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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
Supporter
#124 Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters by Ed Greenwood
Read 3/5/21 to 7/5/21


IMG_2775.JPG


I want to say something nice, I'm going to say something nice- it's his world, Ed Greenwood made all of this stuff way back when, and so every word of it is the things that are here, in Faerun- their legit, absolutely canon, I guess. The name's of the roads, the streets, the businesses, the people, the places, the drinks, the drugs, the gangs, the... all of it is real. That's good, great at times. Authentic for someone, like me, who wants to DM his PCs in Faerun, this is the kind of stuff I need to/want to know.

So, that's good.

The story is okay, as far as it goes. Some of the villains, again- plenty of insights here and there into the middle management of the Zhent/Red Wizards, also a brief glimpse of the mad mage- Halister. All good.

The rest of it, oh I don't know.

Is it okay?

Female fantasy heroes, that must be good... right? Right?

But all seems a little Spice Girls, screaming Girl Power while being dressed very specifically for the male gaze- something short, something transparent, something that leaves little to the imagination.

Likewise the sisters, the most of them, use sex as a tool- and that's good too, because men- writing about men, and women, have been doing it for years in every other medium.

It's odd though- the male figures are fawning, or else ensorcelled by the sisters, or else... well they're just walk on acts. Which again is no bad thing- Girl Power, and all that- and perhaps the sister's overt sexuality, and their ability to manipulate men through the same is a good thing.

Are they just femme fatale's, luring men to the light (rather than the more usual dark) side.

I'm not sure what it is about Greenwood's book but they sometimes (like this one) drive me crazy- I want to soak up all of the Faerun backstory, I want to celebrate strong female heroes in popular fantasy fiction, I want to... but that's not the thing that I am left with.

It all, at times, feels a little seedy/dirty, even when it's trying to be natural, or rather au naturale.

There was a comedian back in my youth called Kenny Everett, one of the characters he played was called Cupid Stunt, and keep in mind Mr. Everett was a slight bearded man, dressed in a whore's dress, with big hair, bad make-up, and wearing stockings. The final line of his routine as Cupid would inevitably be some version of the following-

"And then all of my clothes fell off! But it was all done in the best possible taste!"

That's the feeling some of Mr. Greenwood's books leave me with.

Oh, and isn't the (Qilue) Laeral chapter (set in Skullport) very similar, a large chunk of it, to 'A Slow Day in Skullport', in the Realms of the Underdark anthology.

Read.
 

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Richards

Legend
Ha! I remember watching "The Kenny Everett Show" on PBS when I was young. I distinctly recall the "Captain Kremmen" cartoons. Good stuff - I haven't thought about him in a long time. Thanks for the sudden expected nostalgia!

Johnathan
 

I just remember some Ed Greenwood book where the heroine losing her clothing was a literal running gag, commented on by the other characters. You probably already read that one somewhere back in the thread.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#125 The Magehound by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 1)
Read 12/5/21 to 15/5/21


IMG_2777.JPG


I didn't like it, and there's two more of these to go.

But here's the thing- it's well written, twisty-turny (a bit) plot-wise and gets to where it needs to go, although... forgive me but I got to where it was going maybe less than twenty pages in, and I was proven correct, but I guess the more of these you/I read the easier at times it is to divine.

Or else it's just very obvious.

I don't like Halruaa, it's not my version of D&D- the mundanity of magic, shrugs- so mundane in fact the Halruaans need a breeding programme to come up with the Counsellor's.

The Counsellor's by the way are bred for the strength of their mind (and immunity to/lack of magic), their logic, and their ability to therefore be tactically aware at all times- accounting for every factor, they're like Spock/Data/Mentats- although with a tiny bit more humanity/emotion.

That, of course, is the problem with our Counsellor- Matteo, he's going to get emotional, involved, rather than an onlooker. Although, a majority of the good (and bad) Halruaan folk we meet have also let their emotions get involved, and in particular the Magehound from the title- Kiva.

Magic is power here in Halruaa, and Wizard kings (and Lords & Ladies) are the order of the day- and everyone else? Well, they can just keep their heads down, or else pick the crumbs that fall from the lordly tables, or are they all just living the good life? It's a dystopia, right? Then how come we barely get to see this? Halruaa comes across to me like some version of the Matrix, meets Dune (for the breeding programme & Mentats) with a Bladerunner (Do Androids etc.) side-salad.

And yet it takes two thirds of the book before we get to meet someone who's not happy with their lot- as it turns out this person is Matteo's mother, who had her magic drained and her ability to conceive more/normal children taken from her the moment she gave birth to him.

Dystopia, right?

But there's none of this, everyone we meet is well-off, or well-adjusted/skilled/adept, and doing okay thank you very much.

I get that the book's not trying to do that kind of thing (dystopia), although it hints at it plenty, but it's just the story of some nice people- Matteo & Tzigone, who discover that they've either been living a lie (and they're supposed to be bound by the truth- oh, the irony), or else their search for the truth- which although enlightening, brings little else in the way of reward.

But this one could be the start of something, payback could come later- so, I'll reserve judgement.

It must also be said that there's very little fighting/action (call it what you will) in this one, not even a lot of edge or fear, or terror- the main characters are more or less immune. Matteo is so silver-tongued, and smart, that although he frets (a little) he always rolls near to the natural '20'.

Tzigone is rolling '20's throughout, and she knows all of the answers anyway- even when she chooses not to tell Matteo them, she lets us know- so, that's a little more of the tension dissolved.

But again, it's well written- and ticks a lot of boxes, it's just not grim or perilous, it's not a place I want to take my players- Halruaa, and its politics and politicking is fun- for a bit, but it all seems a bit of a waste of time.

At the end I just thought, so what- I picked all of this stuff (more or less) out of the prologue.

I came out of it not even liking Skyships, and that's mad. I love(d) the idea of Skyships- never had one in my game (in nearly 40 years of GMing) but the potential was always there, until now.

Sulks.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
I actually really like those types of dystopias, where the reader recognizes it as dystopia, but most of the people living in it are happy with the system. We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin is one of my favorites.

I find them more interesting than dystopias which are maintained by force by obviously evil people, and the solution is just to kill or rebel against the evil people.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
I actually really like those types of dystopias, where the reader recognizes it as dystopia, but most of the people living in it are happy with the system. We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin is one of my favorites.

I find them more interesting than dystopias which are maintained by force by obviously evil people, and the solution is just to kill or rebel against the evil people.

I guess I'd not considered that, and now that I am I like the novel (slightly) more, but again- I'd want to see it, so the perfect world beyond that of the rich and fabulous would need to be seen, at least a little more.

Part of the thing here is there's a lot of hinting about the nature of Halruaa but the author just confines herself to those involved in the narrative, so I can't see much of the background, and certainly none (very very little) of what's going on beneath the surface. At least with regard to the everyday folk that inhabit this strange 'magic-blessed' world.

I promise I'll check out We, by Zamyatin- I'll try and grab a copy from somewhere.

Thanks for getting involved.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers Paul
 

Dire Bare

Legend
#124 Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters by Ed Greenwood
Read 3/5/21 to 7/5/21


View attachment 136590

I want to say something nice, I'm going to say something nice- it's his world, Ed Greenwood made all of this stuff way back when, and so every word of it is the things that are here, in Faerun- their legit, absolutely canon, I guess. The name's of the roads, the streets, the businesses, the people, the places, the drinks, the drugs, the gangs, the... all of it is real. That's good, great at times. Authentic for someone, like me, who wants to DM his PCs in Faerun, this is the kind of stuff I need to/want to know.

So, that's good.

The story is okay, as far as it goes. Some of the villains, again- plenty of insights here and there into the middle management of the Zhent/Red Wizards, also a brief glimpse of the mad mage- Halister. All good.

The rest of it, oh I don't know.

Is it okay?

Female fantasy heroes, that must be good... right? Right?

But all seems a little Spice Girls, screaming Girl Power while being dressed very specifically for the male gaze- something short, something transparent, something that leaves little to the imagination.

Likewise the sisters, the most of them, use sex as a tool- and that's good too, because men- writing about men, and women, have been doing it for years in every other medium.

It's odd though- the male figures are fawning, or else ensorcelled by the sisters, or else... well they're just walk on acts. Which again is no bad thing- Girl Power, and all that- and perhaps the sister's overt sexuality, and their ability to manipulate men through the same is a good thing.

Are they just femme fatale's, luring men to the light (rather than the more usual dark) side.

I'm not sure what it is about Greenwood's book but they sometimes (like this one) drive me crazy- I want to soak up all of the Faerun backstory, I want to celebrate strong female heroes in popular fantasy fiction, I want to... but that's not the thing that I am left with.

It all, at times, feels a little seedy/dirty, even when it's trying to be natural, or rather au naturale.

There was a comedian back in my youth called Kenny Everett, one of the characters he played was called Cupid Stunt, and keep in mind Mr. Everett was a slight bearded man, dressed in a whore's dress, with big hair, bad make-up, and wearing stockings. The final line of his routine as Cupid would inevitably be some version of the following-

"And then all of my clothes fell off! But it was all done in the best possible taste!"

That's the feeling some of Mr. Greenwood's books leave me with.

Oh, and isn't the (Qilue) Laeral chapter (set in Skullport) very similar, a large chunk of it, to 'A Slow Day in Skullport', in the Realms of the Underdark anthology.

Read.
Greenwood has a reputation for . . . not writing women very well. And being creepy about it.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#126 The Floodgate by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 2)
Read 22/5/21 to 25/5/21


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I appreciate this is all IMHO but it's difficult at times to figure what to say for the best. It's not like I wanna be 'liked' here but... clearly Elaine Cunningham is a very good writer, and in parts its a thrill ride- a page-turner, but even at the end... I just don't get it.

And make way for the caveats- it's not my form of D&D, it's more posh/privileged folk intriguing and running around a lot, it's not grim or perilous (sorry I'm on a G&P kick right now), its epic magic, with epic wizards, and logic-robot-folk being smart and clever.

In places it's a character pile-on, with fifteen active voices (or else people we need to listen to) and all of them have a half a thing to say that twists the dial and makes the story just a little bit different (maybe) than the story we had in our heads thirty seconds earlier.

And I love this kind of intrigue, normally, but here- because that's all there is at times- vast swathes of character A talking to character B (then character C, J, X1 etc.) and then the author spends another half page telling us (or character !W) how that changes things. And for all of the heavy potting, investigating, discovery et al then still it relies on a magical medallion (or two) getting picked up, looking exactly like another medallion, getting copied, getting stolen- being wedged in boots, and then falling out of said boots and back into the hands of the bad guy.

Oh, but the bad guy- Kiva, best thing in it- evil as, although at the end she'll probably turn out to be a hero (of sorts) or else have a very good reason for it all, or else she'll save the day.

But you get me- I don't dig Halruaa (if it was in my world then it would have to go, and BANG!), there's very little action here (and what there is of it is cursory, and sue me- I like action) just snippets in-between vast swathes of plot- everywhere Matteo & Tzigone goes there's a secret something or a new bit of what-not to be found. The clues/plot-threads et al are legion, they're everywhere.

Oh and Matteo & Tzigone are still untouchable, which I get, but they never feel like they're in any danger- even when it's obvious that they are (right now) in danger. The pair are also likeable, it's the rest of the stuff going on around them that makes me want to scream (at times).

Andris is just odd, I get why he said he went after Kiva, but... I don't get why he said he went after Kiva.

Odder still- there's nothing to Kiva (that I can see) that inspires fealty/devotion/loyalty. Kiva will do whatever is expedient to get to where she needs to be- everything and everyone is expendable (including Kiva). Likewise, she will say whatever needs to be said in that moment to get what she wants (or else she'll find a way of twisting her words, or bringing new meaning to them later). There is no grey area here, not with Kiva.

Kiva is not your friend.

Walk away- qiuckly.

I'm also really starting to like Procopio, he's dastardly (and clever), and I suspect on his day's off he wears a top hat, opera cape and goes around tying damsels to railway tracks.

What's it say to you when you are actively rooting for the villains?

I mean actively- shouting aloud- "Go on kill 'im!"

The him, sorry 'im', in question being Matteo.

Matteo at times is being played by Columbo- 'One more thing..."

In summary- some great characters, well written, a page-turner... and I disliked it, not a place I'd call D&D (my game) and just way too many tangled plot threads. I mean I followed it all but at the end I found myself wondering why I had bothered.

Just for info while I am reading these C&K novels I've been reading a non-FR book between each book reported here. At present I am reading SJ Parris' Giordano Bruno's detective series (set in Elizabethan times). Bruno, like Matteo, finds things out- and has a love interest (or three), and... well, all the rest. But they're 500 pages long and have blood and bad people (who do bad things) throughout- an intrigue, and lust, and all the usual stuff, and its grim and perilous (Ahhh! That's nice) and poor, and dirty, and...

And I think if Elaine Cunningham had 500 pages, and took her time with it, then this would probably work- but instead it just seems like a story that has way too many twists and turns, and that is rammed in so tight here that the reader has not finished reviewing and reordering after the last shock/big revelation when the next revelation comes around. The again, and again.

I really wanted to like it more. It's a frustration tbh.

Read.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#127 The Wizardwar by Elaine Cunningham (Counselors & Kings 3)
Read 31/5/21 to 5/6/21


IMG_2781.JPG


Well, that's the last of that. I really struggled to keep on going, and again that's no reflection on the author, it's just a brand of D&D that I am neither familiar with, nor comfortable with. It's not my bag- and apologies for the fact I keep repeating this.

It also doesn't help that I like the grim and gritty style of D&D, and I realise it can't all be about a happy band of everyday folk that somehow relying on their talents manage to win through against all odds. Preferably with a bit of a dungeon crawl, or a dark city/environ in which all is deadly and strange. I like that kind of thing, or else something with a bit on nasty followed by a heap of action.

This isn't that.

There's a bit of me that is really (really) disappointed with this one- I got who Beatrix was maybe twenty pages into the first one. I figured out who Tzigone's mum and dad were by the end of the first one, and suspected who Matteo's dad was too.

I didn't get the Vishna/Andris pairing but that's mainly because Vishna didn't make his appearance until late in the day.

And... Wizardwar, that's hardly a fitting title for a book that's mostly about (the mostly successful) prevention of... a Wizardwar.

And the five pages or so that encompasses the 'Wizardwar', such as it is... well, where's the balance- give me a little action, a moment or two for me to make believe that the threat is credible. Otherwise, well... when in the book is there any threat? Even when the big bad main players turn up to slightly menace our heroes- it's so restrained, polite, underwhelming.

The enemies are epic, and yet- even the mad Necromancer doesn't know what he's doing, and we know this too- because we've already figured out how the three new powers can (or else will) find a way to cripple the threat.

So, if political machinations are your thing- head here.

I just...

Read!

I hate Halruaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

That's my new t-shirt.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan
 

I think Cunningham is plainly one of the most talented authors ever to write in the Forgotten Realms. And her work is beloved (by those who do love it) in part because her approach is, as you note, rather different than that of many other FR authors. Her fight scenes often seem perfunctory, whereas with some of the other FR writers everything that’s not a fight scene seems perfunctory.

But this is her worst FR novel.

I can’t find it now, but I’m quite sure that at some point, possibly on Candlekeep, she wrote that the writing of this novel coincided with a difficult time in her personal life, and that this book was the first time she ever missed a writing deadline. Unfortunately, it shows in the final product.

I like Cunningham’s work more than you, for certain. She’s in my top three FR novelists. I dearly wish she had completed book 6 of Songs and Swords. And I liked the first two volumes of Counselors and Kings very much. (It didn’t bother me much that some of the big reveals were too obvious.) But sadly, as with Starlight and Shadows, I think this final installment is a big letdown.
 

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