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

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Then the everyone loves El kicks in, goddess (singular) swoons.

Leaving aside larger issues of how much tail Elminster gets, the thing with Mystra always confused me. Mystra putting out for the people (or at least the men) whom she makes her Chosen isn't limited to Elminster; the Cult of the Dragon sourcebook makes it clear that she did the same for Sammaster when she elevated him, and it ultimately ended up contributing to his mental instability. So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).

My best guess is that it's a leftover habit from when she was mortal (since this Mystra was originally a human who replaced Mystryl, the original goddess of magic, after she sacrificed herself to undo the damage caused by Karsus when he tried to usurp her power), but that's still not a very good explanation.
 

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So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).

I had written a lengthy reply to this but deleted it. It would have derailed the thread and might not have been a welcome contribution. In short: Greenwood’s portrayal of the Realms is distinctive, and including a lot more sexual themes and scenes than other writers do is one of those distinctions. In-world, though, Mystra’s sexual relationships with her Chosen have always made perfect sense to me given the way she is described by Ed, the way her motivations and desires are described, and the way Ed describes arcane magic itself in the Realms—as does the idea that these relationships would be really bad for the sanity of those Chosen.
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
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.

I didn't for a second think that you were saying the books were bad, never fear that.

I get what you mean by bingeing but that's been my way for quite a while, so when I discovered Indridason, I read Jar City after watching the film, I had to go buy all of his Erlendur detective novels and then do them start to finish (actually start to Icelandic, my little joke there) including the one I'd already read (Jar City). I'm a bit of a nut like that.

Then I went and hunted down as many other scandewegian detective series as I could get hold of, and did the same with them- Mankell, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and a few others.

Then of course I diverted into other detectives, bought the lot and read them from start to finish, particularly Rankin & SJ Parris.

I came to literature (and reading) late in life, when I stopped being a soldier so I did the same thing with- Joyce, Lawrence (DH & TE), and a bunch of others- I even do series on repeat. I've read the Indridason novels three times through, aiming for another go some time in the future.

Turns out I've been lining up to do something daft (read approx. 300 FR novels) and practicing for it for years- who saw that coming.

I am however getting a bit tired/jaded with the fantasy fiction Realms-world schtick, so as of next year- i.e. when I clock up the "X books read in 365 days so far" tag then I'm going to switch out- one Forgotten Realms novel, followed by one from the heap of books I still have to read on my bookshelves (y'know real books).

You and others brought me to that thought, and that has taken the pressure off a bit, for which- much thanks.

Toodles, I still have seven pages to read to reach today's minimum (50 pages/day min).

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
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. 🧢

Thanks for that, very much appreciated.

Also see the last post, it turns out I've been on the road to this (oh yeah, I did Kerouac the same way). My secret is ex-military, you're a long time doing nothing in the forces- when you have to do something it sometimes gets exciting/frightening, so you appreciate the long times doing nothing ('cept reading).

Stay safe.

Cheers goonalan
 

Leaving aside larger issues of how much tail Elminster gets, the thing with Mystra always confused me. Mystra putting out for the people (or at least the men) whom she makes her Chosen isn't limited to Elminster; the Cult of the Dragon sourcebook makes it clear that she did the same for Sammaster when she elevated him, and it ultimately ended up contributing to his mental instability. So she was apparently making a habit of this. Why? She's the goddess of magic, not the goddess of sex (that's Sune).

My best guess is that it's a leftover habit from when she was mortal (since this Mystra was originally a human who replaced Mystryl, the original goddess of magic, after she sacrificed herself to undo the damage caused by Karsus when he tried to usurp her power), but that's still not a very good explanation.

My impression has always been that Greenwood's FR is very different to D&Ds FR, and that he often finds himself writing in the former, which can confuse people who are reading in the latter.

From what I've gathered, Greenwood's original personal FR is a very much weirder, more fantastic place, god-wise. The line between mortal and deity is blurred when it's there at all. There's a teeming multiplicity of minor gods and local gods and godlings and demigods around every corner, mortals become gods and vice versa all over the place, gods take mortal lovers and have quasi-deific children or imbue mortals with their power, get it usurped by mortals ... etc etc. Like Greek or Norse myth on steroids, a big, brawling, lusty, exultant, high-magical jamboree soap-opera of doom. Which, it has to be said, sounds awesome.

But this is ... difficult to codify as a D&D setting. FR as originally written for D&D had to be re-written for D&D - the downplaying of Greenwood's vision of the sexual mores of the Realms is pretty well known, and was probably inevitable to placate the stereotypical early-80s mothers upset about the D&D satanic panic. But more so - D&D has its own basal assumptions. Clerics are mortals who worship gods who are higher beings who dwell in some otherworld Above All This. There's a hard god to mortal dividing line, and whatever narrative devices or homebrew tools that Greenwood used/uses in his home game to emulate his vision of the realms is so far outside of the basal assumptions of 'core' D&D that it didn't make the transition to published material..

There's echoes of the Greenwood Realms still hanging around in the modern D&D Realms. A lot of the smaller or forgotten local gods (Lurue, Nobanion, Finder Wyverspur, Garagos, Gwaeron Windstrom, the Red Knight) hark back to a more Greenwoodian vision of mortal ascension to deityhood and gods under every leaf and gods routinely roaming the realms in mortal guise, and of course there's the Chosen and the like who are all part of that less binary mortal-deity divide. I suspect the Mystra that Greenwood writes in these books is the Mystra from HIS Realms, where gods are impulsive and flawed hormone machines who make Zeus-like romantic decisions all the time and this sort of behaviour is basically standard for all of them...
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#072 The Temptation of Elminster by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 3)
Read 14/5/20 to 21/5/20


Forgotten Realms The Temptation of Elminster GOODa.JPG

Book 3- and odd. So, it starts off with what seem to be tales of Elminster's courage and his testing (maybe) by Mystra- here's the situation, make your choices- keep the faith, and do the right thing. And to begin with that kinda works, or else I'm happily reading along, taking it all in- Elminster making wise and clever choices to save adventurers, a realm (eventually) and to preserve the pureness of his love for his deity (or some such). So, that's okay- although I can't help but feel that some of these tales don't quite fit together, like they're short stories (or the beginnings of other books) that have been somehow cobbled and glued into one.

I get it- he's being tested, the Temptation (with a capital 'T') of Elminster, there's a queue of folk on hand to tell us what happens when Archmages go bad. El emerges from the tomb (with his new found semi-friends) and after the sleep of ages goes about Toril following Mystra's commands, proving himself to her again and again.

But there are so many other stories here, it's a little haphazard at times- the pack that are trailing El keeps growing, particularly towards the end of the novel. There are a pair of Thompson Twins style Mystra Priest-Mages that have seen the light and are now scuttling after El, doing their comic thing every now and then. Then the there's the killer mist that burns folk (and wildlife) from the inside out- lets call her the Lady of Shadows, although I'm at the end, of course, but I'm still not certain how and why. Then there's the last of the Starym Elves from Myth Drannor, out to slay the great enemy (El) that brought his house low- this guy seems to get killed every time he gets close to his prey, but then keeps on coming back- a little less, and a little more (mad) every time. Later on there are the Leather Goddesses of Phobos (sorry adherents of Shar) to contend with, and others- Caladaster (Cleric Quintet) even pops up towards the finale, an old man now- supping alongside another Realmsian hero parked in the tavern close by the final problem- the Slayer.

How and why the Slayer ended up being the big finale I'll never know. It seems contrived, tacked on, a suitable spell battle to play out and then skip to the El & Mystra reconciliation. But, hey-ho...

At this point, with maybe fifty pages to go- I'm still struggling to connect the stories presented here, except for the rough cover-all plot/theme- the Temptations of Elminster. The enemies El faces seem to be alternatively passive- waiting around doing other things, and then aggressive- plotting and preparing to claim for themselves the Chosen and all that he represents. But the fear and trepidation they cause (let's call it conflict) waxes and wanes, particularly as their failures mount.

There are other stories in here, other lives, all of which we visit with briefly- and I get that the author is lining up the next bit of the plot but some of the walk-on-parts just feel a bit convoluted/constructed/confusing. By confusing I don't mean difficult to understand, I just mean that the something they're presenting to us- the next threat or part of the tale, could have been achieved less clunkily, rather than just keep churning out and putting in new characters with complicated names and titles for the reader to keep trying to soak up.

It feels like a book that either a) took a long time to write, or else b) that was written over an extended period of time, with a variety of half-started/finished stories gathered together quickly and then all crammed into the plot (such as it is) and done very quickly.

A hundred pages into the novel and when the Mrs asked "What's this one about?" which she does, every now and then- I like that she takes an interest in me still. My reply- "I'm still not sure, it's a ragbag." Later on she asked again and I made the same reply- the same, almost to the end.

There are bits here to enjoy, El is still very good at being El- he's wise and lordly- kind and responsible, a little vain, and very aware that he is (happily) in charge of the situation (whatever the situation). I like that, and he's still about trying to fix things without a fuss. Kudos.

There are other times, particularly in the middle section (Dasumia) when the angry inside me wants to break free- I get that he's treading a very narrow line- trying to stay true to Mystra, while at the same time serving Dasumia, but... I got to the end of this section far quicker than the author. Do the right thing, El.

Then there's another chapter or two of the gods descent to Toril, the death (not) of Mystra, and all magic gone leery- but in here, and again just adding more to the mix- it's all a bit too much at times, and later on in the final celebrity Wizard Blast Off- El/Azuth/Caladaster/the Shar Magic-Priests with their Armageddon magic supplies/the Lady of Shadows/Starym-heap-big-one-leg-crazy-Elf and... it's just like some of the later novels. The reader knows that El's going to be saved (most likely) by something/one and will go on (sometime he even manages to save himself). We just have to wade through the magic-fire treacle to get there.

So, read.

I'm still a little confused by it all, apologies if the above review made even less sense than usual.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#073 Elminster in Hell by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 4)
Read 22/5/20 to 30/5/20


Forgotten Realms Elminster in Hell NrMINTa.JPG

Book 4- and it's a hard row to hoe, or else more and less of the same all the while, the concept/conceit to begin with works- El is in hell, sorry... Hell (Avernus) and subject to the whims of Nergal* who has captured (sorta) Old Weird Beard and is in the process (or so the Arch Devil says) of scouring El's memories for the secrets of the ancient mage's silverfire. Nergal wants to know what secrets Mystra has whispered to her Chosen.

And so it goes, so it goes... for a very (very) long time. To begin with the writing style- snatched memories as the Devil wades through the treacle of Mystra's Chosen's fractured mind/memory, in which Nergal GETS TO SCREAM HIS THREATS IN CAPS, while El answers in less panicked italics, and all the while the suffering goes on- [weeping, falling from light into darkness, pain, lost and alone].

So, Joycean- stream-of-conscious, mebs- but not quite. A delightful portmanteau (filmic rather than literary) in which fractured fragments slip and slide together to form something with greater meaning- Hmm, well... not really. So, just snatched moments from the great man's exploded memory- some of them (to the reader) entertaining or enlightening, but not all- there's a lot of chaff that needs winnowing, but I guess that's the point- El's mind is a mess (or else he's hiding the truth).

It plays out, longer fragments of memory- picked up, scrolled through, put down and left off- to no great effect/affect. Some of these snatched tales are interesting, many are less so- and repetitive. The best of El in action (but without the magic, remember he's keeping this hidden) so the soft parts exposed- memories/fragments of the women in El's life, and we're back to the Greenwood/El that I am less enamoured with. It's just the same kind of thing- again and again, lady's love El El Elminster (that was supposed to be a pun on LL Cool J, apologies for feeling the need to explain this).

And that's pretty much it.

The Simbul, Mirt, Khelben (Blackstaff), Halaster (Blackcloak) all come running to save the Chosen of Mystra, and they're good to look at and to listen to (for a while)- although the whole Avernus environ will no doubt also make it to my gaming table, the Devils- what little we see of them (except for Nergal) are by far the most interesting folk in the story, I'd love to spend more time with these folk.

But its not about them, it's all about El- and that's most of the problem (see above).

It's less hell, more purgatory, after the first fifty pages of Nergal indiscriminately making mulch of Elminster's mind and body, well the threat becomes much reduced. The author tries hard but this is a (very) long game he's playing, and after 200 or so pages (or less depending on the reader's stamina) you're pretty much fed up of the same thing happening again and again- torture and pain become mundane, and even El seems to grasp this. The threat dissipates, the worst that can happen is it will end- the Chosen's life snuffed out, the torment at an end. The best that can happen is that somehow (think about it) the tables at some point will get turned. Nergal will get his comeuppance.

Can you guess which way it goes?

That's right.

So, maybe 250 pages (or more) of snatched fragments from the life of El, combined with a few glimpses of Mystra's visions shared with her Chosen (at least that's the explanation offered). That's nice, nice and disjoined and for the most part, less than exciting. Maybe a 100 pages of a variety of super-mages and the like plotting (and attempting) to get their El back, with fifty or so pages of [mind blast, pain, suffering, turn the page, read on, rage, put the book down- walk away, the suffering doesn't stop, pain, go get the book again- read on, read on, read on- it has to end].

The measure of it imho is other than the geography, flora and fauna, politics, pecking order et al of Avernus being given a brief airing then... there's nothing much to see here. Don't get me wrong, in short bursts there were places I started to like it- I wanted to read on, to see what happened next, but they were mostly at outset- there was too much rinse and repeat- Elminster the Chosen, the beloved etc. Mystra's gift to the women of Toril… Yeah, got that- but, eventually, I got through it.

Read.

*Nergal, I'm happy to admit the only Nergal I knew of was/is Nurgle of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fame, the two seem to share much in common- are they related, brothers?

Oh, addendum- Nergal gets the best lines in the book, he's got El figured- I found myself liking the devilish monstrosity more and more as the story went on. Go Nergal! Crush the tiresome wizard.
 
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I think there was an ancient Babylonian (Phoenician? Akkadian? Assyrian? Somewhere around there anyway) deity/demon/whatever called Nergal, and both TSR and GW ruthlessly mined the historical religions and mythology of that part of the world for cool names. Pretty sure White Wolf used Nergal as well at some point...
 

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