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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
#053 Red Magic by Jean Rabe (Harpers 3)
Read 22/2/20 to 26/2/20


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I didn't like it.

Searched this thread for this book since aside from the Drizzt books and the Time of Troubles trilogy this was the only FR book I remember reading - not even sure how it came into my hands or if I read it when it came out or years later. . . (In many ways the 90s are a blur). But just wanted to say, it may not have been a very good book, but I stole liberally from it for my own campaign at the time - including the dwarven slaves who could not speak common, were chained together, and assumed the PCs who bought them (to eventually set them free) were slavers themselves and did everything they could to interfere with whatever the PCs tried to do in their presence.
 

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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#111 The Spine of the World by RA Salvatore (Paths Darkness 2)
Read 8/1/21 to 10/1/21


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Well, I mean... that's odd. I guess.

So, and keep in mind I don't read the blurb on the back of the book I just dive right in- I'm reading all of these, so the blurb isn't going to sell me anything that I've not already bought. So, two stories-

#1 Poor Wulfgar beset (tortured) by dark memories of Errtu, the barbarian haqving wandered off from his friends ends up getting a job as a bouncer in the less salubrious part of Luskan. meantime he crawls into a bottle, makes a few friends and many more enemies and generally feels sorry for himself a lot of the while.

That's not to say that the hunk of tough's story isn't sympathetic- but, it meanders for a good while, and some of this is great because we also get to meet Morik the Rogue, and explore Luskan, and much later get into the Prisoners' Carnival, which Cannibal Holocaust style nasty.

So, loved Luskan as a destination, but grew bored with Wulfgar failing to engage in the real and repeatedly burning all his bridges. But I get it, but sympathy at times is elusive.

Particularly as lots of other good people are trying to pick Wulfgar up, and make him see that there's more ahead of him. Even Morik turns a corner (I think) by the end of the novel. Wulfgar is certainly lovable, as anti-heroes go, but he's also a lunk (with good reason) but it goes on. I guess you have to get real low before you can crawl back up from the floor.

Meantime, story #2- Meralda the beautiful peasant espied by the local Lord, she has to reconcile her love for another with the fact that he family need her to marry the toff, her mother's dying and only with money for an expensive priest can they save> Lots of nice characters to meet, back at the farm and in the Lord's castle, all with their foibles and ways and means but, it's exciting but hardly fantasy fiction swords and sandals. Its also a bit pedestrian.

Obviously at the back end these two worlds collide, and Wulfgar gets his mojo back- didn't see that coming, but- it drags, or else it meanders and I get that goes all of the places it does but- Wulfgar is part annoying, part intrigue and action (and lots of good background info for Luskan). While Meralda is much more worthy, and heroic in a different way but, the link is tenuous, and the telling of Meralda's story (in its entirety) seems a little indulgent.

The over-arching Drizzt chapter/book voice overs seem to compound the misery a little, again it sounds a lot like Kung Fu (the TV series) with short philosophical precis of what follows or has come to pass. It's a bit constructed, doesn't seem natural.

It's a story about Wulfgar, with not enough content to make a book- and so, enter Meralda.

Don't get me wrong- I am sympathetic to Meralda's plight but it feels like a different (short) story that has been levered in because the rinse and repeat bad-Wulfgar action would be tireless without it. There's only so many times you can scream at Wulfgar- "Just work it out you big bloody Jessie!"

I wanted more Drizzt, and Bruenor, and Catti, and... but no- this is Wulfgar's story, and there's not enough of it to fill a book (or so it seems).

Just to caveat all of the above, I read the book in 2-3 days- so, can't have been all that bad. My objection is not with the writing, but the content- and only on reflection, I quite liked reading Meralda's story, in many ways it was better than Wulfie's, but not really what I was expecting/hoping for. I guess.

Oh, and a last thought- why call it The Spine of the World, it seems so tenuous, sure there's a bit of action in the region, and we're located thereabouts for a while but... it sounds all action-Jackson and then disappoints. I get that at the end Wulfie seems to think that north of the Spine is home and hearth, while south of it is only trouble but... surely, that's not enough. Did I miss something?

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers Goonalan.
 

This is an odd one indeed. I have fond memories of it, though.

By this point in the Drizzt series a formula has definitely been established, for better or for worse (for example the previous novel sticks to the formula and is nonetheless really great; but some of them are very predictable and boring). The Spine of the World is the first book in the series that strongly diverges from the formula. While it's not a superlative achievement, nonetheless in my opinion it's an example of trying something new and half-succeeding, which is admirable.

I think of it along the lines of "that episode" of a great, long-running TV show where instead of giving you what you've gotten used to, the showrunners experiment and do something weird, or at least unexpected for that show, and it kind of works even though you never would have grown to care about the show in the first place if they were all like this. But it's not bad, and when you look back on the season that's the only episode you can correctly identify.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
#111 The Spine of the World by RA Salvatore (Paths Darkness 2)
Read 8/1/21 to 10/1/21


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Well, I mean... that's odd. I guess.
That really sums it up for me. I couldn't agree more with regards to this one.

To be fair, I get why Salvatore had this go the way he did. Wulfgar was in a very bad place, which means you can't really gloss that over without inadvertently making light of it. "He was so traumatized by what happened, it took him an entire ten pages to deal with it!" is the sort of thing people make fun of. But going the other way is just...a lot.

Similarly, having him eventually come out of it by stepping up and helping someone who needed it requires that you build something up with regard to who it is he's helping and why they require his help. The same way Wulfgar can't just shrug his problem off, it can't be that he just adopts a puppy or purchases a local orphan either. We, the audience, need to be invested in the characters he's helping. But that requires that we then get a lot of material on who these otherwise-unimportant people are and the problems they're having...and it felt that way.

Salvatore ultimately leaned toward treating the entire subject of Wulfgar's rehabilitation too heavy, rather than too light. And while I can understand why he did that, and recognize that he did a good job of it, I'd have preferred that he struck more of a balance rather than going toward the less-bad extreme.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#112 Servant of the Shard by RA Salvatore (Paths Dark 3 + Sellswords 1)
Read 18/1/21 to 23/1/21


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Well, I kinda went back and forth with this one- when I first picked up it up I went racing into it, thinking I was not going to be able to put it down, and then something happened, or else... the grip just loosened. Don't get me wrong there's loads to love here, and remember I'm coming at this from the POV of a Faerun outsider (or else I was) and a DM. I want to find out stuff that I didn't know, and can then use in my game to make me sound even more omniscient, it's all about the ego. Kidding.

So, loved Calimport, and Tiggerwillies is a hoot, the master assassin's halfling confident; and I realise we've been here before in the earlier Drizzt novels, but it felt like more in this one- and better laid out. This is how this works, and this... lots for me to file away. Same again with regard the high level players- and they're all here- Entreri, Jarlaxle, Rai-guy, Kimmuriel, another Baenre prodigy, an Illithid (with moxy), later an ancient red dragon, oh... and Cadderly, and Danica, and the Bouldershoulder brothers (was that their name?) Pikel and the other one (Ivan?).

And I love cosying up with these guys, to see what they do and how they do it- the spells, the psionics etc.

Oh, and of course, then there's the Crystal Shard.

Loved it.

But at times the action seemed a little more about the endless- we're all evil and so therefore out to do each other over, all of the time- and I get that the Crystal Shard has everyone's ear, whispering its hate, and dreams of power.

But, if this is the evil team- made heroes, which it is (I figure), then these poor buggers are going to have to really go some to get through each and every day- when everyone's your enemy then, even the folk you sometimes reckon are your best friends... well, it must be tiring. I'd be knackered all of the time. It's no wonder major-villains seem so overpowered, so evolved, its very much survival of the fittest.

But (again), that just makes me think that evil is bound to fail, it lacks cohesion- ultimately is selfish, and therefore- well, as long as the good guys are committed to dying for each other then... it's a win.

Or something like that.

Also, it dragged a bit, and the final stealing of the Crystal Shard by Entreri was... easy, simple, over too quick. Not a lot of jeopardy- not compared to the trials and tribulations of everyday staying alive amongst your so-called friends.

Likewise the dragon run at the end with Cadderly was a little, I don't know- tacked on.

Again, that's not to say that I didn't think this one was great (for the reasons already given) but the story just left me thinking less of some of the villains, and more about what bits I would steal for my game, rather than how great it was.

You might as well have thrown a magic ring into a mountain filled with liquid fire.

Read.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Once again, I'm struggling to distinguish this one from the books that followed it. As I recall, however, this was a welcome change from the previous book, to the point where it seemed like the ice cream you get when you finish all of your broccoli. That might be overstating it, mostly because I recall already having grown tired of the Cleric Quintet crew horning in on the action; by contrast, I agree that newcomer Dwahvel Tiggerwillies is a lot of fun.

This is where we got the start of the Artemis and Jarlaxle "buddy cop" vibe, which would continue for a while and which I thoroughly enjoyed. Largely that's because of what I mentioned before, about those characters (particularly Entreri) still having a plausible path for character growth ahead of them, whereas Drizzt and crew seemed like they'd reached the apex of their moral development. Villains are always more interesting, amirite?

I'll spoiler this next bit for anyone who hasn't read the book yet and wants to:

What's up with Salvatore's consistent use of the breath weapon from an ancient red dragon being a force so potent that it can destroy artifacts? It's the second time we've seen him use that particular trope (the first being the ghearufu from the Cleric Quintent), with an artifact that has no special relationship to dragons or fire, and it makes me think that he's bringing some personal interpretation of the potency of ancient dragons to the proverbial table.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#113 Sea of Swords by RA Salvatore (Paths Darkness 4)
Read 27/1/21 to 30/1/21


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So, here we go again, and... it's like the first one of this series, the best of the Companions of the Hall, and with added pirates- Yaaaaar!

What's not to like, and discount the fact that it took me four days to read this, I've been busy- it doesn't happen often, if I could have got a run at it I would have devoured this one in a day.

I'll not repeat the semi-praise I heaped on the first book of the series here, except to say it applies to this one- they're very similar. You get the feeling that Salvatore had the start and the finish fleshed out and then needing/wanting to get the four book deal in- well, took a snaking meander through episodes 2 & 3.

Here's the new thing which I have observed, when you go somewhere with Salvatore then the place, it's more than just a backdrop- it has character, and edges. I'm a 100+ books in to this epic journey and yet the places (as a GM) I'd love to go (and take my players) well, most of 'em are Salvatore inspired FTW. Menzo, Luskan, Mithril Hall, Ten Towns, Calimport, etc. they all come alive in these novels.

To be clear, when I'm GMing and my players are taking their first strides into city X on the Sword Coast- then I've got a map, and a web page up in front of me, and perhaps I've done a bit a background reading- just so I can sound more knowledgeable than I actually am. But having visited and stayed in places courtesy of Salvatore, I feel like I've got a lot more mood for the environ, certainly a bit more of an appreciation of the underbelly for each location- basically the semi-naughty places the PCs always want to go.

The PCs in my present campaign will no doubt be heading to Luskan some time in the future, well they'll be drinking in The Cutlass, and will definitely be around to see the Prisoners' Carnival, same-ways when they get their own boat then one of the folk that they're going to come across is Deudermont.

Even the ancillary characters are worth remembering, their as flavour-packed (at times) as the heroes of the feast. As are the enemies- some lovely hot Ogre action in this one, although- in truth, the pirate ending wasn't as fun-packed as I quite hoped, still good. Sheila's gang could perhaps have had a little more air time, and fingers-crossed she's coming back (I hope she didn't die in the icy water).

The thing is, it seems to me, for the most part the Salvatore novels are just feasts of fun- the reader is royally entertained by the heroes, the villains, the plot (such as it is), the secondary characters, the places, the travel, and... what I'm saying is there's always a lot to like. Some of the other authors here seem to serve thinner slices, and are more likely to present characters (or action) that just doesn't seem in keeping with what I have already learned, or know, about Faerun. Some of the others seem a little more lightweight, or else silly in comparison.

I'm heading for the Sellswords novels next, so- no worries, more of the same please mister, here's hoping.

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers Goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This book was pretty well where Drizzt's ride ended for me. I say "pretty well" because I did read a few more books in the series ("what wacky adventures will Entreri and Jarlaxle have now?"), but while I did make myself read Drizzt's next outing in The Thousand Orcs, this book was what convinced me he had no real growth left as a character.

To be fair, that's not exactly unexpected. By this point he'd had over a dozen novels where he'd grappled with his personal demons, sometimes taking a beating while doing so but never being truly defeated by them. Overcoming the pathos of a painful past, and relentless prejudice, makes it hard to keep creating internal conflict for the character (even if external conflict comes easy; this is D&D, after all). While I know later books try to dredge up such problems in the form of more personal issues (i.e. family), this book's attempt to renew Drizzt's self-doubt by having a specter of his past come back to haunt him just seemed...not so much hollow, but rather artificial, to me.

The need for the author to keep poking Drizzt in the soul was simply too transparent here, in other words. It's like seeing Batman continually brood over the death of his parents. At some point you just want to scream "get over it, already!" But that's simply not possible; suffering - or in Drizzt's case, stoicism in the face of hardship - has become an integral part of the character. They'd stop being who we know if they were ever to actually move on.
 
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Hot tip: before you start on Promise of the Witch-king, read “Wickless in the Nether,” Salvatore’s short story found in Realms of the Dragons vol. 1. It sets up elements of the situation in that novel. Actually, even if you already started Promise, it might be worth pausing long enough to read the short story, assuming you have a copy of RotD handy.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Hot tip: before you start on Promise of the Witch-king, read “Wickless in the Nether,” Salvatore’s short story found in Realms of the Dragons vol. 1. It sets up elements of the situation in that novel. Actually, even if you already started Promise, it might be worth pausing long enough to read the short story, assuming you have a copy of RotD handy.

RotD has proved to be one of the hardest books to get hold of so far, and it's on its way from the states right now- message to say they posted it yesterday- the books usually take a couple of weeks to make it across the pond.

Also remember I am reading a 'normal' book between each new FR novel, so I'll not start #114 Promise of the Witch King until a week from now, or thereabouts.

Keep in mind I'm also trying to do this without breaking the bank, if you head back to the first page you can see the route I am taking through these books, reproduced below, if they're crossed through then I have yet to get my hands on them-

#114 Promise of the Witch King by RA Salvatore (Sellswords 2)
#115 Road of the Patriach by RA Salvatore (Sellswords 3)

#116 Rising Tide by Mel Odom (Threat Sea 1)
#117 Under Fallen Stars by Mel Odom (Threat Sea 2)

#118 Realms of the Deep Anthology Ed. Philip Athans (Threat Sea 3)

#119 The Sea Devil's Eye by Mel Odom (Threat Sea 4)

#120 The Glass Prison by Monte Cook

#121 Baldur's Gate by Philip Athans (Baldur's Gate 1)
#122 Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn by Philip Athans (Baldur's Gate 2)
#123 Baldur's Gate II: The Throne of Bhaal by Drew Karpyshyn (Baldur's Gate 3)

#124 Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters by Ed Greenwood

#125 The Magehound by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 1)
#126 The Floodgate by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 2)
#127 The Wizardwar by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 3)

#128 The Halls of Stormweather Ed. Philip Athans (Sembia 1)
#129 Shadow's Witness by Paul S Kemp (Sembia 2)
#130 The Shattered Mask by Richard Lee Byers (Sembia 3)
#131 Black Wolf by Dave Gross (Sembia 4)
#132 Heirs of Prophecy by Lisa Smedman (Sembia 5)
#133 Sands of the Soul by Voronica Whitney-Robinson (Sembia 6)
#134 Lord of Stormweather by Dave Gross (Sembia 7)

#135 The City of Ravens by Richard Baker (Cities 1)
#136 Temple Hill by Drew Karpyshyn (Cities 2)
#137 The Jewel of Turmish by Mel Odom (Cities 3)
#138 The City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel by Ed Greenwood & Elaine Cunningham (Cities 4)

#139 The Summoning by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 1)
#140 The Siege by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 2)
#141 The Sorcerer by Troy Denning (Return Archwizards 3)

#142 Realms of Shadow Anthology Ed. Lizz Baldwin (Return Archwizards 4)

#143 Dissolution by Richard Lee Byers (War Spider Queen 1)
#144 Insurrection by Thomas M Reid (War Spider Queen 2)
#145 Condemnation by Richard Baker (War Spider Queen 3)
#146 Extinction by Lisa Smedman (War Spider Queen 4)
#147 Annihilation by Philip Athans (War Spider Queen 5)
#148 Resurrection by Paul S Kemp (War Spider Queen 6)

#149 The Thousand Orcs by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 1)
#150 The Lone Drow by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 2)
#151 The Two Swords by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 3)

#152 Twilight Falling by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 1)
#153 Dawn of Night by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 2)
#154 Midnight's Mask by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 3)

#155 The Alabaster Staff by Edward Bolme (Rogues 1)
#156 The Black Bouquet by Richard Lee Byers (Rogues 2)
#157 The Crimson Gold by Voronica Whitney-Robinson (Rogues 3)
#158 The Yellow Silk by Don Bassingthwaite (Rogues 4) E

#159 Venom's Taste by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 1)
#160 Viper's Kiss by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 2)
#161 Vanity's Brood by Lisa Smedman (Serpents 3)

#162 The Rage by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 1)

#163 Realms of the Dragons Ed. Philip Athans (Rogue Dragons 2) AE

#164 The Rite by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 3)

#165 Realms of the Dragons II Ed. Philip Athans (Rogue Dragons 4) E

#166 The Ruin by Richard Lee Byers (Rogue Dragons 5)

#167 Lady of Poison by Bruce R Cordell (Priests 1) E
#168 Mistress of the Night by Dave Gross & Don Bassingthwaite (Priests 2)
#169 Maiden of Pain by Kameron M Franklin (Priests 3) E
#170 Queen of the Depths by Richard Lee Byers (Priests 4) E

#171 Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 1)
#172 Farthest Reach by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 2)

#173 Realms of the Elves Ed Philip Athans (Last Mythal 3) AE

#174 Final Gate by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 4)

#175 The Sapphire Crescent by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 1)
#176 The Ruby Guardian by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 2) E
#177 The Emerald Sceptre by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 3) E

#178 Master of Chains by Jess Lebow (Fighters 1)
#179 Ghostwalker by Eric Scott de Bie (Fighters 2) E
#180 Son of Thunder by Murray JD Leeder (Fighters 3)
#181 Bladesinger by Keith Francis Strohm (Fighters 4)

#182 Whisper of Waves by Philip Athans (Watercourse 1) E
#183 Lies of Light by Philip Athans (Watercourse 2) E
#184 Scream of Stone by Philip Athans (Watercourse 3) E

#185 Dragons: Worlds Afire Anthology by Various

#186 Blackstaff by Steve E Schend (Wizards 1)
#187 Bloodwalk by James P Davis (Wizards 2) E
#188 Darkvision by Bruce R Cordell (Wizards 3) E
#189 Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt (Wizards 4) E

#190 Swords of Eveningstar by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 1)
#191 Swords of Dragonfire by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 2) AE
#192 The Sword Never Sleeps by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 3) AE

#193 Shadowbred by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 1) AE
#194 Shadowstorm by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 2)

#195 Realms of War Ed Philip Athans (Twilight War 3) AE

#196 Shadowrealm by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 4) E

#197 Sacrifice of the Widow by Lisa Smedman (Lady Penitent 1) E
#198 Storm of the Dead by Lisa Smedman (Lady Penitent 2) E
#199 Ascendancy of the Last by Lisa Smedman (Lady Penitent 3) E

#200 Depths of Madness by Erik Scott de Bie (Dungeons 1) E
#201 The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson (Dungeons 2) E
#202 Stardeep by Bruce R Cordell (Dungeons 3) E
#203 Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones (Dungeons 4) E

#204 Unclean by Richard Lee Byers (Haunted Lands 1)
#205 Undead by Richard Lee Byers (Haunted Lands 2)
#206 Unholy by Richard Lee Byers (Haunted Lands 3)

#207 The Gossamer Plain by Thomas M Reid (Empyrean Odyssey 1)
#208 The Fractured Sky by Thomas M Reid (Empyrean Odyssey 2)
#209 The Crystal Mountain by Thomas M Reid (Empyrean Odyssey 3)


#210 The Orc King by RA Salvatore (Transitions 1)
#211 The Pirate King by RA Salvatore (Transitions 2)
#212 The Ghost King by RA Salvatore (Transitions 3)

#213 Neversfall by Ed Gentry (Citadels 1)
#214 Obsidian Ridge by Jess Lebow (Citadels 2)
#215 The Shield of Weeping Ghosts by James P Davis (Citadels 3)
#216 Sentinelspire by Mark Sehestedt (Citadels 4)

#217 The Swordmage by Richard Baker (Blades Moonsea 1)
#218 Corsair by Richard Baker (Blades Moonsea 2)
#219 Avenger by Richard Baker (Blades Moonsea 3)

#220 The Stowaway by RA & Geno Salvatore (Stone Tymora 1)
#221 The Shadowmask by RA & Geno Salvatore (Stone Tymora 2)
#222 The Sentinels by RA & Geno Salvatore (Stone Tymora 3)


#223 Blackstaff Tower by Steven E Schend (Waterdeep 1)
#224 Mistshore by Jaleigh Johnson (Waterdeep 2)
#225 Downshadow by Erik Scott de Bie (Waterdeep 3)
#226 City of the Dead by Rosemary Jones (Waterdeep 4)
#227 The God Catcher by Erin M Evans (Waterdeep 5)
#228 Circle of Skulls by James P Davis (Waterdeep 6)


Any help getting my hands on the missing novels greatfully received.

Cheers goonalan
 

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