Search The Forgotten Realms Lyceum

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review: Revenge Among Thieves by Ed Greenwood

 The last of the three part tale of Elminster's time as the thief Eladar the Dark on the streets of Hastarl. While not necessarily canonical, this does seem to have been the vision Mr. Greenwood had for young Elminster, but was unable to make it so in the final novel because of TSR's Code of Ethics at the time. Make sure to read my thoughts on Far Too Many Thieves(here), and Dark Times in Hastarl(here) before this post. Like the previous part, this was published online in August of 2005, and can be read in the archive here.

Dark times came about in the last iteration of this story, and Elminster is likewise in a dark place. There is a small section about the Magister we met in Elminster: The Making of a Mage, that was unexpected but brightened the dreary tone a bit. We see the conclusion to Elminster's tussle with the magelord Orluth and the petty gang of thieves, the Moonclaws. 

In some sense, the way Elminster is able to defeat enemies more numerous than he is reminiscent of just about every Salvatore Realms novel I have read. That being said, Elminster always has more close calls (friends dying, and staying dead for example), and he is more clever and tactful. The ending was interesting, fun, and unexpected in typical Greenwood style. I wish it had continued for a just a couple more paragrpahs, but alas, it is what we have. Maybe, Tyche willing, we will get more shorts of Elminster's early life later on. This story is Good, and one you should read if a fan of the Old Mage.


You can track my current progress here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Where to Start? Reading Forgotten Realms' Novels

 I often have people ask me about my goal of reading all Forgotten Realms novels, and when they discover that it’s 294 books (292 + 1 Ravenloft and 1 Spelljammer book) I want to read, they ask me where they should start if they wanted to read some. Here are some suggestions to the unsullied of Faerûn. If you would like some ideas on where to acquire any of these novels, you can read my recently posted buying guide here. As of writing this, I have read over fifty novels set in the Forgotten Realms, and I will likely update this as I read more.

a portion of my Forgotten Realms novels

Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep
is a great series of standalone novels set in the City of Splendors along the Sword Coast: Waterdeep. While these are Fourth Edition novels (known for large changes in lore), the enjoyment of this series has aged well compared to some other lore from the time. Each story tells a different tale generally focused around a certain section of the city: Blackstaff Tower being largely about the tower of the famed archmages, the Blackstaff of Waterdeep; City of the Dead being about the city's cemetery and its hauntings; and so forth. There are no recurring characters or plot-lines, making each story standalone if you decide not to read all six. You can read my full thoughts on the series here.

Sembia: Gateway to the Realms was marketed as an entry point to the Forgotten Realms novel line that has espoused hundreds of novels. It succeeds in being accessible while giving a large array of stories set mostly in and around Selgaunt, Sembia. The first book is an anthology of short stories introducing each character the books are about, which may help you decide which characters you are interested in. This has been one of my favorite series, and you can read my full thoughts here.

The Finder’s Stone trilogy is a classic adventure featuring a dinosaur-like bipedal paladin and an artificial human fighter crafted by an evil cult, a dark god, and a nameless bard. The second novel in the series is more of a murder mystery than the high adventures of the first and third novels, but they are all great fun. Read my complete thoughts here.

The Erevis Cale trilogy is great for fans of dark fantasy. Erevis Cale is a butler for a noble house in the merchant nation of Sembia. He is also a rogue who is a priest of the God of Thieves, Mask. While his origins as a priest are explored in the second book the the Sembia series, Shadow's Witness, you can easily start with the first book of the trilogy, Twilight Falling. If you enjoy it, there is even a sequel trilogy that I'm currently reading, and enjoying more than the first. Read my thoughts here.

Elminster: The Making of a Mage has an easy learning curve to follow, since you can basically ignore the vast majority of proper nouns thrown out as it takes place over a thousand years before almost every other novel. There are sequel novels I have yet to read, but this is a nice origin story to Merlin/Gandalf of the Realms, and classic by the creator of the setting himself. Read my full thoughts here.

Venom in Her Veins is easy because it is a standalone, and is kind of leaning towards being a young adult novel, as a sword & sorcery coming of age. It's a quick tarry into the Underdark, and deals with denizens of the Far Realm, a merchant house of Delzimmer, and has some good yuan-ti and dragonborn characters. Read my full thoughts here.

Where are you going to start? What novels do you recommend to beginners? What have you read that you've enjoyed?


You can track my current progress here.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review: Dark Times in Hastarl by Ed Greenwood

 Dark Times in Hastarl is a direct followup to Far Too Many Thieves (my review here), so like the previous story, it is a cut piece from part two of the first Elminster book, The Making of a Mage, which you should read first. If you have read the prerequisites, you can find the story for free on the web archive here. It was published in August 2005.

This is "just before the Velvet Hands assault Trumpettower House on a certain notorious wedding night", which you can read about in chapter 6 of the novel. A band of five or so Velvet Hands go to Athalgard, the castle at the center of Hastarl, to thwart the Moonclaws they suspect to make a move on the magical Ioun stones held in the keep.

The encounter leaves them the target of a certain winged and clawed stone beast. The fight of which ends in a very much Greenwood fashion, that is funny but believable. At the end of the story, there are some definitely some things that lend the story its title of "Dark Times". I was shocked, but Farl and Tass have very different fates here than in the published novel. I couldn't say which I prefer, though one is sadder than the other. I'm interested to see how this plot-line will be finished up in Revenge Among Thieves, and how young Elminster fares.

As for Dark Times in Hastarl, the story is Exceptional.


You can track my current progress here.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Forgotten Realms Book Buying Guide

When it comes to collecting scores of Forgotten Realms novels, or simply acquiring a few in physical form, they are often hard to find. My first suggestion is always check your local used bookstore as any in stock are likely affordable. If you are like me, and your local used stores have one or two Forgotten Realms novels--you don't already have--every Shieldmeet or so, you will likely want to look further afield, into the world wide web. Today I'll briefly explain and link the plethora of websites I use to scavenge for Forgotten Realms novels.

This is not recommended starting places for those interested, though that is an article I will be posting soon

Abe Books is a great website for finding books at decent prices. Somewhat like eBay, Abe Books is limited, unsurprisingly, to book sales. They have quite a collection worldwide, with shipping and quality being front-and-center, though generally stock photos are used in place of pictures of the actual items. This is where I often search for rarer Realms novels, as they tend to not be hundreds of dollars like they are on Amazon, for example.

Alibris is pretty similar to Abe Books in setup, allowing you to search all over the world for cheaper to more expensive books.

Amazon is also similar, though I find searching for used books, especially ones with multiple variations, I am more likely to get a different version from what I ordered on Amazon. As far as rarer Realms novels go, they are insanely overpriced on Amazon typically, so for older books with more in circulation, this is not a bad option. Also if you are looking for books still in print, which these days is really only Drizzt and The Sundering, this is one of the best options for new books.

Barnes & Noble is only good for looking for new Realms novels, and their prices are often on par with Amazon, so if you have B&N membership, the free shipping (which is pretty swift) may on some cases beat out Amazon's Prime shipping.

Better World Books is a great used-book seller, with many deals running often. It really depends on the series to know if there are going to be any available at any given time, but I always make sure to check here when buying books. They also seem to have a decent selection of Realms books in languages besides English.

Biblio is a comprehensive online bookseller, often having some rarer finds, at similar prices to Abe Books, though the selection seems to be more sparse. 

Book Depository is better for new books, similar to B&N and Amazon. Based out of the UK, shipping is free worldwide but a little slow if you are outside of the UK. Since their market is worldwide, you can find books in languages besides English. Also often the go-to place if you want a book in English but with a different cover from the US version; since Forgotten Realms books always tend to have the same cover regardless of country, there is little reason to use the site in this case, but it never hurts to check.

Book Outlet is similar to the other used book stores, and I find it most comparable to Thrift Books or Better World Books. It is often sparse on the selection, but if it has the book, it's almost always a steal.

eBay is my go-to place for Forgotten Realms finds. You often get a picture of the actual item for sale, and often the prices are quite low. You also have auctions in some cases, and for buying books in bulk with random lots of FR novels, this is a great place to get a collection started, or to even buy a whole series with one purchase.

Goodwill has a bidding system online. There are very rarely any Forgotten Realms novels at any given time, but if there are, they are often at the prices you would expect to find in-store, that is: insanely cheap.

Half Price Books run great physical locations, but sadly I am not near one anymore. They do sell a lot of their stock online though, and often at a good price.

IndieBound lists products for many smaller bookstores, and often links the websites to the locations closest to you, many of which offer shipping. I have not actually used this to order any Forgotten Realms novels, but I have been able to find a few at good prices, even some hard to find books.

Indigo is a Canadian bookseller. While the cursory searches I have done for Forgotten Realms books shows very little online beyond Drizzt (some of which were quite pricey while others were really good deals). If you have one near you, FR books don't seem too uncommon at the actual locations. 

ThriftBooks: many of the FR novels I've bought on eBay, were sold by Thrift Books. You can also use their website for other finds, and often they have the best deals on books, be they rare or common.

I hope this list helps some of you. Which is your favorite site to use? Do you use any I have not listed? Amarast!


You can track my current progress here.