log in or register to remove this ad

 

General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #081 Daughter of the Drow by Elaine Cunningham (Starlight & Shadows 1)

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
In short I don't like the Tren, they could be replaced (fairly easily) with some other creature that serves the same purpose, and that already exists in a monster manual or supplement somewhere. Please keep in mind I have deliberately not Googled the Tren, so I'm bound to be wrong about this.
So as it turns out... :D

The tren are from MC11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix. Insofar as I'm aware, they've never been used in any other capacity besides this novel (which I haven't read, and so didn't know about). For what it's worth, I appreciate Cunningham trying to pull a lesser-known monster out of obscurity, though I suspect that I'd have gone crazy at the time trying to figure out just what those things were and what they could do.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


jeremypowell

Explorer
Still really enjoying your write-ups! Cunningham is one of my very favorite Realms writers, but I think you’ve successfully communicated why her books don’t work as well for you. That said, The Dream Spheres does strike me as the least successful of the five Songs and Swords books.

Incidentally, there was a sixth and final book planned for this series, which was meant to provide closure to several ongoing questions posed by the earlier books. Entitled Reclamation, Wizards of the Coast had announced the novel and even released a cover image, which you can easily find online, but the book was never published. For Realms fans who love her work, this is one of the lost holy grails. Over the years, Cunningham has occasionally expressed a desire to finish and publish the novel, but that seems very unlikely now for various reasons.

One last thing: I’d highly recommend interleaving the string of Elminster novels you have lined up next with the Nobles series that comes after it in your reading order. I think you’re less likely to burn out that way. Greenwood is by now a relatively known quantity for you, but the peculiarities of his style come even more to the fore in the remaining books. The Nobles has some excellent books in it (I won’t spoil in advance which ones I think those are) and also some absolute rubbish. But they’re all stand-alone stories, since even the Elminster books don’t really follow directly on from one another, so going back and forth doesn’t really harm anything, and will permit you to take (what I predict will be) much-needed breaks from Elminster.
 

Mirtek

Adventurer
I picked it up- started it, and then on page 10 or so just said to myself, I need to read something else. Just to say when I got back to the novel, well- it just flew by.
[...]
That's the thing, this is the best Elaine Cunningham novel I've read so far, and just to say again- they're all very well written, it's just that some part of me is left wanting more.
I am glad you liked it. After those first few words I feared the worst, as this is one of my most favorite FR novels :)
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#069 Hand of Fire by Ed Greenwood (Shandrill's Saga 3)
Read 30/4/20 to 7/5/20


Forgotten Realms Hand of Fire (Shandril's Saga 3)  a.JPG

Book 3- and another struggle to get through. So, what's new? Nothing much, as it transpires- Shan and Narm have to get from A to B, B being Silverymoon, that's nice. A is... and now I'm at the end I can't even remember where we started. The intrepid duo are hidden (don't make me laugh) on a trade caravan, making their way to safety.

Oh, and by the way- that's the plot (or the story) in all of its complexity- get from A to B.

Is that right? How can Silverymoon (or anywhere else) be safe for Shan and Narm? The world and his wife are out to lay claim to Spellfire, the bad guys will go to the ends of Toril to lay claim to the power.

The caravan is therefore packed with a variety of bad guys- Zhent, Red Wizards, Dragon Cultists, thieves from Scornubel, and a variety of others.

How will Silverymoon prove to be any safer for the forlorn pair?

Then there's all the bad guys queuing up, how do they 'acquire' Spellfire? I get that they can try to capture Shan, but what comes next... do they somehow syphon the hellish power from her? How?

It doesn't help that the bad guys (some of them) seem to be a lot less subtle about their attempts- are they going to wrest Spellfire from Shan's cold dead hands?

So, I've been complaining about Elaine Cunningham's lack of gritty action, well... me and my big mouth. This novel, once the caravan gets off is a rolling maul from start to finish, conniving bad guys (the best bit in the novel) squabble and then find new ways to 'off' each other. The caravan (how big is this thing?) seems to get attacked and decimated about every seven pages by some new threat rising to the top of the pack. Who keeps signing up for this thing... is every wagon in the caravan a bad guy just biding their time?

That's also part of the problem, with no great plot thread to unravel (A to B) then the bad folk have to carry a lot of the weight (and threat/suspense/tension) and they're good- all of them, but not great. mainly because they're on the backfoot from the get-go, all of them are trying to kill each other. Shan my be surrounded by enemies but so is every bad guy on her trail.

The best villains- the Waldorf and Statler mages, you work it out.

As usual the Harpers (or whoever) have let Shan and Narm go, and then- as usual, sent someone chasing after to watch over the pair, in this instance Sharantyr, Knight of Myth Drannor. We follow her difficult journey, all the way to the caravan and the final fight in which, soon after, Sharantyr's mortally wounded and teleported (or similar) to safety by the (deus ex machina?) bigguns. What was the point of her coming? If the Harpers et al wanted to protect Shan then go mob handed, or else... just teleport the pair to wherever they need to be.

I'm sorry, just a little bitter.

I just don't really get it- now I'm at the end. The journey is the novel- okay, but the journey is for nothing- there are easier ways to get from A to B (again, teleport) this then just seems to be a rinse and repeat retelling of the two previous books. Nothing new comes to light, does it- did I miss something?

Lots of innocent folk (I presume) get caught in the crossfire, lives and livelihoods are destroyed- spent, wasted; and for what. In essence, again, this is just a trip from A to B, why doesn't someone higher up (on the good guy's side) figure this out earlier in the piece. The Harper's are very brave, but they seem to lack management nous- a bit indulgent letting their secret weapon (maybe) just wander through the realms (not that well hidden). They've tried this before, it didn't work then- why just do it again?

I kept expecting Elminster (and three or four of his high-powered associates) to zoom in and take the fight to the bad guys, or else whisk Shan and Narm away, and save the day. I get that this is it... the novel, the story, but it lacks a lot- the same thing happens time and time again, different bad guys- sure, but that's the only concession. The addition of the Netherese Mage/Wraith just seems like... well, more of the same, and an attempt to find a new (and more frightening) enemy. Even if it appears that this last threat has no connection at all to anything in this novel (or those preceding it) and so is at best just another 'stock' villain sent by casting to do his thing, and fail.

Sheesh.

Oh, but the one redeeming quality of the book- the story ends here. Please Tymora, let it be the case.

Read.
 

humble minion

Adventurer
Yeah, I think I second @jeremypowell's suggestion that you might want to alternate the upcoming run of Greenwood/Elminster books with the Nobles series which are next in line. It'll be a very long hard slog for you otherwise. The Nobles series has its good points and less good points (from what I can distantly remember) but at least it'll be a change of pace.
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#070 Elminster: The Making of a Mage by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 1)
Read 8/5/20 to 10/5/20


Forgotten Realms Elminster The Making of a Mage HB VGOODa.JPG

Book 1- and so it begins, and the oddest thing is 75% of the novel I really liked, the early years- multiclassing the Mage, big El which mostly stands for Elmara. I've got to admit I really enjoyed El's time as a lady, obviously it negates all the weird creepy stuff that he gets up to in the later tomes.

The Brigand/Thief chapters (for some reason) took me back to the Gord novels, no- I'm not sure why because I read the Gygax (et al) books oh such a long time ago, i.e. when they came out- I seem to remember devouring the first few of them, and then wanting to read them again almost as soon as I had finished them. Please keep in mind however my in-game campaigns were set mostly in Greyhawk- for maybe 15 to 20 years I kept the big beautiful (cumbersome and hard to fold) Greyhawk map somewhere close to hand. Getting it out every now and then to plot and scheme my Player's demise(s), or else just to stare in wonder at the fantasy domain I called home.

But I digress... so, this book- well, Ed Greenwood can tell a story, and as I've already stated the first 75% of the novel just flew by. Don't get me wrong, there are no surprises to be found here- El is a Prince, his mother and father- both wonderful folk, were killed by the forces of evil. In particular 'evil power-mad mages', which, thinking about it- just fits. The various careers along the way are well done, with some really nice delving and other action, lots of insights into how these things come about- all good (useful) for my home table game.

The story tails off, for me, when Myrjala makes her appearance- obviously it doesn't help that I guessed that this was the goddess Mystra almost immediately (sorry SPOILERS). Then the everyone loves El kicks in, goddess (singular) swoons. It troubles me greatly that the characters of Elminster is only (seemingly) complete when a deity or two (and a cast of a thousand others) are all sexually attracted to his... whatever it is he's got going for himself. He's such a nice young man here, an outsider with an axe to grind- the long journey to the time and place when he's ready to face his demons (the Mages) and to finally seek revenge. Why does the author feel the need to have women flock to El, surely there's a way of getting this story told without the need for this. Don't get me wrong, I'm not prim and proper, I like a little bit of romance in my fantasy fiction oeuvre, but even with the young (male) El it all seems so one-sided. He goes from naïve wannabe-wastrel (but with a sensible head on his shoulders) to staff wielding archmagi with fawning (if only slightly) goddess at his side.

Would it be terrible of me to suggest that this aspect of Elminster's character is a manifestation of the authors own desires. Not an issue you understand, but it just seems a little unnecessary. Just odd, and at times a bit throw-away.

So, the final 25%, the battle against the Mages is not terrible at all, in point of fact there's good stuff in here- it's just clouded by the fact that in the background El has got the goddess of Magic at his side, and has already powered up to Archmage levels, and is seemingly a match for anything anyone throws at him. Particularly when the pair of them get into action.

When I started this one I had trepidations, and I appreciate the suggestions from posters above- swap in the Nobles series novels, and I may go this way. But for now I'm going to attempt to power on through. My point with this one is for the first 75% I was happy to be here, and then it just seemed to tumble back in to old (new) habits, which for a variety of reasons I don't dig, so it got hard to get through to the last. The ending was never in doubt, along with renouncing his title (sorry SPOILER). I'm glad it all played out the way it did, but the Chosen El, is (for me, sorry) a bit of a pain.

Read.
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#071 Elminster in Myth Drannor by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 2)
Read 11/5/20 to 13/5/20


Forgotten Realms Elminster in Myth Drannor VGOODa.JPG

Book 2- and there's a turn-up, this one was really good. I don't know what you people were scared of, this series (so far) have mostly been a delight, but... we'll see.

So, I feel like I've been excluded from some grand Realmsian secret, I didn't have the right code, or else the right hand shake, the big reveal is, drumroll...

The Drow are Elves, the Elves are Drow- they're all a bunch of terrible bastards waiting in line to tear each other apart for all the usual stuff- money, power, and because they have the right- and anyone that's not them is beneath their regard. Best kill it to be sure.

I mean, I thought... Elves have been a bit haughty, up-themselves, elsewhere in these novels (and other associated media) but the buggers in this one are snobbish, self-righteous, sword-dancing archmages with an unerring ability to presume that everything they say and do is right.

Some of them, actually- quite a lot of them.

The Srinshee (like a female Elven Yoda) damn near broke my heart, I knew that fool Elminster would buy his life by coming up with some trite answer to the treasure he'd like to claim from the Vault of the Ancients, but I guessed at 'knowledge', or 'respect', I didn't go far enough. 'Friendship', was of course the answer, in the style of some glorious (guilty pleasure) chick-flick (or is that too sexist, but you catch my drift).

Elminster, throughout his Cormanthor stop-over, remains earnest, patient, do-the-right-thing likeable, and that's just great.

If he stayed more this guy later on then I wouldn't have to have worried so much about this series (but there's still three to get through).

Oh, but what an excellent plot device- two thirds of the way in big El shuffles off this mortal coil, yep- you read that right, he's dead. But that doesn't stop his adventuring for long, top work on the part of the author. The Elven-style twenty year long montage of big El getting better at wizarding follows, encompassed in less than three dozen pages. The lives of Elves, who would have knew- certainly, not I.

A real eye-opener, with Big El on the down-low, just drifting through this one never attempting to make his sometimes infuriating mark, in truth- as with the first novel then Big El as we know he's just in training. It bloody works, this one's great, and keep in mind I'm in this for the info garnered.

Read.

Oh, but what's it about. The Elves of Cormanthor are debating/deciding to let the other races in to their fair city. It's like Midsummer Night's Dream (to begin with) except with a bunch of pointy-eared psycho/socio-paths (or else xenophobic misanthropes) running around with magic blades and star-cluster-f**k spells ready and primed. Mostly hunting El, but also out to do for each other. The Elven Purge begins.

Terror always works well when the person that is trying to slaughter you is being (seemingly) reasonable and at the same time very polite, explaining it easy to understand (and follow) terms just why you need to die.

I really enjoyed it.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
It's rare that I find someone who reads as obsessively as I do. Huge props not just for the volume of reading, nor just for the follow along at home posts, but for the sheer bloody-mindedness it takes to churn through this many books in the same setting. Kudos sir, my hat is off to you. 🧢
 

jeremypowell

Explorer
I'm really glad you're enjoying the Elminster books. I was one of the voices suggesting you not try to read these all in one go—but I definitely didn't intend to imply they're bad, or that I don't like them.

I just find that, upon finishing an Ed Greenwood book, I always think, "OK, that's enough Greenwood for a few months," rather than "More Greenwood immediately, please." His books are so saturated with his own stylistic idiosyncracies that I need a palate-cleanser between them. Just like I wouldn't want to read several Virginia Woolf novels in a row. (Not saying they're in the same league, nor, I'm sure, would Ed.) Maybe you have more patience for bingeing a single style than I do.

At any rate, I'm glad you're enjoying the series.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Then the everyone loves El kicks in, goddess (singular) swoons.
Leaving aside larger issues of how much tail Elminster gets, the thing with Mystra always confused me. Mystra putting out for the people (or at least the men) whom she makes her Chosen isn't limited to Elminster; the Cult of the Dragon sourcebook makes it clear that she did the same for Sammaster when she elevated him, and it ultimately ended up contributing to his mental instability. So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).

My best guess is that it's a leftover habit from when she was mortal (since this Mystra was originally a human who replaced Mystryl, the original goddess of magic, after she sacrificed herself to undo the damage caused by Karsus when he tried to usurp her power), but that's still not a very good explanation.
 

jeremypowell

Explorer
So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).
I had written a lengthy reply to this but deleted it. It would have derailed the thread and might not have been a welcome contribution. In short: Greenwood’s portrayal of the Realms is distinctive, and including a lot more sexual themes and scenes than other writers do is one of those distinctions. In-world, though, Mystra’s sexual relationships with her Chosen have always made perfect sense to me given the way she is described by Ed, the way her motivations and desires are described, and the way Ed describes arcane magic itself in the Realms—as does the idea that these relationships would be really bad for the sanity of those Chosen.
 


Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
I'm really glad you're enjoying the Elminster books. I was one of the voices suggesting you not try to read these all in one go—but I definitely didn't intend to imply they're bad, or that I don't like them.

I just find that, upon finishing an Ed Greenwood book, I always think, "OK, that's enough Greenwood for a few months," rather than "More Greenwood immediately, please." His books are so saturated with his own stylistic idiosyncracies that I need a palate-cleanser between them. Just like I wouldn't want to read several Virginia Woolf novels in a row. (Not saying they're in the same league, nor, I'm sure, would Ed.) Maybe you have more patience for bingeing a single style than I do.

At any rate, I'm glad you're enjoying the series.
I didn't for a second think that you were saying the books were bad, never fear that.

I get what you mean by bingeing but that's been my way for quite a while, so when I discovered Indridason, I read Jar City after watching the film, I had to go buy all of his Erlendur detective novels and then do them start to finish (actually start to Icelandic, my little joke there) including the one I'd already read (Jar City). I'm a bit of a nut like that.

Then I went and hunted down as many other scandewegian detective series as I could get hold of, and did the same with them- Mankell, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and a few others.

Then of course I diverted into other detectives, bought the lot and read them from start to finish, particularly Rankin & SJ Parris.

I came to literature (and reading) late in life, when I stopped being a soldier so I did the same thing with- Joyce, Lawrence (DH & TE), and a bunch of others- I even do series on repeat. I've read the Indridason novels three times through, aiming for another go some time in the future.

Turns out I've been lining up to do something daft (read approx. 300 FR novels) and practicing for it for years- who saw that coming.

I am however getting a bit tired/jaded with the fantasy fiction Realms-world schtick, so as of next year- i.e. when I clock up the "X books read in 365 days so far" tag then I'm going to switch out- one Forgotten Realms novel, followed by one from the heap of books I still have to read on my bookshelves (y'know real books).

You and others brought me to that thought, and that has taken the pressure off a bit, for which- much thanks.

Toodles, I still have seven pages to read to reach today's minimum (50 pages/day min).

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
It's rare that I find someone who reads as obsessively as I do. Huge props not just for the volume of reading, nor just for the follow along at home posts, but for the sheer bloody-mindedness it takes to churn through this many books in the same setting. Kudos sir, my hat is off to you. 🧢
Thanks for that, very much appreciated.

Also see the last post, it turns out I've been on the road to this (oh yeah, I did Kerouac the same way). My secret is ex-military, you're a long time doing nothing in the forces- when you have to do something it sometimes gets exciting/frightening, so you appreciate the long times doing nothing ('cept reading).

Stay safe.

Cheers goonalan
 

humble minion

Adventurer
Leaving aside larger issues of how much tail Elminster gets, the thing with Mystra always confused me. Mystra putting out for the people (or at least the men) whom she makes her Chosen isn't limited to Elminster; the Cult of the Dragon sourcebook makes it clear that she did the same for Sammaster when she elevated him, and it ultimately ended up contributing to his mental instability. So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).

My best guess is that it's a leftover habit from when she was mortal (since this Mystra was originally a human who replaced Mystryl, the original goddess of magic, after she sacrificed herself to undo the damage caused by Karsus when he tried to usurp her power), but that's still not a very good explanation.
My impression has always been that Greenwood's FR is very different to D&Ds FR, and that he often finds himself writing in the former, which can confuse people who are reading in the latter.

From what I've gathered, Greenwood's original personal FR is a very much weirder, more fantastic place, god-wise. The line between mortal and deity is blurred when it's there at all. There's a teeming multiplicity of minor gods and local gods and godlings and demigods around every corner, mortals become gods and vice versa all over the place, gods take mortal lovers and have quasi-deific children or imbue mortals with their power, get it usurped by mortals ... etc etc. Like Greek or Norse myth on steroids, a big, brawling, lusty, exultant, high-magical jamboree soap-opera of doom. Which, it has to be said, sounds awesome.

But this is ... difficult to codify as a D&D setting. FR as originally written for D&D had to be re-written for D&D - the downplaying of Greenwood's vision of the sexual mores of the Realms is pretty well known, and was probably inevitable to placate the stereotypical early-80s mothers upset about the D&D satanic panic. But more so - D&D has its own basal assumptions. Clerics are mortals who worship gods who are higher beings who dwell in some otherworld Above All This. There's a hard god to mortal dividing line, and whatever narrative devices or homebrew tools that Greenwood used/uses in his home game to emulate his vision of the realms is so far outside of the basal assumptions of 'core' D&D that it didn't make the transition to published material..

There's echoes of the Greenwood Realms still hanging around in the modern D&D Realms. A lot of the smaller or forgotten local gods (Lurue, Nobanion, Finder Wyverspur, Garagos, Gwaeron Windstrom, the Red Knight) hark back to a more Greenwoodian vision of mortal ascension to deityhood and gods under every leaf and gods routinely roaming the realms in mortal guise, and of course there's the Chosen and the like who are all part of that less binary mortal-deity divide. I suspect the Mystra that Greenwood writes in these books is the Mystra from HIS Realms, where gods are impulsive and flawed hormone machines who make Zeus-like romantic decisions all the time and this sort of behaviour is basically standard for all of them...
 


Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#072 The Temptation of Elminster by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 3)
Read 14/5/20 to 21/5/20


Forgotten Realms The Temptation of Elminster GOODa.JPG

Book 3- and odd. So, it starts off with what seem to be tales of Elminster's courage and his testing (maybe) by Mystra- here's the situation, make your choices- keep the faith, and do the right thing. And to begin with that kinda works, or else I'm happily reading along, taking it all in- Elminster making wise and clever choices to save adventurers, a realm (eventually) and to preserve the pureness of his love for his deity (or some such). So, that's okay- although I can't help but feel that some of these tales don't quite fit together, like they're short stories (or the beginnings of other books) that have been somehow cobbled and glued into one.

I get it- he's being tested, the Temptation (with a capital 'T') of Elminster, there's a queue of folk on hand to tell us what happens when Archmages go bad. El emerges from the tomb (with his new found semi-friends) and after the sleep of ages goes about Toril following Mystra's commands, proving himself to her again and again.

But there are so many other stories here, it's a little haphazard at times- the pack that are trailing El keeps growing, particularly towards the end of the novel. There are a pair of Thompson Twins style Mystra Priest-Mages that have seen the light and are now scuttling after El, doing their comic thing every now and then. Then the there's the killer mist that burns folk (and wildlife) from the inside out- lets call her the Lady of Shadows, although I'm at the end, of course, but I'm still not certain how and why. Then there's the last of the Starym Elves from Myth Drannor, out to slay the great enemy (El) that brought his house low- this guy seems to get killed every time he gets close to his prey, but then keeps on coming back- a little less, and a little more (mad) every time. Later on there are the Leather Goddesses of Phobos (sorry adherents of Shar) to contend with, and others- Caladaster (Cleric Quintet) even pops up towards the finale, an old man now- supping alongside another Realmsian hero parked in the tavern close by the final problem- the Slayer.

How and why the Slayer ended up being the big finale I'll never know. It seems contrived, tacked on, a suitable spell battle to play out and then skip to the El & Mystra reconciliation. But, hey-ho...

At this point, with maybe fifty pages to go- I'm still struggling to connect the stories presented here, except for the rough cover-all plot/theme- the Temptations of Elminster. The enemies El faces seem to be alternatively passive- waiting around doing other things, and then aggressive- plotting and preparing to claim for themselves the Chosen and all that he represents. But the fear and trepidation they cause (let's call it conflict) waxes and wanes, particularly as their failures mount.

There are other stories in here, other lives, all of which we visit with briefly- and I get that the author is lining up the next bit of the plot but some of the walk-on-parts just feel a bit convoluted/constructed/confusing. By confusing I don't mean difficult to understand, I just mean that the something they're presenting to us- the next threat or part of the tale, could have been achieved less clunkily, rather than just keep churning out and putting in new characters with complicated names and titles for the reader to keep trying to soak up.

It feels like a book that either a) took a long time to write, or else b) that was written over an extended period of time, with a variety of half-started/finished stories gathered together quickly and then all crammed into the plot (such as it is) and done very quickly.

A hundred pages into the novel and when the Mrs asked "What's this one about?" which she does, every now and then- I like that she takes an interest in me still. My reply- "I'm still not sure, it's a ragbag." Later on she asked again and I made the same reply- the same, almost to the end.

There are bits here to enjoy, El is still very good at being El- he's wise and lordly- kind and responsible, a little vain, and very aware that he is (happily) in charge of the situation (whatever the situation). I like that, and he's still about trying to fix things without a fuss. Kudos.

There are other times, particularly in the middle section (Dasumia) when the angry inside me wants to break free- I get that he's treading a very narrow line- trying to stay true to Mystra, while at the same time serving Dasumia, but... I got to the end of this section far quicker than the author. Do the right thing, El.

Then there's another chapter or two of the gods descent to Toril, the death (not) of Mystra, and all magic gone leery- but in here, and again just adding more to the mix- it's all a bit too much at times, and later on in the final celebrity Wizard Blast Off- El/Azuth/Caladaster/the Shar Magic-Priests with their Armageddon magic supplies/the Lady of Shadows/Starym-heap-big-one-leg-crazy-Elf and... it's just like some of the later novels. The reader knows that El's going to be saved (most likely) by something/one and will go on (sometime he even manages to save himself). We just have to wade through the magic-fire treacle to get there.

So, read.

I'm still a little confused by it all, apologies if the above review made even less sense than usual.
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#073 Elminster in Hell by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 4)
Read 22/5/20 to 30/5/20


Forgotten Realms Elminster in Hell NrMINTa.JPG

Book 4- and it's a hard row to hoe, or else more and less of the same all the while, the concept/conceit to begin with works- El is in hell, sorry... Hell (Avernus) and subject to the whims of Nergal* who has captured (sorta) Old Weird Beard and is in the process (or so the Arch Devil says) of scouring El's memories for the secrets of the ancient mage's silverfire. Nergal wants to know what secrets Mystra has whispered to her Chosen.

And so it goes, so it goes... for a very (very) long time. To begin with the writing style- snatched memories as the Devil wades through the treacle of Mystra's Chosen's fractured mind/memory, in which Nergal GETS TO SCREAM HIS THREATS IN CAPS, while El answers in less panicked italics, and all the while the suffering goes on- [weeping, falling from light into darkness, pain, lost and alone].

So, Joycean- stream-of-conscious, mebs- but not quite. A delightful portmanteau (filmic rather than literary) in which fractured fragments slip and slide together to form something with greater meaning- Hmm, well... not really. So, just snatched moments from the great man's exploded memory- some of them (to the reader) entertaining or enlightening, but not all- there's a lot of chaff that needs winnowing, but I guess that's the point- El's mind is a mess (or else he's hiding the truth).

It plays out, longer fragments of memory- picked up, scrolled through, put down and left off- to no great effect/affect. Some of these snatched tales are interesting, many are less so- and repetitive. The best of El in action (but without the magic, remember he's keeping this hidden) so the soft parts exposed- memories/fragments of the women in El's life, and we're back to the Greenwood/El that I am less enamoured with. It's just the same kind of thing- again and again, lady's love El El Elminster (that was supposed to be a pun on LL Cool J, apologies for feeling the need to explain this).

And that's pretty much it.

The Simbul, Mirt, Khelben (Blackstaff), Halaster (Blackcloak) all come running to save the Chosen of Mystra, and they're good to look at and to listen to (for a while)- although the whole Avernus environ will no doubt also make it to my gaming table, the Devils- what little we see of them (except for Nergal) are by far the most interesting folk in the story, I'd love to spend more time with these folk.

But its not about them, it's all about El- and that's most of the problem (see above).

It's less hell, more purgatory, after the first fifty pages of Nergal indiscriminately making mulch of Elminster's mind and body, well the threat becomes much reduced. The author tries hard but this is a (very) long game he's playing, and after 200 or so pages (or less depending on the reader's stamina) you're pretty much fed up of the same thing happening again and again- torture and pain become mundane, and even El seems to grasp this. The threat dissipates, the worst that can happen is it will end- the Chosen's life snuffed out, the torment at an end. The best that can happen is that somehow (think about it) the tables at some point will get turned. Nergal will get his comeuppance.

Can you guess which way it goes?

That's right.

So, maybe 250 pages (or more) of snatched fragments from the life of El, combined with a few glimpses of Mystra's visions shared with her Chosen (at least that's the explanation offered). That's nice, nice and disjoined and for the most part, less than exciting. Maybe a 100 pages of a variety of super-mages and the like plotting (and attempting) to get their El back, with fifty or so pages of [mind blast, pain, suffering, turn the page, read on, rage, put the book down- walk away, the suffering doesn't stop, pain, go get the book again- read on, read on, read on- it has to end].

The measure of it imho is other than the geography, flora and fauna, politics, pecking order et al of Avernus being given a brief airing then... there's nothing much to see here. Don't get me wrong, in short bursts there were places I started to like it- I wanted to read on, to see what happened next, but they were mostly at outset- there was too much rinse and repeat- Elminster the Chosen, the beloved etc. Mystra's gift to the women of Toril… Yeah, got that- but, eventually, I got through it.

Read.

*Nergal, I'm happy to admit the only Nergal I knew of was/is Nurgle of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fame, the two seem to share much in common- are they related, brothers?

Oh, addendum- Nergal gets the best lines in the book, he's got El figured- I found myself liking the devilish monstrosity more and more as the story went on. Go Nergal! Crush the tiresome wizard.
 
Last edited:

humble minion

Adventurer
I think there was an ancient Babylonian (Phoenician? Akkadian? Assyrian? Somewhere around there anyway) deity/demon/whatever called Nergal, and both TSR and GW ruthlessly mined the historical religions and mythology of that part of the world for cool names. Pretty sure White Wolf used Nergal as well at some point...
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top