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


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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#148 Annihilation by Philip Athans (War Spider Queen 5)
Read 15/12/21 to 18/12/21


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Well, I still haven't found the bad one... it's going to be the last one isn't it?

Don't answer that.

So, I thought to begin with that this one was a bit light-headed- it seemed to dash from place to place, person to person, in an attempt to keep all of the balls in the air. And there are a lot of balls in the air right now. Not only that but from the get-go the author seemed to be going for climax after climax, building tension- bloody hell forget that, and the hits keep on coming.

Then, and I don't know quite when it happened, but it all seemed to settle down and get quite groovy, there was lots to see and hear, and even more to admire. Not the least of which was Ryld's death (Temporary? Shrugs- I don't know) and then the meeting with the same drow's spirit on the long trek to NEW SPIDERTOWN (the new locale of the Demonweb Pits). I loved this stuff, and the gushy will-she/wont-she (hook back up with Lolth) for Halisstra, and the fact that priestess who got her to join the club has to give up her life again.

And the backdrop throughout this novel is just stupendous- I really dig the Chaos Ship, into the Shadow Plane- watch out for the bats, then on into the Astral Sea- ahoy me hearties! Set sail for the sixty-sixth layer of the Abyss. Just great.

Then there's the forty or so pages apiece rumbling fight-off's, Jaggred versus Ryld, and Gromph versus Dyrr (& Nimor). They were great... Philip Athans you are spoiling us with your chop/spill-socky.

Then there's Pharaun versus Jeggred's (Hezrou, from memory) dad.

Then there's Quenthel, who when the really great thing happens- Lolth finds her house keys, well... Quenthel is back to her terrifying best.

Then there's the old Demonweb Pits, and the great big Spider Automaton that I seemed to remember having fun with back in Q1.

Love Grandfather, and the telling off for Nimor, he's just one of the lads now.

So, a lot goes on- the balls are all violently juggled, or else just smashed- like eggs, on the floor. It's ram-jam-packed with excitement, and yet...

And yet it's not my favourite, the joy (at times) is a little ephemeral, fleeting, because mere moments later we are somewhere else doing something else and... I'd probably liked to have spent a little more time with the last that we were up to, particularly (as stated earlier) at the start.

But here's the thing- it's bloody great, I enjoyed it immensely- not all/just the action, but the places we've been to see, the spells we witnessed, the... well, just the DM in me is lapping up this stuff.

Read & enjoyed.

The next one's bad isn't it? You can tell me?

But don't do it, I beg of you.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
As it turned out, I do remember several salient points regarding this novel; I just couldn't recall that I remembered them.

Which is to say, there were several parts of this particular book that stuck out in my mind, but I needed to review it's Wikipedia entry to remember that this was the one where they happened. For instance, the issue with Lolth suddenly granting spells again, followed by Triel casting a miracle spell to turn Gromph's losing fight with Dyrr around; very cool imagery there, but I'd forgotten that the major issue with Lolth's Silence - i.e. that she'd gone silent - ended here, despite there being one more book in the series.

I'm likewise still trying to recall if this was the one which revealed that the Demonweb Pits was no longer part of the Abyss, becoming its own plane. That was an eye-rolling moment for me, because A) it seemed like a years-late justification of that whole "World Tree" idea, where the Forgotten Realms cosmology was needlessly reshuffled away from perfectly-serviceable Great Wheel (even if you could technically chalk that up to the events of Die Vecna Die! (affiliate link), which despite popular belief is actually German for "The Vecna The!"), and B) I'm still not entirely sure how they justified that change from an in-character presentation. If Lolth did that herself, then...how? Last time I checked, becoming a greater deity (which was Lolth's goal with the Silence, even though it wasn't ever confirmed by any subsequent game materials) doesn't allow you to reshape cosmologies.

Also, props to Valas for knowing when to exit stage left. Dude already got hit with aboleth slime, and needed to have a baleful polymorph used to change him back to normal in an earlier book, which noted that it only approximated how he used to look before. When stuff like that happens, it's best to quietly part ways with the party while you can, since at that point you're pretty much asking for some big bad to undo the baleful polymorph with a dispel magic and let you asphyxiate.
 

TheSword

Legend
This series is so awesome. So many reasons to love it.

I remember the Gromph Spell duel being bloody brilliant though. Probably the best spell duel I’ve seen in D&D fiction. And every spell, level for level, available to players in the game.

The silence ending was like flood waters after 40 days in the desert. So satisfying!

What I love about this series is how it makes drow… full blown evil drow… extremely likeable.

The finale is an anticlimax, but then how can you follow 5 books of such awesomeness. There some great moments though. Dyrr’s phylacteries needs dealing with.

I’ve read the books through twice, but heck, these posts have inspired me to read them again!
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#149 Resurrection by Paul S Kemp (War Spider Queen 6)
Read 23/12/21 to 26/12/21


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Hmmmmmmm.

I mean, hmmmmmmm.

This is the bad one- right, only its not that bad. It's nowhere near as good as some of the others en route but, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Okay, Pharaun has gone from suave sophisticate with the touch of the common man (drow) to surly and spoiled (kill the oaf Jeggred) and then... until the finale, a bit invisible. Basically, he's no-longer telling us the story.

Although we do get the Pharaun versus Ultroloth, Street Magic 2- the ultimate spell battle button bash at the end.

Quenthel and Danifae just keep on getting better, more malice, more spite, more ultra-polite threats wrapped in custom and guile (top drow matroning). Halisstra, well- I'm surprised she knows which way is up, if faith is defined as the belief in something unprovable, then... well, she ain't never had none. Halisstra therefore (maybe) embodies the dilemma of being drow- in a society with rigid structure and order, and in which every significant member constantly seeks to undermine, trip up (or just plain murder) their rivals, well... not a lot of room for faith. Perhaps Halisstra is the ultimo-drow, happy to change deities as often as she changes her clothes.

Jeggred just gets more Jeggred, he's a lovable ol' draegloth, kidding- he's terror incarnate. Love it.

The Ultroloth, didn't really get it, except that the author, I suppose, at some point thought- not enough bad guys for the finale, I know- an army of Yugoloth's. So, that was nice, as was the Klurichir (never heard of it, but I googled) and the great spider swarm et al. So, lots of climactic finale good stuff, even folk that you think are dead (Halisstra) getting back up again.

There's a mad bit where the main players head through the Pass of Whatever It Was Called and take it in turns to get swallowed by the ancient colossal serpent within, and there's some of this that I kinda got, but then wasn't sure about.

I take it the random chapter in which Danifae does favours for money, disfigured and discarded she... keeps the faith, I guess this bit was the test- all part of the passage to the domain of Lolth and the great plains and the city, and world/universe-wide-web.

So, forgiven.

BIG SPOILER.

I liked that the Yor'thae turns out to be Danifae, for two reasons- I was much too fond of Quenthel, the character, in my mind she needed to get back to Menzo quick-sticks to make more mischief in other books, in my head she is the ultimo-drow, she's the one my PCs are going to encounter. And later wish they hadn't. The opposite is true of Halisstra, to begin with she was cool- her and Ryld, but then- well she just tied herself in knots (repeatedly, and there comes a point- the lady doth protest too much), and in this one... I get she was finding out stuff (about herself) as she went along but she was (seemingly) happy to play good/bad, and in both guises ultimately screw her compatriots over (so, drow). I didn't like her so much, so screw her- she can't be the Yor'thae.

I get that Lolth embraces chaos but surely the Self comes before the chaos, apologies if that doesn't make much sense. Let me put it another way- Halisstra is too bothered by stuff, she lacks bad ass, gravitas and, well. she's a mess.

In truth, when I was reading it, from the chapter with Danifae still worshipping Lolth (and murdering folk in her name) while she turned tricks, well- I thought she's got to be the winner.

Liked all the journey, and the end-game.

Not as good as some of the others but, it worked- for me.

Last bit, the Gromph attack on House Dyrr should be read accompanied by the Mission Impossible music, or else something from one of those interminable Oceans followed-by-a-number films.

Like the Lolth finale this one (Archmage versus Lichdrow et al) got silly, but here's the thing- what did I expect, if not this then what... It was good, all of it. Just not, y'know, a firecracker- the novel's biggest problem being that some of the previous ones were just plain cooler and better.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Have a great Christmas break and New Year.

Cheers goonalan
 

TheSword

Legend
Great review. Couldn’t agree more. My only disappointment was that Phaerauns end was so ignoble. After being so cool for the rest of the story.

…Then again… he had it coming 🤷🏻‍♂️😂
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Going back over this one in my head, I agree that it was the weak link in the series, but mostly due to being overshadowed rather than fumbling anything.

Part of what I found difficult to swallow here was the rewrite of the lore around yugoloths. I mean, I'm sorry, but "Inthracis"? Everything about him sounds like a cheap knock-off of Anthraxus. Moreover, his being strongarmed by Vhaeraun despite supposedly being the second-most-powerful member of the 'loths is something that flies in the face of how they've been classically depicted. Khin-Oin is supposedly made out of the spine of the first god who crossed the yugoloths. You'd never know that by reading what's here.

There's also the fact that Inthracis makes liberal use of the clone spell - a la Manshoon - to repeatedly survive his own death. I mean, that's technically not against the D&D 3.5 rules, but it feels like it should be. I mean, the Outsider type has an entire bullet point describing how their bodies and souls are a single unit, rather than existing in a dual nature, and so most life-restoring spells don't work on them. Yes, it omits mention of the clone spell, and the spell itself doesn't explicitly forbid Outsiders from using it (or reference raise dead, resurrection, etc.), but this really feels like an exploit, you know? It's the sort of thing that gives rules lawyers a bad name.

Regarding the ending, I remember a quote from Paul Kemp (I think from the old FR mailing list) where he talked about some of the decisions that were made regarding how things turned out. It was taken as a given, for instance, that only one member of the band could return to Menzoberranzan, because...something about how it having multiple members of the party return would have forced a power struggle over who got credit for the Silence ending, I think? I can't quite recall now, but it was definitely decided that only a single member would make it back alive (though quite obviously, sequel series undid this).

Personally, I'm glad it was Quenthel. She's petty and cruel, but you get the sense that she doesn't really know how else to be, and flounders when not able to live in her "stereotypical drow" comfort zone to the point where it becomes oddly endearing. Like an aggressive puppy who growls at everyone, but has never been outside of their owner's apartment, when they find themselves lost in the wilderness you still end up rooting for them to make it back okay, because deep down you know they're just a scared little puppy. That's how Quenthel came across (and of course, we know from Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue (affiliate link), that she eventually took over the city anyway), at least to me.

Another thing Kemp expounded upon was the nature of the tests that Halisstra, Quenthel, and Danifae went through. Namely, that it was a test of character for each of them. Halisstra, being torn between religions, failed to slay Lolth when she found herself in her vision, instead falling down weeping (if she had killed Lolth, Kemp revealed, she would have passed the test, implying that she would have become part of the goddess instead of Danifae). Quenthel, engaging in petty acts of vengeance for not being chosen, was likewise considered a failure.

But Danifae? In her vision, she lost everything, and her attitude to that was "Bring it on!" She's been down and out before, and she knows how to climb back to the top, and that's what she demonstrated. So she was the one to become part of nuLolth, who subsequently seemed just like the old Lolth.

And really, that's kind of my problem with how this all ended. I won't say it was with a whimper, but it was more like a shrug. We got a sequel series (The Lady Penitent), and other characters returned later on (The Empyrean Odyssey), but otherwise, things were overshadowed by the forthcoming Spellplague and move to Fourth Edition too much for this to make much of a lasting impression. Lolth became a greater deity? Okay...I suppose you can point to something about how only greater deities made it through the Spellplague without losing a lot of their power, but that seems like a fairly minor point to justify an entire series around (and there's no way they were anticipating that when the War of the Spider-Queen series started).

It's kind of like putting on a dramatic production of Death of a Salesman in the middle of an airport terminal. You'll definitely get some eyeballs, but too much other stuff is going on for it to make much of an impact.
 

TheSword

Legend
I don’t think the spell plague following on from this has any bearing on how we view this work. You can be responsible for your own work but anything subsequent is someone else’s problem.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I don’t think the spell plague following on from this has any bearing on how we view this work. You can be responsible for your own work but anything subsequent is someone else’s problem.
In terms of viewing this series unto itself, sure, but I think it's also valid to consider this series in terms of its overall impact on the shared world in which it takes place. This was presented as a not-insignificant event which was subsequently overshadowed by the next big thing which came down the pike, which strikes me as something of a shame.
 

TheSword

Legend
In terms of viewing this series unto itself, sure, but I think it's also valid to consider this series in terms of its overall impact on the shared world in which it takes place. This was presented as a not-insignificant event which was subsequently overshadowed by the next big thing which came down the pike, which strikes me as something of a shame.
Hmm. I disagree. Impact on the game world is completely irrelevant to the quality of a story to my mind.

I’d rather have a quality intimidate tale about a family of four than a sprawling continent spanning but less well crafted story.

Not to mention that the events had a pretty big impact on the Drow of Menzoberranzan which was the crux of the story.
 

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