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Friday, November 20, 2020

Completed Series: Finder's Stone Trilogy by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb

The Finder's Stone trilogy is a series of novels written by the husband and wife duo of Kate Novak & Jeff Grub. They were some of the first novels released in the Forgotten Realms setting, and along with other authors like Greenwood, Niles, etc. set a high bar for future novels to come. I read this series after I finished with Erevis Cale, as I was wanting to read one of the older series before continuing with Kemp's books. I was not disappointed with my choice.

Remember that I give each book a rating and at the end combine them to rate the series as a whole.

Azure Bonds (1988) - Exceptional

The Wyvern's Spur (1990) - Good

Song of the Saurials (1991) - Good

Azure Bonds begins with the warrior woman, Alias, waking up in The Hidden Lady inn in Suzail, Cormyr with amnesia and azure symbols tattooed onto her arm, made of odd sigils, "the sigils [are] alive the way a golem [is].” The year is 1357 DR, during the reign of Azoun IV. She embarks immediately to rid herself of the curse and the control they have over her. 

There is so much I loved here in Azure bonds, it's hard to condense it here, but I can say that the dialogue is written well; we get a good idea of what the lay of the Heartlands of Faerûn is like; and there are plenty of ideas thrown out that one can incorporate into their own game sessions.

We have a curse, a dragon, a lich, an evil sorceress, Moander an evil god, and a brave band of adventurers on an epic quest spanning from Yulash to Westgate. It's works like these that make me confused as to how The Crystal Shard became popular over works of the same time frame like Darkwalker on Moonshae and this book, Azure Bonds.

We learn about an interesting custom among dragon culture, called a Feint of Honor. I'm filing it away next time a draconic, imminent death is upon a character.

Among the party is a human wizard, a halfling "bard" and a bipedal, lizard dinosaur finhead; Dragonbait. Some may recognize him from Tomb of Annihilation.

The book was later adapted into an adventure and then an SSI video game, both titled Curse of the Azure Bonds.

This book is a great piece of Realms fiction, one I think anyone could enjoy. It is so full of goodies that it is nothing if not Exceptional. Unlike most which are about 300-320 pages long, this one is ~380.

 “From perils come pearl and power”

The Wyvern’s Spur starts in Ches 1358 DR, almost a year after the events of the first book. The main character is Giogi, the most tertiary character of the first book. A nice family tree is at the front along with a map of Immersea, Cormyr. For those wondering, though it says Amber Leona was born in 1333, being the daughter of Frefford and Gaylyn who get married in Azure Bonds. This is not Dale Reckoning. 1357-1358 DR is equivalent to 1332-1333.

Giogioni Wyvernspur, often described as a fop, reminds me a bit of Chaney Foxmantle and Tamlin Uskevren both from the Sembia series. This story is more lighthearted than Azure Bonds. Olive, from the first book, is present and is a key partner in helping Giogi solve the mystery of a stolen, magical heirloom.

While the book is a swift read, being around the 300 page mark of an average Forgotten Realms novel, I would like to point out that the back blurb is bad. The person mentioned on it doesn’t die until the 1/3 mark ; and Cat isn’t introduced until almost page 90. I would suggest not reading it if you can.

Overall I liked the Wyvernspur's and getting to know Immersea. The nobles patron is Selune, which is personally cool because my first 5e character was a paladin of Selune from Immersea.

The story is somewhat of a whodunit (like Ice Out or Spellstorm). While I guessed most surprises beforehand, I didn’t guess all, and it was fun to mentally sift through the evidence. Overall it has a compelling and enticing story that was fun to read; it is Good.

Song of the Saurials acts as more of a sequel to Azure Bonds, it seems to take place a month or two after the events of The Wyvern’s Spur. We are introduced to Nameless, Olive, Alias and crew relatively quickly and of course things become interesting; you may have guessed it has something to with saurials, Dragonbait’s race. I would not recommend skipping The Wyvern's Spur, though if you specifically care about Alias and Dragonbait, you easily could, as all pertinent information from The Wyvern's Spur does come out at some point.

“Nameless is only a man” 

The evil god Moander is the main threat in the third book, and unlike before where he seemed to have a willing clergy, now they all seem to be decaying puppets of the Darkbringer. This time, him as the villain, is not overshadowed by other threats as he was in Azure Bonds.

It is 1358 DR (though at one point Shend mentions an event from Azure Bonds being two years ago, though Azure Bonds is 1357, this is likely a mistake or just the character rounding up).

We see a lot more of Finder’s ego and Alias’s insecurities. Very interesting dynamic, and I think Alias and her "sisters" are an intriguing concept.

I overall have less to say about this book, it wasn't as compelling but tells a good story around trust. The ending helps this book a lot, and the action is sporadic, which wasn't bad. It could have profited from being longer. Good, but not as good as The Wyvern’s Spur

While the overall quality of the books go down, they are all enjoyable and easy to read. Finder's Stone, a powerful artifact, connects all three, though it's greatest role is played in the last book. Novak and Grubb showcased the Realms in a grand light early on, and I'm glad their tale holds up more than three decades later. They would go on to write book 10 of The Harper's series, and the two Lost Gods books set in the Realms. These are now books I looked excitedly forward to. The Finder's Stone Trilogy is Good.

Spoiler for end of book 3: when I make my next bard he will be a worshipper of Finder rather than Oghma or Milil.

"One eye to lift and one eye to sleep,

One to charm man and one for beast.

One eye to wound and one eye to slow,

One to bring fear and one to make stone.

One eye makes dust and one eye brings death,

But the last eye kills wizards more than all of the rest."


You can track my current progress here.

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