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


Just to remind you that back in March, in this thread, I said-

"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.


So, the 25 FR novels are done (but they took me 5 months), and so now I'm off the leash- I said back then I would take a month off, well- I'm welching on that bet, I've decided I'm going to read 25 other (non-FR) novels or books, and only then will I be coming back to read some more FR.

It'll take me longer than a month of course, although I only finished #175 (above) on the 8th, and I'm just getting towards the end of my third novel read since then, so I'm flying- and what a blast it is to not be reading FR fantasy fiction.

But, like the big feller wearing sunglasses on the bike said- I'll be back.

Stay safe and well you lovely people, and oppose tyranny where and when you can.

Cheers goonalan

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#176 The Sapphire Crescent by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 1)
Read 15/1/22 to 20/1/22


First one back after a lay off- and I wanted to like it.

Wanted to.

Although for the first 100 or so pages I was as keen as mustard to get on and into it, then, well... it's hardly pacey, and it seems to delight in telling the reader things, y'know- rather than just showing them.

But, from the beginning-

Vambran, when he was a kid accidently shot and killed another fellow- the other fellow being a relative of one of the important merchant houses that run Arrabar. Note, Vambran's a member of house Matrell, they too are a merchant family of good standing in Arrabar. Anyway, Aunt Xaphira decides (heroically) to take the wrap for Vambran, she gives up her life to go on the run- getting shot in the process of escaping Arrabar. Meantime Uncle Dregaul takes every moment he can to berate Vambran- we're ruined, and you are to blame, etc.

Skip forward in time and Dregaul is the big cheese in the Matrell merchant household, and Vambran is a lieutenant in the Sapphire Crescent, a state sponsored mercenary army that protects Arrabar's trade interests, and when called upon gets up to other less than savory operations- like invading neighboring city states.

Anyway, Vambran's home and en route to the family manse when he witnesses a state sponsored (perhaps) murder. This gets his back up, and he's motivated to do something to help the unfortunate victims.

Hang on, what's Vambran been doing for the last decade or so- working as a mercenary in a state sponsored army that has no qualms about menacing its trading partners. Bit rich from the posh kid to start moralizing.

But, get it done early and the hope is the reader will forget this hiccup in the plot.

There's a great fight in a warehouse with a Leachwalker, a shambling mound only made of leaches. I was so hopeful.

But it circles, endlessly- it's slow and we get to see every side (almost) of the story so we kinda know what's going to happen to Vambran and the others on his team before it happens. Which at times seems self-defeating.

Likewise our hero, in every fight, has to be rescued by a woman in red- I wonder who that could be (Aunt X, of course), or else his two faithful sergeants show up just in time to save him. All the while Uncle D continues to rage at him. Oh, Uncle D is the bad guy- or at least one of them- but that's been on the cards since we first met him.

There's a bit at the end where it looks like Em, Vambran's sixteen year old sister is going to get raped- and there's some tension here, but only briefly because the villain talks himself out of the horror, which again seems to take the edge off things.

It's like the author is trying to replicate the merchant household in the Sembian series, but is much less accomplished, or else has just decided to drift rather than race. Even when the clock is ticking here it never seems that way.

Which makes it doubly odd that the auther, in the first hundred or so pages, tell us about the type, style and contents of all of the various planters (they contain plants) that we encounter during our ventures in Arrabar.

Vambran doesn't get much better, he's plodding, he even says something like- "If I hadn't defeated X then...", when the truth is in the fight against X he had surrendered his weapons and was 90% beaten until Aunt X and the Sgts turned up to save his backside once more. He's just a lot meh, and not even interesting with it, his new found morality seems to be all about him- the accident with the crossbow re-played.

When we meet the poor folk they are earnest, worthy and without deceit, that's nice.

Most of the posh folk and the higher ups are morally ambivalent- save that they should have/get the best of everything and screw the others.

It's a bit black and white.

That said the end is moderately interesting- Denrick Pharaboldis is written as a late teenage wannabe mustachioed tie-the-damsel-to-the-railway-track kinda guy, from the first moment we meet him. He may as well be carrying a sign that says 'villain', or better still- 'scoundrel'. But Evester, that reveal I liked, and the truth about our inciting incident. That's just (only just) enough to propel me into the next book in this series.

Oh, and I really enjoyed the Enthrall spell, that reminded me of good times gaming back in the day.

It's good to be back.

Just for info I will be reading all the books in a series (three in this one) and then will take a similar number of books off (so, three). Then onto the next series.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul
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The EN World kitten
Oh, and I really enjoyed the Enthrall spell, that reminded me of good times gaming back in the day.
I never read this one, but I did once have a low-level cleric (terrible ability scores, since I insisted on rolling them instead of point-buying them) cast enthrall on a small gnoll village where some hostages were being held. We all cheered when the gnolls failed their saving throw, allowing the rest of the party to free the prisoners. Good times.
It's good to be back.

Just for info I will be reading all the books in a series (three in this one) and then will take a similar number of books off (so, three). Then onto the next series.
Looking forward to it. It's nice to see this project moving forward again! :)


#177 The Ruby Guardian by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 2)
Read 21/1/23 to 22/1/23


That hit the spot.

I was feeling a bit guilty about beating up the last one, and I remember that Thomas M Reid did a good job in the last drow series, so the first one of this series must have been an aberration. Therefore I picked this one up when I'd done my jobs yesterday and decided to give it an hour, which turned into two. Two hours as it turned out was nearly enough to get me to the end.

It's a cracker, and I don't mean to say it's in the top ten of anything here, but... it does exactly what it says on the tin. Every chapter ending is a cliff-hanger, and unlike the first one I now give a stuff about Vambran, Em, Xaphira & Uncle Kovrim; and Hetta- well, she's a matron mother alright but coming at things from the other side (the side of wisdom and good).

There's a lot to like here and the threat is apparent from the get-go, I seem to remember the first kick-ass moment started with two brigand/pirate ships chasing Vambran and his crew, then another three pirate ships, and then another four (that makes nine) pirate ships. The threat-inflation-o-mometer has been thrown overboard.

Nine pirate ships!

Not enough I say.

Good man, because here's the Kraken.

The Kraken actually arrives just after the multiple Lightning Bolts and Fireballs hit.

The last novel of this series I described as drifting from place to place, pretty early here the action drifts off a cliff. It's clutch- as the yoof probably stopped saying a few years back.

And this one has lots of other stuff to recommend it including a proper set of scenery chewing villains, the bad guys have upped the ante and are terrible to behold.

Roundface and the fat money-grabbing priest are acting suitably diabolical.

Y'see, that's all it takes- a character or two to root for, some good action, a pantomime villain- or three, expendable bad guys aplenty, a wise woman... actually it's a longer list than I first thought (see old Joe Campbell), but it's all here.

I was also very impressed with the romantic interlude (for Vambran) the chief lady druid wants wood! Vambran would be a fool to deny her, and he's nobodies fool in this one.

And the Zombie disease, obvious- a bit trad, but... a nice reveal and a lovely ending with the last paragraph of the book.

"The zombie shuffled closer, reaching for him, plainly visible in the light of the fire behind Vambran. Its eyes were lifeless, its skin pale and tinged, and it came closer, a low growl issuing from its throat.
It was Uncle Kovrim."

So, that also needs resolving.

And so, it's all action, you care more for the good guys- because the threat is heavy and they're the best they can be, the villains are hench (I'm so down with the kids) and it keeps on bubbling. It's a winner, you should probably read this one.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul


#178 The Emerald Scepter by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 3)
Read 23/1/23 to 27/1/23


Well, more of the same please... and it gets there, to the twin finales as Vam and Em battle their various insidious demons, or else the pantomime villains that stand in their stead.

But, as Chinua Achebe was fond of saying- things fall apart.

The empire of evil is crumbling, it's the nature of evil (certainly as portrayed in fantasy fiction) to be imploding as much as it is exploding. The various significant villains have all got their itches that need scratching, and so... they are as liable to F each over as they are the heroes giving chase. And that comes to pass... big style.

Villains, tsk!

Arch or otherwise they never seem to stick to the big plan, there's always someone willing to throw a spanner in the works- in this case the plague in Reth suddenly gets real, there's no cure, and now all the villainous main players are as screwed as the rest of us. It just takes one bad apple to spoil the fun of all the other (playing nicely) bad apples.

Things fall apart.

And worse still now the heroes, wherever they go have friends aplenty. Em has a new merchant house of Arrabar to play with, and also a groovy new love interest, Pilos- he's as honest as the day is long. Meantime Vambran turns out to be sex on a stick, even the sea elves can't stop pawing our guy. More to the point/plot the aforementioned aquatic folk are happy to help the cause because... it is the prophecy, Vambran will come... I mean, well- you get my drift.

So, the Emerald Scepter is recovered, and now to make the problem in Reth go away.

There's a wonky looking druid for that.

Oh, and Vambran has another love interest in Reth, you see the problem is he goes from bumbling fool trying to assuage his conscience (or chase away the bad dreams) in book one, to erudite urbane and as smooth as jazz in book three. Well, something like that- I figure I've been sold a pup.

There's lots of action, and the cliff-hangers keep on hanging.

There's lots of cool places to go and see, and likewise strange folk to talk to, and that's all good.

The issue is from about fifty or so pages in- as I'm watching the bad guys bicker and botch, while the heroes gather and grow their stock exponentially... well, the end is already in sight, for the villains.

By the end the heroes have everyone they need on their side- and right, and truth, and blah blah blah. The villains meanwhile are mostly left standing in puddles of their own pee, clutching only a handful of (very) short straws.

Save for the few that are going on to the next trilogy, at least that's what I'm thinking- some of the evil dudes get to slink away.

To recap, it's a good read- ties up all the loose ends, but... it's pretty obvious very early in that bad guys are on a losing streak, and of course the reader knows this already its just that the rush to the finale here is a series of victories for our heroes while we watch the villains hop from foot to foot and angrily gesticulate in the background.

Still good, but not great.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul.

And now three books for myself,

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