D&D General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #178 The Emerald Scepter by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 3)

Goonalan

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Hello, and then goodbye for a bit.

For Christmas Santa, and the Mrs, bought me lots of books, including five hefty WotC or Goodman Games hardbacks- Icewind Dale, Witchlight, the new Ravenloft one, B4 The Lost City- the new 5e conversion & the similar T1-4 Elemental Evil.

The Mrs also bought me 24 novels, 20 by the same author Val McDermid, so...

I said that I was going to take ten years to do this (get all of the Realms novels read), I'm not- I'm aiming to get them all done in seven years, quicker if I can.

I've read 149 novels in just short of two-and-a-half years so far, if my maths is correct. I've got approx. 160 novels left to do (including the Spelljammer ones).

So, I'm a little ahead of the pace, and I need a break, therefore I think I'm due a little time off for good behaviour.

So, I'll be back when I have read the five hardbacks cover-to-cover (finished Icewind Dale already), and there's four of the 24 novels that I really want to read.

So, a month off- maybe three, or else somewhere in-between.

Until then, have a cracking New Year, take care of yourself and everyone else.

Back in a bit you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

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Goonalan

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#150 The Thousand Orcs by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 1)
Read 26/3/22 to 27/3/22


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Well, I picked the right one to head back into it, it's a very easy (and pleasant) read and it just flies by. Also, after spending the last three months reading 'proper' books (kidding) then there's a real appreciation for this kind of fiction. I've been used to 400+ page novels that have got at most about four star characters that want to get a spin at telling the reader their story, and so this one.

Well, if I tried to list the grade A material characters in this 350 page novel, well, it'd be quicker for you just to read it. Which, of course, just makes me want more- Drizzt barely gets a look in here, there are the usual (by now)three page brooding Ranger vignettes, how our drow hero sees the world, and wants to live in the now- very zen. They're back, cataloguing Drizzt's trail to goodness, and the will they wont they thing with Catti. But the rest... that's all dwarves, and Obould, and a scheming Frost Giant queen, and some drow, and... but you get it. Even the Bouldershoulders turn up to do their thing, and Pikel has gone up a gear, he's the clever one now.

Then there's Pwent and his mob, and Wolfie has learned to live with himself (thanks to Colson and Delly), and Bruenor doesn't really want to sit on the throne- one last throw of the dice (what happened to the search for Gauntylgrym, is that coming later, is it an advert for a future Salvatore novel?), and Regis gets to play the hero. But the point I keep making is this- there are lots of red hot favourite characters, and for once (I'm looking at you Wolfie) they're all playing nicely. It's all... just, great.

Great action, great characters, a great enemy, and... that's it.

Obould needs a lot more page-time, sure. As do the drow- the enemies, even though there are lots and lots of them, well... they're pesky rather than terrifying. Salvatore tries- there's some bloody scenes (the massacre of the patrol) but... they're just Orcs. The Frost Giants sound terrifying, I think if they had just stomped into the Shallows then it'd be game over pretty darn quickly. That's poor DMing right there.

Then there's elves on pegasi from the Moonwood, and in-depth look at the politics of Mirabar (it's a mess) and... a new hero emerges. A Bruenor for our modern times- Torgar, a dwarf with a credo/conscience, and the ability to follow up thought with action.

It's ram-jam full of this stuff, and the action is great.

And I keep on wanting to write and yet...

So.

And yet, because there's so much stuff here; and this is the first book of three and so the job of the author is to set up lots of stuff, well... it's very light, easy (and exciting), but... the Shallows is about right. Salvatore rarely has the time to have a character lift his head up to take a look around. That's no bad thing, it's never dull- all action, all emotion, all... great.

Not as good as a lot of the other Salvatore novels however, hopefully (fingers-crossed) it gets deeper, and darker, and nastier, and maybe we could concentrate the action a bit more on the fab five- Drizzt, Catti, Wolfie, Regis & Bruenor. Just a thought.

It's good to be back.

Stay safe and well you lovely people as it continues to be a strange and oft cruel world.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

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Supporter
So, just to say, I'm back.

The story is either three months of just reading Forgotten Realms novels (and nothing else), or else I get the following read-

#151 The Lone Drow by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 2)
#152 The Two Swords by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 3)
#153 Twilight Falling by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 1)
#154 Dawn of Night by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 2)
#155 Midnight's Mask by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 3)
#156 The Alabaster Staff by Edward Bolme (Rogues 1)
#157 The Black Bouquet by Richard Lee Byers (Rogues 2)
#158 The Crimson Gold by Voronica Whitney-Robinson (Rogues 3)
#159 The Yellow Silk by Don Bassingthwaite (Rogues 4)
#160 Venom's Taste by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 1)
#161 Viper's Kiss by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 2)
#162 Vanity's Brood by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 3)
#163 The Rage by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 1)
#164 Realms of the Dragons Ed. Philip Athans (Rogue Dragons 2)
#165 The Rite by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 3)
#166 Realms of the Dragons II Ed. Philip Athans (Rogue Dragons 4)
#167 The Ruin by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 5)
#168 Lady of Poison by Bruce R Cordell (Priests 1)
#169 Mistress of the Night by Dave Gross & Don Bassingthwaite (Priests 2)
#170 Maiden of Pain by Kameron M Franklin (Priests 3)
#171 Queen of the Depths by Richard Lee Byers (Priests 4)
#172 Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 1)
#173 Farthest Reach by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 2)
#174 Realms of the Elves Ed Philip Athans (Last Mythal 3)
#175 Final Gate by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 4)

Whichever takes the longest- three months, or twenty five novels; then- I'll take a month off to catch up on my real world reading, and then get back to this again.

That's about all from me.

Stay safe.

Love you lots.

Goonalan.
 



Goonalan

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#151 The Lone Drow by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 2)
Read 28/3/22 to 29/3/22


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It's a ripsnorter, a barnstormer, it's... well, it's a lot like a bunch of the other very good RA Salvatore Drizzt-shaped novels. It's written for Peter Jackson to direct, and wouldn't that be something?

I got what I asked for, at the end of the last one- I whole big bunch more Drizzt and his tangled musings, same for the fab five- more of them, particularly Regis who takes command, and what a Steward he proves to be. The Catti & Wolfie dynamic is likewise well worked out, just enough to convince the reader that they're nothing but the best of friends while at the same time making it clear that if it went beyond friendship again, well... don't be surprised. The return of Bruenor (SPOILERS) for the finale, and the Ur-Dwarf's climactic battle- and then interview with the priests- "I'm not going back!" Just fantastic.

And the bad guys- at last Obould comes alive, as do the pesky (previous) Drow who start to make sense, and take an interest in the goings on here (and Drizzt) it's gone beyond a game. The ceremony in which Obould gets the godhead (maybe) is likewise glorious, and the action- by the end a paragraph (let's call it what it is- a scene) is just 3-5 lines long. Jump cut follows jump cut as we flash moment to cause and effect climaxes. It's made for the movies, and as always Salvatore takes us on the journey.

So, that was a lot of praise, now a couple of caveats.

When you are going to mess with your audience then do it early, very early, and then hope by the end of the book/film/play/whatever that your audience has forgotten (or else forgiven) you for messing with them.

And so, this entire novel runs on the warped logic that Drizzt has just seen Bruenor die (it was Dagnabbit wearing Bruenor's famous one-horned helm) and so therefore must surely conclude that all of his friends are dead.

What now?

No, don't check it out Drizzt, just presume...

Stoopid.

But, by the end, well... I'd mostly forgiven the scimitar wielding Hunter (capital H).

Next caveat- it's still spread a bit thin, there are just lots and lots of things going on, and lots of heroes (and a fair amount of enemies) and everyone is going to get a go- Nanfoodle and Shoudra for instance, and the Bouldershoulders, and... well, see the last one. There's a lot more of the fab five, but still- not enough for my liking. I would genuinely applaud Salvatore if he just went tonto and handed in a 450 page book with an extra 100 pages of, well... more Drizzt (and the major players). That's not much of a criticism, I'll admit.

Next- the Hunter-thing, I don't see it, or rather I do- but just a bit. Drizzt, having lost everything and everyone (he hasn't, and hasn't got around to checking yet) goes a little dark-side, he lets the anger and hatred in (hang on, this sounds like...). He becomes the... [DRUM ROLL] HUNTER!

Well, for about a week or so (probs much less than that) although perhaps this is a new facet to the ranger's meter, maybe now he can dial up and down the fury. But, the Hunter thing, I mean- I get it, it'll do. But it's hardly the deep dark despair that Wolfie endured (and milked, a bit), it's more of a summer cold, and very handily the cure is already to head. Clue, she's got a lovely Pegasus.

So, the Hunter bit seemed more than a little contrived.

It's a great book, and a great 2/3rds of the trilogy so far, can't wait for the next; but it's still not as good as some of the others that have come before.

Loved the biggest Fireball, Elminster at the Mage Fayre, shout out.

Here's an oddity, what's with the cover of the novel (see above)- a snow strewn landscape, mid-blizzard, I didn't get that. I mean, I get that it's the north, but I'm from the north (of England) and I didn't get from the text that the terrain/environment looked like the front cover.

Stay frosty you lovely people, and feel free to drop in to say 'hi' here. It's a funny old world and I need all the hi's I can get (as do we all).

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Well, I picked the right one to head back into it, it's a very easy (and pleasant) read and it just flies by. Also, after spending the last three months reading 'proper' books (kidding) then there's a real appreciation for this kind of fiction. I've been used to 400+ page novels that have got at most about four star characters that want to get a spin at telling the reader their story, and so this one.
I missed this when it came up earlier; threads always seem to scroll off the front page so fast unless they're being repeatedly commented on, darn it.

Personally, I can say that this was the one that did it. This was the Drizzt book that broke me...or at least, I think it was The Thousand Orcs; judging by the synopsis of The Lone Drow, it might have been that one. Either way, I've mentioned it several times leading up to this that somewhere in this trilogy was where I threw my hands up and said I couldn't take it anymore. I have yet to read any subsequent Drizzt books, and even years later it's not a decision I've ever felt the urge to go back on.

Part of it was the idea that we were retreading the same ground all over again. I mean, I was glad that this novel (as I remember it) put Drizzt's pathos into the backseat, because it was beginning to feel like he was simply stuck in a rut where his being endlessly disheartened at how his being a good-aligned drow isolated him was exasperating more than engaging, but somehow the redirected focus on combat just didn't do it for me either. It wasn't so much the plot-necessitated immortality, but that the book has to oh-so-carefully balance how Drizzt is unbeatable in a fight with creating a believable level of tension (which it does by alluding to "yes, he can't be defeated in individual combat, but no one person can fight off an army head-on").

Obviously, the book wasn't that straightforward about his combat skills being unparalleled, but by this point it's pretty well understood.

Likewise, Salvatore's reluctance to kill off his characters is on full display here also. That's understandable, since conventional wisdom is that killing off supporting characters to whom the readers presumably feel connected is something that should only be done in service to the larger plot (plus that whole "living in a world with resurrection magic" bit), but at this point I feel like it would have served the plot to do so. At least, in a way other than a soap-opera style "they actually survived, and now they're back!"

I mean, Regis bringing Bruenor back from his edge-of-death coma by pulling his eyelids open and waving the ruby pendant in front of him while saying "come back"? There's a difference between unconventional uses of gear and simply making stuff up, and that falls squarely into the latter for me. For that matter, so does the idea of two fighters having a nighttime duel, one of whom has a sword wreathed in magical flames, and who then gains an advantage by snuffing those flames and then strikes when his opponent's eyes take time to adjust. That's at least somewhat more plausible, but this is a D&D novel, damn it; what are the game stats for that supposed to be?

To that end, I simply couldn't get excited about the new villains. I liked the idea of Obould being an orc who was transcending his limitations (e.g. suddenly becoming both smarter and wiser, abandoning his hurt pride and old grudges to build a kingdom that would actually last), and Gerti seemed compelling in her up-and-coming role as a new leader among the frost giants, but their defeat seemed like it was already foretold. Drizzt has setbacks; he doesn't lose, and that means that his villains either end up being slain or becoming supporting cast members with their own drawn-out redemption arcs.

Been there, done that.

I know I'm being uncharitable here, but at this point the formula was simply played out, and I couldn't get invested in retreading old ground again. There's value in going back over what's been established, but only in the pursuit of establishing something new; this seemed like it has simply become more Drizzt for the sake of more Drizzt.
 
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I missed this when it came up earlier; threads always seem to scroll of the front page so fast unless they're being repeatedly commented on, darn it.

Personally, I can say that this was the one that did it. This was the Drizzt book that broke me...or at least, I think it was The Thousand Orcs; judging by the synopsis of The Lone Drow, it might have been that one. Either way, I've mentioned it several times leading up to this that somewhere in this trilogy was where I threw my hands up and said I couldn't take it anymore. I have yet to read any subsequent Drizzt books, and even years later it's not a decision I've ever felt the urge to go back on.

Part of it was the idea that we were retreading the same ground all over again. I mean, I was glad that this novel (as I remember it) put Drizzt's pathos into the backseat, because it was beginning to feel like he was simply stuck in a rut where his being endlessly disheartened at how his being a good-aligned drow isolated him was exasperating more than engaging, but somehow the redirected focus on combat just didn't do it for me either. It wasn't so much the plot-necessitated immortality, but that the book has to oh-so-carefully balance how Drizzt is unbeatable in a fight with creating a believable level of tension (which it does by alluding to "yes, he can't be defeated in individual combat, but no one person can fight off an army head-on").

Obviously, the book wasn't that straightforward about his combat skills being unparalleled, but by this point it's pretty well understood.

Likewise, Salvatore's reluctance to kill off his characters is on full display here also. That's understandable, since conventional wisdom is that killing off supporting characters to whom the readers presumably feel connected is something that should only be done in service to the larger plot (plus that whole "living in a world with resurrection magic" bit), but at this point I feel like it would have served the plot to do so. At least, in a way other than a soap-opera style "they actually survived, and now they're back!"

I mean, Regis bringing Bruenor back from his edge-of-death coma by pulling his eyelids open and waving the ruby pendant in front of him while saying "come back"? There's a difference between unconventional uses of gear and simply making stuff up, and that falls squarely into the latter for me. For that matter, so does the idea of two fighters having a nighttime duel, one of whom has a sword wreathed in magical flames, and who then gains an advantage by snuffing those flames and then strikes when his opponent's eyes take time to adjust. That's at least somewhat more plausible, but this is a D&D novel, damn it; what are the game stats for that supposed to be?

To that end, I simply couldn't get excited about the new villains. I liked the idea of Obould being an orc who was transcending his limitations (e.g. suddenly becoming both smarter and wiser, abandoning his hurt pride and old grudges to build a kingdom that would actually last), and Gerti seemed compelling in her up-and-coming role as a new leader among the frost giants, but their defeat seemed like it was already foretold. Drizzt has setbacks; he doesn't lose, and that means that his villains either end up being slain or becoming supporting cast members with their own drawn-out redemption arcs.

Been there, done that.

I know I'm being uncharitable here, but at this point the formula was simply played out, and I couldn't get invested in retreading old ground again. There's value in going back over what's been established, but only in the pursuit of establishing something new; this seemed like it has simply become more Drizzt for the sake of more Drizzt.
This is kind of hilarious given the next book

Obould kicks Drizzt's ass twice the next book, and utterly wins setting up his Kingdom.
 

delericho

Legend
Personally, I can say that this was the one that did it. This was the Drizzt book that broke me...or at least, I think it was The Thousand Orcs; judging by the synopsis of The Lone Drow, it might have been that one.
My experience was similar - this wasn't the end for me (I got as far as "Ghost King"), but it was very much the beginning of the end, and for much the same reasons as you mentioned.
 

Haiku Elvis

Adventurer
Likewise, Salvatore's reluctance to kill off his characters is on full display here also. That's understandable, since conventional wisdom is that killing off supporting characters to whom the readers presumably feel connected is something that should only be done in service to the larger plot (plus that whole "living in a world with resurrection magic" bit), but at this point I feel like it would have served the plot to do so. At least, in a way other than a soap-opera style "they actually survived, and now they're back!"
That's what did for me with the Drizzt books. The amout of times someone was dead but then.. No they are alive! Again and again.
When you're spending half a book thinking "why won't you people just die!" at the heros then it's time to move on.
 

That's what did for me with the Drizzt books. The amout of times someone was dead but then.. No they are alive! Again and again.
When you're spending half a book thinking "why won't you people just die!" at the heros then it's time to move on.

The way I heard it was that it was WotC that pushed Salvatore to return characters to life. I don't know how true that is, but I've heard the same claim on more than one occasion.

Personally, I have only read the Dark Elf series (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn) and the Icewind Dale series (Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and Halfling's Gem), but I haven't felt the need to be back at all. It's a straightforward fantasy series from my memory. Good for D&D books, though.
 

Lone Drow was the last Drizzt book i ever read, I'm pretty sure. I'd gone into university at this stage, and was broadening my reading horizons beyond D&D fiction. And it just seemed like Salvatore was starting to phone it in a bit. He's what, in his 5th Drizzt series at this point and he's STILL reflexively describing Drizzt's scimitars as 'whirring' and Taulmaril's arrows as 'silver-streaking'?

I tried a re-read a decade or so later, and I really couldn't come at them. I loved those books soooo damn much as an early-teenager. Crystal Shard was the reason I first became interested in D&D. I read them til they fell apart (except for the Siege of Darkness hardback I loaned to a jerk at high school and he never gave back - I REMEMBER YOU, BERNARD!) But this was kinda the end for me. When i did a re-read i found so much that annoyed me that i ended up donating them all to a charity shop. I'd rather keep my happy memories of the books than the books themselves. I hope some other 14yo kid came across them and got their mind as blown as mine was.
 
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Goonalan

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#152 The Two Swords by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 3)
Read 30/3/22 to 1/4/22


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Hmmmm... this one's a bit of a mess, or else it just seems to be a bunch of plot related what-nots that keep the balls in the air but do little to move much along. It's advertising for whatever comes next, which will be more Obould and/or Gauntlgrym. I guess.

The idea that Drizzt is still not heading back to actually check out the lay of the land with regard to Mithril Hall- whether Bruenor, Catti, Wolfie & Regis are alive or not, just gets stretched too thin. He's doing all of his elf-wise growing up and... he's still not that bothered about heading back to find out if the love of his life (elf lifetime) is alive or dead.

And...

We spent the best part of two novels putting the dwarves in their hole- Mithril Hall, and fifteen minutes and fifty pages later and they're back out again, easy as- although the dwarves on the river pay the price. But it's just a little too easy, it's as if the pieces have been manoeuvred into a spot and now the author has changed his mind and wants everything back on the board.

Same for Gerti and her Frost Giants, the idea that she's going to let Drizzt go, because somehow she knows that the super-drow ranger is enough to end Obould, I get that she's buying a ticket but a smarter Gerti would have got some of her big fellers around her and ended Obould earlier. The set up for the first Obould vs Drizzt clash is also peremptory, and the second not much better, it's all bits and pieces here and it just left me feeling that the entire trilogy (or at least all of this one) was just a lot of set-up for whatever Drizzt/Bruenor/Obould that comes next (as stated above).

Having read some of the criticisms above then while I'm glad that Bruenor's back, and I have no problems (much) with the how and why, and what rules got used, I am however starting to worry that all of these trophy characters are just making the plot a lot shallower, or else spreading it pretty thin. Everyone has their particular axe to grind, or internal niggle to work out, but it's all a little jumbled, and just dilutes the central plot; Obould versus the north/dwarves/Drizzt et al.

It's not a terrible book, but it just drives the car in the same direction a little further up the road, it's needlessly kind to our hero- Drizzt, who seems unable to be killed not particularly because he's great at combat but because everyone just wants to bet on the drow ranger, even his enemies. I still can't get over Gerti patting him on the head and sending him off to do giant's work.

It's alright, although- as above, just a bit of follow on, no climactic liberation, no winning of the war, just set-up for the next trilogy. Oddly, for Salvatore, unrewarding.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Oh, just remembered, what's the second sword?

Sword #1 is Cattii's blade, name begins with K but escapes me.

Is Sword #2 Icingdeath, or Obould flaming greatsword, or...

Why is it particularly the second sword? Whichever it is.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Same for Gerti and her Frost Giants, the idea that she's going to let Drizzt go, because somehow she knows that the super-drow ranger is enough to end Obould, I get that she's buying a ticket but a smarter Gerti would have got some of her big fellers around her and ended Obould earlier.
That was in the earlier books, and I recall frowning at it then myself. I mean, I get that Obould's getting smarter and stronger is a threat to her, and I suppose I can see her not wanting to off him herself so as to prevent a war between the frost giants and the orcs...but c'mon, in a battle of "frost giants vs. orcs," I know who I'm betting on. Likewise, even with Obould getting unspecified bonuses, I still have a hard time believing Gerti couldn't take him. Obould was a CR 9 character, according to the Silver Marches sourcebook, whereas the Epic Level Handbook puts Gerti at CR 18. She should be able to end him, no contest.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

That was in the earlier books, and I recall frowning at it then myself. I mean, I get that Obould's getting smarter and stronger is a threat to her, and I suppose I can see her not wanting to off him herself so as to prevent a war between the frost giants and the orcs...but c'mon, in a battle of "frost giants vs. orcs," I know who I'm betting on. Likewise, even with Obould getting unspecified bonuses, I still have a hard time believing Gerti couldn't take him. Obould was a CR 9 character, according to the Silver Marches sourcebook, whereas the Epic Level Handbook puts Gerti at CR 18. She should be able to end him, no contest.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
Those source books were before these books we can’t really use them for Obould because he became way more impressive. In the Two Swords he fights Gerti physically overpowers her and throws her to the ground. Before sparing her and telling her the plan.
Plus the whole thing is that they want out of the war because they took a few losses which is a bigger deal to them then a bunch of Orcs dying is to Orcs. Fighting the massive amounts of Orcs so they can stop fighting is counter productive and will just lead to more casualties.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#153 Twilight Falling by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 1)
Read 2/4/22 to 6/4/22


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So, here's the thing- I'm still not sure what I thought of this one.

It's a game/book of two halves (at least two, excuse the bad maths). The start up in Selgaunt is all groovy, I love this grim (Dark) place, I keep imagining some WFRP style town with crazy rich burgomeisters, den's of drugs and despair, and threat and adventure around every corner. I equally like Cale, Jak (spelled Jack, once or twice) and Riven, although the latter's turn to the good-ish side is rather peremptory, but... forgiven, let's get on.

I was equally on board with the events, Vraggen and his gang- what are they made of, there's something very not good about these folk. They're too high level for our trio from the outset.

Love'd the plot- Fane of Shadow to arrive, crystal star map encased in a glass bauble to tell the time, and then... it somehow fell apart, or else I fell out of love with it.

But just to make clear, I liked (a lot) the places and people we get to go and meet- Starmantle, the gnoll pack (fabulous) et al, it was just the plot that got me foxed. I'll explain.

Cale hands over the second half of the star map clock to the big bad for but a second- the two pieces magically join together, and... the big bad spills it- and Cale reclaims it. How then do the bad guys get the answer, I don't know if I missed a line, or else just misinterpreted something but seemingly after this brief encounter the bad guys know the time the Fane is going to appear (they already know where). I must have missed something, and I went back several times to try and spot my error, but... I just don't know how the bad guys got ahead of our trio.

Next up, the deus ex machina to end all, the bad guys [MAJOR SPOILER] are Slaad, or at least some of them are- read it and find out. Our trio are with their gnoll friends in the swamp, one of the bad guy Slaadi turns up and... take down. Thirty seconds and five pages later and all three of our heroes (let me write that again- HEROES) are on the floor and en route to the ever-after, more-or-less.

Then...

THEN...

Get this.

One of Riven's mates turns up (with a friend- actually another SLAAD!) and swings the fight to the light.

He also saves Cale, Riven threatens to kill him if he doesn't. When did Riven fall in love with Cale? Later the same fellow saves Jak.

Without him...

So, a) deus ex machina, as above; and b) why would the second secret agent Slaad help out- except just to serve the plot (see deus ex machina, again).

So, I spent quite a while head-scratching with this one, because it appeared early in the piece that our guys were out of their depth, and then skip forward another hundred and fifty pages and... confirmed, they're way out of their depth.

The saving grace being the big bad guy is also about to have his pants pulled down.

Therefore, it's either all just set up for what comes next, particularly because miracle #2 will involve how our heroic trio manage to survive the end of this one.

This is probs the most likely explanation.

Or else, the author just thought that the big bad's failure would outshine the fact that our guys are getting taken to the -ing cleaners. Jak is pretty much terrified for the entire second half of the read, I genuinely felt sorry for the little fellow. A kinder Cale would have sent him home, he's like 3rd level PC in a 10th level adventure; extending the analogy Riven and Cale are approx. 7th level, they have a fighting chance.

Oh, and at the end Cale has lost an arm, I'd imagine that needs to grow back, somehow...

Psionics are good.

But again, not sure if I liked it- still.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#154 Dawn of Night by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 2)
Read 7/4/22 to 11/4/22


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There's a lot to like in this one, and it's much better (imho) than the last one, as in the deus ex machina has now joined the party- Magadon is in the gang.

Why's this one good- because we get to go to some groovy places and sit inside the heads of a bunch more terrible (and good) folk, and it's all just mana for this DM. Skullport has a better outing here than in many of the other novels in the realms, the description of the place is great, and its inhabitants and their day-to-day lives. Samey-same for the Skulls themselves, the protectors of this den of iniquity.

Likewise time spent in the Shadow Plane, and the brief visit to Elgrin Fau, with all its ghosts- all good, and keep in mind that's why I am reading these books, it's not (solely) for the gripping and tense plots, it's for the lay of the land. I want to know the history of the place that I game, the people and places that my players can go and meet.

The Sojourner and his Slaadi brood are also much fun to visit with, I don't think I have ever DMed a Slaad, I've never picked one from the monster roster as prior to these novels I've really not understood how to play them. They're great in this one, Azriim- too cool for school with his natty threads, and Dolgon (is that right) the brutish self-harming lunkhead, he's a bozo- but a bozo with a bunch of spells and powers, and regeneration, and... well, a shed load more cool stuff. The point being are Slaadi are definitely going to make it to my game, they are weird, alien, terrifying, chatty and possess powers that can turn folk inside out (or similar). So, that counts as a success for me.

They bite folk's heads off.

What's not to like about that.

That said the plot was also much better with this one, the secret Netherese power that keeps Skullport safe and well, an alien seed/plant/tree which soaks up all of the weave, again- all good. Suitably techno-magic, and a sure fire threat to all of Faerun.

Of the heroes, then Cale is still number one (for Mask and me), although Magadon has taken over from Riven as the second best character, Jak is still somewhat out of his depth. Riven is the odd one, in book one he seemed to have gone soft, in this one he's terrified of Skullport and a little more fractious, on edge. That said the entire venture seems to be teetering on the brink of failure time and time again. Which I am really starting to enjoy, I was really unsure in the first one because the bad guys just seemed to be leagues ahead of our heroes in the toughness and smarts stakes. But here, well... in the end it's a score draw, no winners but both sides are still in the game, just.

The Riven swap sides moment is pretty well handled, and I like the fact that now I've started the third book there's a little more explanation of what went on in the book two finale. I like not knowing which way Riven is going to jump.

My money is, of course, on Riven coming good in the end, although now I've said that... I'm suddenly struck by the fact that the opposite would be much more interesting/surprising.

Maybe.

Here's the thing though... it's the middle book, and so vignette follows climax, follows vignette, follows... but you get me. It just keeps all of the balls in the air (really well) and keeps the reader on the trail and interested. Job done.

The good guys and the bad guys are suitably explored, and whacky/weird enough to keep us interested. The plot rushes on, as do I.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#155 Midnight's Mask by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 3)
Read 11/4/22 to 13/4/22


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Well, well, well... that was really very good, unputdownable towards the end, that said the climax of the trilogy provided a breathless hundred pages (or thereabouts) of madcap action. The Sojourner needs to take one last stroll on the beach, daft but suitably crazy for a creature that by its own account destroys worlds, and so the sun must get a new shadow. There follows a teleportation hopscotch around about a bit, the remaining Slaadi, later Death Slaadi, the Weave Tap- an artefact/tree attuned to bathe in the power of the Weave and Shadow Weave, and also our three or four heroes of the hour. Erevis, Jak, Magadon and... Riven, maybe.

Oh, and then there's the Kraken with a headache, so- as I say, unputdownable, and even a little emotional (for me) at the end. It's an odd thing but I found myself cheering for almost everyone in it at one time or another.

Big spoilers be here.

I wouldn't have minded if the Sojourner had got his last twenty four hours or so, his plan (as terrible as it was) worked after all, and as super villains go, well.. he's not so bad.

Riven, strange to say, captioned the entire in the end, potato soup- just like Jak's mother used to make. I like the fact that Riven has the girls in his life, but for Mask's sake, can someone please find him a friend. Let someone in Riven, let them in.

Jak? And while I loved the fact that Erevis was prepared to dare Mask to get his resurrection spell, I remembered (before Erevis did) that Jak said he didn't want bringing back, and besides it all seemed so... homely.

Magadon, heaven's know how he's still alive- I still don't get how and why the author waited for so long to drag him into book one- written himself into a corner, maybe.

Azriim, well... I don't remember seeing him in the body count, and so I'm bound to say- we ain't seen the last of this guy yet, and who can blame Paul S Kemp, Azriim is a great villain- a clever/witty/chatty Death Slaad, with a penchant for fine clothes and the good things in life, and equipped with a turn of phrase.

Oh yes, he's coming back (fingers-crossed), and keep in mind I don't know much of anything about these books and the various series before I get to read them. When I started back at this after my three months rest I hadn't even worked out The Thousand Orcs was a Drizzt novel. I'm attempting to maintain outsider status, still, by not reading anything about any of them- just the novels themselves, that's enough.

To recap- glorious, and it may be because I've just finished it (like twenty minutes ago) and I'm bathing in the afterlight, but- lots of action, some will he/they, wont he/they- you know they are going to win but it's the how. Great (crazy) bad guys, a wonderful scheme- greater than the sum of its silly )at times) parts. A ton of titanic bad guys and the action to go with it- it raced along, well plotted, easy to read, what's not to like.

I like Erevis more than I did before, and he's matured, gone bad- gone good, and stopped thinking about very young girls (creepy). But better still Riven, Jak, Magadon- and the bad guys, have also come alive, and carried their fair share of the story. As stated previously, I was hooting and hollering for everyone to get a win towards the end, caveat the finale with the thought- 'don't kill Azriim, he's too funny to let go.'

Read, I really enjoyed it.

Stay safe and well you lovely people, cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#156 The Alabaster Staff by Edward Bolme (Rogues 1)
Read 14/4/22 to 16/4/22


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It's a very odd book, I thought at first that I was on to a good one but that soon petered out, it's just too, I hate to use the word 'unbelievable' while discussing the Fantasy Fiction oeuvre, but- I don't get it.

Very specifically this is what I don't get.

Who the F is Jaldi, we follow this miscreant over the wall and into the city of Messemprar and then about 30-40 pages later we see him again, I think, briefly- he waves or else exchanges a line with our hero, the rogue- Kehrsyn, and then... That's Jaldi done, not another word for the entire novel. Just an odd way into the story... but, there's a lot of that.

So, Kehrsyn- downtrodden, her mother raped by a cruel man with money and power, her father killed, she's lead a hard life and yet... And yet she's a gullible fool (at the outset) seemingly on her first day out in the real world. Later, a variety of seemingly powerful and cruel men (and women), including a rapacious merchant (would be maniac), a high priestess of Tiamat, a Red Wizard, a mercenary professional killer, and... well, everyone else Kehrsyn meets really, are all of them instantly struck by how honest and good she is, and... they're really nice folk too.

This, of course, in the midst of a backstabbing double-dealing crisis in the city, as a variety of factions attempt to claim top-dog before the Mulhorand army turns up and flattens the lot of 'em. It's all just so... contrived, nothing bad ever happens to our hero- she's great at her job (well, a bit) but either folk just believe her (and then take her into their confidence) or else... well, everything just works out for the best.

Particularly amusing (actually, laughable) is the dumpy, frowsy, I just want someone to like me Priestess of Tiamat, Tiglath. Was there a time in the Faerun story when worshippers of Tiamat were on the side of right? Did I miss a meeting?

It's just a mess of unpleasant factions, in a city starving, tearing itself apart, with the Dead Cart picking up new victims each morning and... for our girl the birds are singing, everyone trusts her/likes her/loves her, or else- here have some money, a room, something to eat, and... it's just a nonsense. There's a bit of me that's not sure this is a book for adults, it's just so simple.

Ahegi, the only character that doesn't like Kehrsyn from the start, well... SPOILERS- he's the bad guy. I get that Massedar is also the villain but, Demok has already told us this (as did Ahegi when he ran to his boss). It's just way too simple, like... for the kids.

Also, what's with the Alabaster Staff? Kehrsyn, I think, kills the reincarnated/reanimated (by the aforementioned staff) Gilgeam by shoving the rod into the raised God and erm... snapping it, or else it breaks. Is that what happened? I'm still not sure.

There's some other really odd stuff here, odd quips and one-liners which are super cheesy, and there's a paragraph in which a guard says have a 'night ride', instead of, 'nice ride' and then takes another couple of lines to explain his mistake. The guard is no-one, the line means nothing, while other books pack in the wham-bam-jam this one tootles, and idles, and strolls- eating up ink with asides and oddities that tell us nothing about anyone close to the story.

It's down there with Once Around the Realms.

Read- it's not good.

Stay safe and well, cheers goonalan.
 

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