D&D General I'm reading the Forgotten Realms Novels- #202 The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson (Dungeons 2)

Goonalan

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#037 Realms of Magic Anthology Ed. Brian Thomsen & J Robert King
Read 15/12/19 to 17/12/19


Forgotten Realms Realms of Magic a 30.jpg

Well that was a turn-up, I really enjoyed a lot of the stories in this one, even though several of them were not the sort of thing I usually go for. There are magical worlds in here, worlds soaked with the stuff- magic-rich, the kinda thing in my own game I tend to shy away from. And yet...

So, we have-

Guenhwyvar by RA Salvatore, in which we meet Josidiah Starym, bladesinger of Cormanthor, and spend a while with the precious elf watching him agonise over his friend Ander the Wizard's decision to imprison a gloriously regal (and familiar) looking black cat in the form of an ebony amulet... a bit of back story.

Smoke Powder and Mirrors by Jeff Grub, in which a bunch of (famous- some of them) Wizard's apprentices drink and grouse about their lives (and masters) and the upstart blackpowder weapons that are stealing their thunder. Jehan, one of the apprentices- full of dutch courage, gets himself in to trouble; and has to be rescued by... well, read it and see.

The Magic Thief by Mark Anthony, in which we meet Zeth, with the mark of the gor-kethal, the aforetitled- 'Magic Thief'. It's all right- a bit of fluff.

The Quiet Place by Christie Golden, in which Jander Sunstar the elven Vampire with a conscience finds a friend, and then leads the bad people to his friend's door. Walk on Jander Sunstar, your journey is not yet over.

The Eye of the Dragon by Ed Greenwood, in which... hang on, here comes the rant- I've not read any of the Elminster books yet but I'm already starting to fret a bit at the prospect. So, first off- Elminster's not in it at the start and so, like a literary version of Where's Wally I'm taking account of everything that's said- looking for a stray 'ye' in conversation, a character in mismatched ware, or sagacious beyond the Buddha. Then suddenly... Elminster, didn't see that coming- and he's all things to all Wizards/Sages/Deities.

Then there's the social democrat (working class) in me, I'm reading a (fantasy fiction) story about the posh (and rich) daughter of someone posh (and rich) who sets out to strangle to death an Archmage and gets off with it because her nan was a bad lady. The Marxist in me is screaming- if this was someone less posh (and rich) then they'd be toast. But then I remember this is fantasy fiction, and bares no resemblance to the real world. And breath...

Then there's the fact that every paragraph has something in it which sings of Greenwood's beautiful and complex world- the Forgotten Realms, he has words for things that are like the words for the same things that we have only better, and more Faerun-shaped.

In summary- Elminster- Meh! Posh rich lady with bad granny- Gah! Everything else- Huzzah!

Every Dog His Day by Dave Gross, is a cracker- still giggling about it now, I got it early in the piece- and the reverse. I figured out the secret and the switch- and it didn't take an iota out of the sparkle. Nice story Mr. Gross... and hang on, did you just reference Hamlet- between a corpse 'and a handsaw'?

The Common Spell by Kate Novak-Grubb, sentimental but then again- another cracker, although- as with the story above the answer is but an anagram away, and easy to spot. Perhaps that's why I liked both of these stories so much- where they were going was obvious, you (the reader) can therefore hang out of the window and watch the story go by. Nice work.

The First Moonwell by Douglas Niles, and another- Silmarillionesque but- y'know, readable. Nicely done, no great shakes, but a nice in to the Goddess and her fave son the Leviathan. Again, I got that we were making a pool (and a window) in to the world early, but that didn't stop the enjoyment.

The Luck of Llewellyn the Loquacious by Allen C Kupfer, and yet another fun romp in which Llewellyn beset on all sides by vicious Halfling gangs talks his way in and out of trouble.

Too Familiar by David Cook, another one that just works- Brown Maeve gets her choice of Brownie familiars, she opts for the one that has already fallen furthest.

Red Ambition by Jean Rabe, Szass Tam lich Lord of the Thay does a little light exploring, slays his g/friend (lich-to-be) and then is made to confront the fact that the Lady of the Mists has made a mug out of him, another little gem.

Thieves' Reward by Mary H Herbert, more of Teza and her magical water horse, the pair have a bond don't you know, nice Red Wizard walk on.

Six of Swords by William W Connors, another sentimental tale about a bunch of adventurers post adventuring days, having sacrificed one of their members (back in the day) to escape their terrible fate; the gang are now haunted by a ghost of/from their past.

The Wild Bunch by Tom Dupree, and more sentimental- although expertly done, it seems the way of the mage is a hard one- study, dedication and long hours, rather than just wearing the robes and blasting your enemies. Lesson learned.

A Worm Too Soft by J Robert King, a noir (Dashiell Hammett) style story about an expert thief/security consultant drawn in to a world of illusion. Too cool for skool.

Gunne Runner by Roger E Moore, a halfling & Wizard team up in another detective-style (whodunnit) story, sometimes soaked in magic (handy magic items y'all) but well played out. A lot more blackpowder trouble, more than any of my campaigns could handle, but... worth consideration.

The Direct Approach by Elaine Cunningham, a Drow Wizard (/Fighter) meets a time-travelling barbarian/Valkyrie in Skullport for fun and high-jinks- the scene in which Vasha the Red braids the Mind Flayer's three remaining tentacles is priceless. I bloody loved this one- the place reminds me of the Star Wars cantina and Wormy's gaff as depicted in older Dragon magazines. A corker.

So, there was a lot to like in this one- and I raced through it every chance I got, so there's that... as with the other anthologies lots of nice insights (mostly in precis) of the various peoples, places and other stuff of the Forgotten Realms. Some of it made my brain smart (not clever- smart) but all well written and put together, while the stories were diverse, although all connected by 'magic' they seemed to hang together better than in the previous anthologies.

Read!
 
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Nosaje

Villager
@Goonalan you have quite the undertaking! I never realized there that many FR novels. I have read around 50 of them mostly back in the 90s. Some are really good and some are well not so good. On a side note I was just in a used book store last night and there on the shelf was the hardback edition of Elminster: The Making of a Mage. I picked it up and now it is next to be read. Plus I need a break from reading Horus Hersey novels.
 

Goonalan

Legend
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#038 Shadowdale by Scott Ciencin (Avatar 1)
Read 18/12/19 to 24/12/19


Forgotten Realms Shadowdale (Avatar 1) a 30.jpg

Well... this one was toughie, I liked it and then I didn't like it. Then... I liked it and then I didn't like it, I kept on putting it down (and not picking it up again), and for two days I was full on Christmas force-five, and so didn't get a chance to do more than flip through a few pages.

So, the Gods have been kicked out/off the Planes by Ao (big chief Godhead) who is severely pissed, their mortal avatars are set adrift in Faerun to do what they will- all is chaos in the Forgotten Realms and magic is just... wild (and/or busted)! It seems the Tablets of Fate have been taken (Bane & Myrkul are to blame, from memory) and Ao wants them back.

Then there are the four main players-

Midnight, beautiful wizard with crazy magic and soon after a shard of Mystra to help her get along. She's actually the only one of the quartet that isn't completely broken inside.

Kelemvor, gruff Fighter-cursed-to-turn-in-to-a-BLACK-PANTHER, if he doesn't get his reward. K is honourable (sorta), stupid, a bit of a lug, a great warrior and tactical genius and an emotional cripple (and an idiot). He gets the girl (Midnight) and then conspires to do all he can to lose the girl, he changes his mind like his pants. He's an idiot- I may have mentioned that already.

Adon, adorable (no-spells = no use) Priest of Sune who goes from cheeky chirpy chappy (with a few doubts) to a somnambulist basket case in three easy moves. He's an idiot at times, other times... he does the right thing.

Cyric is the nastiest bastard ex-Zhent Rogue who is just looking for an excuse to be an even nastier bastard, any excuse. He's called Cyric- the fifth book in this trilogy (you read that right) is called Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad... so, I'm presuming... In truth I liked Cyric at the start but then I got to see inside his head a bit and... boy, he's going to do something real bad- he's going to BLOW!

Also isn't Cyric somebody very bad in the Pantheon these days?

So, the four characters tend to change their mind a bit, or at least three of them do- the same three do and think idiot things, the explanation for their contrary actions is sometimes tissue thin. I'm reading this and thinking... No, don't do that- No, don't think that- what flimsy reason could you have... you are a dotard (mainly Kelemvor).

So there's that, then there's the fact that some of the writing seems a little plain- repetitive, maybe a little under-crafted. There are odd paragraphs (sometimes pairs of paragraphs) in which the same word is used repeatedly. For example there's a section in which the characters are attacked by Spiders- in ten lines the word "Spider" or "Spiders" is used 14 times. Which is okay, but a bit of variety- or else a bit more descriptive phrasing to crank up the tension- eight-legged menace, whatever, anything but "Spiders". I realise this may appear as nit-picking, but it happens a lot (in some sections)- single words, or simple phrases- repeated often.

It doesn't heighten the... well, anything.

And I bet you're thinking- so where's the good stuff, what did I like in it- well, here goes-

The four characters are all broken, they are not toothpaste commercial heroes, they don't have the best lines, or the slickest moves (they do have some slick moves) they bumble and fumble, they're frail and at the same time unbending; they're egotistical and at the same time pathos-worthy, they're... very interesting.

A bit like- shhh, whisper it- PCs.

Also there are some cool fight/flight scenes, a bit of Elminster that I actually liked, and a ton of other bits of action that are in some part splendid. The illusion/quest stuff at the beginning was just great.

Bane and his lieutenants are suitably terrible and awful (in a good/bad way- work that out), the exploding mage scene is a hoot and only needs a Wah-wah-wah sound effect to make it a thing of beauty.

Some of the villain stuff is, as previously, just cringeworthy- the bad guys keep doing the wrong thing, making bad assumptions- but then again, that's how they ended up where they are- being the bad guys.

So, overall- I'm in. It's a ragbag, but worth the effort... I think.

Read.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
#038 Shadowdale by Scott Ciencin (Avatar 1)
I got to page 48 on this and quit reading. After this book, I only occasionally pick up a realm book.
 

I remember reading Shadowdale when I was younger and liking it. I recently picked it up again, and I can't seem to get through it...it's boring me. Don't know why.

I do recall that the follow-up books in the trilogy, Tantras and Waterdeep, where actually pretty decent, but it could be the many years since reading them that is coloring my recollection.
 

Goonalan

Legend
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#038 Shadowdale by Scott Ciencin (Avatar 1)
I got to page 48 on this and quit reading. After this book, I only occasionally pick up a realm book.

I think (actually, I know) that if I hadn't have foolishly stated I was going to read ALL of the FR novels then I too would have put this one down. Same for a few of the others that I have read so far.

Thanks for commenting, Merry Christmas to you.

Goonalan
 

Goonalan

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I remember reading Shadowdale when I was younger and liking it. I recently picked it up again, and I can't seem to get through it...it's boring me. Don't know why.

I do recall that the follow-up books in the trilogy, Tantras and Waterdeep, where actually pretty decent, but it could be the many years since reading them that is coloring my recollection.

It's a bit of a mess at the start, I think, there's some folk I like and some others that seem a bit meh! The odd get out of Arabel (from memory) bit just meanders...

Goonalan.
 
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Goonalan

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#039 Tantras by Scott Ciencin (Avatar 2)
Read 25/12/19 to 28/12/19


Forgotten Realms Tantras (Avatar 2) a 30.jpg

Book 2- more of the same but better, mainly because its a little less meandering and I'm more 'on-board' with the story/plot (such as it is- still wafer thin). That said the bad guys- Bane and pals continue to act like dolts, Kelemvor (maybe) takes the God of Strife for a chump, and gets his Curse of the Black Panther lifted. Bane, I'm surprised to discover, doesn't seem too miffed about this- which is odd, and just makes me suspicious- is there a switch-about coming up the way, is Kelemvor going to swap sides again (surely, he can't).

Actually, he really can't, Bane's dead (for a bit) by the end of this novel.

The book starts with Midnight and Adon getting arrested for the slaughter of Elminster, their trial (such as it is) is laughable- Storm Silverhand turns in to a cruel mercenary bugger whose entire experience of adventuring (and her battles with terrifying foes) is forgotten about, or else deliberately cast aside, in order for her to prosecute the pair. The trial is mostly a joke, and now I dislike Storm intensely for being such an absolute ninny, strong female character made to look a fool. Not great.

But the trial comes early in the piece- and is soon after forgotten about as Cyric comes to save the day (by killing lots of folk) and rescuing Midnight and Adon from execution. Later in the piece Midnight and Adon are left aghast by Cyric's slaughter- how did they think the Thief had got them out (Hypnotising darts- I know) but... again, it just seems a stretch. Some folk got killed by Cyric, bad- but you have to break a few eggs. How many deaths would be acceptable to the pair? If and when Cyric kills the first guard should he then curtail his rescue attempt, hang his head in shame, and then scuttle back under his rock. The most galling thing about this is Cyric, save for a bit of brooding here and there, is a known quantity- he's a killing machine ex Zhent-trained Rogue. Why are Midnight, Adon and/or Kelemvor (he's not) surprised by this.

So that's all a bit rubbish, but y'know... acceptable. Then Kelemvor gets persuaded to hunt down his three friends. Kelemvor is still Cursed at this point, and still trying everything he can to prove he is a flightly untrusting (and untrustworthy) idiot. Gah!

But it gets better, much better- see the first paragraph, and... by the end of the piece the guys have got the first part of the Tablet of Fate, a hundred foot tall Bane has fought with a hundred foot tall Torm- nice work, before the city of Tantras. There's been loads more incident, oh and Elminster has showed up (not entirely convincing- as usual) alive, and so we move on...

I'm really starting to like the mortal/avatar gods- which is odd because I didn't like the idea at the outset.

However I'm not really reading this series for the plot, which seems to be but a minor thing- the end of the GODS! et al. It's the character, sure I hate them all a bit, but... I really want to know how it works out for them.

Midnight is still massively too trusting, Adon (by the end of this one) is in recovery after his mental collapse, Kelemvor is starting to trust people (maybe) and Cyric has gone EVIL tonto! What's not to like?

Read.
 

Nosaje

Villager
I enjoyed the Avatar trilogy back in the day. I even used the event as a sub plot in my 2nd edition campaign. That was one nice thing about the FR novels, you could always mine them for campaign ideas even if they were a bit subpar for reading enjoyment.
 

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