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


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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I hate to use the term "Mary Sue," simply because its use so often descends into fan-wankery, as everyone begins arguing about what the actual definition of the term is and whether or not particular characters technically meet it or not. Having said all that, Storm comes across as a Mary Sue here. It's not that she's more powerful than everyone else, but rather than she exists as a sort of moral center that everyone else is defined by. How do you know if a character is a bad guy? They dislike/feel threatened by her. How do you know if someone is a good guy? They're awed by her and want to help her. The book's idea of a sudden twist (as I recall) is having a bad guy who can pretend to be good in this way.

Storm herself comes across as unlikable, at least to me, for how condescending she is. Now, it's entirely possible to have a protagonist who looks down their nose at other people; you simply need to construct this as a heroic flaw that they're working against. But Storm's exasperation with everyone around her is presented as something we're supposed to be sympathetic to, rather than being a foible. I seem to recall one of the exchanges in the book as being such (paraphrasing from memory):

"If I may ask, Lady Silverhand," began one of the mages at the banquet, "why is it that, although you're not a mage, Mystra has made you one of her Chosen?"

Storm sighed. "That is indeed an interesting question," she replied, her voice belaying her words. "Why don't you pray to the goddess I presume we both worship for answers, and see if she feels like enlightening you."

Now, it's entirely possible that the scene in question was more slanted against the questioner than I recall, but this illustrates the point. Storm spends most of the novel feeling exasperated by the idiots she's surrounded with, and the book goes out of its way to suggest that she's right to do so. Worse, it extends this presumption to suggest that it's no great loss when most of these people die; Storm, as the book's moral center, has already served to showcase that none of them are worth saving.

Even her reaction to the villain (who got a cool tidbit dropped about their background, in what was perhaps the only redeeming feature of the book) seems to be more irritation than anything. Again, I'm viewing this through the lens of quite a few years and a haze of dislike, but even when Storm's losing, her disposition is more akin to someone being handed an unpleasant job rather than the fate of the world, or at least a few people's lives, being on the line. Storm really seems like an office worker who's been called in over the weekend and has to deal with some irritating colleagues she'd rather never see again.

Also, why in the heck is Sylune alive in this? We know it takes place after the Time of Troubles, so Sylune should be a ghost, but I seem to recall she's here in the literal flesh. What the heck?
 
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Oh wow, this thread punches me right in the nostalgia.

FR novels were my gateway into fantasy/sci-fi and into rpgs. It's no exaggeration to say that picking up The Crystal Shard at a local library at age 13 changed my life.

I've binge-read this thread in a day and it's funny how much I agree with the prevailing wisdom. I was profoundly obsessed with the Drizzt books as a young teenager, though I had a re-read maybe 10 years ago and the writing style was very hard to take. There's only so many times arrows can be described as 'silver-streaking' or scimitars as 'whirring' before you wonder if the guy is phoning it in. I don't think I'll ever re-read them, cos I prefer my enormously fond memories untainted by my grumpy older self's nitpicking and judgement. They work better when you look at them as young adult fiction anyway. I donated them all to a charity shop a long time ago - I hope some kid found them and got as much enjoyment out of them as I did.

Salvatore and Cunningham were the two authors whose work I looked forward to most keenly. Cunningham's character motivations really elevated her above the mass of FR work that was coming out at the time, though I never quite thought she nailed a climactic battle scene like Salvatore did. I loved the initial Alias trilogy. Azure Bonds should be adapted for the first real D&D movie I've always thought. It's so weird and high-fantasy and has something of everything. And even as a 14yo the rambly and sleazy tone of Greenwood's stuff really turned me off.

Heartily agree about Soldiers of Ice - it's such a shining little gem in a Harpers series that could be a bit paint-by-numbers at times, and I was always sad we never got more of the adventures of Martine and Krote. I think it was the scale - FR stories always worked better the smaller and more local they were, I think. The trials of Drizzt et al, Danilo and Arilyn, and Alias's search for identity always struck me as more relatable and involving than the sort of book that had gods and avatars and artifacts all over the place. Personal preference, of course...


Also, why in the heck is Sylune alive in this? We know it takes place after the Time of Troubles, so Sylune should be a ghost, but I seem to recall she's here in the literal flesh. What the heck?

I'm pretty sure she (spoiler alert!) gets resurrected in a book we haven't gotten up to yet, though I forget which one. Reading sequence isn't quite synchronous with FR chronology, I think.
 


You may be right, but that'd be quite a thing for her wiki page to miss.

Huh, yeah. I SWEAR i remember reading it at some point. I recall it as basically a throwaway scene in an epilogue, she wasn't the main character in the book or anything, it was just basically 'poof, she's alive again as a side-effect to whatever the arbitrary magic resolution to the main plot was', and conveniently now the author can have her fall into bed with some character who's been doing the impossible tragic romantic pining thing all book.

Though I guess it might be just my mind playing tricks on me - I'm sure the FR wiki people have gone through the canon much more comprehensively than me.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#065 Finder's Bane by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb (Harpers 15 + Lost Gods 1)
Read 6/4/20 to 8/4/20


Forgotten Realms Finder's Bane (Harpers 15) a.JPG

Book 15- and I quite liked this one, which makes a change I suppose- certainly I got through it quickly which is usually a good sign.

Joel (Bard & neophyte Priest of Finder) is on a pilgrimage, next thing you know he meets the Zhent and soon after Holly, Paladin of Lathander. Then a slow accumulation of enemies and friends stop by as the quest develops legs. Even Joel's mentor turns up, the aged Jedidiah- obviously also a Priest of Finder. The bad guys, as it turns out, are looking to resurrect the dead god Bane, Walinda the Priestess is a nasty piece of work right up to the very end (nearly).

Then the story gets legs, there's a Spelljammer ship formerly owned by Jas, a Harpy- and then Jedidiah loses half of Finder's power- clumsy. So, the Bane-folk deal with Finder-folk, recover the Hand of Bane and they can have the other half of Finder's power back. Then the story stretches out its ambition again, and from the secret vale of the Saurials we head off to find a lost Netheril Portal to off-world.

We visit the Celestial Bureaucracy (briefly, nice), and after a journey through the realm of the Illithid god (nice earworm), our guys get to Sigil, and the story inevitably, and with a myriad false-dawns, twists and turns, reaches its conclusion soon after- which is pretty much things returned to mostly where-they-were (as usual).

Oh, and along the way we discover that Jedidiah is actually, shhh… Finder, although that secret may have been obvious from pretty early on in the piece.

There's a lot to like- Joel, certainly- he's thoughtful and yet action-orientated, he's a bit of a sap (Wilanda) but he's learning- he's also, as it turns out, the one and only Priest of Finder. I like that idea a lot, you're god kicking about with you- any questions, what do you think about... I may just steal this idea for one of my games.

Some of the other characters are suitably interesting (a bit), however a lot of the places visited are definitely what I want to read about (I've bought the Spelljammer series of books already, to read after I get done with the Realms). I loved the getting about places in the Astral Plane, and the massive stone statues of the dead gods, same with all of the off-world action. Oddly, I've been DMing D&D for 38 years, I've not been off-world much at all, maybe a short sojourn for the climax of an adventure in an Elemental Plane, or some such- but no Sigil, and no other off-world civilisations.

So, that was nice.

Don't get me wrong, there are sections that just make you sigh- why are you believing Wilanda again (usually), why doesn't someone just punch Holly/Jas out. Why stick half of your godhood power in a stone, and then stuff it in your pocket and get robbed less than a minute later, because you just gave up half your power and now (seemingly) can no longer spot Priestesses of Bane pickpocketing you- a convoluted way of getting to the next bit. There are other equally daft moments, but nothing that kills the ride... I raced to the end, nice climax.

Read.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I really enjoyed Finder's Bane. The book is a lot of fun, both in terms of its characters and its plot progression. It also helps that it's a crossover between the Forgotten Realms and Planescape, with a bit of Spelljammer thrown in too. That sort of cross-setting fun is like catnip to me. The sequel is even more fun in that regard.

(The second book in the Lost Gods trilogy is a Dragonlance book that has a different tone, but is also one that I found myself liking quite a bit.)

I suspect most people know this, but this book serves as a semi-sequel (epilogue?) to the Spelljammer series of comics published by DC back in the day. That's where the character of Jas, with her transforming wings, comes from. While I can't remember if this book was written before or after Powers & Pantheons, the two take each other into account, as Finder's entry in that book references that Joel is Finder's only specialty priest (as opposed to a cleric, which is Copperbloom the saurial). It likewise plays with the idea from Faiths & Avatars that there are several baneliches out there who received Bane's power after he died, allowing them to grant spells to cultists.

On that note, props to Bane for having had the foresight to create an artifact to facilitate his resurrection. I seem to recall that the opening to the novel Pool of Twilight touched on this idea, saying that Bane had received a potion from Shar that let him foresee his own death. Maybe this was in reference to that? Probably not, but it's interesting to consider. Also, this book had some interesting instances of wiggle room with regard to the whole "no gods in Sigil" rule, as Finder manages to squeak around that by putting all of his (remaining) divinity in his other half of the Finder's stone, but notes (when they're leaving Sigil) that he can tell that the city "wants him gone," and that they're leaving just in time. Little things like that are intriguing, particularly compared to other instances throughout the Planescape line of how gods try (with varying degrees of success) to get around that rule.

Also, I'll likewise note that it's nice to get to see some of the Celestial Bureaucracy here. I think the closest we ever come to seeing this elsewhere (keeping in mind that I haven't read all of the books) is an extended stay in Sung Chiang's realm in, what, the second book of the Blood Wars trilogy? Of course, "generic" pantheons don't get used very much, since the campaign worlds have their own gods that they tend to focus on, so Planescape is really the only place where they get any love. Another reason to like this novel.

On that note, I went looking and I couldn't find any references to Bane's religion having a "no girls allowed" rule before (or after) this, the sequel novel notwithstanding. Did no one want to tell Scyllua Darkhope about that particular tenet?

And just for fun: thinking about Joel, Walinda, Finder, and a Banelich all going to another plane of existence together makes me think that this was D&D's version of Isekai Quartet.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#066 Tymora's Luck by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb (Lost Gods 2)
Read 8/4/20 to 9/4/20


Forgotten Realms Tymora's Luck (Lost Gods) a.JPG

Book 2 (Lost Gods)- and more of the same really, although there are some nice new-ish places to visit, mostly in the Lower Planes, which are less than welcoming. The story is someone or something is draining the godly powers of Tymora and her unfortunate sister, Besheba- the pair were once two halves of a whole- the goddess Tyche, who embodied luck- good and bad.

And so it goes again, with Joel (and Finder), and Jas, and Holly and a few others we know so well, like Wilanda- from the previous Last Gods novel. The new kid on the block here is the Kender, Emilo Haversack, and just to say from the beginning, the little guy is by far the best character in the book.

So, there's lots of action here- Jas feels oh so guilty as it's during her magical operation (to remove her Slayer-curse) that Tymora succumbs, her godly powers draining away. From this moment the hunt is on- first port of call Beshaba's residence (after a bit of back and forth), then on to Iyachtu Zvim's fortress, and finally... well, we get to go lots of places (real and imagined), like I said at the start. There are also deities aplenty here, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, the (BIG) clue is in the title of this series of novels.

There's good stuff to be had (from a DMs perspective)- particularly during our visits to the Lower Planes, and specifically in the various locales/Bond villain-style lairs of the bad-to-the-bone deities. There are likewise some excellent moments with a variety of the aforementioned deities, again something for me to keep in mind for my game.

But... it's not as good as the first one, in part- but not as a whole, the plot is easy on the brain- I'd got it something like 25 pages in, or else very quickly. The thing is mapped out (sorta) like an opera- with scene titles to fit, and quotes from the great and the good regarding the art, but... again, it's not much of an opera, more a pantomime (but not for kids).

He's behind you (Holly).

There's some nice stuff in Sigil (again), and with the meetings of the Sensate, counterbalanced by the oddness of Lord Sirrion (and his partner in crime, let's just call him- Dawn). The omelette toting Tinker Gnomes, and... well, lots of bits that just feel like, well... the next bit that needs to unfold to make it all hang together, and some of it feels stretched very tight in order to cover the distance.

This, plus that, equals... it seems a bit mechanical in places, don't get me wrong I raced through it but that was mostly me with my head out of the window admiring the places that we were visiting, the plot- and how it would eventually unfold was locked in from very early in the mission.

I'd worked out who the real bad guy was, how he had done it, and why, and where- and how it had to end, particularly early in the piece. That took the edge off.

Well written, lots of it just races by, and the action's good, but it just gets there in the end.

Read.


Stay safe and well.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I found this one to be almost as much fun as the previous book, to the point where I'm honestly not sure which one I like better.

Part of it is that I love crossovers in general (so long as they aren't dumpster fires), and this one had the same mixture of the Forgotten Realms and Planescape, a tiny pinch of Spelljammer (albeit slightly less now), along with a whole new helping of Dragonlance. Seriously, when's the last time we saw anything to do with a Dragonlance deity who wasn't one of the big three (Paladine, Takhisis, and Gilean) or their gods of magic (Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari)? I know that Zeboim and Chemosh got spotlighted in the "Amber" trilogy, and Sargonnas comes up whenever they reference the minotaurs, but that's still just over a third of the pantheon. So I found this somewhat refreshing.

The bit with Tyche was also a nice Planescape reference, since On Hallowed Ground had talked about how Tyche's realm was empty now, explicitly connecting her "demise" story - which created Tymora and Beshaba in the Faerunian pantheon - was acknowledged among the wider D&D multiverse. Though I'll note that this novel doesn't play into the fact that Tyche was part of the Greek pantheon, at least one of the gods of which was supposed to be investigating her loss. Likewise, the reference to "power keys" that connected priests to their gods on the planes was another nice nod to how things worked out there.

Emilo Haversack is a fun character, and Lost Gods book two ("Fistandantilus Reborn") is actually his story. I'd recommend it. It's a shame we don't get to see him in the Realms, because that has quite a bit of potential to be...interesting.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
I found this one to be almost as much fun as the previous book, to the point where I'm honestly not sure which one I like better.

Part of it is that I love crossovers in general (so long as they aren't dumpster fires), and this one had the same mixture of the Forgotten Realms and Planescape, a tiny pinch of Spelljammer (albeit slightly less now), along with a whole new helping of Dragonlance. Seriously, when's the last time we saw anything to do with a Dragonlance deity who wasn't one of the big three (Paladine, Takhisis, and Gilean) or their gods of magic (Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari)? I know that Zeboim and Chemosh got spotlighted in the "Amber" trilogy, and Sargonnas comes up whenever they reference the minotaurs, but that's still just over a third of the pantheon. So I found this somewhat refreshing.

The bit with Tyche was also a nice Planescape reference, since On Hallowed Ground had talked about how Tyche's realm was empty now, explicitly connecting her "demise" story - which created Tymora and Beshaba in the Faerunian pantheon - was acknowledged among the wider D&D multiverse. Though I'll note that this novel doesn't play into the fact that Tyche was part of the Greek pantheon, at least one of the gods of which was supposed to be investigating her loss. Likewise, the reference to "power keys" that connected priests to their gods on the planes was another nice nod to how things worked out there.

Emilo Haversack is a fun character, and Lost Gods book two ("Fistandantilus Reborn") is actually his story. I'd recommend it. It's a shame we don't get to see him in the Realms, because that has quite a bit of potential to be...interesting.

Alas, I've never read anything Dragonlance, and have only a cursory knowledge of the subject (I've no idea about Krynn et al)- I remember a few articles back in the day, the odd book/module passed around, one of my Players kept calling his PCs Raistlin (but he almost always played Fighters, so- go figure) but I never made the jump/connection.

I think I'd like to read Fistandantilus Reborn some day, but the Realms is my subject of study, atm.

Thanks as always.

Stay safe and well.

Goonalan
 

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