• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

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

Iry

Hero
I wish the majority of the book was the A-Team trying to rescue Elminster. They deserve some time in the spotlight, and Greenwood can write spellcasters, so I feel this was a huge missed opportunity to characterize some important mages and the dynamic between them.

It also cracks me up that Mirt is part of the team. I mean he's a good guy, but he's basically Mr. Frodo here.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
As others have alluded to, Nergal is from real-world mythology. I can only assume that Ed Greenwood had a chuckle using that character, and perhaps when writing most of this book (which I admit I haven't read), since one of his early claims to fame were the incredibly popular "Nine Hells" articles in Dragon magazine issues #75 and #76 (July and August, 1983). Nergal was among the devils that were named and given stats in those articles (issue #75). So this is really Ed dusting off some of his old notes.

I seem to recall some of the Planescape aficionados being rather upset at this novel, since they said (if I recall correctly) that
Mystra herself shows up at one point, blasting her way through Hell to try and forcibly rescue Elminster
with no subsequent consequences for it. While the book apparently touches on this, the fact that there are no repercussions irked them, since the whole issue of "planar politics" is a big thing among their camp (which I'm sympathetic to); having a major power make such a blatant move against another major power (i.e. Hell) should have (to hear them tell it) resulted in some sort of infernal indemnity being demanded.

It's worth noting that Elminster ends up in Hell in the first place due to basically throwing himself into a planar rift in order to seal it. More specifically, we see this happen in the Return of the Archwizards trilogy (though I can't recall precisely which book). That's actually where the basis for this book comes from. Given how that trilogy was written by Troy Denning, I'm honestly curious how the real-world planning for this went. Did WotC mandate that Troy have that happen in his novels, and then told Ed "so we've figured out the premise for your next book"? Or did it happen more organically? I honestly don't know, but it's interesting to consider.
 

FXR

Explorer
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...

Nergal was also used by Howard before that.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#074 Elminster's Daughter by Ed Greenwood (Elminster 5)
Read 31/5/20 to 8/6/20


Forgotten Realms Elminster's Daughter HB NrMINTa.JPG

Book 5- and where to begin, well- by first off asking how is this book the conclusion to a series? But, I guess the series itself is tenuously linked- they're all about Elminster, and yet this seemed to me be more like the start of something- I'll explain as I go on.

There are two or three stories in here, and the links between them are... again, a little tenuous- I get that they overlap but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of input from El (or Narnra) at times, again- let me try to explain.

The stories are-

1) Cormyr is about to enter civil war- or else a bunch of uppity nobles (and others- there's a Red Wizard in there, isn't there always) et al are looking to supplant the present ruling family. So, more or less straight after we get to meet Narnra (daughter of El) the rogue ends up in the middle of the secret meeting to overthrow the royal family- and that's great. Some good El action here, then however- after a fantastic city top chase through Marsember, she gets caught. The Harper hero, the chaser, is too cool for school- so, all is great so far. Then- squiggly lines.

2) Meantime Vangey has gone into hideaway, after the loss of Azoun (I presume, I've skipped ahead- timeline-wise reading this one). Anyway, the crazy mage is out to bind dragons into service of the realm- so, that's playing out in the background too.

3) Lastly there's Narnra's story, as she learns that El is her dad- as cruel and as heartless as he is, the daughters of El (as it turns out) are legion, but that's the finale. This story culminates, while the above two stories are tearing themselves apart, with a pool side father- daughter chat, which is great but... doesn't seem to do anything much but deflect from the climaxes happening elsewhere.

There's a brief moment when Vangey's would-be dragon guardians get to flame and blast Cormyreans of all banners, but other than that stories 1 and 2 don't really overlap- much. Likewise the input of Narnra doesn't much impact upon stores 1 and 2 either, although neither does El (again, much).

So, in my eyes- Narnra is great, but just an observer. El does is thing midway through the book- and it was the hardest part by far to slog through, later (by the pool with his daughter) he's a delight.

Can someone offer me a reasonable explanation as to why El seems to delight in blundering into the GOOD GUYS lair, suffering all manner of attacks and alarms, and never once just telling them who he is- he suffers the storm and then, right at the very end when the good guys are just about out of ideas, he tells them who he is and that he's playing for the home team.

Can someone just get him a laminated badge?

It's not like he's the most recognisable Wizard/person in the realms.

El sucks the phat one.

At times, there- I've said it.

Okay, back to the here and now- there are a few other odd moments to contend with- a pair of Marsembian/Marsemberian dodgy merchants that seem to follow the action- mainly so they can point at it (the action) and we can smirk at their various swoons and devices. They're okay but they seem to have been edited down to a nub, the pair start well- with plenty of page-time and then, they're gone.

There's a Sembian paladin (I'm guessing) that appears at Candlekeep, and then later appears at the climax to do good- by killing a bunch bad to the bone nobles. Why?

Is this the start of another story?

Likewise does Narnra get her story told elsewhere? Because if this is it, then she's been shafted.

So, in conclusion- I liked all three stories well enough, I liked El at the start and the end- but not in the middle. That said the three stories could have been shorter, and not presented as a whole, maybe. It seems stories 1 and 2 could hang together (better) if story 3 wasn't so shoe-horned in. It would have more or less all played out as is without Narnra, all we got to do was to see and hear, and meet her. Or did I miss something?

Read.

Just to say I'm going to give myself a year of this and then I'm going to slow down some more by reading 'real' books either between series, or else if it's a bad patch then between every FR novel. I gave myself ten years to get through this- let's say there are approx. 300 books to read, well- I'm 25% of the way there and we're still in the first year. So, making good time- I figure I may try to relax into it a little more. Maybe then El will be more of a delight.

Stay safe.

Cheers goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I've noticed that Ed likes to mix political intrigue into a lot of his stories. For all of the monsters and power-mad would-be tyrants looking to rule the world or become a god or whatnot, there's quite often some group that is looking to establish a monopoly on a lucrative trading route or move a particular aristocratic family into a position of power. It's something that I actually quite like.

...or at least I would, if it were done better.

The problem, to my mind, is that when you put the machinations of uber-power players (e.g. people who can conceivably bind flights of dragons to their will) on the same stage as people who have to struggle to, say, manipulate local economic forces, it takes some skill not to have the former make the latter look small and inconsequential by comparison. Indeed, this sort of gets tied in to the issues of having low-level characters get involved with the plots of high-level characters; while the disparity in power varies a lot depending on which edition you're playing (and to be fair, Ed seems to want to stick to AD&D 1E, where it was a lot slimmer than in, say, 3E), having characters who are centuries old, command supreme magical power, and regularly consort with gods and fight arch-devils stick their nose into local politics tends to come across like an Olympic swimmer playing in the kiddie pool.

Now, I'm firmly of the opinion that a talented author can make this work, not just in terms of making the smaller-scale aspects relevant, but in terms of making them important (and without resorting to the cliche of providing some small-scale "tipping point" that breaks a deadlock between two greater powers; that always bugged me how providing the 1% effort that pushed things into the endzone, after 99% of the work was done by the other guy, was treated as being somehow just as - or even more - heroic). But that's actually really hard to do, and quite often is contingent on building up a great deal of the setting's infrastructure, showing how it all comes together in order to make it clear what manipulating it actually means in terms of what can be accomplished.

This, however, isn't where Ed Greenwood's skills lie. He much prefers to focus on characters (particularly their emotional sides), along with gonzo magic, rather than political and economic structures. The result is that the high-level characters are essentially babysitting most of the low-level ones when they show up, rather than actually needing them to do something that they, for all their magic and power, can't.
 
Last edited:


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#075 King Pinch by David Cook (Nobles 1)
Read 9/6/20 to 11/6/20


Forgotten Realms King Pinch (Nobles 1) NrMINT.JPG

Well, that's how you do it. In truth if it wasn't for a sudden work landslide then this one would have been started and finished on the same day, or thereabouts. I'm not saying it's a work of genius- what I am saying is it just works, it sets it all up- and is good enough to let you know where it's going in the very first scene. The only scene that I can remember in which our anti-hero (he likes to think) isn't present- and yet it's the scene, more than most, that he absolutely dominates Unsurprisingly it's also the scene that the reader turns to read again a second or two after he or she finishes the novel. That fact makes me think that the author of this one is a smart chap, or at least he knows how to tell a story.

Again, that's not to say that this is a work of genius, it's just great- and in comparison to some of the previous fare then it's an absolute pleasure to read. Three hundred and something pages in which we never leave the side of our protagonist- King Pinch, the rogue with a royal pedigree, as it turns out. Again, the plot is nothing extraordinary, it's the way its told- the degree of intimacy, familiarity that the reader gets a kick out of, or else this reader did.

Ever read The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth? I read it because I was told to... back in the days of yore, it's not my cup-of-tea, not then- not now. What it is however is a tight as a drum, plot perfect, thriller- with enough insider knowledge of spooks and whatever to make you feel like your part of it. Or, at worst, if you had the time it would be the kind of perfectly paced book of its genre that you would be more than capable of knocking off, you'd like to think... to dream.

This is the novel I'd write, not particularly the subject but the style, brio and bluster. I'll just get to it.

So, this one does exactly what it says on the tin (and the cover). There are roguish elements- and they are a delight, there's a blindly loyal factotum, foolish and cruel princes, a holy artefact, a shapely priestess of the light, a lich, a hardcore dwarven bad guy, a quaggoth, and still it's greater than the sum of its parts.

One last time, this isn't a work of genius, it is however a pacey, smart, well-plotted novel which relies on the author's ability to make the reader buy into the deal, you are just along for the journey- enjoy it. It works.

Read, a joy to do so.
 
Last edited:

I read that one a long long time ago, and my main (fuzzy) memory is of dislike of the main character. Not that he was badly written or anything, just that he was written to be so unlikeable and the narrative insisted on reminding us how unscrupulous he was at every opportunity. I had massive trouble caring about or cheering for the guy, but that was a personal impression at the time of course..

I kinda mentally assign this one to TSRs mid-late 90s 'dark and edgy' phase where pop culture was in a state where everyone wore black all the time and Vampire: the Masquerade ruled the RPG roost and comics and video games competed with each other about how much blood and dismembered eyeballs etc they could splash all over the place, etc etc. Anti-heroes were the flavour of the month. It's probably a very broad brush, but I think i assign the this one, and the Erevis Cale books (upcoming!) and the treatment of paladins in Thornhold, and the (also upcoming) deluge of drow-centric books to that broader cultural trend. Which is weird, cos i was entirely into nihilistic grunge and goth music and angry politics at the time, but it those themes never floated my boat when it came to D&D...
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
I read that one a long long time ago, and my main (fuzzy) memory is of dislike of the main character. Not that he was badly written or anything, just that he was written to be so unlikeable and the narrative insisted on reminding us how unscrupulous he was at every opportunity. I had massive trouble caring about or cheering for the guy, but that was a personal impression at the time of course..

I kinda mentally assign this one to TSRs mid-late 90s 'dark and edgy' phase where pop culture was in a state where everyone wore black all the time and Vampire: the Masquerade ruled the RPG roost and comics and video games competed with each other about how much blood and dismembered eyeballs etc they could splash all over the place, etc etc. Anti-heroes were the flavour of the month. It's probably a very broad brush, but I think i assign the this one, and the Erevis Cale books (upcoming!) and the treatment of paladins in Thornhold, and the (also upcoming) deluge of drow-centric books to that broader cultural trend. Which is weird, cos i was entirely into nihilistic grunge and goth music and angry politics at the time, but it those themes never floated my boat when it came to D&D...

But he wasn't uncaring, much- he did a lot of tough-talking, about just abandoning his friends et al (they'd served their purpose, cut them loose- whatever) but when it comes down to it he can't, and he doesn't- that's part of the revelation at the end (for Pinch) at least that's my reading. He talks tough but doesn't follow through- unlike the actual bad people, hence him rescuing Therin from the noose (even before the book starts) and sticking with a drunken Maeve and the greedy halfling Sprite.

Again, just my reading.

Cheers goonalan
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top