#068 The Dream Spheres by Elaine Cunningham (Songs & Swords 5)
Read 25/4/20 to 30/4/20
Book 5 (of Songs & Swords)- and I still don't know what it is about Elaine Cunningham's novels that I just don't get, or else appreciate enough. At the start of my venture into this one I was thinking- this is the best yet, well-written- nice plot, I like the Dream Spheres, and a cast of thousands- with lots of the usual cool cats, by which I mean ostensibly- Danilo, Arilyn and the dark on the inside Elaith.
Lots to like and the novel is swinging by, really easy to read and I'm back into reading fantasy fiction again, after my brief (all too brief) hiatus (see the one above). But then, then... it just sorta drifted, we're running around Waterdeep- meeting new people and going to new places, and there's plenty to admire (from a GMs perspective) with the nuts and bolts of the City of Splendours exposed to the light. Elaine Cunningham's show and tell of the city and its environs is as good, if not better, than Ed Greenwood. But like Greenwood's novels, imho it just doesn't hit the spot- for me.
The danger, much talked about, is less apparent- the action is good (by which I mean the fighting and other similarly life-threatening encounters) but there's not a great deal of it. Lots of folk (mostly the three mentioned above) do lots of things- we watch them, and keep in mind the bad guys and their go-betweens also have to do things to move the plot along. So, lots of watching, lots of waiting. Okay, but actual flash points, mini-climaxes- nah, not really.
A few, but y'know... just not enough.
Also, and this is probably just me but- the Tren? WTF are the Tren? Highly trained Troglodyte Assassins?
What gives? Why not use an existing D&D monster? I'm not even sure why the Tren were invented (unless they're de rigueur in Ed Greenwood's campaign (or Elaine Cunningham's).
In short I don't like the Tren, they could be replaced (fairly easily) with some other creature that serves the same purpose, and that already exists in a monster manual or supplement somewhere. Please keep in mind I have deliberately not Googled the Tren, so I'm bound to be wrong about this.
But I like the tie-ins to the game that I am playing/DMing. I like it when I see monsters and enemies (and places, and people etc.) in-game that I know that I'm going to get a chance to DM soon- I get a few insights, a better appreciation of how the creature/race whatever functions, their motivations et al.
So, why the Tren?
But back to the novel, the two or three (if you include Elaith, and I do) good guys chase around after their tails (and tales) trying to make sense of the Dream Spheres and whoever is controlling them. The missing big bad guy is (alas) very easy to put a name too. Clue- he even gives you a hand (with a ring on it).
Then we do politics, and sneaky-sneaky, and basically go detective for a couple of hundred pages- there's even a walk-on from Bronwyn (and a few others), everyone gets involved- lots of chatter, lots of discovery. But, again, less actual threat, confrontation, and/or action.
Until finally, finally- and this is what was curbing my enthusiasm, we get to the end- the grand reveal, as it turns out all of the bad people I thought were bad people turn out to be- the bad people. The one that is offered up by the author (sorta) as the villain (Elaith) isn't- but if you're reading the book (and you've read some or all of the others) then you know this already.
It's just not going to be Elaith, because the (dark-inside) Elf has got legs, he'll be back- I hope.
I'd pay money for a novel just about the bad things that Elaith Craulnober gets up to, but (alas) I keep thinking (with each passing novel) that I am watching Elaith's redemption here- I don't want that.
Perhaps that's it- Danilo is a posh kid with every advantage, the fact that he gets the Moonblade Elf, has a sensible head on his shoulders and appreciates the plight of the common folk doesn't make me like him any more. Arilyn, well similar, her doubt such as it is buried deep beneath her tough exterior- she's dogmatic, she wants to put all of her chips on the table, to give her life for the greater good/the cause.
Too clean cut, perhaps, too willing, too right, too... good.
Fetch me an anti-hero, with nothing (at all) or else everything to lose, Elaith is better because he wants to stay alive, and have/grab more, and he's broken inside... I think he's the first Elf (not Drow) that I've really liked.
I'm a Dwarf man.
We all are- dig deep, you too can find your inner Dwarf to.
So, well written- nice plot- lots of characters good and bad to keep track of, some really good fights (but not enough), and it unravels, and unravels, and... but you get it.
Stay safe and well.