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


#133 Sands of the Soul by Voronica Whitney-Robinson (Sembia 6)
Read 27/7/21 to 1/8/21


So, apologies in advance but I'm going to say some less than complimentary things about this one, although- just to make clear, it's not terrible- it does what it says on the tin (as it were) it's just not very sophisticated, or else... well, it comes in light. Light on everything- characterisation, plot, language, excitement, etc. Again, it's not a failure, it just failed to get my motor running, repeatedly.

So, where to start- well to begin with this is the least Tazi- Tazi that I have encountered so far, the fact that she's mostly 2d doesn't help. She doesn't stand out in any way- she's not the minx that we've read all about in the previous novels, she seems forlorn- and I get she's recovering from all of the bad stuff that happened, but... I'm not buying it. Tazi is no longer fun, or smart, she just follows her nose, does a variety of dumb things- she's just so gullible, there seems to be no reason for many of her choices- beyond it's the path of least resistance.

But she's not alone Steorf is mostly an arse, beyond being an arse... well, there's not much to recommend him, and even less to like.

Fannah is blind, and again, beyond that- well, she does nothing much. Don't get me wrong- she gets the odd line but, there's not a lot made of her.

Ciredor, the villain, has moments of cruel and evil, and thus he comes alive- chattering to himself (and telling us the plot) and rubbing his hands together building up to his next Mwha-ha-ha! He's alright, although the defeating of Ciredor is just... well, if I was DMing a game and this was the finale- I'd get lynched.

There's also something to the fact that although some (many) of these books seem to pay only slight concession to the D&D game, this one... well, again- I just keep getting tripped up by this stuff. There's a moment when the heroes struggle to contain a pack of rats, which is okay- however earlier on they accounted for half-a-dozen aranea with only a little bother, but not too much. The heroes, particularly Tazi and Steorf, well in previous books you can pretty much figure the classes for the protagonists and antagonists, but this one, it's just messy. Steorf struggles to maintain his light spell, but had no problems dishing out fiery obliteration to anything that looked at him funny, just two days previous.

It all just seems convenient, as in the author adds tension (or attempts to) by deflating the heroes powers and or abilities, or else by having them wander into the next set-up/trap.

Then there's the plot- it's a straight line, pretty much, and it either just falls into Tazi's lap or else, she does the dumb thing and then a while later figures it out.

There are maybe half-a-dozen fleshed out characters here, and when I say fleshed out... well, nothing like the people I've come to know in the previous books. It's just not busy, or complex- the story and the folk in it just roll on.

There are a few nice locations (the minarets) that have enough about them for me to think about pinching something for my own game, but really not enough- a lot of it could take place anywhere. It's very generic, no location comes alive.

I liked the, sorry The, Lurker for a while but even he turned dumb, and pretty much got thrown away at then end.

It's all a little too easy, I thought at first I was reading a novel for younger readers- even the language is unsophisticated, although that, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. But, there's just so little to recommend it.


Stay frosty.

Cheers goonalan

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#134 Lord of Stormweather by Dave Gross (Sembia 7)
Read 8/8/21 to 9/8/21


Here's the thing, I read this one in two days- what does that tell you?

Well, we're back to Sembia, and Selgaunt, and all of the Uskevren family are in here- it's suitably odd in places with the through the Vault (looking glass) stuff in Stormweather Tower and the alt-kingdom, but... it sets a pace.

There are things that I'm still not sure about, because the plot is a tangled web at the end. Also the fallout at the end basically requires the author to more or less list all of the characters we have encountered in the mix and then catalogue each individual's afterwards. Specifically, if they're dead or alive (mostly alive) and what effect the events here have had upon the various players.

So, Thamalon is dead, Shamur is alive and accepting of her new step-daughter, Larajin. Tamlin is the new big chief of the Uskevren, and he's stepped up to the plate- and struck a home run. Talbot is still the big, bad (angry) wolf. Taz is still broken inside, and thus she sneaks off in the night. Cale has served the family gloriously once again, but finishes the novel pining for Taz, his lost (unspoken) of love.

I figure there are a few Erevis Cale books coming along the track, will Lurch be heading out to look for Taz, that's my best guess, but- well, I'll keep reading and find out.

The alt-kingdom of Stormweather Towers, and the mad sorcerer- sorry, Sorcerer Tam Lin; well, some of this I just didn't dig, or else get, but the action was all very real- and suitably D&D like, and that's what I'm looking for in these books.

Here's the thing- there are some incredibly good ideas in here, stolen from elsewhere (perhaps) but well played out/used by the author. Several of these strange developments are so good that I have already decided to steal them for my game, and again- that's what I'm here for primarily.

Radu, the Malveen assassin, with his coterie of ghosts- all of the folk that he has killed since the bone dagger got planted in his head. One of the ghosts being Chaney, Talbot's former best bud. I'll be honest, I just love the idea of a PC (or a villain) attempting to get on with his dastardly endeavour while being surrounded and constantly pestered by the spectral chorusconscience that his slaughter has caused to come into effect.

Chaney gets some of the best lines in the book, trying to figure a way to keep Radu on the straight and narrow, or else turn the family/clan fixated one fiend serial killer on a course that will help, and not hinder (permanently), the folk that Chaney holds dear.

The Vault itself, buried beneath the 'real' Stormweather Towers, an extra-dimensional safety net- designed to catch any of the true-blood Uskevren if and when some magical power (trap = the painting) attempts to whisk them away. I like the idea- I don't fully understand it but the authors use of this artefact, and its description- all of the doors and windows of the tower/vault leading to various heaven's or hell's. I like that.

Although, I guess it works for anybody, or else why would Cale and Shamur end up in the alt-kingdom, or did that happen because Thamalon went before them- somehow?

There are plenty of odd things that happen in the unreal Stormweather Towers, some of which I am still trying to catch up with in my mind- but how? Is the question I most often pose myself, and there are probably a fare few loose threads in this bit, but... I read it two days, that's still the significant fact for me here.

That means sports fans, I wanted/needed to know- to know how things were going to work out for the incredible Uskevrens, and more importantly (perhaps) for nearly 75% of the novel- I just wanted to know how this artefact/plot-device/alt-reality wrinkle was going to play out.

The offered explanation for the Vault's happenings is, of course, daft- Tamlin thought/dreamed this as a child, so-and-so did that, and voila- bad dead grandfather Aldimar- the vault's gatekeeper, gets into the game.

Then there's the stuff with the Hulorn (Mad Andy & his chump-wizard Drakkar), a lot of which just seems to be a side project if the central plot is not convincing enough, but... it's just a rip roaring more-of-the-same, with all of the Uskevren super-family getting into action (more or less). Likewise, the parade of villains is all good, as usual, with Radu (as previously) the stand-out.

I'm not unhappy it's a bit of a mess in places, as we plunge jump from reality to reality, it just reminds me of Saturday morning TV when I was a kid. Every episode/chapter just a race to the next bit, a fragment of new understanding extracted- a furious and dangerous fight, or a startling new revelation, and then a cliff-hanger to make you turn the page.

The language is good, Sembia/Selgaunt et al seem to be all correct and in place, the characters are multifarious and for the most part interesting. I think, for me, Chaney is my standout in this one. I have a thing for sarky ghosts anyway, making the quip-some conscience a sure-fire hit with this reader. Oddly, Radu is probably my second favourite character in here- and particularly because it became very obvious very quickly that the author wanted the Malveen assassin to survive this novel. I admire that.

As already stated above, I could go on about the strangeness- how did this work? What's with the new Tamlin? How did Vox get alive again? But, I'm a forgiving soul (it seems).

Read, and I really enjoyed it.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.

Lord of Stormweather is narrowly my favorite of this whole series. Shadow’s Witness, my 2nd-place choice, is close to this level of quality, but that one doesn’t have as many weird ideas as this one, and in one or two ways Shadow’s Witness still feels like its author’s first novel—which, unless I’m mistaken, it is.

There were several glorious moments in Lord of Stormweather where I thought the author made unexpected and excellent choices about the plot, especially some of the “what’s going on???” chapter-enders and their corresponding “oh, that’s what’s going on” reveals. The plot-stuffed feeling of the novel, with each parallel thread more or less equally interesting, led me too to finish it faster than I had finished any of the previous installments.

Sands of the Soul, on the other hand, lands at the bottom of my ranking. It is to my mind the only thoroughly weak link in the Sembia series chain.

I’m still loving reading your reviews of these, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one. But you’ve almost caught up to me—I’m on the War of the Spider Queen series and moving more slowly than you are, though not following exactly the same order as you—so at some point soon I’ll fall behind and have to start waiting to read your posts (spoilers, you know). Which might just make me sad enough to hasten my pace!


The EN World kitten
I'll be honest, I just love the idea of a PC (or a villain) attempting to get on with his dastardly endeavour while being surrounded and constantly pestered by the spectral chorusconscience that his slaughter has caused to come into effect.
It's not the same, but this always makes me think of that scene near the end of the old Maximum Carnage mini-series (which has been on my mind lately thanks to the new trailer for his forthcoming movie being dropped), where Carnage is hallucinating that his old victims have come back to haunt him:



#135 The City of Ravens by Richard Baker (Cities 1)
Read 13/8/21


So, I read this one in a day- that's the first time that I've done this, although there's a few of the others that I've read previously that I got through in 24 hours, so...

I enjoyed it, and that's not to say that it's perfect- or brilliant. What it is, is a rollercoaster, or else there's just always something else going on that caused me to want to turn another page, just one more chapter.

There's an entire campaign worth of stuff in here- our guy Jack Ravenwild is in the middle of a burglary (with Anders, northern barbarian) when we meet him. Then there's a recovery job- an ancient tome that's passed through several folk's hands over the centuries and is finally located in the tower of a necromancer. Jack, of course, gets the book- this time with the help of Tharzon, a cool dwarf. The mystery book is about creating shades (shadow simulacra), remember this.

Jack's patron who wants the book is Elana/the Warlord- she's the big bad, although Jack doesn't know this at first.

Then there's the Mask Game, in which Jack assumes the persona of a lord and with the help of Illyth, a real lady, seeks to solve the mystery. Which they do, although the duo are also present when one of the players goes tonto and tries to kill the aristocracy of Ravens Bluff. Note, Jack has also been investigating this- in his spare time. Oh, and Illyth and Jack solve the riddle.

Then there's the secret tomb of some Dwarven brewmaster- Jack ventures there, with his friends again. Then there's the laurel and hardy Knights of the Hawk who are seeking to arrest Jack because he's consorting with the Warlord (see above). Then there's the shadow versions of Jack, and others, that keep popping up throughout the city to bring chaos.

Jack takes a good long while to work out who's to blame for these nasty shadow-creatures, which is odd because he must remember who he gave the book to, Elana = the Warlord.

Then there's a drow version of a mythal, and as it turns out the Warlord is the long lost relation of... oh god, is there really more of this.

But as it turns out Jack is one of the few folk in Raven's Bluff who can wield magic as easily as blowing his nose, and so is immune to all of the mythal's power- in fact, he can wield it.

Then there's a couple of the brothers from the first burglary that are still in pursuit of Jack.

Then there's a bit in a prison that no-one can escape from in which Jack wastes away for a few days until the Warlord, who looks like the mayor of Ravens Bluff (or is the mayor of Ravens Bluff) just turns up and takes Jack away- easy as.

And then there are ropers.

And then there's a Deep Dragon.

And then there's a drow swordmaster, a tuigan barbarian, a shou/wa high level wizards, and a necromancer with a mouse familiar.

And then there's, well... there are lots more cool things.

It's like all of the plots at once, just everything- all of the cool things that you could possibly pack into 312 pages of fantasy fiction.

And so, it's shiny- by which I mean there's no shortage of action, and cool places, and groovy adventurers, and nasty villains, and... there's just a metric naughty word ton of D&D stuff in here.

But there's idiocy too- like Jack not knowing who's sending the shadow creatures, after he delivers the book to Elana/the Warlord. There's an entire city (Raven's Bluff) that is happy not to get involved (much) in any of the above plots, the city's authorities seem to be very passive. Except for the laurel and hardy Knights of the Hawk.

There's a lot of other bits of silly.

There's a lot of Jack talking to himself- because he has no-one else to talk to in order to tell us the plot, or add a bit of backstory- big chunks of text.

There's a lot of Jack, he must be on every page.

So, hardly a classic- but there's lots of stuff to steal from this one, point of fact there's enough adventure in here for a party of 4 PCs to have fun for 20-30 sessions of D&D, possibly level 5 to 9. There's a hefty-ish module in here, and a city guidebook to fill out the hardback.

It's great, but flawed.


Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan

#135 The City of Ravens by Richard Baker
That city guidebook exists—Ed Greenwood’s The City of Ravens Bluff was published shortly before this novel was. The novel relies heavily on the material in that sourcebook, which itself was Greenwood’s attempt to bring together and unify a thousand different individual RPGA members’ contributions to the city, along with the several previous, smaller supplements published for it (Gateway to Ravens Bluff, Port of Ravens Bluff, etc.) and numerous articles detailing the city published in Polyhedron. Before it was even called Ravens Bluff it was known as “The Living City”—still the biggest and most successful attempt at a shared setting where RPG convention play affects the setting (with one exception, that being the Aventuria of Das Schwarze Auge).


The EN World kitten
That city guidebook exists—Ed Greenwood’s The City of Ravens Bluff was published shortly before this novel was. The novel relies heavily on the material in that sourcebook, which itself was Greenwood’s attempt to bring together and unify a thousand different individual RPGA members’ contributions to the city, along with the several previous, smaller supplements published for it (Gateway to Ravens Bluff, Port of Ravens Bluff, etc.) and numerous articles detailing the city published in Polyhedron.
Which is the reason that particular supplement is written in an eye-strainingly small font size. Seriously, the book is 160 pages long, but if you bumped up the type to the size of most TSR products, it would probably be at least half-again that many pages. Trying to read it cover-to-cover, even with good lighting, would cause anyone to need glasses by the time they were done.


I was waiting for this one, as The City of Ravens was one of the Forgotten Realms novels I really enjoyed awhile back. I think your assessment is pretty fair though. What it really does well, like you said, is make sure you're never bored. Something is always happening, and even after Jack gets out of one situation, he pretty much ends up in another right after.


Hi there,

Looking for a favour, here's the list of all the books I can find that are Forgotten Realms, my to-read list right back at the start of this thread.

I've updated it added a bunch of books to the list (in BOLD), that's all of them- every FR Novel, I think.

Have I missed any?

Any other obvious errors, exclusions, inclusions or whatever- I just want to get it as right as I can?

Thanks for taking the time.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
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