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


The EN World kitten
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.

So as it turns out... :D

The tren are from MC11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix. Insofar as I'm aware, they've never been used in any other capacity besides this novel (which I haven't read, and so didn't know about). For what it's worth, I appreciate Cunningham trying to pull a lesser-known monster out of obscurity, though I suspect that I'd have gone crazy at the time trying to figure out just what those things were and what they could do.

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Still really enjoying your write-ups! Cunningham is one of my very favorite Realms writers, but I think you’ve successfully communicated why her books don’t work as well for you. That said, The Dream Spheres does strike me as the least successful of the five Songs and Swords books.

Incidentally, there was a sixth and final book planned for this series, which was meant to provide closure to several ongoing questions posed by the earlier books. Entitled Reclamation, Wizards of the Coast had announced the novel and even released a cover image, which you can easily find online, but the book was never published. For Realms fans who love her work, this is one of the lost holy grails. Over the years, Cunningham has occasionally expressed a desire to finish and publish the novel, but that seems very unlikely now for various reasons.

One last thing: I’d highly recommend interleaving the string of Elminster novels you have lined up next with the Nobles series that comes after it in your reading order. I think you’re less likely to burn out that way. Greenwood is by now a relatively known quantity for you, but the peculiarities of his style come even more to the fore in the remaining books. The Nobles has some excellent books in it (I won’t spoil in advance which ones I think those are) and also some absolute rubbish. But they’re all stand-alone stories, since even the Elminster books don’t really follow directly on from one another, so going back and forth doesn’t really harm anything, and will permit you to take (what I predict will be) much-needed breaks from Elminster.


I picked it up- started it, and then on page 10 or so just said to myself, I need to read something else. Just to say when I got back to the novel, well- it just flew by.
That's the thing, this is the best Elaine Cunningham novel I've read so far, and just to say again- they're all very well written, it's just that some part of me is left wanting more.
I am glad you liked it. After those first few words I feared the worst, as this is one of my most favorite FR novels :)


#069 Hand of Fire by Ed Greenwood (Shandrill's Saga 3)
Read 30/4/20 to 7/5/20

Forgotten Realms Hand of Fire (Shandril's Saga 3)  a.JPG

Book 3- and another struggle to get through. So, what's new? Nothing much, as it transpires- Shan and Narm have to get from A to B, B being Silverymoon, that's nice. A is... and now I'm at the end I can't even remember where we started. The intrepid duo are hidden (don't make me laugh) on a trade caravan, making their way to safety.

Oh, and by the way- that's the plot (or the story) in all of its complexity- get from A to B.

Is that right? How can Silverymoon (or anywhere else) be safe for Shan and Narm? The world and his wife are out to lay claim to Spellfire, the bad guys will go to the ends of Toril to lay claim to the power.

The caravan is therefore packed with a variety of bad guys- Zhent, Red Wizards, Dragon Cultists, thieves from Scornubel, and a variety of others.

How will Silverymoon prove to be any safer for the forlorn pair?

Then there's all the bad guys queuing up, how do they 'acquire' Spellfire? I get that they can try to capture Shan, but what comes next... do they somehow syphon the hellish power from her? How?

It doesn't help that the bad guys (some of them) seem to be a lot less subtle about their attempts- are they going to wrest Spellfire from Shan's cold dead hands?

So, I've been complaining about Elaine Cunningham's lack of gritty action, well... me and my big mouth. This novel, once the caravan gets off is a rolling maul from start to finish, conniving bad guys (the best bit in the novel) squabble and then find new ways to 'off' each other. The caravan (how big is this thing?) seems to get attacked and decimated about every seven pages by some new threat rising to the top of the pack. Who keeps signing up for this thing... is every wagon in the caravan a bad guy just biding their time?

That's also part of the problem, with no great plot thread to unravel (A to B) then the bad folk have to carry a lot of the weight (and threat/suspense/tension) and they're good- all of them, but not great. mainly because they're on the backfoot from the get-go, all of them are trying to kill each other. Shan my be surrounded by enemies but so is every bad guy on her trail.

The best villains- the Waldorf and Statler mages, you work it out.

As usual the Harpers (or whoever) have let Shan and Narm go, and then- as usual, sent someone chasing after to watch over the pair, in this instance Sharantyr, Knight of Myth Drannor. We follow her difficult journey, all the way to the caravan and the final fight in which, soon after, Sharantyr's mortally wounded and teleported (or similar) to safety by the (deus ex machina?) bigguns. What was the point of her coming? If the Harpers et al wanted to protect Shan then go mob handed, or else... just teleport the pair to wherever they need to be.

I'm sorry, just a little bitter.

I just don't really get it- now I'm at the end. The journey is the novel- okay, but the journey is for nothing- there are easier ways to get from A to B (again, teleport) this then just seems to be a rinse and repeat retelling of the two previous books. Nothing new comes to light, does it- did I miss something?

Lots of innocent folk (I presume) get caught in the crossfire, lives and livelihoods are destroyed- spent, wasted; and for what. In essence, again, this is just a trip from A to B, why doesn't someone higher up (on the good guy's side) figure this out earlier in the piece. The Harper's are very brave, but they seem to lack management nous- a bit indulgent letting their secret weapon (maybe) just wander through the realms (not that well hidden). They've tried this before, it didn't work then- why just do it again?

I kept expecting Elminster (and three or four of his high-powered associates) to zoom in and take the fight to the bad guys, or else whisk Shan and Narm away, and save the day. I get that this is it... the novel, the story, but it lacks a lot- the same thing happens time and time again, different bad guys- sure, but that's the only concession. The addition of the Netherese Mage/Wraith just seems like... well, more of the same, and an attempt to find a new (and more frightening) enemy. Even if it appears that this last threat has no connection at all to anything in this novel (or those preceding it) and so is at best just another 'stock' villain sent by casting to do his thing, and fail.


Oh, but the one redeeming quality of the book- the story ends here. Please Tymora, let it be the case.


Yeah, I think I second @jeremypowell's suggestion that you might want to alternate the upcoming run of Greenwood/Elminster books with the Nobles series which are next in line. It'll be a very long hard slog for you otherwise. The Nobles series has its good points and less good points (from what I can distantly remember) but at least it'll be a change of pace.


#070 Elminster: The Making of a Mage by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 1)
Read 8/5/20 to 10/5/20

Forgotten Realms Elminster The Making of a Mage HB VGOODa.JPG

Book 1- and so it begins, and the oddest thing is 75% of the novel I really liked, the early years- multiclassing the Mage, big El which mostly stands for Elmara. I've got to admit I really enjoyed El's time as a lady, obviously it negates all the weird creepy stuff that he gets up to in the later tomes.

The Brigand/Thief chapters (for some reason) took me back to the Gord novels, no- I'm not sure why because I read the Gygax (et al) books oh such a long time ago, i.e. when they came out- I seem to remember devouring the first few of them, and then wanting to read them again almost as soon as I had finished them. Please keep in mind however my in-game campaigns were set mostly in Greyhawk- for maybe 15 to 20 years I kept the big beautiful (cumbersome and hard to fold) Greyhawk map somewhere close to hand. Getting it out every now and then to plot and scheme my Player's demise(s), or else just to stare in wonder at the fantasy domain I called home.

But I digress... so, this book- well, Ed Greenwood can tell a story, and as I've already stated the first 75% of the novel just flew by. Don't get me wrong, there are no surprises to be found here- El is a Prince, his mother and father- both wonderful folk, were killed by the forces of evil. In particular 'evil power-mad mages', which, thinking about it- just fits. The various careers along the way are well done, with some really nice delving and other action, lots of insights into how these things come about- all good (useful) for my home table game.

The story tails off, for me, when Myrjala makes her appearance- obviously it doesn't help that I guessed that this was the goddess Mystra almost immediately (sorry SPOILERS). Then the everyone loves El kicks in, goddess (singular) swoons. It troubles me greatly that the characters of Elminster is only (seemingly) complete when a deity or two (and a cast of a thousand others) are all sexually attracted to his... whatever it is he's got going for himself. He's such a nice young man here, an outsider with an axe to grind- the long journey to the time and place when he's ready to face his demons (the Mages) and to finally seek revenge. Why does the author feel the need to have women flock to El, surely there's a way of getting this story told without the need for this. Don't get me wrong, I'm not prim and proper, I like a little bit of romance in my fantasy fiction oeuvre, but even with the young (male) El it all seems so one-sided. He goes from naïve wannabe-wastrel (but with a sensible head on his shoulders) to staff wielding archmagi with fawning (if only slightly) goddess at his side.

Would it be terrible of me to suggest that this aspect of Elminster's character is a manifestation of the authors own desires. Not an issue you understand, but it just seems a little unnecessary. Just odd, and at times a bit throw-away.

So, the final 25%, the battle against the Mages is not terrible at all, in point of fact there's good stuff in here- it's just clouded by the fact that in the background El has got the goddess of Magic at his side, and has already powered up to Archmage levels, and is seemingly a match for anything anyone throws at him. Particularly when the pair of them get into action.

When I started this one I had trepidations, and I appreciate the suggestions from posters above- swap in the Nobles series novels, and I may go this way. But for now I'm going to attempt to power on through. My point with this one is for the first 75% I was happy to be here, and then it just seemed to tumble back in to old (new) habits, which for a variety of reasons I don't dig, so it got hard to get through to the last. The ending was never in doubt, along with renouncing his title (sorry SPOILER). I'm glad it all played out the way it did, but the Chosen El, is (for me, sorry) a bit of a pain.



#071 Elminster in Myth Drannor by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 2)
Read 11/5/20 to 13/5/20

Forgotten Realms Elminster in Myth Drannor VGOODa.JPG

Book 2- and there's a turn-up, this one was really good. I don't know what you people were scared of, this series (so far) have mostly been a delight, but... we'll see.

So, I feel like I've been excluded from some grand Realmsian secret, I didn't have the right code, or else the right hand shake, the big reveal is, drumroll...

The Drow are Elves, the Elves are Drow- they're all a bunch of terrible bastards waiting in line to tear each other apart for all the usual stuff- money, power, and because they have the right- and anyone that's not them is beneath their regard. Best kill it to be sure.

I mean, I thought... Elves have been a bit haughty, up-themselves, elsewhere in these novels (and other associated media) but the buggers in this one are snobbish, self-righteous, sword-dancing archmages with an unerring ability to presume that everything they say and do is right.

Some of them, actually- quite a lot of them.

The Srinshee (like a female Elven Yoda) damn near broke my heart, I knew that fool Elminster would buy his life by coming up with some trite answer to the treasure he'd like to claim from the Vault of the Ancients, but I guessed at 'knowledge', or 'respect', I didn't go far enough. 'Friendship', was of course the answer, in the style of some glorious (guilty pleasure) chick-flick (or is that too sexist, but you catch my drift).

Elminster, throughout his Cormanthor stop-over, remains earnest, patient, do-the-right-thing likeable, and that's just great.

If he stayed more this guy later on then I wouldn't have to have worried so much about this series (but there's still three to get through).

Oh, but what an excellent plot device- two thirds of the way in big El shuffles off this mortal coil, yep- you read that right, he's dead. But that doesn't stop his adventuring for long, top work on the part of the author. The Elven-style twenty year long montage of big El getting better at wizarding follows, encompassed in less than three dozen pages. The lives of Elves, who would have knew- certainly, not I.

A real eye-opener, with Big El on the down-low, just drifting through this one never attempting to make his sometimes infuriating mark, in truth- as with the first novel then Big El as we know he's just in training. It bloody works, this one's great, and keep in mind I'm in this for the info garnered.


Oh, but what's it about. The Elves of Cormanthor are debating/deciding to let the other races in to their fair city. It's like Midsummer Night's Dream (to begin with) except with a bunch of pointy-eared psycho/socio-paths (or else xenophobic misanthropes) running around with magic blades and star-cluster-f**k spells ready and primed. Mostly hunting El, but also out to do for each other. The Elven Purge begins.

Terror always works well when the person that is trying to slaughter you is being (seemingly) reasonable and at the same time very polite, explaining it easy to understand (and follow) terms just why you need to die.

I really enjoyed it.


Small God of the Dozens
It's rare that I find someone who reads as obsessively as I do. Huge props not just for the volume of reading, nor just for the follow along at home posts, but for the sheer bloody-mindedness it takes to churn through this many books in the same setting. Kudos sir, my hat is off to you. 🧢

I'm really glad you're enjoying the Elminster books. I was one of the voices suggesting you not try to read these all in one go—but I definitely didn't intend to imply they're bad, or that I don't like them.

I just find that, upon finishing an Ed Greenwood book, I always think, "OK, that's enough Greenwood for a few months," rather than "More Greenwood immediately, please." His books are so saturated with his own stylistic idiosyncracies that I need a palate-cleanser between them. Just like I wouldn't want to read several Virginia Woolf novels in a row. (Not saying they're in the same league, nor, I'm sure, would Ed.) Maybe you have more patience for bingeing a single style than I do.

At any rate, I'm glad you're enjoying the series.

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