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

#182 Bladesinger by Keith Francis Strohm (Fighters 4)
Read 15/2/23 to 20/2/23


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It starts really well, it's intense- slow burn, and the adventuring group we are travelling, through Rashemen- always a great place to visit, are all top notch. The brooding, you read that right, halfling fighter on his war hound; the sage but slightly comic Rashemen ranger- "wodka!", and a pair of half-elf main players. Marissa, the outsider druid, and the love interest for Taen, an emotionally crippled Bladesinger.

So far and so suitably anti-hero bleak, with lashings of self doubt from our hero, he really is a mess.

And here's why- while we travel to the scene of the action with our guys the intervening chapters tell the story of Taen's darkest deed.

SPOILER- although when we get to the end Taen's fall from grace is both daft and silly, but y'know- passable.

There's lot to like here, the language is evocative and continues to make Rashemen and its strange ways a bang tidy place to visit (for a DM looking for a base of operations- are their any published adventures set here, or any other books?) And it really does go slow at the beginning, it takes a good 70-80 pages for our guys just to get from A to B. B being the actual start of the heroic quest, all before this is mood/scene/character setting, and with a nice bit of action against some Ice Trolls.

But then... well, gears get shifted and the teleport's in and the next thing you know our guys are in the thick of it, so... that too works, and again the writing is good- the action palpable, and it's great to see an adventuring party doing what they do best, and they're high-ish level folk.

The issue, maybe, that pops up early on is our Bladesinger is the loose canon- the song drifts from him in at all the wrong moments, and the next thing you know... he's making death saves.

Which I sort of liked- because it fits in with his broken self.

There are some villains of course but part of the problem here is that they don't get enough air time, the first time we get to meet the turncoat hag she's playing her part (very well) and terrorizing her minions. However, pretty much every time we see her (and her equally unfathomable- but cool half-orc priestess) after this she's either unleashing her next terror on our heroes, it's like close-captioning the plot, or else (as likely) bemoaning her lot when the previous incarnation of her terror has failed to hit the spot.

Our heroes seem to take it all in their stride.

The threat starts to look like middling- although SPOILERS nice twist in the end when the druid gets captured and eventually killed.

Also, even the Hag starts to doubt herself, at some point it very much starts looking like the Half-Orc Priestess is in line to play bad guy in a sequel, but it doesn't work out that way.

Then there's the goblin, which I like and hate at the same time, let me explain- our guys capture a random goblin, charm the fellow, and hey-presto (even with the druid gone- captured) this pre-Splug Splug is happy to show our guys the backdoor into the Hag's lair.

I guess it was an option, otherwise we'd have to sit through a lot more hack 'n' slash to get our guys to their ultimate destination, but as a device... it's a thin thread they hang from.

Then, and this is still foxing me two days later.

Then... you are never going to believe this.

Are you sat down?

Good.

The book ends.

Oh, yeah- hag and half-orc defeated, close run thing, bit of an epilogue for Taen (the Bladesinger) and we are finished.

On page 281.

Hang on, 281?

All of these books (and I've read 182 of them now) are 312 pages long.

The finale, and from a bit of a way before it, seems- peremptory.

Can you guess why?

Did someone chop 30 or so pages out just to make room for an excerpt from Ed Greenwood's latest blockbuster (as in my copy) or did the author just run short.

It left me baffled, because 312 pages (give or take) has been the rule for oh so long here.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.

Now, four books off, then back again.
As a quibble, not all of the FR novels are this length—some are longer, and some much longer (City of Splendors, Cormyr, and Evermeet are all in the 500-page ballpark, for instance), but the majority are 312 or very close to it.

And I suspect you’re right about the ending of this one, and how it got that way. Very disappointing.
 

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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
As a quibble, not all of the FR novels are this length—some are longer, and some much longer (City of Splendors, Cormyr, and Evermeet are all in the 500-page ballpark, for instance), but the majority are 312 or very close to it.

And I suspect you’re right about the ending of this one, and how it got that way. Very disappointing.
Of course, you are correct, my point should have been that 312 pages seems to have been the minimum.

I think it was more jarring because what came before was a lot more slow-paced at times (and better for it) then... a chase to the end.

Odd.

Thanks as always for putting me right.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#183 Whisper of Waves by Philip Athans (Watercourse 1)
Read 8/3/23 to 11/3/23


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I'm still a bit stuck on what to say here...

I want to tell you that it's a new type of fantasy fiction novel (or else a bit different from 99% of what has come before) but... I still don't know what to say for the best, or worst.

It's not my type of D&D, of that I am certain, and that being the case I didn't appreciate it as much as should have, perhaps, trying as it is to break the mold (again, a bit).

So, what does it do different, you are asking yourself, or else asking me- it does intrigue, and the long-game, and it twists and turns (a bit) and takes us here and there, and in doing so it feels like we're really spending quality time with the central characters. Not time in battle at which point every decision is life or death, but here there's a lot more (90% of it) in the way of down time. Characters intriguing, politicking- appeasing their mothers, worrying about their friends, and... it's a lot more mundane, prosaic.

The fact that it does this stuff, and it promises more- because let me tell you nothing much happens in this the first book- we're just getting the pieces on the board and moving here, well- that's a new thing because the usual fare here, even in the series novels is crash bang wallop before the end (of every book) and hefty serving of the same, well... throughout (some of them). This one has a ship wreck, but not much of one. A couple of swift fights and an epic dual against a pair of Furious Eels (yeah, you heard me- furious, absolutely livid).

Trying to do this kind of thing, of making a three part intrigue/thriller novel set in a fantasy world, well... that's somewhat different than pretty much everything that I've read here, although maybe someone will put me right. This book, thus far, isn't about adventurers, or monsters, or fighting, or spells- although, there's some of all of those things in here.

So, and at last, we're in Innarlith (and it's a terrible place- imbalance rich vs poor) and we're with a pair of Cormyrean architects (yep, you read that right- Architects! Quick draw the plumbline.) one of them- Willem is ideally situated to get on, while the other is so outsider it's a wonder he hasn't been martyred already, oh and he's the Messiah- or at least the Messiah of Stonemasons, that's our Ivar.

There are others here- a Genasi and a made good (boy from the wrong side of town) Innarlithian, and both of these fellows are as evil as they come, y'know- Senators, with power, influence, charm, servants, gold, magic etc. So, plot-plot-plot, but slow-slow-slow. Nothing happens, much.

Then there's Phyrea, she's the daughter of the Master Builder and a wild child to boot, see the Sembia series and the daughter of the family there- I forget her name, but basically she spends time at fancy pants galas and the like (disdaining everything) and then goes out cat-burgling of an evening. Twist- she smashes the stuff she steals, because... no one should have it. She has a heart of gold, and so she has to carry the burden of being posh and rich in a world made poor by the likes of, well... her, and her family. Which is... well, okay, but you get fed up reading about folk who can afford their epiphanies.

Then, well... intrigue happens, or else events- stuff gets built or else it doesn't, the bad guys scheme etc. and then... well, it's the end of the book.

Willem has gone from being earnest with a toothpaste smile to a murderer who just wants to please his snob mother (and also to please the Master Builder). But here's the twist- Willem can see himself changing, he's narrating his own downfall, and so... he's complex, and thus could go either way. And, I want to find out.

Phyrea is dragging terror and ghosts around with her by the end, and she's also self-harming, so... a happy ending is on the cards. The fact that she seems to be falling for Ivar isn't going to make things any easier for her.

Perhaps Phyrea and Ivar can save each other.

While Ivar is going to attempt his greatest bit of architecture ever, a canal to change the trade routes on Faerun forever... which will involve the co-operation of the Water Nagas. Natch.

That's it, that's where we've got to.

Some folk want the canal, some others do not, there's going to be a helluvah lot of scheming in the next one. Probably.

Is this Suez? Panama? Is this a history book made fantasy?

It feels somehow epic, but again- not my kind of D&D, which I need to apologise for, a little.

Read.

Stay safe and well.

Cheers goonalan.
 

I never read this trilogy, having heard negative things about it (and having disliked Athans’s entry in the War of the Spider Queen series). But actually you make it sound like the kind of thing I might like a lot—I sometimes tire of the perpetual-combat formula for FR novels and enjoy the occasional intrigue-heavy plot. So maybe I’ll check this one out after all.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#184 Lies of Light by Philip Athans (Watercourse 2)
Read 12/3/23 to 16/3/23


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It's more of the same... and again some of this is great, layer and layer of intrigue- a potboiler, but it's been simmering for so long now that I really, REALLY, just want something big to happen. In other series each novel in the sequence has a climax, a very definite ending that curtails (or else bookends) phases of the narrative (and the action) but in this one. It just rumbles on.

That is until the last fifty or so pages- when it really does, at last, get good.

But again, there are good scenes in here- the stand-out (imho) being Phyrea's meeting with Willem's mother, her new mother-in-law, self-harming with a fruit knife and then lapping up your own blood- it's not a tried and tested method of ingratiating oneself with the in-law, but it leaves an impression.

Every scene that Marek (the Thayan Wizard) is in is worth reading, he's turning into a distinctly mendacious, conniving, two-faced bastard- cast in the guise of a benevolent uncle (although again, a Red Wizard- so watch out).

Willem, prior to finding his life's purpose in the last fifty pages of the book, is a wash-out. Again. He spent the second half of the first novel in this series just basically pinballing out of control from scene-to-scene. The phrase dead man walking springs to mind, quite often.

Ivar is oddly quiet, and mostly off-camera, in this one- which means, of course, he's going to be back big-style for the finale.

And Phyrea... well, she's a world-class screw-up and that's putting it mildly, she too is taking the pinball route to annihilation (or salvation) trailed by ghosts who want her blood, besotted with Ivar (it's the red hair), and chased wherever she goes by puppy-love-eyed Willem. It's enough to drive a young girl over the edge. Phyrea helps to dig her own hole into depravity, she is both beautiful and cruel in equal measure.

Then there's Pristoleph, remember me mentioning him- no? There's a reason for that.

Pristoleph is the boy from the bad side of town- made good, he's the richest fellow in Innarlith, and an enigma to boot. Well, he's listed as one of the three main characters in this story- it says so on the back of the first novel, only he gets maybe ten pages in that one, and not many more in this one- that is until we get to the end.

And keep in mind Willem, it seemed to me, got most page time in the first book of this series, and he's not even listed in the big three characters.

Pristoleph is a red haired genasi, Phyrea likes a lot... but again she's just pinballing, and so the story suddenly changes again.

Willem is broken, and then after being shish-ka-bobbed by a flamberge (nice work Marek, 'A please to work with you, my boy', Marek has really found his voice/meter), Cormyr's second best architect is dead, and then back from it.

The ante is upped.

The canal, remember that, is really starting to go badly. Ivar is out of the picture and Willem (prior to his untimely end- and restart) and the Master Builder have been left in charge, it's all going to hell.

What could possibly come next.

My money is on a series of finales, or else a finale or two (minor) two-hundred more pages of natter (talking) and intrigue followed by a neutron bomb ending.

We will see.

It's good, well written- intriguing in part, too slow- quite a lot of the time, and it gets there- in the end. It's not my kind of thing though.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul
 

John_Vincent

First Post
#176 The Sapphire Crescent by Thomas M Reid (Scions of Arrabar 1)
Read 15/1/22 to 20/1/22


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First one back after a lay off- and I wanted to like it.

Wanted to.

Although for the first 100 or so pages I was as keen as mustard to get on and into it, then, well... it's hardly pacey, and it seems to delight in telling the reader things, y'know- rather than just showing them.

But, from the beginning-

Vambran, when he was a kid accidently shot and killed another fellow- the other fellow being a relative of one of the important merchant houses that run Arrabar. Note, Vambran's a member of house Matrell, they too are a merchant family of good standing in Arrabar. Anyway, Aunt Xaphira decides (heroically) to take the wrap for Vambran, she gives up her life to go on the run- getting shot in the process of escaping Arrabar. Meantime Uncle Dregaul takes every moment he can to berate Vambran- we're ruined, and you are to blame, etc.

Skip forward in time and Dregaul is the big cheese in the Matrell merchant household, and Vambran is a lieutenant in the Sapphire Crescent, a state sponsored mercenary army that protects Arrabar's trade interests, and when called upon gets up to other less than savory operations- like invading neighboring city states.

Anyway, Vambran's home and en route to the family manse when he witnesses a state sponsored (perhaps) murder. This gets his back up, and he's motivated to do something to help the unfortunate victims.

Hang on, what's Vambran been doing for the last decade or so- working as a mercenary in a state sponsored army that has no qualms about menacing its trading partners. Bit rich from the posh kid to start moralizing.

But, get it done early and the hope is the reader will forget this hiccup in the plot.

There's a great fight in a warehouse with a Leachwalker, a shambling mound only made of leaches. I was so hopeful.

But it circles, endlessly- it's slow and we get to see every side (almost) of the story so we kinda know what's going to happen to Vambran and the others on his team before it happens. Which at times seems self-defeating.

Likewise our hero, in every fight, has to be rescued by a woman in red- I wonder who that could be (Aunt X, of course), or else his two faithful sergeants show up just in time to save him. All the while Uncle D continues to rage at him. Oh, Uncle D is the bad guy- or at least one of them- but that's been on the cards since we first met him.

There's a bit at the end where it looks like Em, Vambran's sixteen year old sister is going to get raped- and there's some tension here, but only briefly because the villain talks himself out of the horror, which again seems to take the edge off things.

It's like the author is trying to replicate the merchant household in the Sembian series, but is much less accomplished, or else has just decided to drift rather than race. Even when the clock is ticking here it never seems that way.

Which makes it doubly odd that the auther, in the first hundred or so pages, tell us about the type, style and contents of all of the various planters (they contain plants) that we encounter during our ventures in Arrabar.

Vambran doesn't get much better, he's plodding, he even says something like- "If I hadn't defeated X then...", when the truth is in the fight against X he had surrendered his weapons and was 90% beaten until Aunt X and the Sgts turned up to save his backside once more. He's just a lot meh, and not even interesting with it, his new found morality seems to be all about him- the accident with the crossbow re-played.

When we meet the poor folk they are earnest, worthy and without deceit, that's nice.

Most of the posh folk and the higher ups are morally ambivalent- save that they should have/get the best of everything and screw the others.

It's a bit black and white.

That said the end is moderately interesting- Denrick Pharaboldis is written as a late teenage wannabe mustachioed tie-the-damsel-to-the-railway-track kinda guy, from the first moment we meet him. He may as well be carrying a sign that says 'villain', or better still- 'scoundrel'. But Evester, that reveal I liked, and the truth about our inciting incident. That's just (only just) enough to propel me into the next book in this series.

Oh, and I really enjoyed the Enthrall spell, that reminded me of good times gaming back in the day.

It's good to be back.

Just for info I will be reading all the books in a series (three in this one) and then will take a similar number of books off (so, three). Then onto the next series.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul
Hi Paul! I am slowly building my collection of the FR books (as well as Dragon Lance). I have not found a comprehensive checklist for the FR books that's easy to use. Is yours by chance available to share? I was thinking of reading them in order but I recently started The Prophet of Moonshae. I remember liking the series as a kid and just scored the second book to complete the trilogy. It's fun checking out used bookstores and coming across a book I don't have yet.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
Hi Paul! I am slowly building my collection of the FR books (as well as Dragon Lance). I have not found a comprehensive checklist for the FR books that's easy to use. Is yours by chance available to share? I was thinking of reading them in order but I recently started The Prophet of Moonshae. I remember liking the series as a kid and just scored the second book to complete the trilogy. It's fun checking out used bookstores and coming across a book I don't have yet.
Hi John,

Good luck with your endeavour- there are a lot of good books along the way, and while I'm fortunate in that I read quickly, I heartily recommend putting your head up for air every now and then reading something other than FR novels. I think I got through 50+ in a row when I first started at it, but now... well I did 25 or so in a row last year and at the end of it I was truly fed up with FR novels (and so I had 25 books off, as in I read 25 non-FR books that I really wanted to read).

Now to disappoint you, I don't have a list- I had a mess of a list but that went south when my PC died about two months back.

Sorry.

Good luck, now if you'll excuse me off to DM a game of WFRP. Oh, and welcome to ENWorld.

Cheers Paul
 

John_Vincent

First Post
Hi John,

Good luck with your endeavour- there are a lot of good books along the way, and while I'm fortunate in that I read quickly, I heartily recommend putting your head up for air every now and then reading something other than FR novels. I think I got through 50+ in a row when I first started at it, but now... well I did 25 or so in a row last year and at the end of it I was truly fed up with FR novels (and so I had 25 books off, as in I read 25 non-FR books that I really wanted to read).

Now to disappoint you, I don't have a list- I had a mess of a list but that went south when my PC died about two months back.

Sorry.

Good luck, now if you'll excuse me off to DM a game of WFRP. Oh, and welcome to ENWorld.

Cheers Paul
Hi Paul! Thank you for the quick reply and for the advice. Sorry to hear about your computer. I'll keep searching for a list or start making my own.
All the best!
 

misomiso

Villager
Hello - just found your thread - AMAZING! Will you be posting short reviews of all the books somewhere? Maybe noting some gems that are not part of any of the big series that are worth reading? Ty!
 

misomiso

Villager
Ok found all the reviews ty.

I have a different question - which of the books you have read so far have the best Romance stories? I remember reading some of the Dragonlance books when I was younger and loving some of the romantic plots or subplots, but I have no idea where to start with Forgotten realms.

Thank you for any advice.
 

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