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

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Tu'ala'keth, I think that's right, is a Shalarin- and it only bothered me for maybe thirty seconds that I had never heard of the Shalarin. Mainly because I'm discovering in the Venn diagram of FR style D&D and the D&D I've been playing all these years- well, the union of these two sets is packed, but there remain outliers. I'd not heard of half of the drakes (etc.) that made a show of themselves in the Rogue Dragon's series.
As I recall, the shalarin were a late introduction to D&D, premiering late in the life of 2nd Edition with Sea of Fallen Stars. Other than a quick 3E conversion in Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn, I don't think they've been seen much (outside of the novel reviewed above, I mean).

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As I recall, the shalarin were a late introduction to D&D, premiering late in the life of 2nd Edition with Sea of Fallen Stars.
Yeah, that's my recollection too. Far as i can tell, the writers wanted a playable undersea race who a) had legs, so weren't a drag when the party went on land like merfolk; b) were 1HD so they didn't have to go through all sorts of rules contortions balancing PC tritons; and c) were vaguely human-looking and didn't have creepy fish faces like locathah.
 

Goonalan

Legend
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#172 Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 1)
Read 19/7/22 to 22/7/22


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Bloody hell, it's a cracker, and keep in mind I'm not a big fan of the People (Elves), but this one... (and perhaps the others, don't tell me) is just great, and it has a bit of everything.

So, desperate times for the People, because some parvenu long lost 'house' of Fey/Demonspawn Elves and their friends are out of jail, liquored up and on the rampage. They're not liquored up, of course, I should imagine the People drink some sort of kombucha/smoothie non-alcoholic drinks and eat lots of fresh fruit with muesli.

But these guys, elves that sleep with demons in order to ensure strapping (physical/magical) progeny, well... as master plans go that's a doozy. Only the Elves! Whisper it but I'm getting to quite like the pointy-eared buggers, particularly the bad folk. The elves do xenophobic vengeance-orientated genocidal maniacs, only they're very organised and hierarchical for maniacs. They're great.

I thought the Drow were the Nazis, as it turns out, well all elves have the capability.

The Dlardrageth, unpronounceable and unpalatable.

So, genocide for the People, courtesy of an army of- yugoloths (who get no where near enough love), demons, fey, fey-demons, and of course- demonic fey. There's a war, and a battle or two, and it does epic and outstanding.

Then there's the adventuring party, and I love me some of this sort of action, lead by Araevin- and while they're suitably high level they're sub-epic enough for me to follow the action (from a D&D DM POV), and the plot while easy to follow (I got a bit ahead of it) is well put together.

Just to say, the only thing I didn't dig so much was the fact that I figured out ahead of time that when the Fey Demon Elf bastards sent out hero ahead- into the final magic stone/hard drive then it was inevitable that our guy would emerge from this place with power extreme and all guns blazing. Sorry, SPOILER, but that was too easy.

Then there's the politics back in Evermeet- a loyal Lord, a faithful queen versus a bunch of conservative (for which read xenophobic, racist, small-minded, self-centred and entirely self-serving) noble high councillors. All trying to undermine the rule of law/democracy by stymying the good guys at every turn. Elves, maaan! They suck the phat one, and are seemingly (the nobles) ram-jam packed with Cruella Deville (and the male equivalent) style terrors, cruel and pointless.

In conclusion- a bit of nasty and snide politics, the People's paradise, it seems, is a bubbling pot full of hatred, if the queen's council is anything to go by.

Lots of great places to adventure and explore, and with travel sections- suitably nasty random encounters, and some lush action, I didn't even mind it when the good guys got captured and were not all executed on the spot, mainly because one of them is (executed). I liked that a lot.

I prefer it when a hero or two dies en route to the finale, it makes more sense, gives value/worth to the outcome. There are a lot of books on this list- looking bad on them, that have got my goat because the one to five heroes always emerge from the epic tumult with barely a scratch on them.

Oh, and great battles, I'm going to get me one of those floating battle platforms for my big bad guys.

Some nice magic- the Mythal and the magic stones, I enjoyed the comparison between the magical workings of the Mythal and some sort of modern security/internet style information network, I liked that a lot.

It's just a cracking all-action easy read.

Read

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I actually bought this roughly two years ago when I stumbled across it at my local bookseller, but so far I haven't had a chance to crack the cover.

House Dlardrageth/the fey'ri were another one of those "they've always been there, just lurking out of sight" power groups that got introduced at the tail end of AD&D 2E, similar to the shalarin and Myth Nantar in the Sea of Fallen Stars. Which makes me wonder exactly what was going on back then that so much new material was being injected into the Realms. I suspect the answer has something to do with Wizards of the Coast having just acquired the setting from TSR, though beyond that it's all speculation.

Regardless, the game origin of this particular power group can be found in Hellgate Keep, with their 3rd Edition debut (and some minor updates) appearing in Lords of Darkness.

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Goonalan

Legend
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#173 Farthest Reach by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 2)
Read 23/7/22 to 26/7/22


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It's another good 'un, keep in mind it's the difficult middle book of the trilogy, and so must pretty much leave the protagonists where they were, but... lots of exposition and a myriad challenges overcome along the way.

So, it does all that- and looking back on it almost by the numbers, it follows the formula well- and although that's a little less exciting it's exactly what is expected, and it works, of course- so, there's that.

More adventuring from Araevin and friends, including a very nice (and odd) encounter with a Gray (Grey) Render, I loved that guy- if I was DMing the poor fellow I'd have given him a few sound effects (possibly a police siren).

There's some more oddness a little before this encounter when Ilsevele lets us know that Araevin has changed, or else will never change, and... she doesn't love our guy like she used to. Araevin will never settle down, if only the author could have reversed the situation, but hey-ho, this was printed in 2005.

Seiveril and his back from the dead new best mate- Starbrow (odd name) are kicking ass, and then moments later, getting the ass kicked right back. The Dales are surviving, the bad guys have multiplied- Hillsfar, Sembia, the Zhents and our old friend and favourite Sarya Dlardrageth are all out to grab themselves some prime real estate.

Oh, and Malkizid (a fallen Solar latterly turned Arch Devil, that's groovy) has also started whispering in Sarya's ear. The bad guys in this one get a lot more page time, and they're better and worse for it. Better because we get to visit with the rulers of Hillsfar, Sembia and the Zhent, and do a little nosing around and discover what these guys are really like. And the worse? They're all terrible people, to a man, although the Zhent CEO Fzoul seems the most collected (and therefore the nastiest) of this bad bunch.

There's a nice trip to the Yuir Wood and then through a portal into the other, much older, Yuir Wood (as was) home to the Star Elves, good work is done here. Same for Araevin's transformation as he sucks up the spells in the telmiirkara neshyrr (big magic bag-of-holding stone) and defeats its demon fey elf creator.

In short, it does what it does- a rollercoaster ride between hard won exposition, formulaic, but there's enough there to keep the pages turning, and this reader wanting to find out how and why. That said, the ante has been upped, and the last one in the trilogy will undoubtedly do it all again, only this time with an ending.

Read and enjoyed.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

rooneg

Adventurer
I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading through this thread, it brought back a lot of memories from when I was obsessively reading this stuff. Thank you so much for doing it.
 

Goonalan

Legend
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#174 Realms of the Elves Ed Philip Athans (Last Mythal 3)
Read 27/8/22 to 30/8/22


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I'm back.

Apologies, I've had a month off, I got so far with this one- and it wasn't as if it was bad, it was just that I'd had enough of reading these books for a while. It didn't help that I'd just bought a bunch of WFRP 4e books and was about to DM some nice folk, and so I spent a month reading WFRP books. Oh so relaxing.

But back to this one, as anthologies goes it's a good one. The seven stories, that's right- just seven of them, are meatier. Fifty or so pages each, and so we get to spend a bit of time with the characters, and almost all of them (I'm guessing) are minor celebs (or better) of this world, even Elminster gets a walk on (gah!).

And so-

Traitors by Richard Lee Byers- takes us all the way back in time (Circa -25,090 DR) to a very strange Faerun, nothing like the present day. Dragons rule the roost, and the significant opposition are the elves (the people) but they don't look to be doing so well. This story is an addendum to the Rogue Dragons series, and we get to see (sort of) how it all got started. Although the explanation delivered here is more motive than detail, for the detail we need to read the rest of Rogue Dragons series.

That's a common theme with these stories, all of them (perhaps) are just inserts/adverts for forthcoming (or already released, and read) trilogies, but that's okay- I don't mind that.

The Staff of Valmaxian by Philip Athans- I'm guessing that Valmaxian will be making an appearance in a future trilogy, I don't know this of course, I don't look ahead- I just pick up the next book and read on (well, most of the time, I've just had a month off for no good reason). Valmaxian does a deal with a devil, later he learns that doing deals with devils is a bad thing. The lesson- don't take short cuts, do the right thing. It works, but not my favourite here.

Necessary Sacrifices by Lisa Smedman- it's twee, and sentimental and marvellously manipulative of the reader. I loved it, I even had a little cry at the end- I'm only human after all. I like Sorrell and loved the idea of the vengeance seeking Shevarash elves, heading down into the dark to slaughter the cruel drow. Again, the end- much too easy, heart strings are tugged (yanked?), and then the author leaves us alone, well not quite alone- there's a small hand in our hand.

The Greater Treasure by Erik Scott de Bie- is beautifully written and at the same time a little odd, the elf that has to make the choice- between his sister's fall from grace and straight into the arms of Grazz't or... the sexy come-to-bed-eyes/thighs of Twilight. It's good that sex is a thing now in these novels, it exists. It's good that Twilight is the (very mild) sexual predator- Girl Power! But it still seems a bit odd, or else sex and sexuality always seems to be a theme that is treated as taboo, or else treated in a child-like way. I guess it's an audience thing, teenage boys (for the most part? or older?) like their fantasy fiction (female- 99.9% of the time) pin-ups to be... Vallejo? But spicy with it, and in this one- in control. But the elf doing the choosing is a dolt, which makes me wonder, of course, about Twilight's choices. It's a good story but... and that's the problem.

Comrades at Odds by RA Salvatore- gets us from the last Drizzt story to the next one, I'm guessing. It does exactly what it says on the tin, sets up a few things, does a bit of bonding between Drizzt and his latest Pegasus riding squeeze. Although squeeze is the wrong word, Drizzt is the one that's learning lessons here, and Innovindil has all of the best lines. It also sets up some future encounter between Drizzt and the young pretender, maybe, Tos'un Armgo- and he has Cati's terrible killer sword. That's it, but it's great.

Tears So White by Ed Greenwood- well, what to say about it? Then a further consideration- what to say about it that's nice? I love a lot of Greenwood's writing, the realms sounds different- quite simply they talk funny, but it's so... authentique. I love it. Then there's the action- the Knights of Myth Drannor can kiss my hairy backside, it's hardly D&D- it's a comedy skit (at times) in the middle of a fight. Did I say fight- I meant to say epic end of world battle royale. Liches arrives at the fracas a dozen at a time.

I'll write that again- Liches arrive at the fracas a dozen at a time.

Part of the problem with this is when the fight gets going the three Knight of MD are barely holding their own against one or two liches, so when another dozen pop up, and then another dozen, and then... I kid you not, at one point I tried counting them- over a hundred liches in the fight.

Silly doesn't cover it.

Particularly when the Knights spent three pages fretting over fighting three liches, when there's 50+ of them on the board you start to wonder what's going on. Couldn't the bad guys start with 50 liches on the board from the beginning, but then where would the author go? A thousand liches. I wouldn't put it past him.

The Liches can't use magic in this strange place but... then why use liches?

Greenwood chose liches because they're tough bastards- everyone knows this. Lich = real bad. Then he hamstrings them = no magic. Then, having made liches a push-over he has to start sending them into battle a dozen (later a score) at a time.

Thanks Ed, that's liches broken.

But it's not of course, it is however a very silly story.

The entire schtick is the Knights have to figure out what they are doing in the strange world/space that they find themselves. The story would, of course, be... well, nothing- if Elminster had taken an extra thirty seconds to a minute to tell the guys what's going down. It's just so tenuous.

And very silly.

The Bladesinger's Lesson by Richard Baker- is a cracker, and we're back to the present trilogy- the Last Mythal, and it's just background stuff but the characters come alive. The ninja Bladesinger learns his lesson and... it's hard won, but well won, and the reader feels glad to be alive. Just a very nice short story, and well told. Loved it.

That's your cracker for a bit.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Good grief this is an impressive thread and an impressive feat! You bookshelf must look spectacular. :)

I read a lot of books, always have, at least one a week for the last 30, maybe nearly 40, years. The FR ones I sell on ebay once done with, the rest go back to the charity shop. Access to cheap books is a necessity, and a source of great joy in my life.

Thanks for taking the time- much appreciated.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#175 Final Gate by Richard Baker (Last Mythal 4)
Read 31/8/22 to 8/9/22


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And it's another cracker, although... and there's always an although, this novel has to a do lot of stuff in a very short, all those endings that need wrapping up, or else given a final twist to allow the reader space enough to wander off and insert their own conclusion here. Why this one is better (and a little bit worse) than the rest is... well, book three is usually the helter-skelter, no-time to stop and look around, it's usually climax after climax, with each new spectacular only kept apart long enough for either the protagonist (and friends) to reach some new insight, or else the antagonist to ponder his/her/its fiendish over-arching masterplan. Then cackle with delight- natch.

So, this one throws in a love affair- elven style (nothing happens, but slowly) and that's a stretch of the imagination, for these sorta books. It's not bad, minimalist- all silent wanting/yearning, nothing untoward- nothing ugly, heaven forfend- they're elves! How could there be. It's a semi-odd thing for an author (here) to lean into something that's almost entirely outside of the main plot, it adds something, but then again... here we go.

There's just so much to get in here, and so when Araevin and his buddies head off on their dimensional journey to find the three remnants of the whatsitsname gem that started it all, well... We go back and forth between Araevin and chums while the war rages, and Ilsevele, and Seiveril, and the resurrected Starbrow get to sit center stage far more often than the young mega-mage (he has High Magic don't you know, it's capitalized- always), and so the young lad loses a bit of his luster, he's demoted.

Sarya Dlardrageth, who? Doesn't get much of a look-in either, and when she does she's seems to be contentedly (or not) shuffling towards her doom. Archdevil Malkizid is no longer content to just be the power behind the throne but, well- we're left in doubt, Sarya is his lightning rod. So, our big bad villain has gone away, or else been sidelined- even while she still (every now and then) stands center stage. Sarya's tantrums serve only to frighten her allies in the narrative, the reader sees the truth of it, and so the threat is undermined, visibly lessened.

But again, there are lots of places to go and see here, and people to admire- there's stuff I'm going to take from this for my own game, and that's my purpose here. I am really into the Mythals now, and Waymeet, and the idea that the Elves (and the Dragons) did all of this before. I like the idea of long-lost ancient elven magic-tech just silently counting the years waiting for some adventuresome fool to wander into its compass.

In conclusion, it's good- there's a lot of it coming at you at the end, which is odd because it starts remarkably slowly, so much so that towards the end it does just start to feel like a series of plot end boxes that need ticking. The magic/fighting finales, at times, feel either rushed (mostly in Araevin's story) or else somewhat underwhelming; in truth I think an author- maybe, just once, needs to kill one of his central characters and tip over the entire plot just to make it even more desperate for the survivors at the end. Araevin was never going to lose, and I know that we all know this even before we pick up the book, never mind read the first line, but... It became too obvious, too apparent, the villains weren't up to the job.

Seiveril getting his spectral dad and his mates to turn up for the big rumble was a nice touch (deus ex machina, who cares) but the rogue general's death had been on the cards pretty from the get-go, and writ so large in this one to make his finale underwhelming. But that may just be me.

For all of the above it's a cracking good fantasy novel, just not as good as the first two in the series.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

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