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D&D General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #141 The Siege by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 2)

jeremypowell

Adventurer
Hi there,

Looking for a favour, here's the list of all the books I can find that are Forgotten Realms, my to-read list right back at the start of this.

I've added a section at the bottom of other books I need to fir into the list.

Have I missed any?

Any other obvious errors, exclusions, inclusions or whatever- I just want to get it as right as I can?

Thanks for taking the time.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
Glad to help.

Looks like you're missing Ed Greenwood's Spellstorm and the past seven Drizzt novels—Archmage, Maestro, Hero, Timeless, Boundless, Relentless, and the just-released Starlight Enclave.

Four of the short stories (out of twelve total) in the paperback short story anthology Untold Adventures from 2011 are set in the Realms.

You're also missing a number of short stories published over the years in Dragon magazine and never reprinted elsewhere—some of them quite excellent, and several of which are directly tied in to books that are on your list, such as Byers's Sembia tie-in "Shamur's Wager" and Kemp's Erevis Cale origin story "Another Name for Dawn."

Some Realms fiction has been published more recently as e-exclusives in Dragon+. And Greenwood has published a short story on the DMs Guild entitled "Umbrous Unpleasantness at Undreth's Unicorn."

There's also the matter of the various comic books; these are of course another kettle of fish, but for the most part they're not too bad, and the characters and events of several of the series are referred to in later prose fiction and in the sourcebooks. The key series would be the two '80s DC Comics series Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (set in Waterdeep) and Forgotten Realms; and more recently, from IDW, A Darkened Wish and the five (so far) Baldur's Gate miniseries with Minsc. But there have been others, such as Salvatore's Drizzt tie-in series Neverwinter Tales and Cutter. All of these are available in paperback collected editions. (There have also been some comics adaptations of prose fiction, including adaptations of the first six Drizzt novels; these may be safely skipped.)

Salvatore's "If They Ever Happened Upon My Lair" is a short story included in the Drizzt Collected Stories volume, so I'm not sure why it has a separate entry.

Also, it's not an error, and you might already be aware of it, but most of the Abyssal Plague novels aren't set in the Realms; only Sword of the Gods and Shadowbane are Realms books. This was a multiversal crossover series, with novels set on Athas, Nerath, the outer planes, etc. It's along the same lines as the six-book Spelljammer series "The Cloakmaster Cycle"—but come to think of it, there's probably a better argument for including all six of the Cloakmaster books than there is for the Abyssal Plague books, since unlike Abyssal Plague the Cloakmaster books do tell a continuous story even though only one of the Cloakmaster books is set entirely on Toril.

You might be aware of this too, but a number of the late-4e-era books were e-book exclusives. This includes the aforementioned Shadowbane and its sequel Eye of Justice, along with several others such as Cold Steel and Secrets, Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies, Prince of Ravens, and Spider and Stone. So don't pull your hair out trying to track down hard copies of those.

I can't promise there isn't something I've missed, but I've tried to be thorough!
 

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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Glad to help.

Looks like you're missing Ed Greenwood's Spellstorm and the past seven Drizzt novels—Archmage, Maestro, Hero, Timeless, Boundless, Relentless, and the just-released Starlight Enclave.

Four of the short stories (out of twelve total) in the paperback short story anthology Untold Adventures from 2011 are set in the Realms.

You're also missing a number of short stories published over the years in Dragon magazine and never reprinted elsewhere—some of them quite excellent, and several of which are directly tied in to books that are on your list, such as Byers's Sembia tie-in "Shamur's Wager" and Kemp's Erevis Cale origin story "Another Name for Dawn."

Some Realms fiction has been published more recently as e-exclusives in Dragon+. And Greenwood has published a short story on the DMs Guild entitled "Umbrous Unpleasantness at Undreth's Unicorn."

There's also the matter of the various comic books; these are of course another kettle of fish, but for the most part they're not too bad, and the characters and events of several of the series are referred to in later prose fiction and in the sourcebooks. The key series would be the two '80s DC Comics series Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (set in Waterdeep) and Forgotten Realms; and more recently, from IDW, A Darkened Wish and the five (so far) Baldur's Gate miniseries with Minsc. But there have been others, such as Salvatore's Drizzt tie-in series Neverwinter Tales and Cutter. All of these are available in paperback collected editions. (There have also been some comics adaptations of prose fiction, including adaptations of the first six Drizzt novels; these may be safely skipped.)

Salvatore's "If They Ever Happened Upon My Lair" is a short story included in the Drizzt Collected Stories volume, so I'm not sure why it has a separate entry.

Also, it's not an error, and you might already be aware of it, but most of the Abyssal Plague novels aren't set in the Realms; only Sword of the Gods and Shadowbane are Realms books. This was a multiversal crossover series, with novels set on Athas, Nerath, the outer planes, etc. It's along the same lines as the six-book Spelljammer series "The Cloakmaster Cycle"—but come to think of it, there's probably a better argument for including all six of the Cloakmaster books than there is for the Abyssal Plague books, since unlike Abyssal Plague the Cloakmaster books do tell a continuous story even though only one of the Cloakmaster books is set entirely on Toril.

You might be aware of this too, but a number of the late-4e-era books were e-book exclusives. This includes the aforementioned Shadowbane and its sequel Eye of Justice, along with several others such as Cold Steel and Secrets, Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies, Prince of Ravens, and Spider and Stone. So don't pull your hair out trying to track down hard copies of those.

I can't promise there isn't something I've missed, but I've tried to be thorough!

My replies in bold just to stand out.

Looks like you're missing Ed Greenwood's Spellstorm and the past seven Drizzt novels—Archmage, Maestro, Hero, Timeless, Boundless, Relentless, and the just-released Starlight Enclave.

Added to the list.

Four of the short stories (out of twelve total) in the paperback short story anthology Untold Adventures from 2011 are set in the Realms.

Gotcha.

You're also missing a number of short stories published over the years in Dragon magazine and never reprinted elsewhere—some of them quite excellent, and several of which are directly tied in to books that are on your list, such as Byers's Sembia tie-in "Shamur's Wager" and Kemp's Erevis Cale origin story "Another Name for Dawn."

Some Realms fiction has been published more recently as e-exclusives in Dragon+. And Greenwood has published a short story on the DMs Guild entitled "Umbrous Unpleasantness at Undreth's Unicorn."

There's also the matter of the various comic books; these are of course another kettle of fish, but for the most part they're not too bad, and the characters and events of several of the series are referred to in later prose fiction and in the sourcebooks. The key series would be the two '80s DC Comics series Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (set in Waterdeep) and Forgotten Realms; and more recently, from IDW, A Darkened Wish and the five (so far) Baldur's Gate miniseries with Minsc. But there have been others, such as Salvatore's Drizzt tie-in series Neverwinter Tales and Cutter. All of these are available in paperback collected editions. (There have also been some comics adaptations of prose fiction, including adaptations of the first six Drizzt novels; these may be safely skipped.)

I think at this point I'll just read the novels, and anthologies.

Salvatore's "If They Ever Happened Upon My Lair" is a short story included in the Drizzt Collected Stories volume, so I'm not sure why it has a separate entry.

Gotcha, removed from list.

Also, it's not an error, and you might already be aware of it, but most of the Abyssal Plague novels aren't set in the Realms; only Sword of the Gods and Shadowbane are Realms books. This was a multiversal crossover series, with novels set on Athas, Nerath, the outer planes, etc. It's along the same lines as the six-book Spelljammer series "The Cloakmaster Cycle"—but come to think of it, there's probably a better argument for including all six of the Cloakmaster books than there is for the Abyssal Plague books, since unlike Abyssal Plague the Cloakmaster books do tell a continuous story even though only one of the Cloakmaster books is set entirely on Toril.

I think I have 4 or 5 of the Cloakmaster Cycle novels already bought, I'll get around to them when I get to the end of the list- or else add them at some point.

You might be aware of this too, but a number of the late-4e-era books were e-book exclusives. This includes the aforementioned Shadowbane and its sequel Eye of Justice, along with several others such as Cold Steel and Secrets, Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies, Prince of Ravens, and Spider and Stone. So don't pull your hair out trying to track down hard copies of those.

Made a note on the list.

I can't promise there isn't something I've missed, but I've tried to be thorough!

Very thorough, superb- thanks for the fine work- and for all the additional info along the way, very much appreciated.

Cheers Paul
 

Loved Drizzt's mask, and his inner turmoil- I have to wear a mask to be accepted. I can't just be me. In fact one of the things I have got out of this series is how great magic items can be (in game) which actually makes me want to give fewer of them out in my games- make them rarer, and with a history. Not the potions and spells, they're okay- but wonderous items that are as the name states- truly, wonderous.
First, great list! Congrats!

Second, if someone gets a chance to run a campaign and uses magic items like this, I strongly encourage it.

Lastly, the inner turmoil in Drizzt could never have existed without the surface world's hatred for the drow. It's interesting to me how the primary internal conflict, that resonated so deeply with millions of readers, came from a conflict within setting or basically within the hearts of people.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#136 Temple Hill by Drew Karpyshyn (Cities 2)
Read 18/8/21 to 21/8/21


IMG_3269.JPG


Well, this one is a bit of an odd one- there were parts of it that just raced by- adventure by the plenty, a trio of semi-decent characters, and some nice villains to boot. But then... well, there were bits that I just didn't get, or else in the moment, while reading it, I couldn't get my head around.

There's this thing that Drew Karpyshyn does, and for the life of me- even now, at the end, I still can't work out if I liked it or not.

Apologies, let me explain.

So, the author will set a scene- our good guys- Corin, Lhasha & Fendel will get into action against an enemy or three, and then after a blow-by-blow account we'll get to crux point, and then... Next chapter- scroll back in time and do the last five, ten, fifteen minutes of the action again (with a lot of the same lines)- only from the POV of one of the villains of the piece.

Then, the story will advance some more- only now seen from the selected villain's POV, until another vital moment, cliff-hanger, chapter end.

Then reverse, back to the first good guy's POV, rewind five minutes and do it all again- all the way to the second pivotal moment and beyond.

I still can't figure out if I liked this or not, sometimes it just felt daft- a couple of times I found myself wondering whether I had lost my page in the book- why am I reading the same lines/situation again, have I missed something here.

Then... well, there's a bit of grade inflation, or rather villain inflation.

The finale [SPOILERS] is hit after hit- and we start with a bunch of smuggler warriors, then add Graal (the smarter than the average Orog) who gets tougher/levels up as the book progresses, seemingly (or else his various magical arms and armour do). Then there's a bad ass wizard...

Then the wall explodes and here comes Azlar (Cult of the Dragon well-spell-stocked Wizard) and he's brought a small army with him.

But what's this- now there's a small army of smugglers to fight the cultists.

Then, I almost forgot, there's the medusa!

Then... you'll like this.

The beholder turns up.

So, it snowballs... but that's not necessarily a bad thing (maybe).

But here's the thing- our three intrepid heroes are not much involved in the big fight/finale, they get to watch it all kick off, and then light out when the big-bad-eye-guy tips up.

But don't worry, there are another four false/pseudo-finales still to play out.

And, at the very end, it's very 'they all lived happily ever after', there's more edge in an episode of the Waltons.

The effect of all of this, if anything, is to lessen the climax.

That's not right.

Lastly, and it sounds like I'm really down on this one- only I promise you I'm not, there's some nice stuff in here.

But, lastly- there's not much about Temple Hill in here, I mean- there's a bit about the temples there- Gond, Waukeen and Lathander (from memory). But only one of these gets visited- Gond, another- Lathander, has bad memories for Corin (they didn't fix his hand- they took his coin*), and the last- Waukeen, is only mentioned.

Why's the book called Temple Hill?

*Corin is, and this is being polite, a surly bugger. Not a pleasant man- eaten-up inside etc. I don't blame Lathander (or his priests) for not being able to heal him. He's a bit of an arse at times in the narrative.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
Back to books that I've also read now, though as always the memories are fuzzy with patches that shine through. In this case, I mostly remember recalling how this was the "official" version of what happened in the Baldur's Gate series. Even before we got Murder in Baldur's Gate telling us that Abdel Adrian was a canon character (even if The Grand History of the Realms confirmed that first), it was widely understood - or at least I thought so - that the novelization was what "really" happened in terms of Realmslore.
This is not actually the case. It's canon that the protagonist was Human man named Abdel. Who is different from the book version. Abdel I might as well mentioned is the first pregen in the Baldur's Gate games, not just the name used for the book protagonist. (Whose book events are not compatible with current lore)
 

That city guidebook exists—Ed Greenwood’s The City of Ravens Bluff was published shortly before this novel was. The novel relies heavily on the material in that sourcebook, which itself was Greenwood’s attempt to bring together and unify a thousand different individual RPGA members’ contributions to the city, along with the several previous, smaller supplements published for it (Gateway to Ravens Bluff, Port of Ravens Bluff, etc.) and numerous articles detailing the city published in Polyhedron. Before it was even called Ravens Bluff it was known as “The Living City”—still the biggest and most successful attempt at a shared setting where RPG convention play affects the setting (with one exception, that being the Aventuria of Das Schwarze Auge).
That was a very hard sourcebook to like, from memory. It drew on so much of the RPGA Living City material that the history of the city was a simply implausible unending string of catastrophes averted by a nameless adventuring group, and very little interaction with the rest of the realms at large. It was no doubt very cool to recognise all the references if you'd played in the Living City campaign, but as a standalone realms sourcebooks ... nah.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This is not actually the case.
I'm aware that the book and the game are different, but to my knowledge the book version is what the current lore is based on, if for no other reason than (IIRC) the subsequent references I mentioned (e.g. Murder in Baldur's Gate) talk about Abdel Adrian, with the use of the last name suggesting that he's the character from the novels.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
I'm aware that the book and the game are different, but to my knowledge the book version is what the current lore is based on, if for no other reason than (IIRC) the subsequent references I mentioned (e.g. Murder in Baldur's Gate) talk about Abdel Adrian, with the use of the last name suggesting that he's the character from the novels.
The FR canon events don't work with the Novels events. Heck the Murder in Baldur's Gate Abdel is not even the same alignment as book version. The name was used, but the events of the game are what actually happened.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The FR canon events don't work with the Novels events.
Is there a specific discontinuity between the novels and the "canon events" that you're referencing? For that matter, what's the source of those aforementioned "canon events"?
Heck the Murder in Baldur's Gate Abdel is not even the same alignment as book version. The name was used, but the events of the game are what actually happened.
According to his stat block in Dragon #262, Abdel is Chaotic Neutral, whereas in Murder in Baldur's Gate he's Neutral. Given that the former stat-block is him at the beginning of the first novel, whereas the latter is him roughly a century later, I don't think a moderate alignment shift is indicative of the novels not being canon.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
Is there a specific discontinuity between the novels and the "canon events" that you're referencing? For that matter, what's the source of those aforementioned "canon events"?

According to his stat block in Dragon #262, Abdel is Chaotic Neutral, whereas in Murder in Baldur's Gate he's Neutral. Given that the former stat-block is him at the beginning of the first novel, whereas the latter is him roughly a century later, I don't think a moderate alignment shift is indicative of the novels not being canon.
Everything involving Baldur's Gate characters in FR. Like Minsc who looks completely different in the novels, and talks about game only characters. And Coran who is now a Noble of Baldur's Gate who knew Minsc and the rest of the party, but did not exist in the novels. Or Xan being alive and not dead. Viekang who did not exist in the novels but did in the games killing Abdel as well.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Everything involving Baldur's Gate characters in FR. Like Minsc who looks completely different in the novels, and talks about game only characters. And Coran who is now a Noble of Baldur's Gate who knew Minsc and the rest of the party, but did not exist in the novels. Or Xan being alive and not dead. Viekang who did not exist in the novels but did in the games killing Abdel as well.
I'm still having some trouble understanding which specific resources you're comparing. From what I can tell, you're suggesting that Murder in Baldur's Gate keeps continuity with the BG video games but doesn't maintain continuity with the novels, with rgeards to instances of the novels and the games being different.

You might be right, but that strikes me as something of a hard case to make simply because MiBG takes place roughly a hundred years after the events of the novels/games, so there's a lot of time for things to change anyway (particularly in a high-magic world). Personal appearance would be one of those things that's easily changed; so would someone coming back to life after being previously killed (something which happened for a lot of notable characters after the time-skip).

I'll note again that the usage of "Adrian" as Abdel's last name - something the games don't do - strikes me as a suggestion that the novels are being adhered to (or at least, not dismissed).
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
Not talking about Murder in Baldur's Gate keeping continuity. I am saying that FR overall in 5e keeps continuity with the games. We got a bunch of Baldur's Gate comics, and several Baldur's Gate related books. And they keep with the game more then the novel. So there is no reason to think any different of Murder in Baldur's Gate. Whose only keeps with the book by calling the hero Abdel when Abdel also exists as a pregen in the games.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#137 The Jewel of Turmish by Mel Odom (Cities 3)
Read 25/8/21 to 27/8/21


IMG_3271.JPG


Well, for a good while I thought this was going to be a great novel, but... it kinda petered out at the end, or else the end was just all a little to easily wrapped up, and the death to the pollinators bit... just, silly. It seemed as if the author had saddled himself with the hive of whatnot hoo-ha, the five separated gems could have been oh so much more. Likewise, with the advent of the Werespider and all of the other stuff after then... I was suddenly much less interested.

I get fantasy is fantasy, and anything goes, but the other stuff Mel Odom was doing at the start of the novel was just... fantastic, I would have settled for a bit of rising tension and more of the same, please.

The opening sequences- the uncovering of the Mohrg's ice-coffin by the kids, and the wolf hunters in the wild initial interactions with Haarn were just... magnificent.

The thieving street kid gang, and their ultimate demise- that was horrible, as in horror- there have been a few novels in this collection that have tried for nasty and have not got anywhere near the scenes here. It's terrifying in places, but you know... can't look away, must keep reading.

Samey-same for when Haarn meets Druz (and her associates). Haarn is the world's greatest druid- he is superfly, the hard core anti-hero and he tells it like it is.

Then, well- as stated above, much more of the same with the hunting of the alpha kid-killer wolf- loved all this. At one point I had to put the book down and go do something else instead- I wanted to savour it, rather than just race through it in a day or two (I savoured it over three days).

But then we get to Alaghon, and the Mohrg, Borran Klosk tips up with his army and it's all a bit (a lot) like the something I've read here before (Threat from the Sea?).

I'm not really sure why the story loses its grip on me, at the start it was darker, grimmer, grimier, and more focussed on the bad ass heroes and what's going on with them. I think it would have worked better if the author had another 100 pages to play with (although that's an obvious thing to say).

Borran Klosk promises to be oh so terrifying but at the end he slinks into the sewers, talks a lot about all the bad he's going to do, and then gets schooled by a bear, a druid and a sellsword.

Not even, some protection spell that Haarn cast on one-fifth of the magical mcguffin and- BANG!

Underwhelming.

I think the big bad needed to make better choices, and the hive of whatnot (mcguffin) needed to have other/better powers, the threat seemed a bit silly in the end.

Read, so close to being great.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#138 The City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel by Ed Greenwood & Elaine Cunningham (Cities 4)
Read 2/9/21 to 9/9/21


IMG_3273.JPG


Well, I hated it, then... clever, and I liked it. Then, a little further and... I loved it. Then, at the end... well, I guess. I liked it. Yeah, it was good.

So, I hated the hell out of it at the start with the Gemcloaks- shiftless nobles to a man, disrupting the working man's day/life/livelihood, with mucho (macho) violence and stupidity. I was growling- these cannot be the heroes of this book, these... dickheads, this is going to be a hard read...

But then the nobles change, or else get rewritten by the authors- they have feelings too, and they recognise how stupid they're behaving (some of them). It's a mite unconvincing but once you get over that hump, and that's why the authors do this quickly (early on in the piece)- to give the reader plenty of time to make the transition. Well, then it got much better- I relaxed into it, and started to really like it.

Cunningham doesn't do action, but when she does it's with economy and style- the rest is windy plot, a beautiful (or otherwise) back drop accompanied by a string of new names for the reader to learn/stumble over (lots of them difficult, and they're mainly elven). That's her usual schtick, no offense intended.

Greenwood does action- a mile long and wide with it, often memorable more for its silly bits. He also does all of the lore, lots of nice/beautiful backdrop, plenty of new names to learn and even a turn of phrase or two- to bring the realms alive. He also does lots of bad things (again, in my humble opinion) particularly with regard to women.

So, Waterdeep lives- as do the people in it, and not just the nobles but also the workers (or else their foreman and his family) so we go places, and its great.

The action is convincing, there's nothing that sticks out as overly daft (although, the beholder bit...)- don't get me wrong it gets crazy towards the end with the Walking Statues, well... Walking! But it's not an issue to stick with it, I can imagine DMing this sort of thing, and having much fun with it.

Likewise the villain is suitably nasty, although very very odd- not even his son Mrelder thinks he's going to win the war, and tells the reader this at every turn. Also, why the hell is the lad trying to emulate his father, but again- this stuff happens right at the start of the book so the doubts the reader has are made to flee by the steady unfurling of the action.

Forget the stuff that doesn't make much sense, read on... here's another good bit.

But the best thing about it... women.

Strong women that make sense and are never naked (Greenwood). They're fierce and gentle, they do good things and bad(-ish) things, they're soppy (but only early on) and they're tough, and- you get it, they're real people. Not the ultimo-bad-ass-I'm-too-sexy-for-my-bikini-platemail with added frilly bits, for the male gaze/reader.

It all gets a little samey-same towards the end, but the action continues to race- even though at times I'm struggling to figure which way the young Beldar Roaringhorn is facing. Is he villain? Is he a hero? Is he an idiot? Is he something worse?

So, in summary- lots of Waterdeep, the usual rogues gallery (the Serpent & Mirt, it seemed each author got to chose one old lag to resurrect for this tale), plenty of fresh faces, a bit of class conflict (although that gets squashed), bad ass villains (the Amalgamation gang- Lobster Bob, Tentacled Pete and Slug Man- kidding), and lots and lots of action.

It also helps that it's 500 pages long, in truth I'm a little fed up with the usual/optimised 312 pages of the FR series. Authors should be allowed to take their time- when needed, to noodle (a little) and point out a few of the sights, or just inform us of other stuff- world building, character building etc. But that could just be me.

I think this was a good one, certainly- for me, the best of Greenwood & Cunningham, together they nailed it (again, for me), most likely Cunningham fought hard to keep Greenwood in line- "This bit where all of their clothes fall off... is it really necessary?"

Good (silly) to see Ed managed to sneak in a cave full of Beholders, ah yes... threat inflation.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Goonalan
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#139 Best of the Realms Ed. RA Salvatore
Read 16/9/21 to 23/9/21


IMG_3326.JPG


I don't know what to tell you... even back in the day if this was the best of anything, well... I'd probably not have gone looking for anymore of the Forgotten Realms series.

It's not terrible, of course, it's just a collection of stories that are collectively- okay, there's a few that are a bit lively, or else do something a little different to stir the reader but for the most part.

Even the finale, the Salvatore run out for Artemis and Jarlaxle, it's really nothing special.

This collection took me eight days (that's a very long time) to get through, admittedly I've read all but three of the stories before in other anthologies here, and so the three new tales (for me) are-

Darksword by Troy Denning- and I'll be honest after reading this one I'm not looking forward to the Return of the Archwizards series, which- of course, is coming up next. I'm not sure why Melegaunt Tanthul is popular, he does absolutely nothing for me. The story, and this is a terrible thing to say- I've forgotten it, it made not a mark.

Assassin's Shadow by Jess Lebow- I dislike Karsus, and everything Netherese, and yet even here the story is achingly simple, we're about to behold for the first time the magnificent floating city, and... water and people get to strange places, and that's about all of the breath-taking beauty/magic/weirdness etc. that there is to feat the eyes upon. It's sparse, as is the plot- and a little, well... meh.

Empty Joys by RA Salvatore- it's alright, very definitely the lightest, most uncomplicated and/or unsophisticated piece or writing that I've read on this journey from the pen of the mostly otherwise excellent Mr. Salvatore.

I get that you can't lift a lot of weight with a short story, the word count is agin you, and yet knowing this the reader expects punchy, so a few of the tales here fall into this category (but they're not the three above, and so are reviewed elsewhere in other anthologies).

The majority of the stories here are interesting, I guess, if the Forgotten Realms et al is already your patch- but this isn't the gateway drug you are looking for. It's flat, it's Christmas (possibly) and here's another anthology, a best of- just another pay day (maybe).

Just for info- I'm in a great mood atm, I promise you, I'm not just swinging at this one because someone earlier in the day rattled my cage.

A mostly flat book, edging towards dull in places.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Goonalan.
 



Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#140 The Summoning by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 1)
Read 28/9/21 to 2/10/21


IMG_3275.JPG


Well... I'm still having to think about this one, and not (much) in a good way.

Don't get me wrong there's a lot to like in here, but part of the problem is there is a lot... a lot- a lot, like just a heap of stuff.

But still no villain that you'd want to spend five minutes with, no bad guy or gal with a bit of chat. I miss that.

The Phaerimm (I think that's how you spell it), well I could do without them, whirling vortices- with egg injecting scorpion-like (I think) tails, and with (four) clawed/taloned arms/hands. I don't see it, they just sound daft.

I remember the first hardback D&D Monster Manual, and yet if I went and dug a copy out of that book (If I've still got one) then there would be creatures in there that I just hadn't (didn't wanna) get around to using/DMing (although not many). I've been DMing since 1981 (bloody hell- 40 years) but there are monsters that I still avoid. I've been more Beholders than I can remember, and every type of demon, devil, elemental, humanoid... most of the aberrations, and... well, thousands of others. But Phaerimm, there aren't many on the collective monster list that I wouldn't fancy having a crack at, but Phaerimm- what gives.

Can't the bad guys have a story, and then get the chance to tell us it?

If my big bad end of world villain had nothing to say...

So, I don't dig on Phaerimm.

But there's good in here I tell yer, an adventuring party of sorts- made up of disparate and desperate folk- many of them really groovy for a variety of reasons. Malik's back, and I like him- or at least I like him here. He's tawdry and bad, and what's not to like about that. I quite like Galaeron (our hero) and his tangled love life, and his battle (such as it is) with the shadow. I kinda dig Melegaunt, at least for a little while- he has his own agenda, and even an eight year old reader can see that.

Elminster's even worth a shout here, he's obviously very subdued, and I like him as a tree. He should stay that way.

And yet the three (or four) characters I am left liking most are- Aris the Stone Giant, you'd feel a whole lot safer with him at your side; the knight/wight(?) Jhingleshod- he's a hoot, but determined with it, again a character I'd like to introduce to my PCs; Aubric (Galaeron's dad) because, well- do the right thing. Also, possibly, Wulgreth because he's a villain with lines, and at this point I'm desperate for a talking villain.

But don't be afraid there's a metric ton of everything else in here.

Scores of Mind Flayers- check.
Scores of Ridgebacks (or something similar, instantly forgettable)- check.
Scores of Beholders- got it covered.
Piergeiron Paladinson walk on- sorted.
Khelben Arunsun letting loose with his 23rd level Smash-Bang-Wallop spell- tick repeatedly.
Twelve shadowy Lords of... err, Shadow- in the bag.
Threat of invasion/annihilation/end of days- large as life.

It has everything in it.

Which is part of the problem- this is set up for what comes next, got it.

It's well written, got it- some of the characters come alive, okay.

But there's this adventuring party sorta, and we watch them come together and get on with their quest. Then, suddenly, there's Khelben and all hell breaking loose elsewhere. Then back to the adventurers. But then over to the armies of Evereska. Then back to the adventurers. But then Elminster's tricks, and... he's a tree. But then back to the adventuring party. Then a bunch of shadowy Lords of Shadow- and suddenly Laeral Silverhand. But then back to the adventuring party...

I get it- rising tension.

But for me, I just wanted more of the guys in the hole- following their quest, and less- particularly towards the end of the Phaerimm/Beholders/Mind Flayers versus the usual rag-tag-and-bobtail uber heroes.

Read, sheesh, more to follow.

Oh, but just to make clear- The Summoning, we're about to get a visit from Shade, the ex-Netherese last Floating City which has been lying low in the Plane of Shadow. Got it.

We could have got there quicker/better.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Reaching back through memory on this one, I recall liking it, though I also recall having the distinct impression that I could have liked it more.

For one thing, Malik (or rather, Malik el Sami yn Nasser; I really dig his full name) being here just felt sort of like an add-on. Don't get me wrong, I love the little guy to death, but he's not nearly as much fun here as he was back in Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, where he'd narrate the action. Moreover, he (and Cyric) were central to that story, but here Cyric is barely in the wings at all, and Malik feels like exactly what he is: a character who's been brought into the story because the author really likes him, despite his not having much of a place in the narrative. I mean, Denning did his best, but if Malik wasn't here I feel like it wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever.

Also, what's up with Weave magic and Shadow Weave magic reacting so explosively with each other? In the 3.X FR sourcebooks, the two types of magic mostly ignore each other; they basically act the way psionics and magic used to act, with powers of one type not interacting with powers of another. There were even feats that Shadow Weave magic-users could take in order to heighten that lack of interaction. They certainly didn't act like how The Simpsons had acids and bases react when combined:


Also, I think this (as opposed to the next novel) has Galaeron going a little bonkers when he starts using Shadow Magic, which I'm pretty sure was an attempt to showcase how the 3.0 version of the Shadow Weave Magic feat (in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting) caused you to lose 2 points of Wisdom unless you worshiped Shar (or switched to worshiping her). That was excised in the 3.5 version of Shadow Weave Magic (in the Player's Guide to Faerûn), when the design philosophy solidified around not giving players penalties for choosing feats, which I think was a bit of a shame, but it's not like the whole "using the Shadow Weave causes mental anguish that only worshiping Shar can soothe" angle ever came up in this series.

Also, I personally liked the phaerimm, something I've mentioned before. They strike me as good examples of alien antagonists with whom no coexistence is possible, but care still intelligent and capable of communication, as well as coordination and teamwork on their end. Plus, their alien appearance is just different enough from the usual Lovecraftian-esque abominations (all teeth and eyes and tentacles, they are) that they're visually striking. Aliens should look weird, and maybe even a little ridiculous, since it heightens the juxtaposition of how these things don't conform to human norms or expectations.

It felt a bit odd to see someone else writing Elminster, but I mean that in a good way. As I recall, this is where Galaeron goes to meet his mother, and finds her giving El a lap dance; he's naturally horrified, and I like that the scene came across as "who's this creepy old guy and why are the ladies all perving on him?" It highlighted how I think most of us would feel if we saw something like that going on.

Wulgreth...yeah, I don't recall him having any lines here. Though to be fair, I do recall that Denning went out of his way to reconcile there being two liches named Wulgreth in the Realms, which was an out-and-out error prior to this. Fixing contradictions in the canon (back when WotC still cared about canon) was always nice for us fans. Even if the demilich Wulgreth seemed to sit around and do nothing while he was destroyed (though I suppose that's not too off-kilter for the classical depiction of demiliches; in older versions of D&D, they have certain things that set them off, but are otherwise quiescent).

Other than that, I don't have too much of an impression of this one. That might sound farcical, after saying so much, but while my overall take on this book was positive, it's not one I pull off the shelf to flip through every so often. It's an above-average yarn, but not what I'd call one of the greats.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#141 The Siege by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 2)
Read 7/10/21 to 12/10/21


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Well, I was dreading this one- although that's a bit harsh on reflection, and it didn't start well but half the way through it and I just figured I was lugging around my (low) expectations.

This then is my mea culpa, because it got good. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but it got to be a page-turner. Up to the bit that our intrepid adventurers/good guys flee the Enclave of Shade, well- it was a bit too similar to what had come before. But then, seemingly, everybody started saying what they meant, and Galaeron grew his balls back- or else just figured out that there was a black shadowy worm growing in his head.

At last he decided to take this into account- and stopped being a schmuck.

Then Vala turned into the heroine, her antics with the Baelnorn were a delight, the confounded Phaerimm were made to suffer. Then, when the terrifyingly clever/smart Vaasan got her audience with the numero uno shadow lord, well- she won that round too.

Is there a book about Vala out there, or have I (its very possible) already read it.

Stop the press, it's coming back to me- Sellswords trilogy, and I did it on my own- without recourse to Google.

Then there was Vangy- I loved his rune enhanced disco ball- groovy, and what's her name that took over Cormyr- the daughter, and better still all of them started talking sense.

There seems to come a point in some of these novels (and novels in general) where the reader is just fed up of the pro/an-tagonist just doing and saying dumb things. I prefer when we get to this point earlier rather than later. Don't get me wrong, I know how this works- they're doing/saying dumb things in order to get the plot to this point, to get the hole dug. What comes next is the plan/progress to fill the hole back in again. So, I get that.

But the second half of this one just fills me with hope, this could end well, by which I mean I may enjoy what comes next.

There's no doubt Mr Denning is a good/great author- everything makes sense, comes alive, and the characters (the ones that count) are all handled really well. Aris is just fantastic- every novel/adventuring party should have one. Ruha is great in here, Malik is also starting to show his talents, now that he's bezzie mates with the king of shadowfolk. Vala, as stated above, rocks, and lots of the other walk-ons are handled well.

So, a good read.

Still don't like the Phaerimm, still don't like the inflated CR encounters- particularly because the Phaerimm are pinned as the ultimo-bad guys at times, with shadow lords vowing to vassal themselves to Vala if she kills six- and then she does, but then so do twelve other folk that we know, or something similar.

Also, still don't dig that we don't get to see into the Phaerimm hive mind (or whatever they have going on). There was a moment when I forget who got to stand before a Phaerimm, any second I thought- we'll have a soupcon of telepathic communication, the big reveal- what does a Phaerimm sound like? What does it say?

Nope.

I like talky villains, like the shadow lords- they're easier to appreciate, I mean even the stringy fellers with the funny heads in Independence Day got a few lines.

Feed me.

Read. Liked it, nice one Troy!

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

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