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

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing here that's badly written, and truth be told in the first three days I got 200+ pages into it, it's an easy story to follow (caveat- see above) and while the action count is low (at times) there's lots of nice intrigue and story, it's... just not my kind of thing. The problem being that the last 100 pages damn near killed me, that's when the roll call of famous mages really started getting going... inevitably leading to a dozen or more fraught conversations as a variety of would-be Elminsters see who can pee the highest. Which is... alright, but more likely, I suspect, surplus to requirements. The last arcane pile-on is more like a who's who, if only there was more room for- action, event, or just a bit more cliff-hanger style plot.
I kind of feel like you'd expect famous mages to hang out with other famous mages, though. I'm sure Churchill spoke to Roosevelt quite a bit.
Oh, and in the space of this one I seem to remember the Blackstaff dying maybe a dozen times (but not dying of course) there's a moment apres the latest spell battle in which the old man is left limping around on just one leg. In a crypt somewhere, "no, don't bother with me, I'll be alright- it's just a flesh wound", he confidently states, as always.

The scene just made me laugh. I'm not sure that was the correct reaction.
It sounds like a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which geeks of a certain era (Boomer and Gen X, really) used to quote incessantly. (The scene with the black knight.) So I think it was, in fact, intended to make you laugh.

I really would not read Ayn Rand. Even if you're into libertarianism, her stuff goes on forever.

I'm guessing the target audience for the books (teenage boys) at the time wasn't really into romance. Bromances, on the other hand, would have been something they could relate to.

As for Greeny and his fantasies...eh. I can't take that sort of wish-fulfillment writing seriously but I wonder who Elminster would be allowed to bed nowadays. That's all I'll say about that though.
 
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Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#188 Bloodwalk by James P Davis (Wizards 2)
Read 22/4/23 to 27/4/23


IMG_4311.JPG


Phew, I thought it was going to be another book starring the Blackstaff and friends, I hadn't realised that it was a different Wizard in each novel in the series. That's a relief. and this one's much better.

The first chapter, let's call it the hook, well it's a doozy, and just made me want to dive right in. I like it when the author makes a real effort to capture his/her audience early doors, and I know all books attempt do this, but it's great when they get it right. Horror, terror, a creeping dread, all sorts of wrong and... I want to read more.

James P Davis sure can write.

Was their a story earlier on by this same guy, in one of the collections, the name rings a bell?

Anyway, the other great thing about this one is that the Wizard in question, Morgynn, is a Bloodmage, and better still... she's the bad guy. Now I'm thinking about it- that would be a great idea, a series of books all about different archvillains, the real bad folk- perhaps no wins (good comes right in the end) but the big bad, of course, survives to fight another day.

I digress, Blood Magic, demon worshipping casters, a shape-changing shadow hound, an Ogre Magi, a closeted group of Savras seers, a bunch of old skool druid/ranger folk, and at last...the Ghostwalker (no, a different one from the last time) he's called Quinn, and he's an Aasimar devoted to vengeance.

So, it's a bundle of laughs from the get-go, and the bad folk, and in particular Morgynn are ascendant, more than just ascendant- they are kicking ass and taking names.

It doesn't help that the head seer of Savras (SPOILER) is either working for the away team, or else so desperate to retain her position that she's just in the business of making stuff up, or else... what's the word, that's it- guessing.

Guessing ain't such a good look for a seer.

The rest... well, there are a couple of sisters that can see through the charade, and are out to protect the land and the people, then there's the aasimar assassin that is basically Clint Eastwood only less chatty. He's actually very great- he says a few things and then goes and does. Easy as. The rest, pretty much, is evil machinations, and keep in mind the Morgynn (I really don't like the name, no matter how you spell it) is an evil seductress, or else she looks like one, and with tattoos that writhe and... well, you get the gist. She too has a plan and we are mostly on board with her and her vice-presidents of evil, which is all good.

The rest is the journey to the end, climactic- attack on the city and the Savras seers by a demon/undead army, the aasimar invades the evil lair, the city is being torn apart- about to fall, betrayed from within. Then the sisters, and the planar good guy Clint Eastwood shadow strut back in and do their stuff.

There's a love interest of course, and... James P Davis take a bow- no happy ending for the couple.

It's a blast, to make clear- not a great book, just a good fantasy fiction novel with a particularly cracking first chapter (and for a little while after).

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#189 Darkvision by Bruce R Cordell (Wizards 3)
Read 28/4/23 to 4/5/23


IMG_4313.JPG


Just odd. And odd because there was stuff in here that was high octane end of the world/reality action- and well done, and some great characters and then... a central story, Warian's- who has just come home to find that all of his relatives are bastards, well.. anyway- it's silly. A very silly story.

I mean... I worked out what was going on maybe 20-30 pages in, or at least a very short way into Warian's story. The clues are writ so large as to be... well, again- a bit silly. Which is a bloody shame.

Warian is, of course, pointing out the clues to us but then choosing to water down his conclusions every time.

He's lame, and dumb.

Thormud- geomancer dwarf and his strange speech, and even stranger spell casting/rituals- big tick, love 'im & his great big stone destrier.
Kiril- hard drinking elf fighter/ranger/wizard and... wielder of Angul, the best sentient magic item in these books so far (less is more). Great big tick. Love her and it.
Prince Monolith- wunderbar, this feller should have his own song.
Iahn- flip-flop wearing chop-socky (Vulcan) elf hunter-until-the-end-of-time, yeah- he's pretty alright too.

The wasteland cave dwelling elves- just great.

Ususi, and some of the others- yeah, okay- we'll carry them for a while.

Warian- tries to appear smart to us (the reader) but misses the bleeding obvious every time, and the rest of his/the story is the same.

I thought at first- is this Eberron? It's dark, and there's semi-magic-tech stuff, and... what's going on here? But that feeling very quickly goes away. Basically Warian has a crystal prosthetic arm, it's starting to act up- go super-powered crazy. Time to go back home.

Warian left home because all of his relatives are nasty bastards.

That's very specifically why he went away.

Warian gets home to find that all of his relatives are nasty bastards.

Except for his Uncle Del (or Rel) who he still thinks is a bastard but... isn't. What a twist.

Oh, and his sister's gone missing. But she's a bit of a daft character as well, and she dies in the end anyway.

So, turns out Warian's bastard relatives have been making more crystal prosthetics only this last batch also come with extra ancient evil Imaskari sentient weapon/devil/terror-thing onboard, even in the standard package. The Imaskari sentient weapon/devil/terror thingy is obv. soon after in charge.

Then... chase to the end.

It all makes sense, and lots of it is good, only the (central-ish) reveal story (Warian's) is for kids. The rest of the folk feel like their contributing- just to note there are effectively three sets of folk (including Warian) who are in pursuit of our finale here, their stories meet at the end, in the finale- funny that. Warian's story is a drain, everyone else seems to be finding stuff out.

Oh, just frustrating.

When you find yourself shouting at a book...

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#190 Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt (Wizards 4)
Read 5/5/23 to 5/5/23


View attachment IMG_4315.JPG

Well, I read it in a day, what does that tell you?

It tells me that this is the best of these books that I have read for some considerable time, it easily gets into the top ten.

Why?

It has secrets and they are all slow reveal, it keeps you guessing- it's gripping and events are fraught and tense, and... it's a page-turner from the start, I couldn't put it down.

But why?

The characters, let's call them heroes, are really great- at the start all of them, the main players, are either broken. mid-tirade, swamped by grief and loss or else possessed of terrible secrets. Secrets that they keep close to their chest until the right time comes. The characters are also broken, bloodied, desperate and better yet- they don't have everything that they need, or else the money and servants to go and get someone to fetch them what they want. They are wild, and adrift- in the soon to be frozen north, and... it's all gone to merry heck.

It's an odd thing to ask, and a massive aside, but why do so many of the heroes of these books have everything they want or need to get where they are going, by which I mean money and resources. I honestly thought that more of these novels would be about low level desperate adventuring folk trying to make ends meet in the land of Faerun. At times I'm left thinking- where are the working classes, the honest and 'umble every-village Jo (male or female) that makes a difference in the end. Don't get me wrong, there's some of this, but a lot less than I thought there would be. Sorry, hobby-horse aside.

Back to this one.

Amira, ex-War Wizard of Cormyr is a renegade- her adopted son has been taken by Wolloch and his slavers, and then when the slavers get slaughtered it just gets worse- now the Sorcerer, think the King of the White Walkers (GoT) and you are getting close to the villain in this one. Only the reveal, on page 225- and I didn't have to write that page number down, or go and look for the page now... I remembered it (it made an impression), the reveal is just...great. Although now that I've told you there's a reveal your going to guess it way ahead of time. I didn't guess it, and I've read a few of these now.

Amira is a fantastic character- she is hate. fear, terror, despair and... a mother, and everything else besides (including the Wizard of this story)- but most of she is love, with all the fury and hurt that that entails. She is incredibly well written, it's not often that the turmoil here gets made so plain.

It's a simple story- just one thread really, a little aside here and there but for the most part it just keeps on pushing on, it's relentless. Amira and Gyaidun are both Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant.

Gyaidun, well- see Amira above, only it's a slow burn to the final conflagration.

The villain, again- see above, is just glorious- because he starts off kicking everyone's arse- the heroes and the initial villains (the slavers), the Sorcerer is creepy, and terrifying and... you just have to start guessing- what is he? Note at the beginning it's not even apparent he's a sorcerer, I had big money on undead, and then vampire-cum-White Walker.

The belkagen gets my vote for best supporting character so far (to make clear- in any of these books), he's a shaman although not without his tricks and his magic, and he shouts and he rages and then he gets on with doing everything he must do to move the situation on/forward, even though he knows that what comes next will be the death of him.

The elves that turn into wolves, the Vil Adanrath- their leader, the Omah Nin, their society- their hunts, all of this is glorious too, there's a whole other book for these guys surely somewhere further down this path.

Of course, there's a lot of noble savage stuff but they're not noble- they're freezing cold, tired, broken, emotional and terrifyingly potent- the Vil Adanrath are terror incarnate, and bloodthirsty with it. They are vengeance.

But nothing is certain here, the heroes don't just whistle and the pack comes running, it's all hard won- and feels that way, it feels desperate a lot of the time. There are a lot of defeats, even some of the victories are made hollow by the fact that the despair is going nowhere, the loss, it haunts the characters here. It un-makes them, almost.

As I say, very well written.

The meeting with the oracle in the Heart of the Piercing, OMG- I am stealing every second of this experience for my game, it is just glorious- even down to the montage at the end, it's just a simple idea well done, the author just keeps on rolling 20s, making the right choices to show, not tell, where we are at with the story. It's remarkable what can happen when you trust your reader to put the pieces together for themselves, no spoon-feeding. Don't get me wrong someone will close caption events eventually, but only when the reveal is done.

Which is pretty much why this one is also the best romantic novels I have read of these so far. You can see the love, no-one has to say it. You can see that they are both broken inside, and at some point you (the reader) must start to think- they're looking for their children but are they going to have to just settle with finding each other. You hope that's not the case, but then the doubt doubles back and whispers- what happens if they don't even find each other?

It's incredibly well written.

The place, the frozen wastes, is terrible.

The foes- terrible too.

The heroes, at each other's throats pretty near to the start, and it's a constant struggle from there-on in, moment by moment, to make sense of the story and get to the unholy climax at the bitter end.

It's a glorious book.

Mark Sehestedt should have been offered a contract, right there and then.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Read.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#190 Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt (Wizards 4)
Read 5/5/23 to 5/5/23


View attachment 283783

Well, I read it in a day, what does that tell you?

It tells me that this is the best of these books that I have read for some considerable time, it easily gets into the top ten.

Why?

It has secrets and they are all slow reveal, it keeps you guessing- it's gripping and events are fraught and tense, and... it's a page-turner from the start, I couldn't put it down.

But why?

The characters, let's call them heroes, are really great- at the start all of them, the main players, are either broken. mid-tirade, swamped by grief and loss or else possessed of terrible secrets. Secrets that they keep close to their chest until the right time comes. The characters are also broken, bloodied, desperate and better yet- they don't have everything that they need, or else the money and servants to go and get someone to fetch them what they want. They are wild, and adrift- in the soon to be frozen north, and... it's all gone to merry heck.

It's an odd thing to ask, and a massive aside, but why do so many of the heroes of these books have everything they want or need to get where they are going, by which I mean money and resources. I honestly thought that more of these novels would be about low level desperate adventuring folk trying to make ends meet in the land of Faerun. At times I'm left thinking- where are the working classes, the honest and 'umble every-village Jo (male or female) that makes a difference in the end. Don't get me wrong, there's some of this, but a lot less than I thought there would be. Sorry, hobby-horse aside.

Back to this one.

Amira, ex-War Wizard of Cormyr is a renegade- her adopted son has been taken by Wolloch and his slavers, and then when the slavers get slaughtered it just gets worse- now the Sorcerer, think the King of the White Walkers (GoT) and you are getting close to the villain in this one. Only the reveal, on page 225- and I didn't have to write that page number down, or go and look for the page now... I remembered it (it made an impression), the reveal is just...great. Although now that I've told you there's a reveal your going to guess it way ahead of time. I didn't guess it, and I've read a few of these now.

Amira is a fantastic character- she is hate. fear, terror, despair and... a mother, and everything else besides (including the Wizard of this story)- but most of she is love, with all the fury and hurt that that entails. She is incredibly well written, it's not often that the turmoil here gets made so plain.

It's a simple story- just one thread really, a little aside here and there but for the most part it just keeps on pushing on, it's relentless. Amira and Gyaidun are both Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant.

Gyaidun, well- see Amira above, only it's a slow burn to the final conflagration.

The villain, again- see above, is just glorious- because he starts off kicking everyone's arse- the heroes and the initial villains (the slavers), the Sorcerer is creepy, and terrifying and... you just have to start guessing- what is he? Note at the beginning it's not even apparent he's a sorcerer, I had big money on undead, and then vampire-cum-White Walker.

The belkagen gets my vote for best supporting character so far (to make clear- in any of these books), he's a shaman although not without his tricks and his magic, and he shouts and he rages and then he gets on with doing everything he must do to move the situation on/forward, even though he knows that what comes next will be the death of him.

The elves that turn into wolves, the Vil Adanrath- their leader, the Omah Nin, their society- their hunts, all of this is glorious too, there's a whole other book for these guys surely somewhere further down this path.

Of course, there's a lot of noble savage stuff but they're not noble- they're freezing cold, tired, broken, emotional and terrifyingly potent- the Vil Adanrath are terror incarnate, and bloodthirsty with it. They are vengeance.

But nothing is certain here, the heroes don't just whistle and the pack comes running, it's all hard won- and feels that way, it feels desperate a lot of the time. There are a lot of defeats, even some of the victories are made hollow by the fact that the despair is going nowhere, the loss, it haunts the characters here. It un-makes them, almost.

As I say, very well written.

The meeting with the oracle in the Heart of the Piercing, OMG- I am stealing every second of this experience for my game, it is just glorious- even down to the montage at the end, it's just a simple idea well done, the author just keeps on rolling 20s, making the right choices to show, not tell, where we are at with the story. It's remarkable what can happen when you trust your reader to put the pieces together for themselves, no spoon-feeding. Don't get me wrong someone will close caption events eventually, but only when the reveal is done.

Which is pretty much why this one is also the best romantic novels I have read of these so far. You can see the love, no-one has to say it. You can see that they are both broken inside, and at some point you (the reader) must start to think- they're looking for their children but are they going to have to just settle with finding each other. You hope that's not the case, but then the doubt doubles back and whispers- what happens if they don't even find each other?

It's incredibly well written.

The place, the frozen wastes, is terrible.

The foes- terrible too.

The heroes, at each other's throats pretty near to the start, and it's a constant struggle from there-on in, moment by moment, to make sense of the story and get to the unholy climax at the bitter end.

It's a glorious book.

Mark Sehestedt should have been offered a contract, right there and then.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Read.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
#191 Swords of Eveningstar by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 1)
Read 15/5/23 to 20/5/23


IMG_4317.JPG


Always fearful of a bit of Ed Greenwood, he has his foibles.

That said, I liked this one- or at least the most of it, the thing that's great here is that the story is travelled pretty much straight as an arrow although in truth the action skips from place to place, from person to person, from moment to moment. Each chapter is so beautifully constructed that we can continue to chase the plot while visiting a dozen different people in a dozen different places- the adventurers in the Haunted Halls, who are being observed by evil fellow #1, who in turn is visited by evil fellow#2, who then reports to evil fellow #3, who is an agent of good person #1, who will then refer to the ventures of good person #2, who is worried about one or more of the adventurers and and hey-ho, we are back in the Haunted Halls, and the next climax is just around the corner.

The structure is lush- all of these people sound exactly as you would want them to, in your game. The places they inhabit- samey-same. It's all very well done- and the emotion is being spread around, and all of these balls in the air- and all of them spinning furiously.

You've got to admire it.

Also, at the heart of this is a simple adventuring party, lead by the honourable and perfect Florin, who when we meet him is being a bastard to Narantha Crownsilver, who may or may not deserve her punishment. Probably not, there are other- safer ways, of achieving enlightenment, but hey-ho, this is the territory.

There's much to admire here to... although, for every tick in the box I'm as often left scratching my chin.

The Royal Charter adventurers consist of neophytes in their various trades- the Priests have no healing, or else very little, and not much of anything else. The wizards have a magic missile and an unseen servant between the two of them.

However, Florin and the other fighter-ish types are already semi-kick-ass.

While Pennae, the rogue, is around 12th level already, a one woman crime wave, and as sharp as a knife.

Also, how come this rag-tag bunch of sellswords just on their way to their first dungeon have King Azoun, Vangey, a clutch of Zhentarim Wizards, and another half-dozen wannabe villains or heroes that are already paying attention to them.

Either the adventurers have been plucked from anonymity, or else... it is their DENSITY!

This book, like many other Ed Greenwood novels, has a cast of thousands, and the big names are already popping in to say their part- usually something eminently quotable and yet pithy, before scarpering off again to save the world some more, including, of course, Elminster.

And again- that's also part of the problem.

There are a cast of thousands- Florin, Eggnog, Mattress, Bey, Doust, Oust, Jhessail, Agannor, Islef, Laspeera, Irlgar, Beyard, Hezom, Buzom, Elgaskur, Delbossan, Horaundoon, and all of those folk (I may have added a couple of my own) in the course of maybe 10 pages. There are lots and lots more.

It's a fairly simple central plot, but with 33 sub/semi/nano-plots pilled on top- with villain after villain- all out to kill/thwart the adventurers and, of course- and more importantly, to slay/thwart each other. Then there are Mindworms- no, I don't really know what they are; the Hargaunt, WTF- it communicates with chimes and sits on a Zhent/War Wizard's face for much of the action. There are a myriad of layers to this- every bit of this, it's always wheels-within-wheels.

And at the end of it I can report that-

The Mindworms are all destroyed.

I think.

The big bad guy- the fellow with the Unicorn horn ring is dead- done!

Most likely.

The Hargaunt is gone.

I'm almost certain.

Maybe.

The rest of it I'm less sure of.

At times it feels like a good editor wouldn't have gone amiss.

There's some other stuff that sticks in the craw here and there, but... it's alright- a nice enough tale almost, but not quite, swamped by a thousand other things going on in the background.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 


Goonalan

Legend
Supporter
As a writing teacher I have to say--Good Lord, can we get away from this binary already? Just taking from novelists, Henry James almost exclusively tells and doesn't show, for example.
As a retired writing teacher then yes, we can get away from this... probably, but y'know it's Fantasy Fiction not Henry James here, so- a few more pictures with words wouldn't go amiss. Just saying, although- tbh, I don't really remember much of this one.

You also understand these aren't reviews- no notes, no edits, just what springs to mind in the brief hiatus before I pick up the next book, and there are plenty of times I'm scratching around to say something other than- another good-ish novel. I'm just ticking them off here, this thread is my conscience.

Have a fantastic Sunday.

Cheers goonalan.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
I'm honestly surprised you're still going, I checked your first post and it was in the before times, when the great plague was still unknown.

How many more books are left to read?
 


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