn looks at him "as though he were the offspring of an ettin." I thought this was a clever way of re-purposing the line "as if I had two heads", and this coming from a reader who normally detests such callbacks to our own real world phrases. It was like a Jeff Grubb line, only actually clever :)

I absolutely loved the chapters wherein the group (I can't bring myself to call them the companions, even with a lowercase "C") sets out to help Port Llast rebuild and prosper. I play a good deal of strategy/tactical video games, the type where you have to reinforce an area, mine resources, build structures, raise an army, train them up, etc. and this portion of the book felt very much like that. I enjoyed the process of them pushing back the sahuagin, gaining confidence in themselves, allying with some of the farmer-turned-bandits in the area to increase their population, it was a fun few chapters. Although I'm not crazy with how abruptly the "heroes" abandoned their charges. It left off with a somewhat jealous Luskan seeking possible retribution and/or forcing them to pay tribute. Hopefully the trade deal brokered by Ship Kurth keeps hostilities to a minimum.

I enjoyed the appearance of a necrophidius (death worm). I always get a kick out of the writers reaching way back into the history/lore of D&D to pull out monsters I remember reading about in my old Monster Manuals or Fiend Folio back in the '80s!

Is Bregan D'Aerthe a bit too much of a Deus Ex Machina? Between Jarlaxle's gadgets and Kimmuriel's raw godlike power, it seems they can swoop in and fix any situation. The rescue of Drizzt and Co from Draygo in the Shadowfell didn't feel right to me. Such a blatant display of power from the merc band, I can't imagine any amount of gold and/or cashing in of favors on Jarlaxle's part would've made that fly. Speaking of that part, I felt like Drizzt's acceptance of his slave status rang false. He just gave up too easily, it simply isn't in his character to resign himself with such little resistance.

How did Byok the lizard mount of Tiago function so easily in the bitter cold of Icewind Dale? Magic, I guess?

This book felt different from many RAS books in that there were so many long passages of time between some events. Days or more would go by in between some chapters, I think the captivity in the Shadowfell ended up being several months. Then there was an 18 year interlude when they fell asleep in the enchanted wood of Iraludoon. Another poster in this thread (forgive me for not recalling which) mentioned that the RAS 4th edition books felt somewhat like he was just riding it out, pacing himself until the next big upheaval. I have no idea what The Sundering is, but I think that's coming up for me in the near future.

Lastly... that ending! Oh man, obviously I know there are more Drizzt books, but if I was reading this back in 2013, I legitimately would've thought Drizzt died at the very end. I felt so bad for Guenhwyvar, she just got back and recovered from her awful ordeal, and now the book closes with Drizzt bleeding out from a head wound, slowly fading to black on top of Kelvin's Cairn while Guen roars forlornly into the unforgiving night sky. It was a powerful bit of writing and had my heart in my throat even knowing it can't be the end.

Up next, I really, really, really want to start the 6-part Sundering series that rotates authors, but I have to take a step backwards and read the Brotherhood of the Griffin quintet - a series I've been putting off for a long while due to not owning book 3. But I've since acquired it and thus that is what I'll tackle next. So, last night I started book 1, The Captive Flame.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 28 Sep 2019 17:12:25
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
3090 Posts

Posted - 28 Sep 2019 :  18:55:09  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Brotherhood of the Griffon had some really neat characters. Too bad Byers had no time to tie loose ends, as WoTC pulled the rug from under his feet when they axed the entire novel line except for Drizzt.

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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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
3090 Posts

Posted - 28 Sep 2019 :  19:14:24  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I'm sure I've come across this theory before, but I found the whole concept of Drizzt being a Chosen of Mielikki *OR* Lolth to be really interesting. Of course it sounds counter-intuitive at first, but being how the Spider Queen loves to promote Chaos, and who has caused more of that in Menzoberranzan than Drizzt? I'm not ready to buy in on it yet, in fact I detest the idea of "Chosen" at all, but it's interesting to ponder. Several characters - the Netherese lord, Jarlaxle, etc. - are all trying to figure this out at the moment, I'll just have to wait and see where it goes.


Honestly, I've never liked this, mostly because it isn't in line with Lolth's behaviour. Lolth never promoted Chaos, she only promoted the negative side of it, i.e. strife.

She promotes the very exact thing that tyrants promote to keep people's attention focused on anything but their real issues. Meanwhile, chaos can also mean emergence of new ideas, of new perspectives, old beliefs being challenged and leading to periods of instability that are necessary for progress.

Lolth never allowed that; in fact, she has always done the opposite by enforcing censorship to ridiculous levels. Had she wanted to actually promote chaos, she would have abolished censorship, let new ideas emerge, and perhaps even let Eilistraee's and Vhaeraun's ideas be shared and discussed in the settlements under her control.

Instead, Lolth has always done all she could to keep the drow in the dark (heh), to expose them to only one lifestyle, one set of beliefs and ridiculous principles (love is weakness, loving your kid is weakness--lol), and to snuff any and all new ideas, with no room for discussion (oh, you believe that. Too bad, you die).

A true deity of chaos constantly wants change and renewal (for the better or the worse). Meanwhile, Lolth's society is the epithome of stagnation and nonsensical tradition, to the point of self-harm (and of not making much sense worldbuilding-wise). A ture deity of chaos can't be evil or good, otherwise they'd just promote strife and catastrophes, or a constant questioning of the status quo in order to find growth (constructive conflict, so to speak), rather than all sides of chaos.

On top of that "chaos" has often been used by the authors to justify nonsensical plans, which is simply bad storytelling (for example, her plan in WotSQ), as if "chaos" was some kind of all-encompassing solution to explain inconsistencies and plot holes (or as if chaos was the same as nonsense--as a matter of fact, even in nature, chaos follows its own rules, to the point that there's a branch of Mathematics that deals with this).


To all Facebook-using FR fans, you might be interested in checking out this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450517575051806/

Edited by - Irennan on 28 Sep 2019 19:22:45
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 28 Sep 2019 :  23:36:44  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Menzo always felt very lawful evil to me, with strict rules in place with extreme penalties for breaking them, ruling houses by numbered order. Yes, there are even rules to ignore the rules...I never saw the chaos.

Last Threshhold just felt like Bob wanted to get into the next phase and bring the Companions back; I did like the Port Llast parts and anything with Kimmuriel is great, so having him take down the Shade Prince in his lair was fun for me, but we already had Kimmuriel be responsible for bringing down Knellict in his lair... BD is really a huge deus ex machina and Kimmuriel is just the tool to make anything happen that Bob wants. He probably could take down Elminster and the Simbul and Szass Tam at the same time if Bob needed it for the plot. Sigh. (And I love Kimmy!)

The ending did nothing for me because I was just waiting for Drizzt to join the other Companions so they could all come back together, and just made me hate Dahlia more I guess. I'm curious if the Brotherhood series is good! I didn't like how RLB wrote the Undead series so it would be good to get a book I like from him.
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 05 Oct 2019 :  13:06:45  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It was a productive reading week for me, I finished the first two installments of the Brotherhood of the Griffon quintet. I finished the other book I was reading at night, so now I can concentrate full force for the final push on this FR project.

First, The Captive Flame. It took me a little while to get back into Byers writing style. His cadence, chapter length (a personal bugaboo for me), and repetition of odd words that nobody else ever uses (palaver, for example) was jarring at first, but all came back to me as the book progressed. He always seems to teach me a new word, which I consider no mean feat. This time it was wergild.

This Brotherhood is not the easiest to cheer for. Their leader, Aoth, is a short, squat, bald, ugly Thayan fighter/mage with a dour demeanor and very loose morals. I salute Byers for going outside of the box and not giving his main protagonist all the usual qualities (handsome, dashing, tall, charming, etc.), but at the same time it does take a bit to invest in him and his crew - especially when he justifies certain... let's say morally gray actions with the line, "Hey, that's the life of a sellsword." Speaking of his crew, they don't immediately leap off the page either. Gaedyn the scout is an impeccable archer and a bit of a pretty-boy. He's probably the most interesting of the bunch, if only because of his unrelenting sarcasm, which can be charming at times, and make you want to punch him in the throat at others. He's the "Face" of this A-Team. Khouryn is a dwarf. He's stocky, solid, dependable, a good fighter, not very imaginative, misses his family and clan. You know... a dwarf. Jhesrhi is a mage that endured some kind of terrible trauma as a child, and now she is intensely uncomfortable around people. She is some kind of elemental arcanist, I think a sorcerer, and is far more comfortable whispering to the spirits of the earth and wind than her fellow humanoids. She has, arguably, the most interesting hook of all the characters. But even still she, and the rest, feel more like templates of characters than actual fleshed out entities at this point.

The story centers around the Brotherhood trying to restore their good name and refill the coffers after their recent disastrous campaigns in and around Thay. They take a job in Chessenta - a rabidly xenophobic Ancient Greece analog - to solve a series of murders. The sleuth portions of the book are done fairly well. This escalates to a greater degree of trust and more responsibilities, as the murders link to a far larger plot to invade Chessenta. The "heroes" must find and awaken an ancient red dragon that was once the savior/godking of this land in times past. There is tons of combat, and highly descriptive. Byers is a good author for transitioning to 4th edition and the more video-gamey playstyle and aesthetic they were pushing at the time. I feel like this book was about 10% tutorial on the various new class abilities and so on. But it wasn't so pervasive as to be heavy-handed, I thought he struck the right blend.

Last thought, the names of the dragons (and dragonborn clans, for that matter). I like the concept of dragons having huge, multisyllabic names. It goes well with their long lifespans, majesty, and arrogance. But sometimes it produces some really clunky, awful attempts. So while I like the idea of it, the execution often fails to work. There are several examples, but the most egregious offender to me is the dracolich ruler of Threskel who goes by the name of Alasklerbanbastos. After tossing this word around in my head several times, I finally settled on just calling him Mr. Alaska Bombastic, because... why not? Also that was the name of my Ska band back in high school (not really, I'm just checking if anyone is still paying attention). There were a bunch of really odd clan names too, I just found that one to be the most unusual and jarring, especially for a major villain.

Ok, up next is another review for book 2:
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VikingLegion
Senior Scribe

USA
440 Posts

Posted - 05 Oct 2019 :  13:31:44  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Last night I finished Whisper of Venom. My notes on this one are fairly sparse, as I may have blended elements of book 1 and 2 together.

A race of creatures called Purplespawn was mentioned. I think they are drow/dragon hybrids, but I can't find any information on them.

The dragonborn paladin duel between Patrin and Medrash was excellent. A follower of Bahamut and one of Torm, both goodly deities, was sad to see, as I liked both characters. But it sort of had to go down that way and it didn't disappoint. Like in the last book, I felt Byers was given a directive to showcase as much of the race/class stuff going on in this edition, and he did it well.

The concept of Xorvintaal is fascinating. Dragons, worried their internecine warring would eventually make their own species extinct, set up an elaborate game of subterfuge that would determine their pecking order. They use mortals as the chesspieces they push around. The rules are so convoluted that even many dragons cannot understand them fully. I first encountered this game in the Erin Evans novel The God Catcher and now it is a major component of this Byers series.

There was a skull lord in this book, just like on the cover of the most recent RAS book I finished. Are they one of the new "cool kids" for monsters, or just an odd coincidence? This book also introduced me to dragonspawn - humanoid dragons very similar to, but the antithesis of, dragonborn. They are created by some ritual wherein mages or priest of Tiamat perform over the eggs of dragons, warping them into this new form. I found this to be uncomfortably derivative of the draconians in the Dragonlance setting.

Overall this was a pretty good book. Much like the first, there was a TON of action - more large scale armies clashing in this one. Tchazzar, the red dragon, has been freed to lead Chessenta to victory against her enemies. But, ooops, he's maybe not the benevolent godking they were hoping for. Surprise, surprise, he's kind of a jerk. He must've been a fun character for Byers to write, he's massively megalomaniacal, utterly deluded, prone to explosions of anger and jealousy, etc. Aoth and Company are glad for the help this mighty being can supply. But at what cost?

Tonight I'll start book 3: The Spectral Blaze.
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VikingLegion
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USA
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Posted - 11 Oct 2019 :  15:57:00  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Last night I finished Spectral Blaze, the third of this 5-part Brotherhood of the Griffon. This is the book that annoyed me for so long, the last FR book I needed to complete my collection. After finally finding it for a somewhat reasonable $22, the seller backed out on me. I saw it next for $38, and in the time it took me to think it over during a lunchbreak, it had already sold. Then it was back to over $50 for awhile, when I finally saw a copy for $47, I pulled the trigger - hating it all the while. What a ridiculous amount to pay for an $8 book when it released.

Not much to note here, the story continues. I enjoy the intricacy of the game xorvintaal, at least what little I can glean about the scoring system. The characters seem to be gaining a bit more nuance and are slightly more interesting, though this is still not a strong part of the book or series. This one was nearly non-stop mayhem, like a Michael Bay summer blockbuster. I often think about how certain books would translate to the big screen as I'm reading them - this one is all explosions and massive CGI battles. A fun distraction if you like the occasional mindless eye-candy action flick.

That's all for now, tonight I'll start book 4: The Masked Witches. From the title I'm going to assume Rashemen gets involved in the struggle, which will certainly perk me up a bit, as that is one of my favorite regions in all of FR. Although I can't say I know what sort of developments to expect in this advanced timeline...
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 11 Oct 2019 :  22:55:34  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wow, that's a lot for the physical books! I made the switch to ebooks a while back due to many physical moves for work; taking my library overseas just wasn't practical but I need my Realms books with me.
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VikingLegion
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USA
440 Posts

Posted - 20 Oct 2019 :  16:29:09  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Masked Witches a few days ago. The series makes an abrupt shift to the country of Rashemen (YES!) The reason is a flock? pride? of wild griffons has been found in one of the mountain ranges and tamed by a barbarian of the Griffon Lodge working with one of the hathran. It is determined this is some kind of portent, and they are to auction the griffons to whichever faction can help them out with their current infestation of undead. So the Brotherhood naturally shows up, having recently lost several of their mounts warring against the dragons in Chessenta. Also there is a mercenary team from Halrua, looking to strengthen their aerial superiority with a team of griffon riders they can deploy from their skyships, an Aglarondan captain, and a Shou trader from either Westgate or Thesk, I forget. Also you have native Rashemi who disagree with the witches' interpretation and believe the griffons should stay where they are, augmenting their own defense against Thay and other enemies. It all makes for a very fun bit of faction-against-faction intrigue.

I was glad to see one of my longstanding questions about the Wychlaren answered - their casting is a hybrid of the divine and arcane. I never quite knew if they were "witches" in the sense of female mages, or more like druidic, "Gaia/Pagan" nature spirit worshipers. I'm pleased to see it's a little of both.

There's also a rival group of hathran (called durthran) that were put down some years ago in a "War of Witches" that are now back as undead and looking to re-shape Rashemen in their image.

There was a really fun moment when two leaders are communicating over long distance by each possessing a piece of an imp that was bisected right down the middle. This "demonic walkie talkie" was probably more amusing to me than it should've been.

I've noticed Byers gets stuck with certain phrases he ends up using over and over. Like every time someone casts a spell they "wave their hand in a mystic pass" or "utter words of power". Aoth's eyes are described as "fire-kissed" (he's touched by the Spellplague) over and over, and so on. That nitpick aside, this was a pretty entertaining book. I found the transition from Chessenta to Rashemen to be very abrupt, the former storyline seems to be all but dropped for now, but it this is a good story in its own rite, so I'm fine with it.

Up next, naturally is book 5 to finish the series: Prophet of the Dead.
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VikingLegion
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USA
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Posted - 26 Oct 2019 :  18:30:24  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
All done with Prophet of the Dead and the 5-part Brotherhood of the Griffon series. I enjoyed the last two books more than the first two, probably due to the setting switch to Rashemen. I touched on it in the previous write-up, but I'll reiterate here; it really feels like this is two separate series. The first 3 books in Chessenta and the last two in Rashemen are totally different adventures, as if this is more like an ongoing series or chronicles of this mercenary group split into 3 and 2 episode arcs.

I enjoyed the villains of the last two. We saw the durthans (evil hathrans) trying to subvert the wychlaren order, but behind it all was an immense undead naga-like thing with grafted parts. He hails from one of the other lands of Abeir that got plopped down onto Toril in the big mashup. He leads this almost socialistic cabal of undead that despise any who would enslave undead for their own purposes. He believes in eliminating the living so that his kind can rule in peace, where all undead are considered equal. It would almost be noble in a sense, if they weren't so thoroughly evil and all that.

It was a good story, and a decent series overall. I still never quite identified or admired any of the characters overmuch, and that was perhaps its greatest weakness. Some threads were left untied, most prominent among them Jhesri's transformation into some kind of fire elemental creature. But looking at the remainder of my stack all I see is one more novel from RLB, and it's part of the Sundering quintet and unlikely to revisit this particular cast.

And with that cue, up next I've started book 1 of the Sundering: The Companions.
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VikingLegion
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USA
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Posted - 02 Nov 2019 :  10:38:41  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished The Companions several days ago but didn't have time for a writeup. What a crazy book, this felt like one of the oddest offerings I've seen from RAS. I can see now that this Sundering is basically just a reboot so we can dispense with all that poorly received 4e stuff. RAS bringing back all his old characters via a Mielikki sanctioned rebirth feels heavily contrived and strains credibility, but at the same time I have to feel for authors that have the entire world blown up and advanced 100 years by some corporate suit that wants to stimulate product sales. It must really suck for the writers to have to abandon long-running plotlines to shoehorn the latest decision from up high into their stories, so Bob gets a free pass on this from me.

So.... the strangest aspect for me was that the Muppet Babies are each sent back into the world as newborns, but have FULL AWARENESS right out of the gate. One would think part of Mielikki's boon would be an initial wipe of their memories, and a gradual recovery as they grow - like maybe as Bruenor begins his combat training he starts to recall a specific maneuver, which leads to other memories unlocking, etc. Nope, here we have the crew in their infant bodies, all ready and impatient to begin training but essentially locked into their baby prisons. It made for some moments of levity for sure, but can you imagine the awkwardness of it all? And just think about sex drive; having all your memories and adult feelings/cravings about the opposite sex (or same, if that's what you're into) but being in this tiny infant or toddler body that is unable to act on anything, it would be maddening! Or perhaps, due to a lack of the proper hormones, that drive would be tempered, if not absent entirely. Still, that first moment that Baby Bruenor is being lifted towards his new mother's gigantic boob, it definitely made me think how weird growing up would be under these circumstances.

I had wondered why Bob took this road as opposed to the gradual rediscovery of memories I had mentioned, and then a cynical thought hit me; this way they essentially gain TWO lifetimes of xp and can become even more epic champions. Imagine being able to have a full re-do of your life, but still retain every skill you've already acquired. You could become twice as good at what you already do (like Bruenor during his combat training) or you could branch out into other disciplines (multiclass) like Cattie-brie. I mean, if you're going to jump the shark with mega-powered up super heroes, might as well shoot for the moon and make them virtual demigods, right?

Speaking of Cat.... I don't think RAS has a clue what he wants to do with this character and hasn't for some time. She's gone from pure archer only, to swordfighter (understandable, she wanted to round out her warrior game for those times when range fighting is impossible). Then she got injured and became a full-on mage under Lady Alustriel's tutelage. Now she is some kind of spell-scarred druid/priestess/wizard dual-Chosen of Mielikki and Mystra. It's getting a little far-fetched... Her arc was my least favorite by far. Every time I started a new chapter and saw it was about her, it felt like the "Sansa" chapters when reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

Bruenor's arc had a very interesting twist. After intentionally fumbling his way through early sparring bouts so as not to give away his prowess, he finally gives up and goes all in, taking on his entire class at the same time and trouncing them all easily. He's viewed as a wunderkind/prodigy type and instantly promoted up the ranks. His renunciation of the dwarven gods and uncontrollable anger was a nice twist that brought some extra nuance to his tale. But back to the training sessions, this is RAS at his finest. It brought back the same memories I had of a young Drizzt training with Zak, or taking on the other students at Melee Magthere. I really enjoyed these chapters.

Regis was another interesting case. Given a second chance at growing up, he vows to not be the 5th wheel that is always in need of rescue. He purposely puts himself in harms way and challenges himself to become braver, tougher, more resourceful. I thought it was a little weird/unnecessary to give him some water genasi blood this time around, that didn't seem to fit. But all the rest - the thief training, the fencing lessons, the alchemy gadgets, the spymaster/ James Bond stuff, and of course the insanely powerful magical items he's managed to gather on this go-around - have all combined to create a much more confident, competent, suave, and effective "Spider" instead of the cowardly Regis that always needed a rescue. This was a fun and much-needed reinvention of the character, though he frustratingly got himself nearly killed after getting to Ten Towns and needed to be rescued by Cat. *sigh*

There was a dwarf trainer named Murgatroid Stonehammer. Dear gods... why? /Tangent On: I just spent 10 minutes looking up the etymology and genealogy of the name Murgatroid (John of Moor Gate Royde). Interesting, but still... such a clumsy name. Still better than Cordio Muffinhead though. Maybe I'll change my handle on this site to Murgatroid Muffinhead. /Tangent Off

Lastly, as much as the Harpells annoy me, it was fun in a way to see Longsaddle again. Same with the brief inclusion of the hamlet of Auckney. This felt like very indulgent, nostalgiac writing, but I enjoyed the "Greatest Hits" tour around northwest Faerun. Up next, I'll continue the Sundering series with Paul S. Kemp's Godborn.




Edited by - VikingLegion on 02 Nov 2019 10:40:25
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Seravin
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Canada
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Posted - 02 Nov 2019 :  11:08:11  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I really liked Regis's arc, he's finally worthy of joining the Companions in the fighting side of things. What did you think of Wulfgar's re-birth? If I was him I'd have been a bit annoyed at being pulled back into the life cycle when he'd earned his warrior's rest in the halls of Tempus or what not? I think they made it out like he's fine to do this twice because he knows what's waiting when this cycle is done...but maybe misremembering this.

This book really bluntly points out how badly 4E was received by the fans and instead of a return to OGB era, they basically just Deus Ex Machina to make things as much like they were before the Spellplague without erasing the 100 year time skip as they could.

I would have much preferred a return to the 1350s then what we got, personally, but that's a grognard for you.
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
3090 Posts

Posted - 02 Nov 2019 :  15:25:09  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

This book really bluntly points out how badly 4E was received by the fans and instead of a return to OGB era, they basically just Deus Ex Machina to make things as much like they were before the Spellplague without erasing the 100 year time skip as they could.




The worst part about this is that they didn't even bother to put it all in novels. The vast majority of things, like certain gods (or whole nations) coming back happened offscreen, while The Sundering novels focused on so little of what was actually going on, that you might wonder why they were even called like that. The Companions had literally nothing to do with the event, for example.

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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Seravin
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Canada
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Posted - 02 Nov 2019 :  15:45:01  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It irked me when they brought Bane back in 3rd edition without any novel explanation (or even really a sourcebook explanation). But yeah the explanations from 4th to 5th are extremely handwaved. The nations and gods are just "back" and all your fave characters you thought died were just in stasis or being reincarnated or magically don't age.
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
3090 Posts

Posted - 02 Nov 2019 :  16:18:42  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
They literally used "God did it" as an explanation. Now, I totally agree with bringing back stuff, but write novels, or at least an anthology of short stories, about it.

To all Facebook-using FR fans, you might be interested in checking out this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450517575051806/

Edited by - Irennan on 02 Nov 2019 16:19:20
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VikingLegion
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USA
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Posted - 06 Nov 2019 :  23:23:53  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Agree with everything you guys are saying. The whole event lacks clarity and requires the reader to do extra research or just shrug their shoulders and say "OK, I guess this is what's happening now..."

I finished Godborn a couple days ago. With all due respect to the other fine writers I've come across, Kemp seems to be on an entirely different plane of existence. This book had me utterly enthralled by page 5. The spellscarred brothers were particularly horrifying, but nearly everything in this book just worked for me. He will join a very select group of authors who I will follow outside of the D&D multiverse to check out their other works. I took almost zero notes on this one, I just couldn't be bothered to put it down long enough to jot any thoughts down.

That's not to say I didn't find some nitpicks. Some of the names were clumsy. Also Gerak, a simple farmsman with a non-magical bow somehow guns down demons and all manner of highly magical creatures with seeming ease. But that aside, this was another gem from Kemp. What a shame WotC didn't think his services were worth retaining.

Up next, book 3 of the Sundering: The Adversary.
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Madpig
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Finland
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Posted - 07 Nov 2019 :  06:32:21  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Agree with everything you guys are saying. The whole event lacks clarity and requires the reader to do extra research or just shrug their shoulders and say "OK, I guess this is what's happening now..."

I finished Godborn a couple days ago. With all due respect to the other fine writers I've come across, Kemp seems to be on an entirely different plane of existence. This book had me utterly enthralled by page 5. The spellscarred brothers were particularly horrifying, but nearly everything in this book just worked for me. He will join a very select group of authors who I will follow outside of the D&D multiverse to check out their other works. I took almost zero notes on this one, I just couldn't be bothered to put it down long enough to jot any thoughts down.

That's not to say I didn't find some nitpicks. Some of the names were clumsy. Also Gerak, a simple farmsman with a non-magical bow somehow guns down demons and all manner of highly magical creatures with seeming ease. But that aside, this was another gem from Kemp. What a shame WotC didn't think his services were worth retaining.

Up next, book 3 of the Sundering: The Adversary.




I think that Godborn being cut to only one book is biggest crime that Wizbro ever comited towards us readers. (2nd is that we will never get followup on this book). It was originally supposed to be full trilogy. It shows sometimes during the book.

And Kemps exellent writing also shines through on scenes where Riven has like identity crisis, when he tries to remember what Mask originally did plan.

On the sidenote it would be interesting discussion on what Rivens aligment would be at the end. I think he's original writeup was either CE or NE. I would lean towards LE, as he definetely is having honor and he does keep wows and promises he has given.
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VikingLegion
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USA
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Posted - 09 Nov 2019 :  13:35:54  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah Riven really came a long way as a character. Not unlike Artemis Entreri, he went from completely irredeemable sociopathic antagonist, to reluctant ally, to maybe something approaching friendship. I really like his affection for dogs, particularly strays, it's just little touches like that that humanize and bring out the extra dimension to a character.

The battle of Riven(/Mask?) and his undead Shadowfell hordes against Mephistopheles and his devil legions was absolutely terrific. You're right in that it's a terrible shame this story wasn't allowed to continue. I'm looking at all the books I have left to read in FR and the variety is somewhat lacking:

Evans
Byers
Greenwood
Denning
Salvatore
Salvatore
Evans
Salvatore
Greenwood
Salvatore
Evans
Salvatore
Evans
Salvatore
Greenwood
Salvatore
Salvatore

So with the small exceptions of one Byers and one Denning, the remainder of the Realms is down to just 3 voices. I know for many of the old-schoolers, the Realms are Ed's creation and whatever matches most closely to his original vision is the strength of the setting. But for me, the beauty of the Forgotten Realms comes from the tapestry of so many different ideas and perspectives - from game designers to authors to cartographers and everything else - woven together to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, consistency was sometimes a nightmare, but I loved the heyday when 12+ authors could each set up camp in a different region and create their own sandboxes, with the occasional large story arc spanning over the setting in its entirety just to remind us all that it's one big, breathing, living place. Ok, enough of this nostalgia, it is what it is.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 09 Nov 2019 13:36:30
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