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

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
So, I really didn't like it- and it took me an age to get to the end, reduced to reading in 20-page bursts because I was so fed up with it. Which is odd because I read Paul Kidd way back when with Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, White Plume Mountain and Queen of the Demonweb Pits- and I seem to remember being so enthused about these locations- and the others featured in the Greyhawk series that I made it my mission to DM these books immediately. Although in truth I had DMed most of them already- remember I'm old skool. Obviously I don't remember how good Mr Kidd's novels actually were (it was all a very long time ago) but they were certainly enough to get my motor running.
Not having read this particular book, his Greyhawk trilogy (consisting of White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits) is where I know Paul Kidd from as well. I too found them to be very enjoyable (fun fact: there are two short stories involving those characters in Dragon magazine: "By the Job" in issue #271 is set prior to the first book, while "Keoland Blues" in issue #278 is set between the first and second books), even though they played fast and loose with a lot of the finer points of Greyhawk's history. Being the sort of person who's a stickler for setting canon, I like to think that my enjoying those books anyway is a major endorsement, because I'm humble that way.

The main reason for those books being so good (in my opinion) is that Kidd is very talented at writing characters who seem, while not what I would call well-rounded, extremely vivid in their depictions. The characters do what they do so intensely that they seem to pop off the pages when they do it. What makes this different from, say, Ed Greenwood's characters, is that Kidd's don't take this to the point of having it overshadow everyone and everything around them. When they run up against opposition, leaning into their character archetypes isn't enough to carry the day; they have to actually make an effort to win.

Of course, Kidd does have a tendency to let humor in by way of anachronism, but while I can't speak to the book under review here, in the Greyhawk books he at least kept it limited to personality quirks for a few characters. Having Escalla and Lolth (!) come across as pseudo-Valley girls was funny largely because he didn't take it too far. For this book, it sounds like he abandoned all sense of restraint. The result, according to some other reviews that I glanced at on this book's Amazon page, makes it sound like this is a decent fantasy novel, but not a very good Forgotten Realms novel.
 
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humble minion

Adventurer
Although, I have actually purchased all but one of the Greyhawk novels, and the Ravenloft novels (a few left to find), and Mystara novels (two missing), and the Planescape novels (one left to find), and the Spelljammer novels. I'm going to do these after I've done with the FR stuff.
Not tempted by Dark Sun?

And of course there's Dragonlance, but novel-wise that's almost as deep a rabbit hole to start down as FR is...
 

Mirtek

Adventurer
#079 The Council of Blades by Paul Kidd (Nobles 5)
Read 22/6/20 to 28/6/20


View attachment 123263
That's the one with the princess who is so proud of her princess-like pointy hat and her magical(?) ostrich-like bird firend who likes to hide stuff in his gullet (which the princess retrieved by just stuffing her arm down his throat?

I remember that as the most silly FR novel I have ever read. I was looking forward to your reaction to it as soon as I saw you starting with the Nobles series :)
 


Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
Not tempted by Dark Sun?

And of course there's Dragonlance, but novel-wise that's almost as deep a rabbit hole to start down as FR is...
So, the list of other fantasy/TSR I'm going to read looks like this-

TH Lain/Iconics- ready to roll, got the lot.
Dark Sun- same again (I just missed them off the list above).
Ravenloft- some of these buggers are hard to track down, maybe five left to get.
Mystara- two left to get hold of.
Planescape- one left to get.
Spelljammer- got them all.
Greyhawk- oddly can't find the Barrier Peaks, last one- got the rest.
Eberron- about 10-12 still to get, they're last on the list to get read atm.
Birthright- got them all.

Although, in truth, in a few cases I've had to get hold of either PDFs or drat it- audio versions, just here and there- few enough for me to be relaxed about.

I much prefer books, but needs must etc.

Also, let's be honest- it's going to take me another few years to get through FR, I'm slowing down after the first 365 days- reading a proper book between each FR series, or every other book- if they're frustrating me. Going to be easier on myself, mainly because my other books to read pile now stretches to two six foot wide, six foot high (five shelves each) bookcases- so, a few to get through.

Stay safe.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
That's the one with the princess who is so proud of her princess-like pointy hat and her magical(?) ostrich-like bird firend who likes to hide stuff in his gullet (which the princess retrieved by just stuffing her arm down his throat?

I remember that as the most silly FR novel I have ever read. I was looking forward to your reaction to it as soon as I saw you starting with the Nobles series :)
That's the one.

In a different place the fire bird would be fun, the issue for me was that it started off really good- I liked all the Machiavellian style scheming, the fascist in black riding a winged horse- it could have got deep and dark. The old vs the new, the nobles vs the nobles vs the people- a princess who wants to be a person (and a sorcerer/wizard). The city states, the formal battles- all good, historically as well realmsian.

Then, the fire bird, and Leonardo/Lorenzo- the nixie princess, a snail on a horse, the sun cannon, ceramic tanks... and call for Mr. Pratchett, someone's been leafing through your early drafts.

Less good.

Stay safe.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
Just wanted to mention how much I am enjoying your posts on this. Thank you!
Thank you for taking the time to say so.

Just for info I'm a DM as well, the stories from my game groups can be found here-


And the lockdown FG game-


Stay safe.

Cheers Paul
 


Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
Although, in truth, in a few cases I've had to get hold of either PDFs or drat it- audio versions, just here and there- few enough for me to be relaxed about.

I much prefer books, but needs must etc.
I used to hate the idea of audiobooks, but for the past two years I have listened to them while I drive to work. An hour a day approximately. I get through a book in about one month. And as I rarely found time to read anymore, that’s a lot more reading than I got through in the past decade.
 


Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#080 The Simbul's Gift by Lynn Abbey (Nobles 6)
Read 29/6/20 to 7/7/20


Forgotten Realms The Simbul's Gift (Nobles 6) VGOOD.JPG

Book 6- and the best one by far, possibly... don't get fooled with me taking nine days to read this, I've been busy- oh so busy, I promise you. Work, actually jobs to do around the house, but also- some would say more importantly (that someone would be me) a crisis of confidence with regard my lockdown D&D VTT game. So, while I've been spending my days making fences, painting fences, digging and weeding, and... well, lots more bloody painting- I've also been spending my downtime reading through a variety of D&D modules trying to decide the scope and scape of my present campaign. Very important stuff, I assure you.

So, my fifty pages a day minimum hasn't gone out of the window, it's just that I've been reading D&D stuff- apologies, but it's been great.

Back to the book, this is one of the best written FR books that I have read so far, by which I mean the style, use of language, structure and the story-telling skills employed. Don't get me wrong- there's nothing astounding to be had here- save for the Red Wizard who loves his daughter (maybe) but it's just very well put together, and the story well-told. It treats the reader as an intelligent confident/e and tells us all we need to know- drip, drip, drip; and it just works.

All of the characters are well done, there's no-one here that has a voice who's thoughts aren't made all the more complicated by love, life, and/or lust. The situations and persons depicted are all well conceived, and offer amazing insights into the ways and means of those depicted- particularly the Red Wizards, and the Simbul (of course).

There isn't a character in the piece that the reader isn't left feeling something for- mostly sympathy, in contrast to many of the other novels its not simple, its not childish, its not whizz-bang... or indeed, very exciting. It's a great book, and a great author- and an incredibly interesting story (that mostly goes to all the usual places- only, mostly- there are a few welcome diversions) but its not gripping, it unfurls and unfolds- makes you smirk as you read it, every now and then.

You also get the feeling that Lynn Abbey has read Greenwood (and many others) and decided she'd like some of that- so there are all the authentic names of people, places, and events et al that jigsaw into the Realms canon, but she's much better than Greenwood- she's a great writer, if this is a fair example of her oeuvre.

It's so different from many of the other novels that have passed this way as to make me think that this one somehow doesn't fit, I'd like to see Lynn Abbey do some fantasy sequence action events et al, to get deep into the mythos and magic- can she write a really great fantasy novel, some of you must know, you've read ahead- can she do it? Does she have a great novel in here somewhere? If so, what's it called so that I can look forward to reading it?

Oh, but what's this one about- something's going on in Yuirwood (new/old gods arising), Ebroin of the Cha'Tel'Quessir is trying to decide who or what he is- and how he should live his life, and also if his father is his father- because he should be dead, but he isn't, is he? He knows that his mother is dead- he watched it happen, he knows that the Simbul is the cause of all of his trouble, and... he's discovering that the things that he thinks he knows are, well... he's questioning everything.

The Simbul is also having to do some heavy thinking, about some similar topics.

The Red Wizard Lauzoril is also finding out what's important in life.

There's a lot of hope here, again it's a great novel, but of a kind.

Great, well-written, and clever book- Read.
 

humble minion

Adventurer
Lynn Abbey wrote a Dark Sun trilogy which is some of the best writing that's ever been done for D&D. I think she did a standalone Ravenloft novel too. I wish she'd written more for TST/WotC, to be honest, she is really good.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Lynn Abbey wrote a Dark Sun trilogy which is some of the best writing that's ever been done for D&D. I think she did a standalone Ravenloft novel too. I wish she'd written more for TST/WotC, to be honest, she is really good.
A minor correction: from what I've been able to find, Lynn Abbey never wrote a Ravenloft novel. I even pulled my copy of the Tales of Ravenloft anthology off the shelf to check the list of short stories, and she's not one of the authors listed there.

Having said that, the only Dark Sun novel of hers that I read was The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King, and I agree that she's an exceptionally talented writer. Her plot progression was solid, and her characters were exceptionally vivid. But what drove me up the wall at the time was that she got certain aspects of the setting wrong. It was never anything major...except for a few things where it was (i.e. large-scale spellcasting does not accelerate a sorcerer-king's dragon transformation).

That bothered me a lot when I was younger, though I've mellowed out on it somewhat since then (or rather, become mildly embittered by successive edition changes that have continually retconned things). Even so, I do still consider that to be a problem. The particular how's and why's of a given fantasy setting are important, at least to my mind, because they not only form the underpinnings of what makes that particular setting distinctive (alongside the characters and narrative sequences themselves), but also because they lay the foundations for the world's internal logic and self-consistency. You can get those things wrong and still make entertaining stories, to be certain, but be prepared for those stories to be difficult to reconcile with the larger setting.

Now, to be fair, this is hardly something specific to Lynn Abbey. Paul Kidd's Greyhawk books gleefully butcher the setting's canon and are still a lot of fun to read. Laurel K. Hamilton's Ravenloft book, Death of a Darklord, not so much. But Abbey's Dark Sun novels (or at least the one I read) manage to do pretty well regardless of the non-canon aspects. I just wish she'd adhered closer to the game rules when writing the books, so that they could be enjoyed for what they said about the setting as well as the characters.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Lynn Abbey wrote a Dark Sun trilogy which is some of the best writing that's ever been done for D&D. I think she did a standalone Ravenloft novel too. I wish she'd written more for TST/WotC, to be honest, she is really good.
This she is one of the most underated D&D authors. She's also the best or second best IMHO out of all the authors.
 



Goonalan

Adventurer
Supporter
#081 Daughter of the Drow by Elaine Cunningham (Starlight & Shadows 1)
Read 8/7/20 to 15/7/20


Forgotten Realms HB Daughter of the Drow (Star & Shadow 1) VGOODa.JPG

Well... I liked it a lot, although- I went back and forth with this one, starting with are all Drow (& Drow societies) just cool, or else the coolest thing to write about- nice detail, nice characters, nice scheming, but... Liriel is a brat, and with everything she could want or desire (except for, y'know- the stuff like freedom, choices, love, care- the little things). And Fydor, the Rashemen Berserker, well... I'm tired of that, and... but, he's not just John Rambo (although he tries) and he's a heart of gold, and smarts, and honour- that's not a badge.

So, I kept reading, and I kept with it- and the story too is great, although- again, Liriel at times is a little grating- her fall on her feet ability, and her unplumbed depths of magic reserve, her seeming mastery of anything she cares to pick up and polish... it's a little much at times. A little like the player that multi-classes half-a-dozen times and then later on declares themselves to be the master of everything, only for Liriel it seems to be the case. I wanted her to fall, and fail- to get a big kick in the rear and have to figure out that just being herself all of the time wouldn't cut it.

But, she didn't much, and yet still she grew- it became obvious that Liriel wasn't oblivious to her surroundings, and the new world at her fingertips, and all that she had been told about the surface and its inhabitants... well, that's a lie, so she's making her own way to a new/better understanding of how things work, but slowly (relatively, to this reader). Not too much you understand, it still feels like (when I'm reading Liriel) that she's as much in it for the shits and giggles, as she is some karmic rebalancing of her tawdry Drow spirit- her quest for power is far from over, I presume. I've only just started the next one (Tangled Webs) but I'm of the opinion that Liriel would still dance with the devil to get what she needs to.

There are also lots of other nice faces in here, particularly (as usual) the Drow- Triel & Shakti (and the rest of the bat-shit crazy Matron gang, isn't Triel's sister called something like- "soup spoon"*, I must be misremembering that), Gromph, Nisstyre (for some reason I like the idea of ginger Drow).

The writing's good, although you can't help but do the comparison to Drizzt's agent (Bob Salvatore), so there's less focus on an individual here, it's not as deep- but as of yet Liriel, while hardly a puddle, is not that deep here either- scheming, conniving, seeking of the way to the next things she needs- check, got that. But she's getting her feet wet and by the end... well, she's making more sense of things. The big difference, which for me marks it down, is this one seems a little anime/cartoon style. The action sequences seem less (fewer) and also less well choreographed, it all seems to happen quickly, and... for the win. Some of the other authors here (Greenwood, at times- included) can turn a great fight/conflict into a glorious (chuckling while you're reading) montage of deadly kick-ass, sometime with heaps enough threat to think that someone may actually suffer. Not here, or much less so- not bad you understand, but not really (it seems to me- imho) what the author is after. Okay, but I'd like more- fingers-crossed for the next one, which I am going to dive into (I can feel it in my water).

This then is good, a little more/better action, and possibly a little more doubt and introspection (apres failure, possibly) and Liriel could be the shazam-Drizzt, and that might make this series great (imho).

The deep dragon is stupid, but y'know- just within parameters.

The start of this one with the chase for the amulet- chicken legs versus Red Wizards versus Drow plus (somehow) Fydor = raspberry noise, and flashing sign saying "Silly Encounter", but it was right at the start, so I soon forgot all about it. Also, it made me chuckle.

Oh and Fydor needs to have more of a word with Liriel (rights and wrongs, you're a spoiled princess) or else he's got to fall out with her- big time, and that way he/she/we can find out what they mean to each other.

Read- very nice, eventually.

*Sos'Umptu, I don't know what I was thinking. We've met her before (and Triel, and many of the others in Menzo) haven't we.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
#081 Daughter of the Drow by Elaine Cunningham (Starlight & Shadows 1)
Read 8/7/20 to 15/7/20


View attachment 123830

Well... I liked it a lot, although- I went back and forth with this one, starting with are all Drow (& Drow societies) just cool, or else the coolest thing to write about- nice detail, nice characters, nice scheming, but... Liriel is a brat, and with everything she could want or desire (except for, y'know- the stuff like freedom, choices, love, care- the little things). And Fydor, the Rashemen Berserker, well... I'm tired of that, and... but, he's not just John Rambo (although he tries) and he's a heart of gold, and smarts, and honour- that's not a badge.

So, I kept reading, and I kept with it- and the story too is great, although- again, Liriel at times is a little grating- her fall on her feet ability, and her unplumbed depths of magic reserve, her seeming mastery of anything she cares to pick up and polish... it's a little much at times. A little like the player that multi-classes half-a-dozen times and then later on declares themselves to be the master of everything, only for Liriel it seems to be the case. I wanted her to fall, and fail- to get a big kick in the rear and have to figure out that just being herself all of the time wouldn't cut it.

But, she didn't much, and yet still she grew- it became obvious that Liriel wasn't oblivious to her surroundings, and the new world at her fingertips, and all that she had been told about the surface and its inhabitants... well, that's a lie, so she's making her own way to a new/better understanding of how things work, but slowly (relatively, to this reader). Not too much you understand, it still feels like (when I'm reading Liriel) that she's as much in it for the shits and giggles, as she is some karmic rebalancing of her tawdry Drow spirit- her quest for power is far from over, I presume. I've only just started the next one (Tangled Webs) but I'm of the opinion that Liriel would still dance with the devil to get what she needs to.

There are also lots of other nice faces in here, particularly (as usual) the Drow- Triel & Shakti (and the rest of the bat-shit crazy Matron gang, isn't Triel's sister called something like- "soup spoon"*, I must be misremembering that), Gromph, Nisstyre (for some reason I like the idea of ginger Drow).

The writing's good, although you can't help but do the comparison to Drizzt's agent (Bob Salvatore), so there's less focus on an individual here, it's not as deep- but as of yet Liriel, while hardly a puddle, is not that deep here either- scheming, conniving, seeking of the way to the next things she needs- check, got that. But she's getting her feet wet and by the end... well, she's making more sense of things. The big difference, which for me marks it down, is this one seems a little anime/cartoon style. The action sequences seem less (fewer) and also less well choreographed, it all seems to happen quickly, and... for the win. Some of the other authors here (Greenwood, at times- included) can turn a great fight/conflict into a glorious (chuckling while you're reading) montage of deadly kick-ass, sometime with heaps enough threat to think that someone may actually suffer. Not here, or much less so- not bad you understand, but not really (it seems to me- imho) what the author is after. Okay, but I'd like more- fingers-crossed for the next one, which I am going to dive into (I can feel it in my water).

This then is good, a little more/better action, and possibly a little more doubt and introspection (apres failure, possibly) and Liriel could be the shazam-Drizzt, and that might make this series great (imho).

The deep dragon is stupid, but y'know- just within parameters.

The start of this one with the chase for the amulet- chicken legs versus Red Wizards versus Drow plus (somehow) Fydor = raspberry noise, and flashing sign saying "Silly Encounter", but it was right at the start, so I soon forgot all about it. Also, it made me chuckle.

Oh and Fydor needs to have more of a word with Liriel (rights and wrongs, you're a spoiled princess) or else he's got to fall out with her- big time, and that way he/she/we can find out what they mean to each other.

Read- very nice, eventually.

*Sos'Umptu, I don't know what I was thinking. We've met her before (and Triel, and many of the others in Menzo) haven't we.
DotD is also one of the better D&D novels IMHO.
 


Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
Your review is pretty much spot on for what I remember of the book. I wonder if I can find it as an audiobook so I’d have the time to go through the series again...

EDIT: Oh yeah, Audible seems to have it 👍
 
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