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

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#050 Spellfire by Ed Greenwood (Shandrill's Saga 1)
Read 10/2/20 to 13/2/20


Forgotten Realms Spellfire (Shandrills 1) a.JPG

It's a corker, and I was loving it from the get-go. Here's the thing- this is the first Ed Greenwood Forgotten Realms book to be published (July '88), so Elminster existed before then- in other fiction? If so, where? I'm just interested.

Why? Well, this version of Elminster (as opposed to some of the skewed incarnations which appear later- fruity, know everything Elminster, if you like), is the original. I guess, if I were reading these books in the order they were published, anyway- this version of Elminster is A-Ok, groovy even- cool, a bit of a blabbermouth (fond of the sound of his own voice) but, he's a hero- and smart, and forthright, and honest, and he doesn't appear to know everything about everything, all of the time. I like that. I like that, a lot.

But that's not (really) what this book is about.

Shandril works at the The Rising Moon Inn (for Gorstag), she's busy all of the time- she wants to be free, she wants to adventure. Cue scene in which Thief (from passing adventuring party) is killed (for being a Thief). Shandril demonstrates her thieving ability and gets the gig- next stop adventure.

Narm, apprentice Wizard to Madman the Magnifico (or some such) is at the Inn, he spots Shandril and... Dreee-ee-ee-ee-ams. Dream-dream-dream, etc. Oh, and its a two-way thing, Shandril has her eye on Narm.

So, Narm and his boss wander in to Myth Drannor, ignoring warnings, soon after 'the Magnifico' is Devil-food- Narm gets rescued by the Knights of Myth Drannor.

We're going to meet plenty of these fellows in this novel- and they're all pretty great. There are lots (and lots) of v. cool adventuring style folk. The best of which are Torm and (particularly) Rathan- I think.

Back to Shandril, her new party bite off more than they can chew and long story short, she's all that's left of the gang (she thinks) and is captured by Dragon Cultists.

And again, the Dragon Cult(ists), and the good folk of Zhentil Keep (with the wonderful Mr. Manshoon, the Elminster antidote), and the Banites with the High 'camp' Imperceptor (or similar) and all of the villains are really well done. You love them, you loath them- every now and then I found myself wanting the bad guys to take down a name, kill a Knight of Myth Drannor. I wanted (in my DM persona) to play a few of them in game- that would be fun.

Which, again, is all great.

Shandril finds a bone- reads what's on it and then 'teleports' away, and then through a portal and... to Myth Drannor, then captured again, then a nice meeting with a Dracolich, and all of the villains are wonderful (I've said that before, I think)- in speech, and thought, and action. Believable, which is always an odd word to use in a fantasy milieu.

Narm returns to Myth Drannor, with Torm and Rathan in tow- they find Shandril.

Shandril finds Narm… and then SPELLFIRE.

Skip forward nearly 100 pages and there are two dead Dracoliches, various other dead high and low-ranking Dragon Cultists, and (Dial M for) Manshoon has just been shot off his horse (for horse read Ancient Black Dragon) and is learning to brachiate the hard way.

Elminster turns up, and is sage and wise (and tough). Big likes.

Thereafter Shandril and Narm discover the following-
1) a wide variety of the good guys in Shadowdale (and thereabouts),
2) lots more bad guys- close up, and in person,
3) the ways and means of Spellfire (a bit), and a bit of backstory,
4) each other.

Then its chatter, fight, chatter- chatter, fight, until the pair (Sha/Narm) hit the road- making their way back to the start of the novel, and Gorstag (et al) at The Rising Moon Inn.

There's a lot to like about all of this- the insights in to the various nefarious (and good) networks, the villains (I love me some villain), and the heroes- it's all really great, believable (or else the hook is in and I'm just going with it)- a place that comes to life. A story that works- young love and that, good against evil and that, and... well, all the usual themes and memes.

Read, possibly the third best book yet (after Homeland & Exile).
 

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jasper

Rotten DM
Um did we read the same book. Spellfire. Where all the spells are fire base and the caster gets more and more powerful each chapter? My recall of the book was.. " A horrible cheesy campaign which the dm had to let his baby brother win. Then the dm wrote it up." I thought the spellfire affect was cheesy.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Um did we read the same book. Spellfire. Where all the spells are fire base and the caster gets more and more powerful each chapter? My recall of the book was.. " A horrible cheesy campaign which the dm had to let his baby brother win. Then the dm wrote it up." I thought the spellfire affect was cheesy.

Oh, but I didn't...

I thought that in comparison to some of the other Ed Greenwood novels I have read so far that the characters were mild, and sensible, and thoughtful, and... they didn't do (or know) anything too unexpected.

And it was well written, a nice mix of Realmsian sayings- I even jotted half-a-dozen down to use in-game.

I loved the interaction between the various Chairmen of the Board for the bad guy factions.

I really liked the first Dracolich, and his world-view.

I liked that Gorstag had told Shandrill nothing, not even a hint- I liked Gorstag a lot, he could definitely make it to one of my games.

I loved that the two bad guy boss meetings ended in a bit of grouching, an extra scoop of fear and paranoia (Shandrill's out there) and after all that it's back to the infighting, intriguing and plotting- business as usual. I imagine them sitting around their big board room table- all either stick thin, or else stick thin with an odd paunch, and old, and white, and all definitely guys. Fantasy fiction's CEOs.

I really liked Torm and Ranthar, of all of the comedy double acts I've read so far then they were the most adventurer like, and not too knockabout silly.

I liked all of the Knights of Myth Dranoor, certainly more than I liked some of them in other Ed Greenwood books.

I liked that the good guys got together to fight crime, and to think about stuff.

I liked the fact that the good guys fought battles against evil to live, and to love. I'm aware that this sentiment is present in almost all fiction but, it wasn't that sentimental- it felt... good.

I really like Lhaeo, he does that eastern spice words of wisdom thing, and is homely (comforting) with it.

I liked a lot of the action.

I liked the little wise words style quotes that start every chapter, some of them are going to make my game- promise.

BUT...

The Spellfire, innocent young girl can wield fiery death magic (and healing) far in excess of anything the Realms has seen (for a bit- see below). Well, I don't mind that- but you can change it up if you like, swap it out for some other version of a game-changing(-ish) power. If you like...

But the book (that I read) wasn't really about that.

Not flaming, promise, just the Spellfire thing... see the One Ring/Elder Wand/Genie's Lamp/the Crystal Shard/Guenhywvar/etc. that just happens, all the time.

There are going to be other books that I'll like and you wont, and vice-versa, we will of course learn to agree to disagree.

Thanks (sincerely) for commenting, you made me think about the book all over again- that was good. I am definitely going to use a few of the lines/ideas from it.

Cheers Goonalan
 

Zardnaar

Legend
#048 Siege of Darkness by RA Salvatore (Legacy of the Drow 3)
Read 28/1/20 to 2/2/20


View attachment 118039

Book 3- and needless to say more of the same, although we're in a holding pattern at the start of this one- it's internal politics time, with everything still up in the air at Mithril Hall, and the cacka hitting the fan big time back in Menzoberranzan, also all in is not well at Blingdenstone.

First up Catti and Drizzt are playing she loves me, he loves me not... which has been going on for a while now, then Catti's new (sentient) magical sword makes a play for control of her (in the hope the blade will get passed on to Drizzt- the ultimate warrior/wielder). Anyway, long story short, Catti cries 'take me, take me' a few time at Drizzt (embarrassing) and then we all remember (fondly) how great Wulfgar was (maybe). The rest of the good guys fret and worry- will the Barbarian chief of Settlestone get hold of Aegis-fang? Will the cavalry from Nesme stay the distance? Will Alustriel Silverhand sway (survive) the fight, because remember... the Drow are coming.

Meanwhile back in Menzo the Baenre household, and in particular ancient Matron dearest are engaged in their own struggle with the psionically equipped House Oblodra (and others, lots of others). It's a superior type of political intrigue, involving Tanar'ri (Errtu's back, well... nearly), Lolth- in person, and death and destruction on a Drow-scale. Of course, Jarlaxle is somewhere in the background (with the excellent but gloomy Gromph) making plans and fixing the odds. To be honest I'd buy any (and all) novels set in Menzobarranzan, let's be honest you wouldn't want to go there on your holiday... think of the cost of the travel insurance.

Eventually Matron Baenre gets the gang together- and the Drow march for Mithril Hall.

In-between times Belwar of Blingdenstone, and his new friend Firble, come to the conclusion that a) the Drow are coming- run away, run away! And b) this is our best chance. The Svirfneblin decide to join the allies at Mithril Hall to fight for their existence.

Nice build up...

Then the last 100 or so pages which is ram-jam-packed with slaughter and fighting, all the PC heroes that you have come to love and adore are in action, and up against a terrifying gang of senior NPC Drow bastards- including Matron B herself. It's great fun, and slightly silly (Pwent & Harpel, the Starsky & Hutch of slaughter), and bloody, and bonkers... with a neat twist (Time of Troubles-shaped).

In the end... well, the Drow retreat back to Menzo, beaten- and very very bloodied, or else lots of the named bad guys have come to bloody conclusions.

Not a classic, but great- I guess that nothing (maybe) will compare to The Dark Elf trilogy, but I have to say (again) Menzoberranzan, is a wonderful place to visit. More...

Does it get better than The Dark Elf trilogy- Home, Exile, Sojourn? Anyone out there- how about the names of a few other cracking books or series?

Read.

Sojourn was the Apex of the Drizzt books IMHO.

The silent blade is another contender, then it went down hill IMHO.

I didn't mind Spellfire, compared to some others it's a master piece.
 



Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Spellfire is the worst novel I have ever read.

And I have read a lot of bad novels.

But why?

Badly written? Give examples...
Badly plotted? Tell me how and why?
Bad characterisation? Who, and why?

I love the comments, but I'm an old-ish geezer, and an ex-lecturer, I come from a world in which when someone says a thing is bad, or good for that matter, they have a list of reasons. Some of them academic, some contextual, some style-wise, some maybe about the content, and some just gut-reactions, but always some.

Again, not flaming- at all, just genuinely interested in what didn't work for you? I know it's not high art, or 'proper literature' (as some would say).

But it is, for me, a happy-go-lucky well-written fantasy fiction novel.

So, what sticks in your craw?

Cheers goonalan
 

Obviously, I don't own a copy, and if I did I would have burned it long ago, then thrown the ashes down a mine, and exploded a nuke to seal off the mine, then migrated to a different planet. but certainly all of the above + badly anything else a novel can have, and a few badly things that Greenwood invented especially for the novel.

Okay, it wasn't badly plotted - it didn't have a plot.
 

Mirtek

Hero
Spellfire is the worst novel I have ever read.

And I have read a lot of bad novels.
I can only second that. It's the only FR novel I had to attempt twice to get through. First time I just could not stand it anymore and just put in down and didn't pick it up again until I had read through all other FR novels that were out at that time.

That was several years after my first attempt. That didn't happen to me with any other novel.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
But again, why?

As to badly plotted, it reminded me- even when I was reading it, of Star Wars (a bit), or else- now that I am thinking about it, the Matrix. Or Dune, or... well, any number of books in which the hero lacks family/backstory/past. heads for adventure and discovers that they have magical powers (Luke/Neo/Paul).

The bad guys attack x lots- try to kill the super-powered good guy, who gathers friends, including an aged mentor (who teaches the hero about their powers), also add in a love-interest, a comedy double-act and... well, you're pretty much there.

Cue more plotting by evil empire(s), then final attack and we're pretty much done with this book.

I can' wait to see what happens next.

I don't mean to push it too much but what do you object to? What's bad about it? What am I not seeing?

Cheers goonalan
 

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