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Monday, May 22, 2023

Community Spotlight: Ed Greenwood

 It would be ridiculously for me not to share the work Ed Greenwood is currently doing online. He has been an active source of Realms lore for decades and since fifth edition most of this has come from answering questions on Twitter. Recently he has moved to YouTube videos and Patreon, and I think it’s worthy of mentioning.

Ed Greenwood created the Forgotten Realms decades ago, but he is still active in his creation. He helps with pronunciation, locations, characters and more. I had Ed on my channel once and he’s absolutely a generous and fun guy. 

He also has a website where you can get some apparel. 

Anyway, there would be no community without Ed Greenwood, and since the Realms are very rarely getting official products that are worthwhile, it is a treat that we can support the creator himself and get more Realms lore while at it.


You can track my current progress here

Monday, May 1, 2023

Review: The Temptation of Elminster by Ed Greenwood

Elminster in Myth Drannor ends with the raising of the mythal in the city of Cormanthor which is properly renamed Myth Drannor. As the second book in the Elminster series, it is a directly sequel to The Making of a Mage. The third book, The Temptation of Elminster, is not a direct sequel, but takes place several hundred years later. I hope someday we will get more novels from the time in between the two novels, but as of now this is all we have, and it is just as good as the first two. 

Can be found in Elminster Ascending and
The Annotated Elminster omnibus
Ed Greenwood graced the world in 1998 with the release of The Temptation of Elminster. In Nethrar (later Nethra) the year is 759 DR. A nameless adventuring band goes into a Netheril tomb and there they awaken dire foes, but also an Elminster who has been in stasis for 100 years.

Elminster is still largely unknown but he starts gaining fame in this one, getting on his way to being recognized by many people of the Realms. At this point, his immortality is evident.

The temptation the title speaks of is more in lines with Karsus and his folly, for those unaware he tried to take the mantle of the goddess Mystryl for himself. She was the old goddess of magic before Mystra, and his greed for power caused the downfall of the Netherese Empire. So rather than a sexual temptation, Elminster has the temptation of power.

When he awakes Mystra is silent, Myth Drannor has fallen. The second books ends in 261, and the city fell in 714, and since Elminster has been in stasis, he was not around for the City's fall.

This book is interestingly described as a tragedy, and this is not innaccurate. As we see Elminster come into the lonely and almost friendless role of a super powerful Chosen of the goddess of magic, it's sad aplenty. The guy just needs some love. And the end is fantastic for that, very heartfelt. 

Throughout we do see three of the Seven Sisters, and also the story takes place somewhat in 767 DR. Fans of the God of Strife, Bane, will be happy to see some followers of his several centuries before the proper time of D&D in the 14th century.

Overall, this is a fun adventure, really solidifying Elminster as one of my favorite wizards ever, not just in the Realms. This is an Exceptional book, Greenwood has done it again.


You can track my current progress here

Monday, April 24, 2023

Completed Series: Shandril’s Saga by Ed Greenwood

 Shandril's Saga marked Ed Greenwood's first fiction foray into the Realms after its acquisition by TSR in 1986. He had previously created the Realms, bringing it to life in short stories. This time, he would bring you a young girl filled with dissatisfaction with her mundane life and wanderlust for adventure. Greenwood will turn what sounds typical on its head for a memorable series that lasted for more than a decade.

Second editions of books 1 and 2, with first editions of books 2 and 3.

Spellfire (1987) - Good

Crown of Fire (1994) - Exceptional

Hand of Fire (2002) - Mediocre

“The Company of the Bright Spear numbered six. The tall leader, Burlane, bore the enchanted Bright Spear. With him rode a younger swordsman, the fierce Ferostil. Delg, the dwarf, was also a warrior. His constant companion was the merry bard Rymel, brightest of them all. The wizard, Thail, deferred to his younger, louder companions. Last and least was the thief, one Shandril, a bright-eyed, soft-spoken waif in ill-fitting breeches and a much-patched tunic.”

Spellfire is the first book of Shandril’s Saga and Ed Greenwood’s first published novel in the Forgotten Realms. There are apparently two versions, the one with old logo and the one with the new. The new has some material cut for original publication added back in so some things make more sense, the audiobook follows this newer version, and it is the one I read.

the classic first edition of Spellfire

Shandril is a scullery maid at the roadside Rising Moon inn outside of Highmoon, the capital of Deepingsale. She is an orphan working for the slovenly, gourmand chef, Korvan and the owner and ex-adventurer, Gorstag.

She dreams of getting away from mundane servitude at the inn, and maybe enjoying the freedom of adventuring. At the beginning, The Company of the Bright Spear comes to the Rising Moon and leaves Shandril daydreaming but also with a unique opportunity when the company's rogue is killed after drawing steal when caught stealing. She becomes a thief (pretty much the class) by quick wit, while not being a thief at heart. She also does not have any experience in such a role.

Storm Silverhand, one of the Seven Sisters, and Sharantyr of the Knights of Myth Drannor, both of Shadowdale make an appearance. Jhessail Silvertree of Shadowdale and Merith Strongbow do too, both Knights of Myth Drannor like Sharantyr. Also, Florin Falconhand, Illistyl Elventree and Lanseril Snowmantle also of the Knights of Myth Drannor and Elminster, Sage of Shadowdale. And Maurngrym, and Torm and more! I’ll stop. But suffice it to say there are many important Realms characters her that make cameos, it is an odd menagerie of people coming on stage and then exiting, but it’s not confusing, it’s not bad. Take it as you will.  

This is largely an introduction to the area of the Dalelands in the Heartlands of a Faerun, as we get Zhentarim and Cult of the Dragon, and even the Malagram, though this last one I’ve only seen in Greenwood novels like Cloak of Shadows. We also have Manshoon, a high ranking servant of the evil god Bane. So many, many characters. 

In some ways this seems like a D&D adventure, meaning this was played out around a table and novelized later. But Shandril really is the main character, it is her story and while some faces will come into the picture for short, intermediate or long periods of time, it’s hers at the end. 

One of the other characters is Narm, a young man apprenticed to Marimmar Mage most Magnificent, with an arrogant expedition to the forests around Myth Drannor that ends in devils. He may be a little fatalistic. 

It does get very quickly into the actions and it lasts throughout. I was afraid for the lives of the characters, this is Ed Greenwood, after all. 

Spellfire plays a prominent role, which is the raw energy of the weave, of which all spells get their energy. Those rare users of Spellfire can absorb energy from spells, making them almost immune to arcane attacks. These people can also use Spellfire to heal, fight, fly, etc. 

I thought the story might be different from later Greenwood, but it still has a fun but relatable story. It’s touching at times, and has the Greenwood flare of quick immolations and the Realms rather open sexual content.

“If it falls in thy power, let no creature die alone.”

Crown of Fire is book two and is also part of The Harpers series of novels, book 9 to be exact.

It takes place right after Spellfire and is dedicated to Jenny, Ed’s wife, so I’d like to express my condolences to Ed and his family and friends for her passing. 

It starts with Brand, a young shepherd in eastern Cormyr. We do get to see Eveningstar, which is welcome.

The Zhentarim take large part in the quest to Silverymoon. Malagrim are also out, which I remember from the Shadow of the Avatar series. Another showing of Realms characters like Torm, Mirt Elminster, Manshoon and such. Like the first book, more characters die, but they’re better established at this point to the emotional response is bigger. It’s one thing I love about Greenwood though, is his killing off of characters, he’s the opposite of Salvatore in that. 

This one has a big tone shift, the attitude went from thirsting for adventure being absolutely sick of it. It also deals with power and not letting that corrupt. 

There is an afterword by Greenwood for both versions, but they are different. The later one has a short section of story to explain some people thought a discrepancy, similar to the chapters added back in for the republication of Spellfire. The words of Ed are as lovely as always though, both of them. Overall I think the ending is quite good. Considering this was written several years after the first. The series was probably open ended before the third book, 

Hand of Fire was my least favorite, though it is not bad. There is much action and it has a solid conclusion, just with much filler beforehand. I’m sure people were wondering about Shandril’s whereabouts, since it had been years since book two had released and her Spellfire was still among the most powerful things in Faerun. 

Those are my individual thoughts! I quite enjoyed this one, and it is little wonder that Greenwood is one of my favorite authors. As is typical of his Realms novels, we get several cool tidbits of Realms lore, such as learning some of Illbrand of old Impiltur, Hesperdan, stained glass from Selgaunt; people and things are mentioned from Selgaunt on several occasions, so fans of Sembia or Selgaunt could probably find some use reading the novel or getting a digital version and searching it for these things. 

Overall, I found the series to be Good, and I am glad Rodger from Rodger's Reads recommended it to me.


You can track my current progress here

Monday, April 10, 2023

Review: In the Bleak Deepwinter by Lynn Abbey

"In the Bleak Deepwinter" is a short story tie-in to The Simbul's Gift, both by Lynn Abbey of Thieves' World fame. It was published in the December 1997 issue of Dragon Magazine, #242, and is found on pages 63-71 within, with art on page 62. 

Art by Susan Van Camp

The story is prefaced with:

A note from Holwof, archivist of Candlekeep, to his superior: We've finished cataloging the third shelf! Mehgrin found this bound in a volume of Urmlaspyr poetry. She believes it to be an unrecorded tale of the Simbul. After reading it, I'm inclined to agree. Deneir alone knows who first wrote it, but no one other than Alassra Shentrantra swears by breakfast foods!

The story is about a young Simbul, before the events of the novel, though released a month it. The title is a cool Realms spin on the Rossetti poem, but fits since the story is set in Deepwinter, the month officially called Hammer that is the equivalent to our January. At an inn owned by Caddo, and aptly named Caddo's, nothing is happening since it is the middle of a blizzard. The charterhouse sits lonely with Caddo and his dwarf help, Burr, on the borderland between the Lonely Moor and the Forgotten Forest. The year is not stated.

A guest with silver air fights through the storm to Caddo's, and it is of course none other than Alassra Shentrantra before she is the Simbul, Witch-Queen of Aglarond. This is actually implied, but never stated. The biggest hints is the note given above, and the endnote by whoever edited the story, for the character only names herself as Rekka.

This is a story of quests and geas. Abbey is so good at bringing the world to life, and since it is a world I already love, it's almost tearjerking. A magical cave to be conquered by might or magic, a spell to suffer through, spirits, a living relic of Netheril and more! It is certainly a thought provoking story, one I think I may need to revisit to understand more.

What is cool is that the charterhouse is two days southwest of Dekanter, a Netherese ruin that features in Abbey's only other Realms novel, The Nether Scroll, which would release in 2000. Maybe she already had the idea in her mind or was even writing it when this story was published. The story takes place partially below Waterdeep in a cave attached to no other, and in the Winterwood north of the Lake of Steam. 


You can track my current progress here.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Movie Review: Honor Among Thieves

 Earlier this month I read two prequel novels for Honor Among Thieves, The Druid’s Call and The Road to Neverwinter. On the 29th I was able to attend an early screening of the movie’s release on the 31st. Overall, I was happy with the film. Here are my thoughts.

The movie starts far north of Ten Towns at a prison called Revel's End. Edgin and Holga were previously caught in a heist and so are prisoners. Their companions, Forge and Simon safely escaped, but the duo has not seen them for a couple years. Edgin's biggest regret is his absence from his daughter, Kira. We learn of Edgin's background and introduction to Holga as told in The Road to Neverwinter. It starts rather comic but epic and doesn't let up. It had me chuckling throughout the formation of the team for a new heist. 

The baddies are a certain betrayer and the Red Wizards of Thay, which seek to take over Neverwinter. This is an adventure fraught with peril for Simon the fledgling sorcerer, Doric the young tiefling druid, Holga an exile of the Uthgardt, and Edgin formally of the Harpers. There is much magic, great battles, dragons, a displacer beast, mimic, gelatinous cube, intellect devourers, undead and more! 

Seeing the world of Faerun brought to life, seeing Selune in the sky, the beautiful cityscape of Neverwinter, the Underdark, and hearing of places like Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep, is truly magical as a longtime fan. My wife, who is not familiar with D&D or the Realms, also really enjoyed it.

My few gripes lie in how Elminster is handled, which I am largely confused about so maybe I can suspend my dislike of what they did. I am glad he is somewhat present though. Also, the paladin's deity is never mentioned, which is a shame. There were a few things that did not work too well for me, such as Doric's character development and a scene resembling too much one from a Marvel movie. But overall it is exciting, funny, and in the end, there is honor among thieves.

My very initial thoughts right out of the theater are on YouTube. Check out all the details of Realms Lore and Easter eggs here:


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Winter Haul: New Books and Old

Out of the chill and frost comes green grass and warming rays of sunshine. Winter is ending and Spring is nigh, and I want to quickly go over my recent Forgotten Realms acquisitions. I collected very little in 2022, but with the reboot of this blog I have some more things to share.

First up are Dragon magazine issues 242, 245, 255. I already reviewed the story in issue 245, and the one in 242 is associated with The Simbul's Gift will follow soon.

I recently became acquainted with Christopher Rowe on the Whetstone Tavern S&S Discord, and while chatting I realized he had written a Realms novel I did not have. Sandstorm is one of those fourth edition standalone novels not connected to any loose series. This one deals with genasi and Calimshan, and my review will probably come out in a couple months.

Realms of the Deep is the accompanying anthology of stories connected to the Threat from the Sea trilogy. I have also read those books but not yet reviewed them. I will read this anthology along side the short story in Dragon 255, which also ties-in with the trilogy.

Mistress of the Night is a fun standalone that is part of the Priests series. It takes place in Sembia, and acts as a sequel to Black Wolf and a prequel to the Twilight War trilogy. It is very fun.

Also I found a few random books in my used bookstore browsing, and so I decided to pick up The Sorcerer, book 3 in the Return of the Archwizards trilogy by Denning; and The Spectral Blaze, book 3 in the difficult to find Brotherhood of the Griffon pentalogy by Richard Lee Byers.

My reviews are already up, since the movie will drop soon, but I also acquired the two movie novels, The Druid's Call and The Road to Neverwinter.

And finally I found some coloring pages associated with Dungeons & Dragons, many of them being related to the Forgotten Realms, such as the recruiting poster for the Flaming Fist that I have poorly colored for the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus game I am playing in. It also comes with a oddly proportioned poster with art originally used for Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, a D&D Next (proto-5e) adventure.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Review: D&D Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter

The Road to Neverwinter by Jaleigh Johnson is the adult prequel novel to the upcoming Honor Among Thieves movie. It was released at the end of February ahead of the movie's release at the end of March. It is a story of the origins of the party that are the protagonists in the movie. I’ve already reviewed The Druid’s Call, The YA prequel telling us of the tiefling druid, Doric. 

As opposed to Johnston, Johnson is a Forgotten Realms veteran, for example her Mistshore is a lovely tale of memory and revenge set in Waterdeep.

At the start of the story, Edgin is playing with his daughter, Kira, who shortly settles into bed and Edgin begins telling her a story of their past. It starts on the Sword Coast when he was recently a Harper agent. This framing narrative is cool and a great setup, we know Edgin will survive but we really knew that anyways, since he is the main protagonist. We also get some interludes back to the bedtime story.

Kira is a newborn babe, Edgin's wife is recently diseased and he left the Harpers as a result of her death. He lives in an unnamed village (at the start, that is) on the Sword Coast. Being part of the Harpers, he was once an entertainer, a bard, but now he’s just a single father, though part of the prologue seems to imply he has found a new partner and leaves some promise either for some potential romance in the novel or movie. Don't get your hopes up there.

He passes out at a tavern, and shortly meets the Uthgardt barbarian woman named Holga, of the Elk Tribe. She is similarly feeling lonesome. This is quite a unique start to a D&D adventure. A widower father and some barbarian meeting in tumultuous inner times but peaceful on the outside, in some sleepy village. These first couple chapters are also nine years before the rest of the story. 

Shortly in we get a story about the Zhentarim, which is more Realms stuff than The Druid’s Call had. Pendra is a pawn broker and has connections to the Black Network, which makes him a target for our protagonists. In the interveening nine years Edgin and Holga had made a living as thieves, a sort of odd Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, but Kira, as she gets older, joins the party. 

The party technically lives in Targos, one of the Ten Towns in Icewind Dale. It is not spoken of as being particularly cold early, nor is it named for the first few times, on so you could mistake it for a village nearer to Neverwinter. But the Trip and Shuffle tavern is mentioned and seen, which is cool.

Since Edgin is a bard and plays the lute, it would have been cool if it was a more Realms specific Yarting was used, but that is just me being picky. He does us his bardic talents some in this book, though it is not a great amount.

Eventually the party of the movie takes form; the trickster Forge Fitzwilliam plays cards, 3 Dragon Ante, with Edgin. With a name like Forge I’d think he would be a dwarf but he’s a human. In reality everyone is human with one exception

Simon Aumar, who has an inferiority complex is a fledgeling sorcerer that is related to Elminster. He comes in later and is a half-elf, making him the only non-human of the party.

The jokes are very recent movie faire, something like Marvel movies, I’d think they make you smile when seen on the big screen, I was waiting to laugh out loud. I'm not sure how affective they will be on a second watch. Potatoes are mentioned several times. 

The themes are largely about what makes someone a hero. This is connected to the father daughter relationship that I feel is very rare in fantasy. It's rather touching at times.

So as far as Realms lore goes, Johnson satisfies. We get things from 5e, like Icewind Dale, but also Neverwinter which has been ignored in 5e up until now but is probably my favorite place along the Sword Coast. 

This is the late 1490s. The novel ends a year before the movie, and we know Forge Fitzwilliam is the Lord of Neverwinter in that movie. I’m not sure what happened to Dagult Nevermeber. There are comics and maybe even the junior novelization answers some of the questions that arise between the end of this novel and the start of the movie. I am not sure I will read those, since I am largely concerned with the normal novels. Overall, The Road to Neverwinter satisfyingly sets up the characters of the movie in Good fashion. Paired with The Druid's Call, I don't think you could go wrong.


You can track my current progress here.