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

Goonalan

Legend
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#116 Road of the Patriach by RA Salvatore (Sellswords 3)
Read 25/2/21 to 2/3/21


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Well... that was... I don't think I get it.

This is the first Salvatore novel that I've had my doubts about. It just seems like a bunch of muddled stories that sorta sit together but really don't.

The way I see it there are a bunch of themes/schemes going on here.

I get the first fifty or so pages are an intro to the world of King Gareth and his hearty band of aging ex-adventurers, saviours of the Bloodstone Lands, thwarters of Zhengyi the Witch-King etc. But with lots of voices, and opinions, it just seems a little slow paced to begin with. They're the good guys- got it, Jarlaxle and Artemis are playing at being the good guys... got it. Or however it is you want to categorise the pair's activities.

Then Jarlaxle, with Arty in tow, claims the respawned Castle Perilous, and... that turns out to be a false move- the idea of getting King G and his boys to keep the assassins (Knellict/Timoshenko) at bay, well- that don't play well. Particularly when Arty E goes and upsets the applecart by not doing what he's told.

But, again- I see how we've got here.

Then more chatter until the armies of the good King G take the stage, at which point it becomes obvious (Jarlaxle tells us so) that the hand he has (they have) been dealt, well... bluffing isn't going to work.

By this point Kimmuriel is the voice of reason, King Arty the first is in a blue-funk and really not onboard with things.

Then, well.. we spiral.

Calihye reveals her true colours and... it's time to get the heck out of dodge for the sellswords.

Which brings us, after a bit more chatter, to another story completely- Arty E's need for closure, so to Memnon and ultimately a little quality time with Yinochek, the 'proper' speaker of Selune. Which is great, but a bit after the curtain has already come down.

My point/s are these-

It doesn't hang together very well, there's a bit of this- some fine talk from Jarlaxle, a few words of wisdom from Kimmuriel, with Arty sulking (trying not to explode) in the background. Oh, but Athrogate is groovy, as always- although even he gets a bit of backstory and a repeat of the maudlin times so favoured of anti-heroes.

King Gareth comes out of it as a good guy still, his fellow adventurers likewise are mostly doing the right thing for the right reason, and I'm glad that Olwen didn't go all the way with his desire for revenge.

The half-orcs et al just seem like backdrop.

The dragon sisters likewise, they don't really do anything.

It just all comes to a crescendo and then... well, the sellswords scuttle off tails between their legs. I get that Jarlaxle tries to spin it into a lesson well learned but, it's a bit naff.

It's neither one thing nor the other.

I liked Arty's home visit at the end, but it just seemed like two (or three) stories less seamlessly woven together more just collided.

Again, the writing's good- the characters true to themselves, except perhaps that Jarlaxle is shown in this series (certainly books 1 and 3) to be much more fallible, and Arty even more surly and hateful than ever.

That's okay- I don't mind some of that, all of that, but it just doesn't for me make a whole. It's like the third book with nowhere much to go. So, we do this- set it up, and... it falls apart- but we're two thirds through the novel when it falls apart and suddenly... here's something else.

And I get the flute is doing this to Arty, but why- to what end? Jarlaxle is trying to shape Arty, to make him aware of who/what he is but that's just a bunch of navel-gazing that ultimately (for now) crashes the story.

In truth I devoured the first two thirds of this one in two days, then I just put it down- unconvinced with the sudden(-ish) introduction of the Artemis home-time story. I spent two days harrumphing and scowling on the inside before I picked it up again.

So- read, but a low point IMHO, at least for the great Salvatore- story wasn't up to it.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

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#116 Road of the Patriach by RA Salvatore (Sellswords 3)
Read 25/2/21 to 2/3/21


View attachment 133619

Well... that was... I don't think I get it.

This is the first Salvatore novel that I've had my doubts about. It just seems like a bunch of muddled stories that sorta sit together but really don't.

The way I see it there are a bunch of themes/schemes going on here.

I get the first fifty or so pages are an intro to the world of King Gareth and his hearty band of aging ex-adventurers, saviours of the Bloodstone Lands, thwarters of Zhengyi the Witch-King etc. But with lots of voices, and opinions, it just seems a little slow paced to begin with. They're the good guys- got it, Jarlaxle and Artemis are playing at being the good guys... got it. Or however it is you want to categorise the pair's activities.

Then Jarlaxle, with Arty in tow, claims the respawned Castle Perilous, and... that turns out to be a false move- the idea of getting King G and his boys to keep the assassins (Knellict/Timoshenko) at bay, well- that don't play well. Particularly when Arty E goes and upsets the applecart by not doing what he's told.

But, again- I see how we've got here.

Then more chatter until the armies of the good King G take the stage, at which point it becomes obvious (Jarlaxle tells us so) that the hand he has (they have) been dealt, well... bluffing isn't going to work.

By this point Kimmuriel is the voice of reason, King Arty the first is in a blue-funk and really not onboard with things.

Then, well.. we spiral.

Calihye reveals her true colours and... it's time to get the heck out of dodge for the sellswords.

Which brings us, after a bit more chatter, to another story completely- Arty E's need for closure, so to Memnon and ultimately a little quality time with Yinochek, the 'proper' speaker of Selune. Which is great, but a bit after the curtain has already come down.

My point/s are these-

It doesn't hang together very well, there's a bit of this- some fine talk from Jarlaxle, a few words of wisdom from Kimmuriel, with Arty sulking (trying not to explode) in the background. Oh, but Athrogate is groovy, as always- although even he gets a bit of backstory and a repeat of the maudlin times so favoured of anti-heroes.

King Gareth comes out of it as a good guy still, his fellow adventurers likewise are mostly doing the right thing for the right reason, and I'm glad that Olwen didn't go all the way with his desire for revenge.

The half-orcs et al just seem like backdrop.

The dragon sisters likewise, they don't really do anything.

It just all comes to a crescendo and then... well, the sellswords scuttle off tails between their legs. I get that Jarlaxle tries to spin it into a lesson well learned but, it's a bit naff.

It's neither one thing nor the other.

I liked Arty's home visit at the end, but it just seemed like two (or three) stories less seamlessly woven together more just collided.

Again, the writing's good- the characters true to themselves, except perhaps that Jarlaxle is shown in this series (certainly books 1 and 3) to be much more fallible, and Arty even more surly and hateful than ever.

That's okay- I don't mind some of that, all of that, but it just doesn't for me make a whole. It's like the third book with nowhere much to go. So, we do this- set it up, and... it falls apart- but we're two thirds through the novel when it falls apart and suddenly... here's something else.

And I get the flute is doing this to Arty, but why- to what end? Jarlaxle is trying to shape Arty, to make him aware of who/what he is but that's just a bunch of navel-gazing that ultimately (for now) crashes the story.

In truth I devoured the first two thirds of this one in two days, then I just put it down- unconvinced with the sudden(-ish) introduction of the Artemis home-time story. I spent two days harrumphing and scowling on the inside before I picked it up again.

So- read, but a low point IMHO, at least for the great Salvatore- story wasn't up to it.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
I liked this one more than you did, though I agree with your criticism of the out-of-nowhere final act with Artemis—which I nonetheless sort of liked on its own terms as a Tarantinoesque real-world-issues revenge fantasy. I remember reading an interview with Salvatore about this in which he states the obvious: he was raised Catholic and this part of the book was his response to the Spotlight scandal.

Incidentally, I was flipping through my collection yesterday and realized I should have advised you to read both Salvatore's "That Curious Sword" (from Realms of Shadow) and "Wickless in the Nether" (from Realms of the Dragons) prior to reading Road of the Patriarch, rather than just the second of those two linking stories. The first one covers the duo's arrival in the Bloodstone Lands. Apologies.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I was disappointed with this novel also, though more because no one seemed to do much of anything than because the individual parts didn't gel. These are all high-level (potentially epic-level) characters; when they get involved, things should happen. Instead, it was a bunch of feints that ultimately went nowhere; it's understandable that powerful individuals will be careful in what they do, but while I won't say that having them posture without any substantial follow-up (a few minor skirmishes are the best we get) can't necessarily make for entertaining reading, it didn't here. Everyone was all talk with little follow-through.

It also irritated me that Gareth Dragonbane was apparently vulnerable to the same self-doubts and criticisms that Artemis was working through. Seriously? You'd think that a high-level paladin, who's been through his own epic adventures and been a king for years now, would have dealt with these issues; he should have brushed off those problems, and potentially given Artemis some new insights. Having him go through a bout of "do I really deserve to be a king? Am I really a good person? What does it mean to be a good person?" just made him lack presence.

The part with Artemis going home was...okay. It wasn't really much of anything we hadn't already guessed, if you'd read his backstory in (I think it was) the Realms of Infamy anthology. I suppose him going back and settling scores had that whole "end at the beginning" thing going for it, except that this quite clearly wasn't the end for him. So really, it felt kind of perfunctory; like someone remembering that they'd left the stove on and going back to turn it off.

Needless to say, with my favorite characters in Salvatore's series pretty well played out, my interest in his works rapidly reached its nadir. As I recall, I read the next book (the first in the next trilogy, which was entirely Drizzt-focused), and then put the series down, never having looked back since.
 

tglassy

Adventurer
There’s a point in Salvatores novels, and you’re getting close, where things do seem to wind to a close. They seem to run in circles for a bit. Then WotC tells him they’re switching editions, and he has to fast forward 100 years. That really throws him for a loop, though it’s interesting to see how that plays out.

Then the Companions book comes out, and it really picks up.

But currently, he seems to be in somewhat of a funk again.
 

There’s a point in Salvatores novels, and you’re getting close, where things do seem to wind to a close. They seem to run in circles for a bit. Then WotC tells him they’re switching editions, and he has to fast forward 100 years. That really throws him for a loop, though it’s interesting to see how that plays out.

Then the Companions book comes out, and it really picks up.

But currently, he seems to be in somewhat of a funk again.
For me the low point is the Hunter’s Blades trilogy, which I think is next up in Goonalan’s reading order (next for the Drizzt series anyway). Those books felt very stale to me. They still have their moments, though.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#117 Rising Tide by Mel Odom (Threat from the Sea 1)
Read 8/3/21 to 12/3/21


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Well, I thought that I was going to like this one a lot and... I did.

Don't get me wrong this isn't the subtle internal "duality of man thing... the Jungian thing" that Salvatore is so fond of, it's not great writing (but it's good) as evidenced in plenty of the other books I've read here. It's... a great story, or else a great set up for one because although lots gets done here we've only just got going.

It's obvious in places- that Jherek is going to save the world is obvious from the get-go, that we get to see Laaqueel is great, that she gets to stand next to the big-bad (maybe) as he schemes, and that she's perverse, and twisted, and sooo cool. That's great.

There are a bunch of throw-away archetypes, a spirited virtuous knight (surrogate father)- check, sage elder woman (surrogate mother)- check, one eyed trickster/taker super evil terror- check, good sea captain & bad sailor, terrible fearsome pirate captain (dad), old man bard looking to find his voice/leave his mark, strong and independent woman to love... And, on it goes- but it all just fits together rather nicely though. It took me right back to the start of this journey, it was fast paced, action & adventure, a bit of romance, a bit of... a bit of... It was a great story, well told- with interesting folk that got started out on their own tales- got some air time, but never once did I find myself not wanting to read more to discover what Jherek was up to.

So, ya got me- I'm into it.

And again, as so often in these diatribes, I want to make clear it's when the place and the people come alive, for me- things that I can steal, and know (as the omniscient DM) in my game. I don't know who the Taker/Trickster really is- and I'm not going to look him up, so don't tell me, but I really do want to find out- I have a few guesses. Maybe I wont know the guy? We'll see. But I want (I think) this guy for my game, the same way I want Laaqueel (and the Sahuagin), and I want an attack on a sea port, and I want... but you get me.

This isn't love, this is lust- I want to know more, I want to find more stuff that I can cart away with me for my own game, I want the mechanics of it.

That's it really- it's a little cracker, so far- a bit slow at the outset but easily forgiven because we're playing with the bad folk from the get-go.

Read, and really enjoyed.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

Zardnaar

Legend
For me the low point is the Hunter’s Blades trilogy, which I think is next up in Goonalan’s reading order (next for the Drizzt series anyway). Those books felt very stale to me. They still have their moments, though.

I checked out not to long after that.

The books peaked around The Silent Blade and the Liriel and War of the Spider Queen.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#118 Under Fallen Stars by Mel Odom (Threat Sea 2)
Read 20/3/21 to 25/3/21


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Well, I'm still into this series, although- and already, not quite as much as the last one.

The villains here are great, and I'm a big fan of the sahuagin, they're the drow of the sea, if you get me (sorta). The action with the sea devils is also great, and something I am going to grab for my game- Shhh... but my guys are in Saltmarsh right now. So, I'm having some of these guys for villains.

Likewise I think I'm beginning to appreciate more authors that spend quality time with their villains, maybe because I am reading these books to find out more about the monsters et al that inhabit the land of Faerun. How to play them, how they act, what they say and do, etc.

The stories then are of secondary concern, although in the 118 novels I've read so far there have been a few crackers along the way, but this one- unlike the first one in this series, didn't pick me up and carry me away.

That said this is the middle book (sorta), and so we're travelling places and building the plot/conflict. There's lots of good action here and the tension is ramping up nicely, same with the villains- they're going places, doing bad things, and getting ready for the big finale.

My misgivings with this one however extend beyond the scope and pace of the plot, our hero- he's turned all wobbly-legged, for some daft reason he's beginning to over-think, well- everything. Even when faced by a wall of sage advice, and friendly faces, surrounded by folk that like/love him- he's gone all teenage angst and pouting child. I am of no worth, and it's not even the touchy-feely variant, it's the stroppy mad at the world/mad at myself version- which is very unattractive.

I mean, I get it- but you'd think he'd develop a little more self-awareness as he progressed, and bad things happen, but... also good, he's the hero of the hour however many times over, and yet still. Mwwwaaaarrrgghhh! Time (again) to spit dummy.

So, that wound me up a bit, get some more external threat in if you have to Mr Author, sir. Brooding male tantrums and self-loathing... there must be something better. Something cooler, a little more cocksure (at times) would be nice, I get this is the heroes journey but this one is a lot of one step forward- three steps back, hide under the stairs and internal turmoil (he says).

So, not good when the hero gets all unnecessarily angsty, get back to the fighting- and the villains, bring on the sahuagin (and associated terrors from the depths) your on a winner (with me) with this shtick.

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#119 Realms of the Deep Ed. Philip Athans (Threat Sea 3)
Read 29/3/21 to 31/3/21


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And so some more of the same, we get to see a bunch more underwater (and mostly) sahuagin based action and adventure, this is stuff that's going on during the Threat from the Sea series, and as discerned by a slew of other authors, all with a short story to tell. The trials and tribulations of a variety of other folk that are caught up in the action, and its mostly good- for the simple reason that there's plenty here to steal-read, I dig triton now, and mermen, and few of the other races creatures that swim in the briny deeps.

So, here we go with the stories-

Hard Choices by Lynn Abbey- it's a tough call, and as I am writing this I'#ve not yet made it to the end of this book, but... this is a little cracker. Shemsen is a Malenti, a sahuagin born resembling an aquatic elf, the ultimate spy for his kind. Although Shemsen seems to have gone 'native' he likes some of his companions. But it gets better- Umberlee reaches out to Shemsen and... well, it's just a short story so nothing much, but there's plenty to admire here.

Fire is Fire by Elaine Cunningham- Meat is meat! is how the sahuagin put, just before they consume the corpse of the fallen- kin and foe alike. Fire is fire then is the riposte, this story takes us to Waterdeep where we get to meet Sydon, one of Khelben Arunsun's apprentices, first-hand witness to the bloody attack on the city from the threat from the sea. It's nice to see the action from a different point of view.

Messenger to Seros by Peter Archer-Thraxos the merman is sent to Seros to warn his kind there that the sahuagin are on their way, although... then we get to a magical portal, a precocious six year old girl with nerves of steel- and dead parents, and a wand of Monster Summoning V- or similar, and... It makes me sad, and it doesn't really have an end- I mean, I get it, the great sacrifice but Thraxos gets pushed off center stage about 50% of the way through this one. Not for me.

The Place Where Guards Snore at their Posts by Ed Greenwood- I mean, it's okay, and it feels like the place but the more I read Ed Greenwood stuff the more I notice that it has very many common themes- the foremost, often, being the young buck's love for the princess/unattainable woman. The young buck always has a different way of doing things, as in contrary to whatever assembled authority figures are here for the show... It's obvious how it ends, so I won't bore you with it. The other odd thing is Greenwood's magic seems much more malleable, as always, the wizard's apprentice able to work out how to twiddle his fingers just so in order to cook oysters/bullywugs in their barrels. Silly, as usual.

Lost Cause by Richard Lee Byers- a paladin/knight is sent to Port Llast to help the militiamen, and in particular our guy- the steadfast Sgt. to defend the town from the predations of the crabmen and a giant nasty jellyfish- thralls of the sahuagin. It's a nice little story, the paladin/knight learns his lesson, there's some good action, and... happily (within parameters) ever after.

Forged in Fire by Clayton Emery- Heart of the Lion, semi-retired pirate captain- he's content these days to direct his men- rather getting too close to the action, and his crew take down a cog. Then the real enemy turns up- a Giant Octopus and the sahuagin priestess that controls it. Humanity has to swiftly learn to get on, and to get on with killing the fiends. Nice enough.

One Who Swims with Sekolah by Mel Odom- The story that this book is really here/for/about, Iakhovas, and his priestess Laaqueel get into action, taking down the Sharksbane Wall and picking up yet another magical gew-gaw to add to the 'One Who Swims with Sekolah's' collection. Nice fight with a vodyanoi, but otherwise... it's a dragged out 40-pages that probably should have been one of the other Threat from the Sea books.

The Crystal Reef by Troy Denning- is semi beautiful and terrible at the same time, a short treatise about all that is wrong with war/conflict, particularly the exported variety in which far off kings/rulers/generals draw lines on maps and then try to enforce the same. A sad tale this one, slightly in convention with the rest of the stories here, and all the better for it.

The Patrol by Larry Hobbs- Riordan (heart of gold, probably) needs to learn a few things, and to be accepted, by his fellow recruits in the Cimbar watch, it also doesn't help that he's living in the shadow of his venerated father. So, a soldiers tale in which the value of a number of things are scrutinised over the course of the adventure, and they all lived happily(-ish) ever-after. Nice, but no prize.

Star of Tethyr by Thomas M. Red- Merrick- much like in the last one (what is it with neophyte's learning to do the right thing- and well, it's definitely a theme here). Anyway, Merrick is learning his place aboard ship, encounters with sahuagin and dragon turtles in the wake of all the bad stuff going down in the threat from the sea. More of the same- but this time we're in Thordentor Island. Nice action.

Persana's Blade by Steven E. Schend- a cracking little short story, although it seems to drift at the end. Another chance to see yet more undersea races facing up to the terror that is the threat from the sea.

And the Dark Tide Rises by Keith Francis Strohm- And a strong finish, the writing in this one is a step up, and the tale suitably dark and foreboding. The love interest is a little odd, but... you can forgive it. Morgan's story serves as ideal motivation, a PC backstory- that's how I started, on my quest to change the world.

Read- and much better than many of the other collections for the simple reason that all of the stories, no matter how tenuous the link, show some part of the unfolding terror that is the threat from the sea. In many of the other collections- realms of valor, magic, underdark etc. then the stories are simply joined by some totemic theme. With this bunch the ongoing situation is palpable, and for perhaps the first time it makes all of the stories seem much more coherent- part of the same milieu, whereas in other collections... well, some of them seemed to be just the Christmas book anthology/collection = payday.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 
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