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

Goonalan

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#192 Swords of Dragonfire by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 2)
Read 21/5/23 to 7/6/23


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Rubbish.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.

Rubbish & Silly.

It took me 17 days to get through this one, and more than once- when I had thrown it across the room again, I thought I was never going to make it, and that my quest was at an end... but I just kept on going, sometimes managing just ten pages a day.

Why you ask yourself, what's so bad about it?

It's not the realms- the realms are wonderful here, as always. Same with the language- it all feels so real, authentic- or at least authentic to the world as Ed Greenwood knows it, and it's his backyard afterall.

But the plot, the story, and the comic/silly/absurd way the author trips through it.

I hated it.

The Knights of Myth Drannor (KoMD) are okay- two Laurel & Hardy (not even) priests, a quiet but oh so beautiful neophyte mage, a sturdy and butch (Brienne of Tarth) fighter and then two actual/real characters. Florin the ranger, who as the book goes on becomes an emptier space on the page, and Pennae- the real hero.

I don't like them, save for Pennae, they're not that funny, they seem strikingly daft- incompetent at times, they just blunder on- shouting daft things to each other, most times in the midst of some life or death battle.

So, first fifty pages and the set-up, including the roll-over of the action from the last novel in the series, and the set-up for what comes next- all of it. There's nothing left to discover after you have read the first fifty pages. The problem at the inn in Halfhap is a ruse, the real deal is an assassin of sorts, and... all we have left to do is get there- to the end.

The end itself, the climax is 2.5 pages long, alas after finishing the intro you have another 320 or so pages to get to it.

What happens in those 250 pages- sweet FA, which is a less kind of way of saying- nothing.

The KoMD head to inn in Halfhap, it kicks off- people run around, the adventurers, a couple of really great villains (the only plus point at all here, War Wizards, Purple Dragons including the STOOPID Dauntless (I don't know why this is so comic), Zhents, Bully Boys- sent by (comic) nobles.

Then everyone dies.

Then the grown ups turn up, in increasing ascendancy- Vangey, Manshoon, the Blackstaff, and finally- ELMINSTER (product placement).

Elminster is gnomic and weird, apparently Mystra makes him watch/scry on Manshoon, and his lover, in their undercrakers.

Rubbish.

At this point the lesson is that nothing matters a jot, because the grown ups (Elminster et al) will just show up and put everything right.

The problem is the author has to give power and agency to a bunch of folk that have no power or agency- the KoMD.

So 150 pages of this stuff- and again, it's not bad in places- particularly when the villains get involved.

Then- aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

200 pages of the KoMD running down a corridor fighting and slaying War Wizards and Purple Dragons.

Hang on- War Wizards and Purple Dragons?

Aren't they supposed to be the good guys.

Yes.

The rest of the book could be solved/resolved if one/any member of the KoMD would just take a moment and explain themselves.

The odd thing being that there seems to be no established way for the KoMD to talk to their handlers- maybe this could have got figured out a little earlier in the quest.

Also, in the first half of the novel, and in the previous one then everyone is always scrying, all of the time, on everyone else.

But for 200 pages it is perfectly acceptable to have the good guys fight the other good guys on the back of a misunderstanding- even to a show down with Vangey.

This is all acceptable.

This is a realm in which folk are consigned to die because someone didn't check their e-mail (or equivalent). It's nutty, stupid, almost a two finger-up at other authors who try to fashion a believable plot/story and characters that have hard choices.

It all just happens to the KoMD, and at the end- Florin is told exactly what to do by Vangey (the grown up) and... FTW.

RUBBISH.

Then there's the juvenile sniggering treatment of sex, the shock of the lesbian, the frisson of excitement at the thought of a menage a trois. In a different but the same way there's also a visit to a proctologist for one of the stoopid nobles.

It feels in places, the second half, that it was written by a very excitable teenager.

I learned nothing in the end, because nothing happened, they could have saved Azoun/Vangey et al with a note, or a chat, or... something other than 200 or so pages of kicking the stuffing out of the folk on the same side as the adventurers.

Here's what really grips me, at the end this is all just another (typical) day in Cormyr- hundreds lie dead, folk have given their lives- admittedly unimportant people, nobody with a name, just 'the people', and none of the grown ups give a flying f...

It's a world I don't want to live in, or even read about.

Thank heavens Mr. Greenwood writes better books than this... fingers crossed, because I'm just about to start the next one.

It was Radiohead that said-

You do it to yourself, you do
And that's what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself, just you
You and no one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

And with that in mind only another 115 or so novels to go.

Love you lots.

Keep in mind- imho.

goonalan.
 

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Goonalan

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#193 The Sword Never Sleeps by Ed Greenwood (Knights Myth Drannor 3)
Read 8/6/23 to 15/6/23


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Well, it's better than the last one, and I really mean that- I even started to like the KoMD a little by the end, they had come alive, or at least their asides and the accompanying shtick started to make a little more sense. What changed? Well, the plot got better- but again, not massively so, it still feels a lot like a sideshow. There's another interlude with Elminster in this one too, El versus the Blackstaff, it still feels like the KoMD are without agency, that the grown-ups could show up at any time and put things right, solve whatever end-of-the-world dilemma that's in play and be at home in time for tea and biscuits. It also feels like the author is making sure that the reader is aware- Elminster is all powerful, Elminster will put things right, Elminster is the best, always on the look-out for the little guy. Take this scene, and a few others like it out and... well, the KoMD get a degree more agency, and respect, and the jeopardy gets upped, and so you are left asking yourself... why include this in the first page. The author seems to content to undermine his own plot all for a bit of product placement.

ELMINSTER IS THE BEST.

Odd. But again, there's more to like here- because the bad guys are, well... bad guys, this time I am actively cheering (deep inside, just a little) when the adventurers take another one of their foes down, unlike in the last one which just made me mad. I don't want much from these novels- a bit of the realms- check, some interesting folk and places- check, a great enemy (always a bonus)- check, and a story that makes me want to keep turning the pages. It does most of these things, although once again the story/plot and its strange climax is still flakey and odd. Doubly so because the climax seems so ad hoc arrived at, this is a good spot- let's unleash the collective terror of the fifteen different enemies that have been stalking the KoMD. What doesn't work about this is Mr. Greenwood seems to delight in introducing us to each and every one of these enemies, tell us what we need to know- each enemy is given a scene to wring his/her hands and vocalise what trick next they are going to play, how they are going to defeat the KoMD. Why bother with these... you sometimes get the feeling that the author is a bit untouchable, that there's no editor involved with the project. The plot in this series, in comparison to many others, just seems to travel in a straight line, and all along the way signposts to tell us what comes next.

Then there's the enemies- Old Ghost and his new apprentice, the Sword That Never Sleeps, daft but... if you like. So, what happens to these fellows... they go away, or at least Old Ghost does. The apprentice has been offed by the end, but here's the thing- the rest of the bad guys are suitably toothsome, but they're not the terror of Old Ghost. Old Ghost has been rolling along, getting nastier all the while- and more powerful ever since the first novel.

Old Ghost gets away at the end, or else doesn't really get involved in the climax.

What now?

Why do this?

Will Old Ghost be back in a future Ed Greenwood novel, having found an enemy more suited to his needs... Obviously, I have no idea about this- I'll have to keep on reading, I wouldn't be surprised if a fat lecherous wizard/demi-god whose name begins with 'E', well... I wouldn't be surprised, that's all I'll say.

I'm probably miles off, but... don't tell me, I'll find out.

It's also a bit silly, now and then, it trades in comic at times, the stumbling bumbling Dauntless (who was a very bad man in book one, although still bumbling et al) finally sees the worth of the Knights, that's daft- is he supposed to represent 'the people', the man on the street, and not as he starts the series- a dim, slow-witted, barbarous thug dressed as a Purple Knight (Onion, sorry... orniron, ornion? O'nion? Whatever). It's a long way to drag a stupid character (three novels) all for the pay off delivered here- 'you are alright, you are- I no longer want to kill you. Bye then.'

Just a strange way of doing things.

Read. I didn't enjoy it much but it was better than the last one.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

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#194 Shadowbred by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 1)
Read 10/7/23 to 14/7/23


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It's a good book, as in an easy read and interesting in part, there are issues- there are always issues (with me) but... it does what it says on the tin, it just works- it sets up perfectly what comes next, I hope.

So, Erevis Cale is back, a shadow of his former self (see what I did there, he's a shade now, remember), and the former bad man turned butler/major domo has become... a very bad man, again. But a hero too, a sort of anti-hero, which is no bad thing. He always seems to look out for the working classes, the poor folk, and so apart from his very creepy love/lust for juvenile girls (specifically Tazi) then, I like Erevis Cale. Anti-hero, check; working class hero, check; bad man, check- that'll do for me.

That said- it's slow, oh so slow at the start, with the secret-keeping Shar clergy doing their damnedest to out-creepy each other, Erevis figuring out that he's not cut out for the happy quiet life, and... Sembia's nobles scheming to rip the nation apart. There's nearly 150 pages of this stuff, nothing much happens except for the putting of the pieces on the board, and the set-up for the rest of the trilogy (I presume).

Here's my issue with it- there's no pretending, the bad guys you (the reader) already know are the bad guys- even before you get to meet them in their day jobs. The other bad folk, who have yet to declare their hand, well- they may as well wear t-shirts (or an FR equivalent) stating that they are bad people. Everything is either revealed in the first 150 or so pages, or else is made so plain as to be obvious. This isn't ideal, and yet I can't believe that the author didn't figure this out ahead of time, so either there's a twist, or else it is just as simple as that. Sembia wil descend into civil war, Prince Riven and the other shadowfolk will start out playing nice and then turn nasty, the clergy of Shar will continue to backstab and connive (and in doing so undermine each other). Oh, and we'll get to meet Magadon the mind mage again, and possibly his old man- Mephistophelese, which I can't imagine will end well.

This one, well- 150 pages of set, another 100 pages of Erevis' return to Selgaunt and his previous 'master', and then... well, it finally gets really good. The Source/kraken is back, Riven is back, Mask is back, Jak is gone (at last, he may yet be back), and a bunch of chop-socky red shirts have been added to the mix. The last fifty or so sides are full bore rolling thunder, death and destruction aplenty. The rest, good work- very easy to read and understand, but it's all just set up for what follows. It took me three days to read the first 150 pages, and then another two for the remaining 200 pages.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers Paul
 

Goonalan

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#195 Shadowstorm by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 2)
Read 15/7/23 to 19/7/23


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It's a cracker, and I'm really beginning to like this series, it seems the 150 pages of slow going set-up in the first one was worth it. The characters are very well established, and they've all got something going for them.

In this one the Mask away team- our man in the shadows, Cale; the one-eyed assassin, Riven; and the mad/soul-rendered/devil-sire mind mage, Magadon are exploring Hell, the Plane of Shadow, and generally getting around the multiverse. For me, as a DM, this is all sweet joy, things I can steal, transpose, grab-a-hold-of for my game. Loving this.

It helps that this trio are really starting to rock, and the fights and scenarios explored here- the Nexus is just stunning, are all great; the final saving of the Shadow Dragon, and... I almost (but not quite) shed a tear. Good man, Cale. Do the right thing, Spike Lee had it right. This is high level play, Cale et al are stacked with powers, as are their foes, and yet the jeopardy is in it, it's all worthwhile watching (& reading) and the story flies by.

Tamlin and the Shadovar (Prince Rivalen et al) are in the mix too, the Hulorn is a dick; but Prince Rivalen is very very good at this game, you get the feeling he bends minds for kicks, and that better men/women/creatures have fallen foul of the shade. The finale, as Selgaunt is pummeled by giant earth elementals, attacked by an ancient green dragon, and then set ablaze by fire elementals. It's all great stuff, and again it's great to see how this is done; more to steal for my game.

The final visit to the temple of Shar, at last 'by the Deuce' Vees gets his comeuppance, and Tamlin slips into the shadow, to the dark-side.

Oh yes!

Then there's Abelar and his company of Lathander adherents; another great character- particularly towards the end, and after every holy/good act that we have seen, then the testing when Abelar's son is taken by the bad guys. The fall from grace, this book has everything.

Oh, and the bad guys, for once, feel like they're really trying, and match-fit, and capable- they have plans, a good commander, and they're at the right level to stretch the good guys, even win a few fights. The enemies here seem much more worthy, Forrin has been with us since the first book, it's good that the author gave him a face and voice, his death is all the more fitting/rewarding.

Also, Shar... loved it. Everyone has a secret, by which I mean that all of the priests of the Lady of Loss think that they have the edge over their Shar supervisor (other titles available) but all of them- all of them, even Prince Rivalen, are getting shafted, all of the time. Superb, as is the final coming of the Shadowstorm, which kinda just leaks out in the background, and Elyril gets to meet the Lady herself.

It's a great book, just a thunderball narrative that keeps on giving- great characters, great situations & scenarios, great fights, great intrigue, a real delight.

Read

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

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#196 Realms of War Ed Philip Athans (Twilight War 3)
Read 20/7/23 to 25/7/23


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Well, it's alright- these anthologies are really a very mixed bunch of tales, and this one just seemed to divert me from my Shadow War trajectory, it didn't help that the first story, Continuum, by Paul S Kemp- author of the rest of the trilogy, sort of lessened my fear (and respect) for Prince Rivalen, the big bad in the series (or else one of the big bads). Prior to reading this one, in my head, Rivalen was... pretty much invulnerable, Continuum put him on the back foot- he can make mistakes, he can be defeated?

And so the stories are-

Contiuum by Paul S Kemp- see above, Rivalen makes mistakes.

Weasel's Run by Lisa Smedman- Weasel, a Spriggan scout for a Halfling mob is captured by worshippers of Malar, the Beast Lord, and then released and hunted by the same. It's probably the best story in the anthology.

The Last Paladin of Ilmater by Susan J Morris- Maze (an assassin) is lead to her target by Jaeriko (a druid), who isn't cut out to be an assassin's aide. Then we get to the General of Arrabar versus the General of Reth, and... the story kinda gets away from me. It's alright but in the end I don't care for either general, and care even less about the outcome.

Black Arrow by Bruce Cordell- Jotharam, noble by birth, gets a comfy job in the war- he however has other ideas, he wants to play the hero- and so it goes... His final act to light the beacon which illuminates the battlefield, and reveals to the besieged defenders of the city where the goblin army is strongest. He saves the day, but... again, it just seems a bit peremptory at the end.

Too Many Princes by Ed Greenwood- I like Mirt, I like Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms, I like less his stories of the realm. Less and less. It isn't terrible, it's just... okay. The set up is there are too many princes with a claim to the throne of Amn. Mirt has to figure out how to get himself and his men out of the fight for the throne, or else on the right side at the end. There's an evil vizier (ain't there always) and women are treated like adornments (a bit, as usual).

The Siege of Zerith Hold by Jess Lebow- another siege, the goblins are really pulling out the stops, this one it's Lord Purdun to the rescue, and it's a great fight- but that's pretty much all it is. Then, in the end- the last dash for the big bad guy and... the Deux Ex Machina arrives to save the day.

Mercy's Reward by Mark Sehestedt- Gethred is captured by... a very big and nasty man. He's a Cormyrean spy, spying on the Tuigan Horde. Then the Tuigan turn up and help with his rescue- they all day, of course, Then the wolf that Gethred saved (a while back) turns out to be one of the lycanthrope elves, and then pretty much everyone bad dies. It's a well written short story, and the action is very cool in places.

Redemption by Elaine Cunningham- I still don't get the Elaine Cunningham thing, although... that's not true, entirely. She's in the top five (of what I have read so far here) writers, but I generally don't get very excited by her stories. So, Craulnober and Princess Arilyn are back, and... the bad boy criminal mastermind, latterly gone back to his roots- anti-hero of the people, has to be employed to do something dastardly, because elves don't like to get their hands dirty, and... he does it.

Changing Tides by Mel Odom- Loved it, although... have I read this one before, in one of the other anthologies? More sea devil action, and some nice insight into how to plunder a shipwreck on the bottom of the Inner Sea, get some Sea Elves to help. The sharks and sea devils and bad stuff- the wall is breached, the soggy's are coming! A Soggy is the PCs name for a Sahuagin, in my game, they've had some trouble with the terrifying aquatic bastards.

Chase the Dark by Jaleigh Johnson- the memories (memoirs) of Devlen Torthhill- charlatan, trickster and blasphemer, employed to set false trails to lead the enemy astray, only his commander has just cheated Dev, and sent him on a genuine mission. He is the guy the enemy should be chasing, get out of that. The big problem is the reader pretty much works it all out in the first couple of pages. This reader did, at least, and so the big reveal- not so much. Dev's companions- I don't get it, double deceit- a priest of Cyric in the mix. It's alright.

Bones and Stones by RA Salvatore- he simply isn't capable of writing a bad story, and who could possibly resist Thibbledorf Pwent of the Gutbusters. It's... the noble savage, from both sides, and as far as it goes it's great. It's well written, the characters are all likeable and the end is nailed on, and makes you smile. That's all you need do, make everyone happy, put your pen down.

Second Chance by Richard Lee Byers- Odd, at least that was my initial reaction. Odd, most times isn't a bad thing- quite the opposite a lot of the time, but... it comes after Black Arrow, and- it's pretty much the same story. So, it suffers, not because it's better (or worse) than the Black Arrow, it's just... this again.

Read.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan.
 

Goonalan

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#197 Shadowrealm by Paul S Kemp (Twilight War 4)
Read 26/7/23 to 2/3/23


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It's another cracker, a suitable conclusion to a series that I have really liked, certainly more than I thought I would- Erevis' finale- his demise (soz, SPOILER), it seems is enough for me to forgive him for his previous predilections (Young girls = Taz). Here he's suitably anti-hero to the end, and not enough heroes in these series take the plunge. Erevis Cale is dead, long live Cale jnr (& Riven, & Magadon).

There's a lot going on in the first 250 or so pages, as we dash thither and yon collecting up all of the heroes of the piece, each of them- at last, figuring out what it is they actually need to do... in the end, how they can either save themselves or else save the things they hold most dear to them. Abelar of Lathander's story is somehow even better than the others- it shines, perhaps that's because you don't see too many paladin-like heroes (that are not done for comedy) in these novels, perhaps I'm misremembering, perhaps I'm forgetting the obvious. Regardless, Abelar, and the Light in the Shadow (if you get me- read the book) is what it's all about, and worth thinking about. It's just well put together, well connected, and while it hammer's a point... I like the point it's making.

Everyone here, it seems, has a story of their own, and that being the case- there are a lot of loose ends here to pick up later, keep in mind I have only read the books that I have commented upon here, I don't know what's coming next but I should imagine/hope that we get a bit more Riven, or Abelar, or else something to do with Shadovar and Sembia. Also, I wouldn't put it past someone finding a way to bring Erevis back.

Then, there's the climax- which runs for another 100 or so pages, Kesson Rel turns up with all of his minions of shadowy undead doom (mostly just giants and shadows), while in the red corner there's Cale, Riven, Rivalen (& brother Brennus), Magadon (& the Source), a bunch of Wraith let loose (actually there thousands or 'em) all killed by Kesson in ages past and keen to exact revenge.

Oh, and the Left and Right Hand of Mask's flip-flop wearing Asiatic (perhaps) shadow- jumping chop-socky specialists.

Oh, and Furlinastis, the ancient gargantuan Shadow Dragon, who was also screwed over by the aforementioned Kesson Rel.

Oh, and Abelar, chosen of Lathander, and all of the other warriors of the light.

In truth, and after re-checking the battle roster I was pretty much convinced that the bad guys were in for a pasting.

The author does well to temporarily dispel my expectations, for a while.

The rest is the denouement, Tamlin needs much more of a comeuppance.

It's a good 'un.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers goonalan
 

Goonalan

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#198 Sacrifice of the Widow by Lisa Smedman (Lady Penitent 1)
Read 21/8/23 to 26/8/23


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Who knew it? The Drow are a bunch of backstabbing two-faced bastards- actually, everyone knows this, what am I talking about, however what was not known was that they are also capable of all of the good stuff, but even then there's an undercurrent. So, this one picks up where our last visit to the Drow left off in the War of the Spider Queen, and I've just skipped back there to confirm my suspicions- I loved the Lisa Smedman entry in that series too. This one is a cracker.

The himbo (the thinking female drow's draft excluder) Q'arlynd (he's a bit of alright) is out to see what he can make of himself, and let's just take a moment to congratulate the author on turning the tables. That's right- the ladies have dominion in this one, more so than in many of the other Drow novels) and so the eye-candy is male, get Boris Vallejo on the blower, we have a Drow mage with a six-pack and a silver tongue, and he's prepared to sell it all to get ahead. Nice work.

Anyway, it's great- do we get to see Flinderspeld the Deep Gnome again, because I love that little feller? Anyone?

Q'arylnd is in search of power, the faithful of Elilistraee are trying to make sense of the new order- Lolth's back, although the goddesses themselves are content to push their pieces around the sava board, it's all just a game. The rest, like in 'Extinction', Smedman's entry in the War of the Spider Queen series, is all adventure, intrigue, sweet sweet chatter and epic battles. The bad guys are suitably mad, bad and dangerous, but also believable (y'know- in a D&D world) and I love the fact that people die, as in good guys- they pay the ultimate price. I've railed about this in other books here, authors seem to be very precious with their spawn, not Smedman. Kill 'em all, let the Fugue Plain sort 'em out. Love it.

The other thing she does is mystery, there are so many things at the end of this one that are still to resolved, its twisty-turny, its violent, its thoughtful and clever, and the secret is so obvious when you see it (right at the start) that by the time the real bad thing happens (the invasion of the Promenade by the Selvetarm that, well- I'd forgotten all about the odd egg-shaped magical stones that had been found 250 pages earlier.

The return of Halisstra (in her new primordial spider-drow form) is great, and at the end another loose end that the author can have fun chasing down, then there's Selvetarm himself, and Lolth's spider fortress (that takes me all the way back to DMing Q1). It's... just a cracker, the story spins on as we dance from scene to scene, and so very well stitched together- just enough of one tale to set the pulse racing before we pick up a separate strand to play with, the author is having a dalliance with the reader.

The only thing I didn't like, or else liked less was the sava game that tops and tails this one... I am therefore presuming that this game is going to be the top and tail of all of the books to follow. I'll live with it, and it's not dire but... done so very many times before.

Again, and as stated previously, there are lots of new (or old) places to see in this one, and I do so love a good look around, the same for people and places to see and hear. I stopped myself from reading this one in a rush, I put it down when I had fifty or so pages done, to give me something good to look forward to for the next day.

So, at the end of this one the sneaky bastard worshippers of Vhaeraun are all (mostly) defeated, as are their partners in crime- driders, choldrith, aranaea et al it's semi-spider-fest; the demigod himself is offed (off-page) by Elilistraee herself. Selvetarm, champion of Lolth, he gets chopped too, and the talking dancing blade is back. It's all kicking off.

More of the same to come, fingers crossed.

Read, bloody good. Smedman is in my top five, top three- maybe (probably) so far.

Stay safe and well you lovely people, I get top start the next one tomorrow.

Cheers Paul
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Back to a series that I've read, which by this point was getting pretty rare for D&D novels. Looking back, I think at least part of that was because by this point (i.e. nearing the end of 3E's life) most other campaign worlds besides the Realms were long since put out to pasture, both in terms of game books and novels. We'd get some more later on, but the downward trend was quite clear.

As with so many of these, time has blurred my memories, as I read them fairly quickly after they came out and never picked them up since, so I'm going to refrain from commenting on any of the major plot points for at least another book, but I do recall that this was basically Halisstra trying to get another continue. As I recall, it was waffling back and forth between deities that basically damned her before, and she apparently hadn't learned her lesson by this point.

The divine machinations were the sort of things that I'd have eaten up in the past, but at this point it was all too clear to me that they were setting things up for Fourth Edition. By itself that's not a bad thing – I really enjoyed the Haunted Lands trilogy – but this series had "cleaning house" written all over it. Lisa Smedman is a super-gifted author (I've said before how much I loved her Baba Yaga module back in AD&D 2E), but once I could see the corporate directive looming over things, I confess that a lot of my appetite (though not all of it) died.
 

Zardnaar

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#198 Sacrifice of the Widow by Lisa Smedman (Lady Penitent 1)
Read 21/8/23 to 26/8/23


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Who knew it? The Drow are a bunch of backstabbing two-faced bastards- actually, everyone knows this, what am I talking about, however what was not known was that they are also capable of all of the good stuff, but even then there's an undercurrent. So, this one picks up where our last visit to the Drow left off in the War of the Spider Queen, and I've just skipped back there to confirm my suspicions- I loved the Lisa Smedman entry in that series too. This one is a cracker.

The himbo (the thinking female drow's draft excluder) Q'arlynd (he's a bit of alright) is out to see what he can make of himself, and let's just take a moment to congratulate the author on turning the tables. That's right- the ladies have dominion in this one, more so than in many of the other Drow novels) and so the eye-candy is male, get Boris Vallejo on the blower, we have a Drow mage with a six-pack and a silver tongue, and he's prepared to sell it all to get ahead. Nice work.

Anyway, it's great- do we get to see Flinderspeld the Deep Gnome again, because I love that little feller? Anyone?

Q'arylnd is in search of power, the faithful of Elilistraee are trying to make sense of the new order- Lolth's back, although the goddesses themselves are content to push their pieces around the sava board, it's all just a game. The rest, like in 'Extinction', Smedman's entry in the War of the Spider Queen series, is all adventure, intrigue, sweet sweet chatter and epic battles. The bad guys are suitably mad, bad and dangerous, but also believable (y'know- in a D&D world) and I love the fact that people die, as in good guys- they pay the ultimate price. I've railed about this in other books here, authors seem to be very precious with their spawn, not Smedman. Kill 'em all, let the Fugue Plain sort 'em out. Love it.

The other thing she does is mystery, there are so many things at the end of this one that are still to resolved, its twisty-turny, its violent, its thoughtful and clever, and the secret is so obvious when you see it (right at the start) that by the time the real bad thing happens (the invasion of the Promenade by the Selvetarm that, well- I'd forgotten all about the odd egg-shaped magical stones that had been found 250 pages earlier.

The return of Halisstra (in her new primordial spider-drow form) is great, and at the end another loose end that the author can have fun chasing down, then there's Selvetarm himself, and Lolth's spider fortress (that takes me all the way back to DMing Q1). It's... just a cracker, the story spins on as we dance from scene to scene, and so very well stitched together- just enough of one tale to set the pulse racing before we pick up a separate strand to play with, the author is having a dalliance with the reader.

The only thing I didn't like, or else liked less was the sava game that tops and tails this one... I am therefore presuming that this game is going to be the top and tail of all of the books to follow. I'll live with it, and it's not dire but... done so very many times before.

Again, and as stated previously, there are lots of new (or old) places to see in this one, and I do so love a good look around, the same for people and places to see and hear. I stopped myself from reading this one in a rush, I put it down when I had fifty or so pages done, to give me something good to look forward to for the next day.

So, at the end of this one the sneaky bastard worshippers of Vhaeraun are all (mostly) defeated, as are their partners in crime- driders, choldrith, aranaea et al it's semi-spider-fest; the demigod himself is offed (off-page) by Elilistraee herself. Selvetarm, champion of Lolth, he gets chopped too, and the talking dancing blade is back. It's all kicking off.

More of the same to come, fingers crossed.

Read, bloody good. Smedman is in my top five, top three- maybe (probably) so far.

Stay safe and well you lovely people, I get top start the next one tomorrow.

Cheers Paul

Missed this one I own the WotSQ.

Lisa was very good in that. I liked Elaine a lot but that series pushed her to number 2 in Drow related stuff she's probably my overall number 1 though but haven't read all her books.

And it's hard finding any D&D books here espicially out of print ones from a decade+ ago.
 

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