Search The Forgotten Realms Lyceum

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Completed Series: Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep

Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep is a series of six standalone novels, each written by a different author, and all taking place in Waterdeep. Each book is introduced by the creator of Forgotten Realms himself, Ed Greenwood. Overall it is a exciting ride, where the reader can learn of many intriguing inhabitants of the City of Splendors. From gravekeepers, to thieves, to mages, to rogues, paladins, wizards, sorcerers, monsters, spellscarred, nobility, commoner, etc, etc, the ride is basically nonstop.

Unlike the previously posted Completed Series entries, which were series finished some time ago, I just finished Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep yesterday, on Friday the 13th of March, 2020. Though I did start it in April 2018. I'll explain.

It is possible to get Circle of Skulls with a matching cover to the first five.

Blackstaff Tower by Steven E. Schend (2008) - Good
Mistshore by Jaleigh Johnson (2008) - Good
Downshadow by Erik Scott de Bie (2009) - Acceptable
City of the Dead by Rosemary Jones (2009) - Exceptional
The God Catcher by Erin M. Evans (2010) - Exceptional
Circle of Skulls by James P. Davis (2010) - Acceptable

Let's Start at the top.

Blackstaff Tower by Steven E. Schend kinda, sorta acts as a sequel to another novel Schend wrote in the Forgotten Realms: Blackstaff. I have yet to read it though, but Mr. Greenwood touches on it in his introduction. The story of Blackstaff is laid out simply early on; the sixth Blackstaff, Samark Dhanzscul, is murdered by power hungry wizards of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. They take his Tethyrian heir, Vajra Safahr, to torture the secrets of the Blackstaff out of her. Our main heroes are: Renaer Neverember, the estranged son of Open Lord Dagult Neverember; Laraelra Harsard, daughter of the guildmaster of the Cellarers' and Plumbers' Guild, and fledgling sorceress; Meloon Wardragon, a sellsword and descendant of an early Waterdeep Warlord, Laroun; and lastly Osco Salibuck, who is introduced later than the rest, is the charming halfling rogue of the party.

The story progresses quickly with barely any rest. I won't spoil it, but overall the story was very fun to read, and felt a little more old fashioned than the other books in the series. There were some really great moments near the end that were written rather well. You learn quite a bit about the history of the Blackstaves (here I was thinking Khelben was still around), as well as the beginnings of Waterdeep, the Spellplague's effect on the city, and a small specific amount on the figure of Dagult Neverember and his relationships. My main gripe is that there are a bit to many minor characters, which can be confusing.

Moving on, Mistshore takes place in it's namesake, a forsaken beach of floating debris where outcast eek out a semblance of life. Icelin Tearn finds herself in trouble and quickly connects it with her troubled past. Icelin is afflicted with a perfect memory, though most see it as a great blessing she views it as a curse. Her past is slowly unraveled, and for such a short book it is done rather expertly. One of her main companions is Sull, her butcher, who was my favorite character. He is so loyal and is just heartwarming to read his persistence to stay by her side. Her other companion, Ruen, grew on me as the story progressed but his part is essential to the intricacies of the story.

The story can be rather slow at times, but reads very swiftly most of the time. What really makes the book is the characters. There are so many I could mention but the best is the villain, he isn't evil, but is so misguided and lacking understanding, you have to read it to understand.

Downshadow is the third book in the series, and is yet again named for a part of the city. Downshadow is the upper layer of Undermountain beneath the city of Waterdeep; a good chunk of the story takes place above ground though. Easily my least favorite of the series, but not bad. It can be really messy at times, and I was left me wondering what the whole point of the book even was a large portion of it. Who was the bad guy? It doesn't become obvious until the end. 

The main character, Shadowbane, is a Paladin to Helm, Tyr, and Torm in their all in one, post-spellplague, package. He is spellscarred, and can not feel much of anything; pain, touch, pleasure, etc. He acts as a vigilante in Downshadow and really reminded me of Batman early on. The story involves a lot of women being interested in our protagonist, with lots of blushing and flirting. It was just kind of weird. It is kind of made up for at the end, which was great. This is also the first in the Shadowbane series, which as of now (and forever if WotC continues to let anyone but Salvatore write Forgotten Realms novels) has two more books.

On the plus side there is some interesting magic at play and de Bie has loads of potential.

City of the Dead is interesting because I have to pull from memory back in 2018. I remember loving the eerie (perfect word for this novel) setting of the dead leaving the City of the Dead (Waterdeep's cemetery) and haunting the nobility of Sea Ward. I may have to go back and reread this one, but I can say Sophraea Carver is braver than I.

This is the second of Jones' Realms works that I have read, the first being Cold Steel and Secrets

Again, I read The God Catcher in April of 2018 and the thing I remember the most is how much I love Erin M. Evans prose. It's so readable and fun. This was her first novel in the Realms and I specifically read it after enjoying Brimstone Angels so much. Tennora Hedare, a young member of the nobility (her mother was a Uskevren) is an aspiring wizard who takes an interesting turn into multiclassing. Her main companion is a mysterious woman, Nestrix who thinks she is really a dragon. A very fun read with lovable characters and a highly intriguing story (with dragons) where Evans make convinces me she grew up in Faerûn instead of our world.

Circle of Skulls, the final book, revolves around a deva and his quest to kill an angel working for Asmodeus, and a sect (of Ashmadai?) called the Vigilant Order. Interestingly a deva is considered a type of aasimar, but instead of being part celestial and mortal, a deva is the soul of an angel put into a mortal body that is reborn every time they die. Our hero, Jinnaoth has been around four about 4,000 years and originally served the dead gods of Mulhorand. He remembers bits and pieces of his past lives, but generally nothing at all besides how to fight. This crops up memories from time to time, and even brings in people who remember him while he does not remember them.

His team is a moon elf warlock and a night hag (along with other, interesting, characters). There is lots of action, as is usual. Though a few times Davis seems to have forgotten to connect/bridge actions (like saying that someone was sitting and talking and then they opened a window without stating that they ever stood up).  Another thing, why is an angel working for Asmodeus, the Lord of the Nine Hells? Surely it's a fallen angel and that would make it a devil. This is never answered. Another gripe, a murder takes place early on and Jinn becomes the suspect. It would have been extremely obvious to any witnesses that he was not the murderer, so the watch painting him as such immediately after the death is a little farfetched.

Another cool enemy are the ahimazzi, who are mindless serfs to Asmodeus that failed him and lost their souls at some point. I don't believe these are anywhere else in books, supplements, etc. and I thought they gave a sincerely disturbing aspect to the story. I also appreacite the lack of human characters for the good guys. I often feel for a fantasy setting with several racial options that humans are overdone.

In conclusion, it’s hard to give a set of stand alone novels a rating, but I still think Ed Greenwood presents Waterdeep is Good, and I would love to see something similarly done in Neverwinter, Baldur’s Gate, Suzail, etc. Thankfully for those who love Waterdeep you have six books that take place in the splendid city (each 1479 and 1480 DR), and for those who aren't interested in reading all of them, you can easily pick and choose. No real order is necessary either. For example, there is one point in Mistshore that makes it obvious that it takes place before Blackstaff Tower. I myself read them in order of 4, 5, 3, 1, 2, and then 6 and that was perfectly fine.
You can track my current progress here.

No comments:

Post a Comment