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

Mirtek

Hero
The numbers are right, The Adversary is #282 both times, I think I spotted the fact this book was in both series and so just put it in a second time to remind myself to go back and look at this one again to see what went on and how it effects the second (Brimstone) series.
Ups, you're right. I didn't check the titles, only that after I copied it to excel I had one line too many.

Also after comparing your latest list to mine I found that the differences are only due to me being an elitist who only counts what I consider "real" FR novels. So I excluded stuff like those Abyssal Plague novels (exept for the single one that was a FR novel) on purpose and actually didn't even think at all about those D&D story collections that contain a FR story among their collections but are also not FR novels. Now that those are brougth to my attention I now chose to exclude them on purpose rather than mere neglect ;)

Basically for me FR novels are only those with the FR emblem on their spine () (*) and that line ended with Hero in 2016. :(

I add the Drizzt novels that have been released since then to the bottom as sort of "honorable mentions", but I actually haven't read any of them yet.

(*) also not 100% true, as I do count the Tymora's Stone trilogy which strictly speaking doesn't bear that badge of honor on the spine
(**) and of course ebooks that were officially released under the umbrella of the novel line even though they don't have any spines at all ;)
 
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Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#165 The Rite by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 3)
Read 4/6/22 to 13/6/22


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Well, it sorta goes nowhere, but it's very adept at it, and but for the fact that I have had lots to do then I would have read it much quicker, life sometimes gets in the way.

The gang are looking to find the cure for the Rage, and from the notes they obtained in book one- and so we get to follow Sammaster's path, gathering up as much dragon lore, and the needed clues to the negating of the Rage, as we go. But again, that doesn't really matter, and besides we don't really see what lore is being searched for or found, or at least we don't until it really matters- towards the end, when Kara has a song to sing that will lessen the Rage.

My point is, it's a rollercoaster, there are lots of cool enemies- dragons! Also, lots of cool allies, including Brimstone and a Master of Flowers Monk (I remember a slew of players trying to get their PCs to this auspicious level). The places we go and the things we see are similarly very attractive places to explore and or defend/destroy.

It's an epic film, a spectacle drama with sufficient explosions and too-cool-action.

But, it's just the middle book, we don't move the plot along a lot, so... there's that to consider.

Although, that didn't stop me enjoying it immensely, and so I asked myself- why? Why do I enjoy this one more than some others that tread a very similar (middle book) path.

1) It does it well, and the story- well, I was sold on it in book one, so I need to know, and that helps a whole heap.

2) Chatulio sacrifices himself, and... it's great, not enough authors make this choice.

3) There are lots (lost) of cool good and bad folk, and we hardly even hear from Sammaster, point of fact the big bad is only just getting around to the thought that our guys are the folk that are putting a spanner in his works. There's lots of tension, but it takes its time with it.

4) See the one above, it's much slower paced- don't get me wrong, there's lots of fast-paced action going on, but... and this seems important, we visit with all of the good guys- in various combinations, and they're (all of them) in the fight, and important enough to get some page time. All of the characters (and bad guys) get a chance to stretch their legs, and we're not just told stuff, we get to visit and watch.

Well, that about covers it, again- not a work of genius, but greater than the sum of its parts- well put together, well-plotted, etc. (see above).

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#166 Realms of the Dragons II Ed. Philip Athans (Rogue Dragons 4)
Read 14/6/22 to 18/6/22


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And so some more stories about dragons, who'd have thought it. This anthology seemed a little slim, packed out as it is (but only a little) by four excerpts from forthcoming releases, discount these and there are less than 250 pages in this one.

The stories are-

Faerie Ire by Erin Tettensor, in which Zyx the four inch long faerie dragon wakes his pal Cirro, a Mist Dragon, in order to chase a bunch of woodsman (pesky humans) out of the/his jungle (in Chult). The twist being with the humans gone... well, Zyx goes after them. It's all very nicely done, I guess.

The Woman Who Drew Dragons by Rosemary Jones, in which a bar owner and his three best customers (dragon hunters all) invite others to tell their most dramatic tales about dragons, to judge the best and most worthy. That is until the woman who drew dragons comes along, and her secret is... well, you've probably figured it out already. Entertaining.

The Hunting Game by Erik Scott de Bie, in which Alin the bard escapes death (by dragon) but barely, only to be rescued by and then join the Moor Runners adventuring party, who then in turn meet Ryla the (sexy) Dragonslayer, and off they all go to the Forest of Wyrms- after the dragon. The twist? See the story above.

The Road Home by Harley Stroh, forget about 'in which', because I know who Harley Stroh is- I've been buying and DMing Goodman Games adventures for... well, since they started. So, that's nice- is this how Harley first made his name in the business? The story? Saskia, a female northern barbarian with a secret, can you guess what it is? Our heroine is also a somewhat reluctant member of the Company of the Chimera mercenary party, they're not nice folk, anyway- a pseudodragon is captured, and guess what- Saskia's secret is soon to be revealed. It's a very nice story.

How Bulmarr Saved the Unseen Protector by Kameron M Franklin, in which the young gnome Bulmarr has dark dreams, his secret is getting closer to the surface. His task is to save his clan/burrow from the Arcane Brotherhood who have come to find (and kill) the Unseen Protector, but Bulmarr is prepared to pay the final price to foil the wizards. It's okay.

A Tall Tale by JL Collins, in which a group of children play dare and then go take a sneak peek at the dragon that's being stored in the barn, it's a very small dragon. A wyrmling- very disappointing, but then mother wyrm shows up. It's a fun tale.

The Book Dragon by Jim Pitrat, an excellent tale about Red Wizards and their march to power, the constant scheming and... well, Red Wizards. The Scalamagdrion is recovered- it's a book with a secret (can you guess the secret) and cruel Nusair gets the ultimate reveal and pays with his life, and Saura (our heroine) gets her red wizard robes at last.

Freedom's Promise by Ed Gentry, in which Gerinvioch, ancient blue dragon, the great wizard Kinase Bronihim, the diaspora of Estagund, and an ancient artefact of Set- the Evise Jhontil. As it turns out freedom isn't all its cracked up to be, and dragons- wouldn't you know it, can be tricksy- not to be trusted.

Possessions by James P Davis, in which we hunt an assassin in Zazesspur, can you guess the assassin's secret? But the secret's out early- it's a Fang Dragon, and I need to get me a Faerun-flavoured monster manual. Nice.

Queen of the Mountain by Jaleigh Johnson, in which a Topaz Dragon convinces a mountain (you read that right) to crush/contain her, to keep the ancient dying dragon's secret. The crazy old woman who lives on the mountain- Diadree, learns some of the secret too. Then time passes and here comes the Cult of the Dragon... It's oddy moving, particularly Diadree's story. The best one in the book.

The Strength of the Jester by Murray JD Leeder, in which (at last) we learn something more about the history of the dragon's rage, sorry... RAGE! It was the elves what done it (maybe). I'll be honest I didn't suspect that, although... it makes a lot of sense. It also makes a lot of sense that the last story in this anthology gets us back on track for the final tome.

All very well written, and yet only a few of the above stories were stand out- Queen of the Mountain, The Book Dragon and Possessions, for me, are the best. But we're moving the story/anthology/series forward. Onwards, to the secret of the RAGE!

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#167 The Ruin by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 5)
Read 19/6/22 to 21/6/22


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Well, that's the best series of books that I have read for a while- and I really enjoyed this, the last one. Point of fact the weakest links are the anthologies, but- they were welcome too, just not the all action sprawling adventure as portrayed in the others.

Richard Lee Byers take a bow.

Then we get to why they are good, and keep in mind the only reading I have done about Faerun is... well, the novels I've read here so far. So, again, why are they great.

Sammaster, I've heard the name before but that's about it, I knew he was something to do with the Cult of the Dragon, and... that's it. So, Sammaster is a groovy villain, and particularly groovy because he is so matter of fact diabolical, at one point he's talking about putting an arm around the shoulders of some of his minions, just to let them know that he cares. Then you remember that they are churning out Draco-liches, terrifying all-powerful undead dragons that are set to rule the world. He's a CEO type villain, and better still there's very little of him in the first two books, so- he's still unbeatable even when we get to the end, for the finale. Sammaster scores very highly for me, supervillain-wise.

The heroes, I'm not going to list them all, but it's a great thing to spend time with all of them, don't get me wrong I still want to kick Dorn's arse, even in book three- grow up man, you are an unkillable half-golem with a swoony dragon girlfriend- take a look around you, 99% of the population have got it much tougher than you. And relax- let it go.

But here's the thing, we also get to play Taegan, and Pavel, and Raryn, and Will, and even Jivex (who gets the best lines), and... Brimstone, and... well, there's no time to get bored, and the author flings us from one to the other with a deftness that... well, the story just works.

Next point- Dragons!

That's it- DRAGONS!

And now I know lots more about how they work.

Next point- Elves!

I mean... ELVES!

They did bad things in the past, that the RAGE was all their doing, well... I didn't know that. I would never have guessed that. I... that was just wonderful to discover, and the finale- the Ruin, and all of the action and the undoing of the rage. That's how I want my three module D&D campaign to end, although DMing it would be impossible.

But, and here's the thing, this fact- Elves = Rage, pretty much changes my whole outlook on the race, and on Faerun. Don't get me wrong- I can see it, I've read the early Elminster books, and the elves, well, I wrote all the way back then-

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

So, looking back on it, but... I never would of got there.

A great series of novels, possibly in the top three.

Read, and enjoyed.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#168 Lady of Poison by Bruce R Cordell (Priests 1)
Read 22/6/22 to 28/6/22


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Well, it's a good enough story, and the action in places is great, the locale- particularly for the final chase to the end- that's the sweet spot. Under-Tharos, with the Queen Abiding and the Sighing Vault, I loved this place, the crypt-o-dungeony goodness (real badness) of the place, a location and a situation I'd love to replicate in my game.

The thing that made me doubt though, with this one- were the characters, Marrec seems, at times, to be a bit... waffy- unsure, uncertain and then soon after strangely cocky and a bit aloof; not much like a man of faith, a Priest- and that's important (you'd think) in this series. Ususi is a curmudgeon, and I usually dig curmudgeons, and yet... the mean and moody just seems to grind. Gunggarri sounded promising at first, the tattooed barbarian warrior with his massive didgeridoo, but... then he got all noble savage and started to sound (after a while) like Tonto.

"Three men pass here two moons ago- one had cornflakes for breakfast."

Likewise- Ash, the Child of Light, naah! Unspeaking (almost) dumb (as in considered to be simple) and yet peaceful (strangely calming) innocent come to save us all. Yeah, I think I've seen this done before.

The stand out character, for me, is Fallon, and of course it was obvious he was up to no good from the get go, see the scene he intros. But then Fallon gets a conscience, and although the good guys all go on a journey, and change (a little) after the climax/denouement, it's Fallon who in the words of Spike Lee finally gets it- "Do the right thing".

Ten more close up pages with Fallon and he could have been the hero of this one.

So, loved the location, loved the bad guys, loved the dungeony goodness- and there's plenty of it. Disliked, or rather just didn't get on with, the heroes of the piece. A bit odd, really.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#169 Mistress of the Night by Dave Gross & Don Bassingthwaite (Priests 2)
Read 29/6/22 to 6/7/22


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Now that's much better, it would be fair to say that I liked Feena (a lot) from the get go, and when you get onside with the hero everything seems much better. Nice intro- kicking the rough guys in the nuts is a great opener. Although, this one has remarkably little 'action', as it were, instead there's intrigue and the dark dealings of Shar and her servants aplenty. That's a very good thing, and a step up from some of the other novels in this realm. Don't get me wrong, lots of other novels here make their way with intrigue and scheming plans, oft thwarted at the last instant, but... this one does it better than most. The back and forth- shadow and light, is ably illustrated by the tug-of-war for Keph.

I enjoyed the fact that when I first met Keph I thought he was a nasty piece of work, and an arse to boot, and then... well, Keph fell hard, or else he wandered off the straight and narrow and found himself in over his head. Shar, or else her servants, reached out to him, and... well, it's fun to watch. I was reassured, at the end, to discover that Keph had now made his way through the moral maze and found someone else to blame for his lack of Art/magic (himself, rather than his family and everyone else). It was a little too pat at the end, the warm embrace of the doting (archmage) father, but... it's a feel good moment. It works, Keph illustrates the story well, and when we get to see the real Jarull, the big man broken to the last, well... we're rooting for the good guys again.

Likewise loved the idea of the moon goddesses lycanthropic gang of avengers, there should be more of this kind of thing- I'd pay to read their stories. A good explanation/exploration of the rivalry that exists between the light and dark/shadow sisters- Selune and Shar. Also a marvellous time spent in Moonshadow Hall, and lots to see and do about the city of Yhaunn.

Variance (it's a great name) is a villain with legs, I want her back- and she survives, so here's hoping. The only disappointment being in the end she's just a bag-woman for another man- Rivalen. Faerun needs a kick in the balls too, it seems, it's like the Spice Girls (Girl Power!) never happened, seriously though- when it comes to big bad over-arching evil doers, well... it's a sausage fest.

Don't read anything into the fact that it took me a while to get through this one, the Mrs caught the covid and I've been on nurse-maid duties, and so I didn't get settled often enough to read for any length of time. I've had to get through this one in snatched snippets, not ideal, and hence this truncated offering.

Read & enjoyed.

Stay safe aqnd well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#170 Maiden of Pain by Kameron M Franklin (Priests 3)
Read 7/7/22 to 9/7/22


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It's a very strange book, and the quality control seems to have dipped somewhat... and it all started so well (I'm kidding).

Sorry, this one gets a bit ranty.

Ythnel is a young priestess of Loviatar, on her first trip away from the temple, and it takes twenty to get to here, and while a little flavour is nice (and a bit of backstory) well... nothing else happens.

Ythnel becomes governess to a brat called Iuna, although we've nor met her yet- only Iuna's merchant father who has hired Ythnel. Then, the voyage to Luthcheq, and now we're fifty plus pages in, and we've met Iuna at last- and she's a brat.

If the author had skipped all of the above, or else cut it down to a sliver then... well, nothing much will have changed, point of fact there might have been a bit more room for something more interesting later on.

Then, it gets daft, the issue is our hero, the novice priestess- remember, gets herself in all manner of scrapes. A little while later she's scheduled to be burnt at the stake as a wizard. The Art is forbidden in Luthcheq, the crazed ruling family- the Karanoks say so.

Ythnel escapes, and then goes on a long and hazardous flight, followed by a swampy (Werecrocodiles versus Wererats) adventure, and... it's just silly. Ythnel can do anything, she is adept (and much much better) with a short blade, a spear, a dagger, a bow...

Ythnel and her wizard friends spend three days in a boat without food and water before she remembers that she can purify water.

This series is called the Priests?

Later Ythnel breaks back into the city of Luthcheq and hunts out the three hidden caches of 'witchwood' which somehow prevent the wizards from doing their stuff here.

Just to make clear, Ythnel breaks into the young Karanok Lord's tower (by becoming magically buxom), then straight after into the royal palace, followed by the temple (of Entropy). She does all manner of dextrous and sneaky things while wearing the armour she stole from a guard. The guard in question being pretty much the only guard she has to contend with during the entire venture (except for the end of level bad guys). The point is the threat is told to us- Ythnel tells us how much danger she's in and then... nothing, she gets in- beats up the Lord, sets the witchwood on fire, heads off to the palace- dresses as a guard, etc.

This wouldn't be so bad if... well, she used some sort of divine or priestly magic to do any of this but as it turns out she may only be a level 3 cleric (5, at most) but she's also a level 7 rogue, level 7 fighter and- for good measure, level 5 monk.

She is appallingly good at everything, while at the same time the adventure that she's on- the threat, exaggerated, minimal.

If this was a D&D module (and I get that it's not) then I would have stopped reading it, if I wasn't attempting to read all of these books... well, as previous.

To make it even clearer, the stuff at the start- surplus, the stuff when we are moving from secret cache to secret cache through trap-laden, guard-filled, high-tension... there's none of this. Ythnel mooches around and generally the third door she opens contains the hidden 'witchwood'. It's just daft- this should be a series of close calls and climaxes but instead it reads like a shopping list of events.

Next.

We're short of pages in the end, and I've read a few of these now so let me tell you that not getting to the 300 pages mark is almost unheard of, I'd go further- 98% of these books are 306+ pages long. This one ends, with a terrible whimper, after 292 pages. I swear to you the first fifty pages could have been as ably done in less than a dozen sides, it's just odd.

I have no idea how this one made it to the canon, save that there are maybe two semi-saucy passages, but not really, not sexy, more just a bit creepy, and I guess someone somewhere said we'll have a bit of that.

I've not looked the author up, but was he a young fellow when he wrote this? It's very unsophisticated. It's just a series of events, some poorly realised (in comparison to other authors here) from which our heroes eventually emerge, sometimes seemingly, without having had any/much part to play in the outcome.

Nobody in the book (hero-wise) seems to be particularly real, it's all formulaic, with extra bits of odd.

There was a bit of me that wanted to keep reading (but not a big bit) just to see how it will end, badly- there's a meeting in the tavern, everyone says bye, and Iuna has learned to say please and thank you. Just really odd, and bad.

Read!

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#171 Queen of the Depths by Richard Lee Byers (Priests 4)
Read 10/7/22 to 18/7/22


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It's a cracker.

And don't read anything into the fact that it took me nine days to get through this one, I had a sudden emergency- some folk needed a DM to play D&D, and so I spent six of those nine days reading, prepping and building on Fantasy Grounds Unity. When I got back to the book I was on page 125, I read the rest of it in one sitting.

So, it's good to great- maybe. But what is great is one of the two central characters, the priestess- that's what these books are about, right?

Tu'ala'keth, I think that's right, is a Shalarin- and it only bothered me for maybe thirty seconds that I had never heard of the Shalarin. Mainly because I'm discovering in the Venn diagram of FR style D&D and the D&D I've been playing all these years- well, the union of these two sets is packed, but there remain outliers. I'd not heard of half of the drakes (etc.) that made a show of themselves in the Rogue Dragon's series.

But, Tu'ala'keth, is too cool for school, half the anti-heroes that make it to the pages in these books are milquetoasts in comparison to the priestess of the Sea Bitch. Tu kills, and lies, and sacrifices in order to maintain her narrative (or else Umberlee's narrative) there's nothing she wont do/brave in order to complete her task. And yet... and yet, she's inordinately logical, a cold dark logic- and she explains herself well, or else is very accepting of events as they unfold. Unflappable, unhurried, unemotional- maybe, but with a passion to succeed beyond all other considerations, and without appearing to be in any way an automaton. As characters go she is a wonder to behold in places, the way in which Tu interprets events to support her worship and world view. You can see how prophecies get written, or else they play out and are later interpreted.

The rest, just lots of great stuff- the co-hero Turmish spy Anton is suitably entertaining, and he too is a selfish soul, but- y'know, with a heart of gold etc.

The Pirate Isles and all who live there, and the wine, women/men and song, and then being hunted by a pair of angry wizards.

An attack on a Thayan enclave- kill the Red Wizards.

An undersea wave/fury of raging dragons, of every kind.

A Cult of the Dragon Tracy Island style lair, with an ancient Red and a wearer of Purple.

The devious malicious nasty bastards that are the Ixitxachitls, and their Devitan leader, Diero. Just great- and keep in mind that a lot of these undersea races that we're rooting for enslave folk, they're the bad guys, but pointing in the right direction for once.

So, all of that and more- and the author goes further, underlining the problem that evil/the bad guys always have. Here the Tan island leader of the Cult of the Dragons, I forget his name, doesn't even like dragons- he makes that clear to almost anyone that will listen- he's just in it for the power/uniform.

Evil, when the tough gets going, falls apart.

If you wanted to know about any of the above then you should read this one, if you wanted to know how a cleric works then again, this is the book for you.

My god is better than your god, my god is right all of the time- and we know this because events (whatever they may be) always evidence my belief- because I interpret them. Faith is easy because there is no doubt.

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Tu'ala'keth, I think that's right, is a Shalarin- and it only bothered me for maybe thirty seconds that I had never heard of the Shalarin. Mainly because I'm discovering in the Venn diagram of FR style D&D and the D&D I've been playing all these years- well, the union of these two sets is packed, but there remain outliers. I'd not heard of half of the drakes (etc.) that made a show of themselves in the Rogue Dragon's series.
As I recall, the shalarin were a late introduction to D&D, premiering late in the life of 2nd Edition with Sea of Fallen Stars. Other than a quick 3E conversion in Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn, I don't think they've been seen much (outside of the novel reviewed above, I mean).

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As I recall, the shalarin were a late introduction to D&D, premiering late in the life of 2nd Edition with Sea of Fallen Stars.
Yeah, that's my recollection too. Far as i can tell, the writers wanted a playable undersea race who a) had legs, so weren't a drag when the party went on land like merfolk; b) were 1HD so they didn't have to go through all sorts of rules contortions balancing PC tritons; and c) were vaguely human-looking and didn't have creepy fish faces like locathah.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#172 Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 1)
Read 19/7/22 to 22/7/22


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Bloody hell, it's a cracker, and keep in mind I'm not a big fan of the People (Elves), but this one... (and perhaps the others, don't tell me) is just great, and it has a bit of everything.

So, desperate times for the People, because some parvenu long lost 'house' of Fey/Demonspawn Elves and their friends are out of jail, liquored up and on the rampage. They're not liquored up, of course, I should imagine the People drink some sort of kombucha/smoothie non-alcoholic drinks and eat lots of fresh fruit with muesli.

But these guys, elves that sleep with demons in order to ensure strapping (physical/magical) progeny, well... as master plans go that's a doozy. Only the Elves! Whisper it but I'm getting to quite like the pointy-eared buggers, particularly the bad folk. The elves do xenophobic vengeance-orientated genocidal maniacs, only they're very organised and hierarchical for maniacs. They're great.

I thought the Drow were the Nazis, as it turns out, well all elves have the capability.

The Dlardrageth, unpronounceable and unpalatable.

So, genocide for the People, courtesy of an army of- yugoloths (who get no where near enough love), demons, fey, fey-demons, and of course- demonic fey. There's a war, and a battle or two, and it does epic and outstanding.

Then there's the adventuring party, and I love me some of this sort of action, lead by Araevin- and while they're suitably high level they're sub-epic enough for me to follow the action (from a D&D DM POV), and the plot while easy to follow (I got a bit ahead of it) is well put together.

Just to say, the only thing I didn't dig so much was the fact that I figured out ahead of time that when the Fey Demon Elf bastards sent out hero ahead- into the final magic stone/hard drive then it was inevitable that our guy would emerge from this place with power extreme and all guns blazing. Sorry, SPOILER, but that was too easy.

Then there's the politics back in Evermeet- a loyal Lord, a faithful queen versus a bunch of conservative (for which read xenophobic, racist, small-minded, self-centred and entirely self-serving) noble high councillors. All trying to undermine the rule of law/democracy by stymying the good guys at every turn. Elves, maaan! They suck the phat one, and are seemingly (the nobles) ram-jam packed with Cruella Deville (and the male equivalent) style terrors, cruel and pointless.

In conclusion- a bit of nasty and snide politics, the People's paradise, it seems, is a bubbling pot full of hatred, if the queen's council is anything to go by.

Lots of great places to adventure and explore, and with travel sections- suitably nasty random encounters, and some lush action, I didn't even mind it when the good guys got captured and were not all executed on the spot, mainly because one of them is (executed). I liked that a lot.

I prefer it when a hero or two dies en route to the finale, it makes more sense, gives value/worth to the outcome. There are a lot of books on this list- looking bad on them, that have got my goat because the one to five heroes always emerge from the epic tumult with barely a scratch on them.

Oh, and great battles, I'm going to get me one of those floating battle platforms for my big bad guys.

Some nice magic- the Mythal and the magic stones, I enjoyed the comparison between the magical workings of the Mythal and some sort of modern security/internet style information network, I liked that a lot.

It's just a cracking all-action easy read.

Read

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I actually bought this roughly two years ago when I stumbled across it at my local bookseller, but so far I haven't had a chance to crack the cover.

House Dlardrageth/the fey'ri were another one of those "they've always been there, just lurking out of sight" power groups that got introduced at the tail end of AD&D 2E, similar to the shalarin and Myth Nantar in the Sea of Fallen Stars. Which makes me wonder exactly what was going on back then that so much new material was being injected into the Realms. I suspect the answer has something to do with Wizards of the Coast having just acquired the setting from TSR, though beyond that it's all speculation.

Regardless, the game origin of this particular power group can be found in Hellgate Keep, with their 3rd Edition debut (and some minor updates) appearing in Lords of Darkness.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

Goonalan

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#173 Farthest Reach by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 2)
Read 23/7/22 to 26/7/22


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It's another good 'un, keep in mind it's the difficult middle book of the trilogy, and so must pretty much leave the protagonists where they were, but... lots of exposition and a myriad challenges overcome along the way.

So, it does all that- and looking back on it almost by the numbers, it follows the formula well- and although that's a little less exciting it's exactly what is expected, and it works, of course- so, there's that.

More adventuring from Araevin and friends, including a very nice (and odd) encounter with a Gray (Grey) Render, I loved that guy- if I was DMing the poor fellow I'd have given him a few sound effects (possibly a police siren).

There's some more oddness a little before this encounter when Ilsevele lets us know that Araevin has changed, or else will never change, and... she doesn't love our guy like she used to. Araevin will never settle down, if only the author could have reversed the situation, but hey-ho, this was printed in 2005.

Seiveril and his back from the dead new best mate- Starbrow (odd name) are kicking ass, and then moments later, getting the ass kicked right back. The Dales are surviving, the bad guys have multiplied- Hillsfar, Sembia, the Zhents and our old friend and favourite Sarya Dlardrageth are all out to grab themselves some prime real estate.

Oh, and Malkizid (a fallen Solar latterly turned Arch Devil, that's groovy) has also started whispering in Sarya's ear. The bad guys in this one get a lot more page time, and they're better and worse for it. Better because we get to visit with the rulers of Hillsfar, Sembia and the Zhent, and do a little nosing around and discover what these guys are really like. And the worse? They're all terrible people, to a man, although the Zhent CEO Fzoul seems the most collected (and therefore the nastiest) of this bad bunch.

There's a nice trip to the Yuir Wood and then through a portal into the other, much older, Yuir Wood (as was) home to the Star Elves, good work is done here. Same for Araevin's transformation as he sucks up the spells in the telmiirkara neshyrr (big magic bag-of-holding stone) and defeats its demon fey elf creator.

In short, it does what it does- a rollercoaster ride between hard won exposition, formulaic, but there's enough there to keep the pages turning, and this reader wanting to find out how and why. That said, the ante has been upped, and the last one in the trilogy will undoubtedly do it all again, only this time with an ending.

Read and enjoyed.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

rooneg

Adventurer
I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading through this thread, it brought back a lot of memories from when I was obsessively reading this stuff. Thank you so much for doing it.
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#174 Realms of the Elves Ed Philip Athans (Last Mythal 3)
Read 27/8/22 to 30/8/22


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I'm back.

Apologies, I've had a month off, I got so far with this one- and it wasn't as if it was bad, it was just that I'd had enough of reading these books for a while. It didn't help that I'd just bought a bunch of WFRP 4e books and was about to DM some nice folk, and so I spent a month reading WFRP books. Oh so relaxing.

But back to this one, as anthologies goes it's a good one. The seven stories, that's right- just seven of them, are meatier. Fifty or so pages each, and so we get to spend a bit of time with the characters, and almost all of them (I'm guessing) are minor celebs (or better) of this world, even Elminster gets a walk on (gah!).

And so-

Traitors by Richard Lee Byers- takes us all the way back in time (Circa -25,090 DR) to a very strange Faerun, nothing like the present day. Dragons rule the roost, and the significant opposition are the elves (the people) but they don't look to be doing so well. This story is an addendum to the Rogue Dragons series, and we get to see (sort of) how it all got started. Although the explanation delivered here is more motive than detail, for the detail we need to read the rest of Rogue Dragons series.

That's a common theme with these stories, all of them (perhaps) are just inserts/adverts for forthcoming (or already released, and read) trilogies, but that's okay- I don't mind that.

The Staff of Valmaxian by Philip Athans- I'm guessing that Valmaxian will be making an appearance in a future trilogy, I don't know this of course, I don't look ahead- I just pick up the next book and read on (well, most of the time, I've just had a month off for no good reason). Valmaxian does a deal with a devil, later he learns that doing deals with devils is a bad thing. The lesson- don't take short cuts, do the right thing. It works, but not my favourite here.

Necessary Sacrifices by Lisa Smedman- it's twee, and sentimental and marvellously manipulative of the reader. I loved it, I even had a little cry at the end- I'm only human after all. I like Sorrell and loved the idea of the vengeance seeking Shevarash elves, heading down into the dark to slaughter the cruel drow. Again, the end- much too easy, heart strings are tugged (yanked?), and then the author leaves us alone, well not quite alone- there's a small hand in our hand.

The Greater Treasure by Erik Scott de Bie- is beautifully written and at the same time a little odd, the elf that has to make the choice- between his sister's fall from grace and straight into the arms of Grazz't or... the sexy come-to-bed-eyes/thighs of Twilight. It's good that sex is a thing now in these novels, it exists. It's good that Twilight is the (very mild) sexual predator- Girl Power! But it still seems a bit odd, or else sex and sexuality always seems to be a theme that is treated as taboo, or else treated in a child-like way. I guess it's an audience thing, teenage boys (for the most part? or older?) like their fantasy fiction (female- 99.9% of the time) pin-ups to be... Vallejo? But spicy with it, and in this one- in control. But the elf doing the choosing is a dolt, which makes me wonder, of course, about Twilight's choices. It's a good story but... and that's the problem.

Comrades at Odds by RA Salvatore- gets us from the last Drizzt story to the next one, I'm guessing. It does exactly what it says on the tin, sets up a few things, does a bit of bonding between Drizzt and his latest Pegasus riding squeeze. Although squeeze is the wrong word, Drizzt is the one that's learning lessons here, and Innovindil has all of the best lines. It also sets up some future encounter between Drizzt and the young pretender, maybe, Tos'un Armgo- and he has Cati's terrible killer sword. That's it, but it's great.

Tears So White by Ed Greenwood- well, what to say about it? Then a further consideration- what to say about it that's nice? I love a lot of Greenwood's writing, the realms sounds different- quite simply they talk funny, but it's so... authentique. I love it. Then there's the action- the Knights of Myth Drannor can kiss my hairy backside, it's hardly D&D- it's a comedy skit (at times) in the middle of a fight. Did I say fight- I meant to say epic end of world battle royale. Liches arrives at the fracas a dozen at a time.

I'll write that again- Liches arrive at the fracas a dozen at a time.

Part of the problem with this is when the fight gets going the three Knight of MD are barely holding their own against one or two liches, so when another dozen pop up, and then another dozen, and then... I kid you not, at one point I tried counting them- over a hundred liches in the fight.

Silly doesn't cover it.

Particularly when the Knights spent three pages fretting over fighting three liches, when there's 50+ of them on the board you start to wonder what's going on. Couldn't the bad guys start with 50 liches on the board from the beginning, but then where would the author go? A thousand liches. I wouldn't put it past him.

The Liches can't use magic in this strange place but... then why use liches?

Greenwood chose liches because they're tough bastards- everyone knows this. Lich = real bad. Then he hamstrings them = no magic. Then, having made liches a push-over he has to start sending them into battle a dozen (later a score) at a time.

Thanks Ed, that's liches broken.

But it's not of course, it is however a very silly story.

The entire schtick is the Knights have to figure out what they are doing in the strange world/space that they find themselves. The story would, of course, be... well, nothing- if Elminster had taken an extra thirty seconds to a minute to tell the guys what's going down. It's just so tenuous.

And very silly.

The Bladesinger's Lesson by Richard Baker- is a cracker, and we're back to the present trilogy- the Last Mythal, and it's just background stuff but the characters come alive. The ninja Bladesinger learns his lesson and... it's hard won, but well won, and the reader feels glad to be alive. Just a very nice short story, and well told. Loved it.

That's your cracker for a bit.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 


Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
Good grief this is an impressive thread and an impressive feat! You bookshelf must look spectacular. :)

I read a lot of books, always have, at least one a week for the last 30, maybe nearly 40, years. The FR ones I sell on ebay once done with, the rest go back to the charity shop. Access to cheap books is a necessity, and a source of great joy in my life.

Thanks for taking the time- much appreciated.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

Hero
Supporter
#175 Final Gate by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 4)
Read 31/8/22 to 8/9/22


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And it's another cracker, although... and there's always an although, this novel has to a do lot of stuff in a very short, all those endings that need wrapping up, or else given a final twist to allow the reader space enough to wander off and insert their own conclusion here. Why this one is better (and a little bit worse) than the rest is... well, book three is usually the helter-skelter, no-time to stop and look around, it's usually climax after climax, with each new spectacular only kept apart long enough for either the protagonist (and friends) to reach some new insight, or else the antagonist to ponder his/her/its fiendish over-arching masterplan. Then cackle with delight- natch.

So, this one throws in a love affair- elven style (nothing happens, but slowly) and that's a stretch of the imagination, for these sorta books. It's not bad, minimalist- all silent wanting/yearning, nothing untoward- nothing ugly, heaven forfend- they're elves! How could there be. It's a semi-odd thing for an author (here) to lean into something that's almost entirely outside of the main plot, it adds something, but then again... here we go.

There's just so much to get in here, and so when Araevin and his buddies head off on their dimensional journey to find the three remnants of the whatsitsname gem that started it all, well... We go back and forth between Araevin and chums while the war rages, and Ilsevele, and Seiveril, and the resurrected Starbrow get to sit center stage far more often than the young mega-mage (he has High Magic don't you know, it's capitalized- always), and so the young lad loses a bit of his luster, he's demoted.

Sarya Dlardrageth, who? Doesn't get much of a look-in either, and when she does she's seems to be contentedly (or not) shuffling towards her doom. Archdevil Malkizid is no longer content to just be the power behind the throne but, well- we're left in doubt, Sarya is his lightning rod. So, our big bad villain has gone away, or else been sidelined- even while she still (every now and then) stands center stage. Sarya's tantrums serve only to frighten her allies in the narrative, the reader sees the truth of it, and so the threat is undermined, visibly lessened.

But again, there are lots of places to go and see here, and people to admire- there's stuff I'm going to take from this for my own game, and that's my purpose here. I am really into the Mythals now, and Waymeet, and the idea that the Elves (and the Dragons) did all of this before. I like the idea of long-lost ancient elven magic-tech just silently counting the years waiting for some adventuresome fool to wander into its compass.

In conclusion, it's good- there's a lot of it coming at you at the end, which is odd because it starts remarkably slowly, so much so that towards the end it does just start to feel like a series of plot end boxes that need ticking. The magic/fighting finales, at times, feel either rushed (mostly in Araevin's story) or else somewhat underwhelming; in truth I think an author- maybe, just once, needs to kill one of his central characters and tip over the entire plot just to make it even more desperate for the survivors at the end. Araevin was never going to lose, and I know that we all know this even before we pick up the book, never mind read the first line, but... It became too obvious, too apparent, the villains weren't up to the job.

Seiveril getting his spectral dad and his mates to turn up for the big rumble was a nice touch (deus ex machina, who cares) but the rogue general's death had been on the cards pretty from the get-go, and writ so large in this one to make his finale underwhelming. But that may just be me.

For all of the above it's a cracking good fantasy novel, just not as good as the first two in the series.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

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