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

Haiku Elvis

Knuckle-dusters, glass jaws and wooden hearts.
Likewise, Salvatore's reluctance to kill off his characters is on full display here also. That's understandable, since conventional wisdom is that killing off supporting characters to whom the readers presumably feel connected is something that should only be done in service to the larger plot (plus that whole "living in a world with resurrection magic" bit), but at this point I feel like it would have served the plot to do so. At least, in a way other than a soap-opera style "they actually survived, and now they're back!"
That's what did for me with the Drizzt books. The amout of times someone was dead but then.. No they are alive! Again and again.
When you're spending half a book thinking "why won't you people just die!" at the heros then it's time to move on.
 

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That's what did for me with the Drizzt books. The amout of times someone was dead but then.. No they are alive! Again and again.
When you're spending half a book thinking "why won't you people just die!" at the heros then it's time to move on.

The way I heard it was that it was WotC that pushed Salvatore to return characters to life. I don't know how true that is, but I've heard the same claim on more than one occasion.

Personally, I have only read the Dark Elf series (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn) and the Icewind Dale series (Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and Halfling's Gem), but I haven't felt the need to be back at all. It's a straightforward fantasy series from my memory. Good for D&D books, though.
 

Lone Drow was the last Drizzt book i ever read, I'm pretty sure. I'd gone into university at this stage, and was broadening my reading horizons beyond D&D fiction. And it just seemed like Salvatore was starting to phone it in a bit. He's what, in his 5th Drizzt series at this point and he's STILL reflexively describing Drizzt's scimitars as 'whirring' and Taulmaril's arrows as 'silver-streaking'?

I tried a re-read a decade or so later, and I really couldn't come at them. I loved those books soooo damn much as an early-teenager. Crystal Shard was the reason I first became interested in D&D. I read them til they fell apart (except for the Siege of Darkness hardback I loaned to a jerk at high school and he never gave back - I REMEMBER YOU, BERNARD!) But this was kinda the end for me. When i did a re-read i found so much that annoyed me that i ended up donating them all to a charity shop. I'd rather keep my happy memories of the books than the books themselves. I hope some other 14yo kid came across them and got their mind as blown as mine was.
 
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Goonalan

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#152 The Two Swords by RA Salvatore (Hunter's Blade 3)
Read 30/3/22 to 1/4/22


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Hmmmm... this one's a bit of a mess, or else it just seems to be a bunch of plot related what-nots that keep the balls in the air but do little to move much along. It's advertising for whatever comes next, which will be more Obould and/or Gauntlgrym. I guess.

The idea that Drizzt is still not heading back to actually check out the lay of the land with regard to Mithril Hall- whether Bruenor, Catti, Wolfie & Regis are alive or not, just gets stretched too thin. He's doing all of his elf-wise growing up and... he's still not that bothered about heading back to find out if the love of his life (elf lifetime) is alive or dead.

And...

We spent the best part of two novels putting the dwarves in their hole- Mithril Hall, and fifteen minutes and fifty pages later and they're back out again, easy as- although the dwarves on the river pay the price. But it's just a little too easy, it's as if the pieces have been manoeuvred into a spot and now the author has changed his mind and wants everything back on the board.

Same for Gerti and her Frost Giants, the idea that she's going to let Drizzt go, because somehow she knows that the super-drow ranger is enough to end Obould, I get that she's buying a ticket but a smarter Gerti would have got some of her big fellers around her and ended Obould earlier. The set up for the first Obould vs Drizzt clash is also peremptory, and the second not much better, it's all bits and pieces here and it just left me feeling that the entire trilogy (or at least all of this one) was just a lot of set-up for whatever Drizzt/Bruenor/Obould that comes next (as stated above).

Having read some of the criticisms above then while I'm glad that Bruenor's back, and I have no problems (much) with the how and why, and what rules got used, I am however starting to worry that all of these trophy characters are just making the plot a lot shallower, or else spreading it pretty thin. Everyone has their particular axe to grind, or internal niggle to work out, but it's all a little jumbled, and just dilutes the central plot; Obould versus the north/dwarves/Drizzt et al.

It's not a terrible book, but it just drives the car in the same direction a little further up the road, it's needlessly kind to our hero- Drizzt, who seems unable to be killed not particularly because he's great at combat but because everyone just wants to bet on the drow ranger, even his enemies. I still can't get over Gerti patting him on the head and sending him off to do giant's work.

It's alright, although- as above, just a bit of follow on, no climactic liberation, no winning of the war, just set-up for the next trilogy. Oddly, for Salvatore, unrewarding.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Oh, just remembered, what's the second sword?

Sword #1 is Cattii's blade, name begins with K but escapes me.

Is Sword #2 Icingdeath, or Obould flaming greatsword, or...

Why is it particularly the second sword? Whichever it is.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Same for Gerti and her Frost Giants, the idea that she's going to let Drizzt go, because somehow she knows that the super-drow ranger is enough to end Obould, I get that she's buying a ticket but a smarter Gerti would have got some of her big fellers around her and ended Obould earlier.
That was in the earlier books, and I recall frowning at it then myself. I mean, I get that Obould's getting smarter and stronger is a threat to her, and I suppose I can see her not wanting to off him herself so as to prevent a war between the frost giants and the orcs...but c'mon, in a battle of "frost giants vs. orcs," I know who I'm betting on. Likewise, even with Obould getting unspecified bonuses, I still have a hard time believing Gerti couldn't take him. Obould was a CR 9 character, according to the Silver Marches sourcebook, whereas the Epic Level Handbook puts Gerti at CR 18. She should be able to end him, no contest.

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That was in the earlier books, and I recall frowning at it then myself. I mean, I get that Obould's getting smarter and stronger is a threat to her, and I suppose I can see her not wanting to off him herself so as to prevent a war between the frost giants and the orcs...but c'mon, in a battle of "frost giants vs. orcs," I know who I'm betting on. Likewise, even with Obould getting unspecified bonuses, I still have a hard time believing Gerti couldn't take him. Obould was a CR 9 character, according to the Silver Marches sourcebook, whereas the Epic Level Handbook puts Gerti at CR 18. She should be able to end him, no contest.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
Those source books were before these books we can’t really use them for Obould because he became way more impressive. In the Two Swords he fights Gerti physically overpowers her and throws her to the ground. Before sparing her and telling her the plan.
Plus the whole thing is that they want out of the war because they took a few losses which is a bigger deal to them then a bunch of Orcs dying is to Orcs. Fighting the massive amounts of Orcs so they can stop fighting is counter productive and will just lead to more casualties.
 

Goonalan

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#153 Twilight Falling by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 1)
Read 2/4/22 to 6/4/22


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So, here's the thing- I'm still not sure what I thought of this one.

It's a game/book of two halves (at least two, excuse the bad maths). The start up in Selgaunt is all groovy, I love this grim (Dark) place, I keep imagining some WFRP style town with crazy rich burgomeisters, den's of drugs and despair, and threat and adventure around every corner. I equally like Cale, Jak (spelled Jack, once or twice) and Riven, although the latter's turn to the good-ish side is rather peremptory, but... forgiven, let's get on.

I was equally on board with the events, Vraggen and his gang- what are they made of, there's something very not good about these folk. They're too high level for our trio from the outset.

Love'd the plot- Fane of Shadow to arrive, crystal star map encased in a glass bauble to tell the time, and then... it somehow fell apart, or else I fell out of love with it.

But just to make clear, I liked (a lot) the places and people we get to go and meet- Starmantle, the gnoll pack (fabulous) et al, it was just the plot that got me foxed. I'll explain.

Cale hands over the second half of the star map clock to the big bad for but a second- the two pieces magically join together, and... the big bad spills it- and Cale reclaims it. How then do the bad guys get the answer, I don't know if I missed a line, or else just misinterpreted something but seemingly after this brief encounter the bad guys know the time the Fane is going to appear (they already know where). I must have missed something, and I went back several times to try and spot my error, but... I just don't know how the bad guys got ahead of our trio.

Next up, the deus ex machina to end all, the bad guys [MAJOR SPOILER] are Slaad, or at least some of them are- read it and find out. Our trio are with their gnoll friends in the swamp, one of the bad guy Slaadi turns up and... take down. Thirty seconds and five pages later and all three of our heroes (let me write that again- HEROES) are on the floor and en route to the ever-after, more-or-less.

Then...

THEN...

Get this.

One of Riven's mates turns up (with a friend- actually another SLAAD!) and swings the fight to the light.

He also saves Cale, Riven threatens to kill him if he doesn't. When did Riven fall in love with Cale? Later the same fellow saves Jak.

Without him...

So, a) deus ex machina, as above; and b) why would the second secret agent Slaad help out- except just to serve the plot (see deus ex machina, again).

So, I spent quite a while head-scratching with this one, because it appeared early in the piece that our guys were out of their depth, and then skip forward another hundred and fifty pages and... confirmed, they're way out of their depth.

The saving grace being the big bad guy is also about to have his pants pulled down.

Therefore, it's either all just set up for what comes next, particularly because miracle #2 will involve how our heroic trio manage to survive the end of this one.

This is probs the most likely explanation.

Or else, the author just thought that the big bad's failure would outshine the fact that our guys are getting taken to the -ing cleaners. Jak is pretty much terrified for the entire second half of the read, I genuinely felt sorry for the little fellow. A kinder Cale would have sent him home, he's like 3rd level PC in a 10th level adventure; extending the analogy Riven and Cale are approx. 7th level, they have a fighting chance.

Oh, and at the end Cale has lost an arm, I'd imagine that needs to grow back, somehow...

Psionics are good.

But again, not sure if I liked it- still.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

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#154 Dawn of Night by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 2)
Read 7/4/22 to 11/4/22


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There's a lot to like in this one, and it's much better (imho) than the last one, as in the deus ex machina has now joined the party- Magadon is in the gang.

Why's this one good- because we get to go to some groovy places and sit inside the heads of a bunch more terrible (and good) folk, and it's all just mana for this DM. Skullport has a better outing here than in many of the other novels in the realms, the description of the place is great, and its inhabitants and their day-to-day lives. Samey-same for the Skulls themselves, the protectors of this den of iniquity.

Likewise time spent in the Shadow Plane, and the brief visit to Elgrin Fau, with all its ghosts- all good, and keep in mind that's why I am reading these books, it's not (solely) for the gripping and tense plots, it's for the lay of the land. I want to know the history of the place that I game, the people and places that my players can go and meet.

The Sojourner and his Slaadi brood are also much fun to visit with, I don't think I have ever DMed a Slaad, I've never picked one from the monster roster as prior to these novels I've really not understood how to play them. They're great in this one, Azriim- too cool for school with his natty threads, and Dolgon (is that right) the brutish self-harming lunkhead, he's a bozo- but a bozo with a bunch of spells and powers, and regeneration, and... well, a shed load more cool stuff. The point being are Slaadi are definitely going to make it to my game, they are weird, alien, terrifying, chatty and possess powers that can turn folk inside out (or similar). So, that counts as a success for me.

They bite folk's heads off.

What's not to like about that.

That said the plot was also much better with this one, the secret Netherese power that keeps Skullport safe and well, an alien seed/plant/tree which soaks up all of the weave, again- all good. Suitably techno-magic, and a sure fire threat to all of Faerun.

Of the heroes, then Cale is still number one (for Mask and me), although Magadon has taken over from Riven as the second best character, Jak is still somewhat out of his depth. Riven is the odd one, in book one he seemed to have gone soft, in this one he's terrified of Skullport and a little more fractious, on edge. That said the entire venture seems to be teetering on the brink of failure time and time again. Which I am really starting to enjoy, I was really unsure in the first one because the bad guys just seemed to be leagues ahead of our heroes in the toughness and smarts stakes. But here, well... in the end it's a score draw, no winners but both sides are still in the game, just.

The Riven swap sides moment is pretty well handled, and I like the fact that now I've started the third book there's a little more explanation of what went on in the book two finale. I like not knowing which way Riven is going to jump.

My money is, of course, on Riven coming good in the end, although now I've said that... I'm suddenly struck by the fact that the opposite would be much more interesting/surprising.

Maybe.

Here's the thing though... it's the middle book, and so vignette follows climax, follows vignette, follows... but you get me. It just keeps all of the balls in the air (really well) and keeps the reader on the trail and interested. Job done.

The good guys and the bad guys are suitably explored, and whacky/weird enough to keep us interested. The plot rushes on, as do I.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

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#155 Midnight's Mask by Paul S Kemp (Erevis Cale 3)
Read 11/4/22 to 13/4/22


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Well, well, well... that was really very good, unputdownable towards the end, that said the climax of the trilogy provided a breathless hundred pages (or thereabouts) of madcap action. The Sojourner needs to take one last stroll on the beach, daft but suitably crazy for a creature that by its own account destroys worlds, and so the sun must get a new shadow. There follows a teleportation hopscotch around about a bit, the remaining Slaadi, later Death Slaadi, the Weave Tap- an artefact/tree attuned to bathe in the power of the Weave and Shadow Weave, and also our three or four heroes of the hour. Erevis, Jak, Magadon and... Riven, maybe.

Oh, and then there's the Kraken with a headache, so- as I say, unputdownable, and even a little emotional (for me) at the end. It's an odd thing but I found myself cheering for almost everyone in it at one time or another.

Big spoilers be here.

I wouldn't have minded if the Sojourner had got his last twenty four hours or so, his plan (as terrible as it was) worked after all, and as super villains go, well.. he's not so bad.

Riven, strange to say, captioned the entire in the end, potato soup- just like Jak's mother used to make. I like the fact that Riven has the girls in his life, but for Mask's sake, can someone please find him a friend. Let someone in Riven, let them in.

Jak? And while I loved the fact that Erevis was prepared to dare Mask to get his resurrection spell, I remembered (before Erevis did) that Jak said he didn't want bringing back, and besides it all seemed so... homely.

Magadon, heaven's know how he's still alive- I still don't get how and why the author waited for so long to drag him into book one- written himself into a corner, maybe.

Azriim, well... I don't remember seeing him in the body count, and so I'm bound to say- we ain't seen the last of this guy yet, and who can blame Paul S Kemp, Azriim is a great villain- a clever/witty/chatty Death Slaad, with a penchant for fine clothes and the good things in life, and equipped with a turn of phrase.

Oh yes, he's coming back (fingers-crossed), and keep in mind I don't know much of anything about these books and the various series before I get to read them. When I started back at this after my three months rest I hadn't even worked out The Thousand Orcs was a Drizzt novel. I'm attempting to maintain outsider status, still, by not reading anything about any of them- just the novels themselves, that's enough.

To recap- glorious, and it may be because I've just finished it (like twenty minutes ago) and I'm bathing in the afterlight, but- lots of action, some will he/they, wont he/they- you know they are going to win but it's the how. Great (crazy) bad guys, a wonderful scheme- greater than the sum of its silly )at times) parts. A ton of titanic bad guys and the action to go with it- it raced along, well plotted, easy to read, what's not to like.

I like Erevis more than I did before, and he's matured, gone bad- gone good, and stopped thinking about very young girls (creepy). But better still Riven, Jak, Magadon- and the bad guys, have also come alive, and carried their fair share of the story. As stated previously, I was hooting and hollering for everyone to get a win towards the end, caveat the finale with the thought- 'don't kill Azriim, he's too funny to let go.'

Read, I really enjoyed it.

Stay safe and well you lovely people, cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

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#156 The Alabaster Staff by Edward Bolme (Rogues 1)
Read 14/4/22 to 16/4/22


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It's a very odd book, I thought at first that I was on to a good one but that soon petered out, it's just too, I hate to use the word 'unbelievable' while discussing the Fantasy Fiction oeuvre, but- I don't get it.

Very specifically this is what I don't get.

Who the F is Jaldi, we follow this miscreant over the wall and into the city of Messemprar and then about 30-40 pages later we see him again, I think, briefly- he waves or else exchanges a line with our hero, the rogue- Kehrsyn, and then... That's Jaldi done, not another word for the entire novel. Just an odd way into the story... but, there's a lot of that.

So, Kehrsyn- downtrodden, her mother raped by a cruel man with money and power, her father killed, she's lead a hard life and yet... And yet she's a gullible fool (at the outset) seemingly on her first day out in the real world. Later, a variety of seemingly powerful and cruel men (and women), including a rapacious merchant (would be maniac), a high priestess of Tiamat, a Red Wizard, a mercenary professional killer, and... well, everyone else Kehrsyn meets really, are all of them instantly struck by how honest and good she is, and... they're really nice folk too.

This, of course, in the midst of a backstabbing double-dealing crisis in the city, as a variety of factions attempt to claim top-dog before the Mulhorand army turns up and flattens the lot of 'em. It's all just so... contrived, nothing bad ever happens to our hero- she's great at her job (well, a bit) but either folk just believe her (and then take her into their confidence) or else... well, everything just works out for the best.

Particularly amusing (actually, laughable) is the dumpy, frowsy, I just want someone to like me Priestess of Tiamat, Tiglath. Was there a time in the Faerun story when worshippers of Tiamat were on the side of right? Did I miss a meeting?

It's just a mess of unpleasant factions, in a city starving, tearing itself apart, with the Dead Cart picking up new victims each morning and... for our girl the birds are singing, everyone trusts her/likes her/loves her, or else- here have some money, a room, something to eat, and... it's just a nonsense. There's a bit of me that's not sure this is a book for adults, it's just so simple.

Ahegi, the only character that doesn't like Kehrsyn from the start, well... SPOILERS- he's the bad guy. I get that Massedar is also the villain but, Demok has already told us this (as did Ahegi when he ran to his boss). It's just way too simple, like... for the kids.

Also, what's with the Alabaster Staff? Kehrsyn, I think, kills the reincarnated/reanimated (by the aforementioned staff) Gilgeam by shoving the rod into the raised God and erm... snapping it, or else it breaks. Is that what happened? I'm still not sure.

There's some other really odd stuff here, odd quips and one-liners which are super cheesy, and there's a paragraph in which a guard says have a 'night ride', instead of, 'nice ride' and then takes another couple of lines to explain his mistake. The guard is no-one, the line means nothing, while other books pack in the wham-bam-jam this one tootles, and idles, and strolls- eating up ink with asides and oddities that tell us nothing about anyone close to the story.

It's down there with Once Around the Realms.

Read- it's not good.

Stay safe and well, cheers goonalan.
 

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