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Monday, December 25, 2023

Review: Golden Simril Gifts by Ed Greenwood and Rhonda Parrish

 While technically prefaced that the story is fan-fiction written under the Fan Content policy of WotC, since it is (partially) from the hand of Greenwood, I decided it's essentially canon in my head and worth reviewing. It is also appropriate for Yuletide. Read it here.

art by Amantiium

Simril is a holiday celebrated on the 20th of Nightal, the equivalent to our 21st of December and the Northern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice. This is also the solstice for Faerun, and this celebration is particularly to cities on the Sword Coast like Neverwinter and Waterdeep. 

The story is told in first person present tense and starts with a celebration. The Shiallia Midwinter Festival has been attended by Volothamp Geddarm before, but this is Xen's first time. Shiallia is a minor deity tied to fertility and woodlands and is largely venerated in the High Forest.

"Shiallia, a local deity tied to Silvanus and Mielikki. (Be careful not to wantonly destroy seedlings or harm any animal babes while in Silverymoon or the High Forest lest you direly offend her.)" Volo, The Guide to the North.

While the perspective is abnormal, the story has sexual innuendo and gruesome violence and high magic that I associate with the Realms. With the whimsy comes a sense of human emotion (though most characters are elves and I'm not sure what Xen is) that I associate (well) with Greenwood. It is a good story. Happy Simril, everyone!


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Review: The Night Tymora Sneezed by Ed Greenwood

"The Night Tymora Sneezed" is the fourth Spin a Yarn written by the creator of the Forgotten Realms. While the last was longer than the previous, this one is even longer and divided into six parts. This page links to each one. As always, this is bizarre story collated by suggestions from the audience at a panel of Gen Con, this time in 2004. It was published in July 2005.

The story begins with a chatelaine schooling a young noble student of eight winters. They are in Castle Waterdeep, home of Piergeiron, the current Open Lord of the city. The stripling is obstinate, and the chatelaine patient. Two workers witness the chagrin of the governess. These two are workers going over ledgers of magical items. The elder is Oruld and the younger Reld. This is a fun listing of things you could bring into your own game and includes a cheeky game book reference to LNG

The next setup involves two veteran guards going over the guest list for a gnome-halfling wedding. They banter about the new officers put over them and the slaughtering they may have to inflict on the roguish outlanders that are coming to the wedding. The event is at the tavern called the Bloody Fist. It is located at the meeting of Snail and Presper Streets in Dock Ward, and is the designated place to enter into wedlock for Talaressa Wondergleam of the Dock Ward and Lucklai Minstrelwish of Secomber. Belgrim "the Bold" Huldersord is the proprietor, once a sellsword but now the stubborn eyepatch wearing owner (though blind in neither eye) that would rather have constant repairs down than replacing the building. It is also known for its serious drinking, dancing girls, and gnomish brothel down stairs. Flesh-eating fairies wait the tables. 

Something is awry and Belgrim needs to call in a favor from Mirt the Moneylender. It becomes more intriuging and absurd when the Barrera Alhound, Just Blade of Tempus, comes in with a magical sword and gigantic codpiece (though Barrera is a woman) to prevent penguins from stealing Talaressa's chastity belt.

This is essentially the setup of part one. I think I appreciate it more than the first three. While completely absurd it feels like a good controlled hodgepodge rather than complete madness. It also has new and interesting characters rather than the same old ones that I like but have read about a hundred times. Part two introduces our sneezing goddess, Tymora, Elminster, Volo, and much, much more. 

While very fun, it is longer than a short story. It may be a novella, I'm not sure on the word count. Either way, it gets even wilder and it has a satisfying conclusion that involves the bending of norms and actual genders. Ha! Greenwood juggles well many fantastic things but sometimes you wonder if he needs to get so flamboyant. If you can enjoy the longer ride, it is rather Exceptional


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Community Spotlight: Owen Edwards Book Reviews

 Owen Edwards is staple watching for me. While not strictly Forgotten Realms related, he has reviewed The Finder's Stone Trilogy (like me), Drizzt, and campaign diaries. He also does much on Appendix N reading. These are books listed in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide as influential to the game. I read these myself but don't talk about them here explicitly. 

Go check him out! 


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Review: The Parched Sea by Troy Denning

In 1991 Troy Denning introduced the monstrous series of The Harpers. They're largely standalone or have internal arcs, so you have no need to read 1-16 like it is The Wheel of Time. The first of these is The Parched Sea which introduces Ruha, whom Denning would use in more of his Forgotten Realms novels, including The Parched Sea's sequel, The Veiled Dragon, book five of the Avatar series, Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, as well as in The Return of the Archwizards trilogy. You can listen to my thoughts here.

Ruha is newly married and is adjusting to her life with a new tribe, the Qahtan of the Bedine in Anauroch desert. She keeps secret her portentous visions so the Qahtan will not think she is a witch. In reality she does know some magic which she learned from a witch who raised her for some of her childhood. 

Her call to adventure comes when her new husband, Ajaman, is given night guard duty. Disaster strikes the Qahtan, and Ruha finds her life upheaved. 

Lander, a Harper from Sembia, is in Anauroch to follow the moves of the Zhentarim. He will become important to this stage of Ruha's life. The year is 1360 DR, a couple years after the Time of Troubles. Cyric is presently God of three domains, and his Bedine aspect is Naser. 

The novel itself is pretty predictable. The Bedines are obviously inspired by the Bedouins. They don’t like magic since greedy magic users are what made the desert in the first place, at least in part (see the history of Netheril). The big theme is prejudice and finding belonging while fighting foreign interlopers. 

The desert setting is cool, I don’t read too many in such a biome. I wish Ruha was more of the main character over Lander, she was much more interesting, and Lander takes some of the attention away from her.

There is some romance here and is not the worst thing I have read by Denning. If I were you, I might skip this novel since there are better ones worth reading unless something here makes you think you would enjoy it or you are a completionist like I am. Regardless, my next review will be for the sequel, The Veiled Dragon.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, October 23, 2023

What if Drizzt Was Written by Someone Other Than R. A. Salvatore?

Happy Day of Might to any that observe!

The title says it all: what if Drizzt had been written by someone else, specifically after the series had several entries and was popular? Shores of Dusk by Mark Anthony was not meant to be. The novel was written, and ads had appeared for it, but it has never seen the light of day and likely never will. I won't spoil the whole thing for you, but will show you to a write-up written by Anthony about the doomed novel. I was made aware of it by this recent Facebook post.

It is interesting to contemplate the direction Drizzt could have taken if Salvatore had actually hung up his hat. I have not read Realms of the Underdark and can't guess at how well Anthony may or may not have done. What do you think?

Here it is and amarast!:

Monday, October 16, 2023

News: Another Novel is Coming

 On October 11, 2023 a new Forgotten Realms novel was announced. It is Dungeons & Dragons: The Fallbacks: Bound for Ruin by Jaleigh Johnson. It is set to be released on March 5, 2024. See the listing here

Here is the blurb:

Meet the newest Dungeons & Dragons party in the first epic adventure of The Fallbacks. To become renowned adventurers, this party needs to survive their first job. Tessalynde is an ambitious young rogue who dreams of leading Faerûn’s foremost adventuring party. While the crew she’s gathered isn’t the stuff of legend yet, she’s confident her guidance can get them there. The team: Anson, a fighter too stubborn to stay down, even when the odds are stacked against him. Cazrin, a self-taught wizard determined to test her theoretical mettle against the real world. Baldric, a cleric who refuses to tie himself to a single deity when he can trade favors with them all. Lark, a bard with as many secrets as songs. And, of course, Uggie, a monstrous pet otyugh who loves giving hugs and eating trash. Their first job: recovering a mysterious spellbook from a lost temple for a hefty payout. Tess hopes this assignment can turn her group of fledgling freelancers into a true team. But when their client is killed, their coin and his murderer both vanish, leaving the party to take the fall. Stuck with a sentient, bloodthirsty grimoire and pursued by mercenaries and the undead, this is hardly the mission Tess envisioned. Her crew must save the day, get the gold, and clear the party’s name—which they haven’t even agreed upon yet! With the threats against them mounting, a single mistake will see this party over before it even begins. Can this band of mismatched misfits stay together in the face of danger? Or are they bound for ruin?

As has been discussed previously, the novel line ended in 2016. Since then any publication has been through third party publishers, and has drastically limited the number of releases. We have gotten several Drizzt books, because of their continued popularity. We also have gotten the two Honor Among Thieves novels, of which Johnson wrote one: The Road to Neverwinter. That is it.

From the Realms novels I have read by Johnson, I'm not super excited. While not a bad writer, the new Realms feeling comes from a place of unsympathetic corporate overlords. I want the Forgotten Realms logo. I want Elminster or something recognizable beyond Sword Coast props. I will still read the novel to let you know if it is worth reading, but looking at the blurb, maybe cozy fantasy fans (or comedy) rather than heroic fantasy fans should note this announcement. I will remain cautiously optimistic and hope that since Johnson is somewhat of a Realms veteran that we will get more from someone like Greenwood, Cunningham, Kemp, or others some day.

You can track my current progress here.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Community Spotlight: Religion in the Realms

 It is time to put another spotlight on the great Forgotten Realms community. This time we are looking at another podcast, this one sharing indispensable knowledge and lore. Those familiar with D&D in general and the Realms specifically will know that gods and goddesses do exist, it's not a question like it is in our world. They commune with their churches and give spells to their followers. 

BUT there are a lot of these deities. Religion in the Realms has you covered. The podcast started with going over the Pantheons themselves and the latest episode is about Loviatar, the maiden of pain. I highly recommend going through any of these that may pertain to a session you are planning or a character you are building. I even went through Kelemvor's for this post.

You can find the podcast in the usual places, they are all linked here. Follow the podcast to keep up to date on what's next on Twitter as well.



You can track my current progress here.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Review: Law & Order by Dave Gross

 Law & Order is another tie-in to the Baldur's Gate games. This one is specifically about the early years of Rasaad yn Bashir in Calimport. I have previously reviewed Baldur's Gate short stories, I link them all here. Read this story on page 188-202 here.

The story is divided into two parts, Fishing and The Path to Light. Rasaad and his brother Gamaz are fishing, which is their euphemism for being pickpockets. They want gold fish, but also will take copper and silver, it's cheeky. After a close encounter with a Sharan, the brothers decide to team up to fill their empty stomachs. They then encounter a Sun Soul monk, a man from out of town. Rasaad is only eight years old, but his quick hands make him good at his job. On the other hand, he can't lie any more than a dwarf could pass for a gnome. 

Part two continues the story, so I will be vague. Rasaad is now fifteen years old. This continues the brother's lessons and their camaraderie increases. I read this on a rainy day and it seemed perfect for me. It is an Exceptional story if a simple one. 


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Review: Sandstorm by Christopher Rowe

Sandstorm is one of those odd standalone novels not incorporated into a series like Lost Empires or Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep. It was released in 2011 and was Christopher Rowe's first novel. I actually have chatted with Rowe briefly online, and realizing he had written a Realms novel pushed this one up my list.

This is the Fourth Edition of Forgotten Realms, so it's weird. That doesn't count it out as a good time, I enjoyed Brimstone Angels and Venom in Her Veins, and those are also during the Era of Upheaval. This one takes place in Calimshan, and fans of the desert kingdom south of Tethyr and Amn and across the water from Chult may want to give it a whirl.

Calimport is way less glorious after the Spellplague, though it was always tainted by its slave trade. Slavery is one theme of this book, and we are introduced to gladiatorial games on an earthmote, that is a floating piece of earth. It starts with a bang, a duel between a gladiator and a great tentacled cat. You often don't get covers showcasing events from the start of the book, but this is an exception. It's also notable because Raymond Swanland makes such good art.

Along with this cover, it has a sword & sorcery feel at the start. The magic is also less gamey and feels tad more authentic than in some other Realms novels.

Cephas is a gladiator slave on the earthmote. He seemingly tries to escape from just about every bout he is in; though he is a good fighter he longs for freedom. He has some innate connection to the earth and this relationship is explained once he goes on his journey.

Corvus Nightfeather is a Kenku assassin and a carnie of sorts for the Circus of Wonders. He is not the main character but stands out as unique and as my favorite. Along with a Kenku, you also get some other races that have populated D&D for the last decade or more. Things like Goliaths and Genasi, the latter being integral to the story. The story explores Genasi having two or more elemental aspects regardless of their birth element. For example, can air Genasi also acquire the fire aspect? This ties into a theme of identity and family, particularly the found family trope.

Lastly, Rowe makes good use of epigraphs from in-world texts. I am a big fan of this method, and seeing it in the Forgotten Realms is very fun. That being said, I did not enjoy this one too much, but I feel I could have put more effort into reading it. I think I will reread it at some point, it is very short. As of now, I'll give my arbitrary rating of Acceptable.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Pages Behind the Pixels: Baldur's Gate and the Accompanying Fiction

 Baldur's Gate is a popular series of video games produced by BioWare. The first released in 1998 and was followed by a sequel, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn in 2000. A spin-off series, Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance followed in 2001 with a sequel in 2004. The latter were produced by Snowblind Studios and Black Isle Studios, respectively. Many years later, in 2023, Larian would produced Baldur's Gate III to critical acclaim.

These games brought to life the Forgotten Realms in ways previously tapped into by games like the old Gold Box series or The Eye of the Beholder series. I will talk about those in different articles, but today I want to make people aware of the fiction that ties into the Baldur's Gate series of games. This is for fans both old and new!

Baldur's Gate was novelized the year following its release. This novelization was done by Philip Athans, and Baldur's Gate II got a similar treatment. There was even a third novel for the second game's expansion, Throne of Bhaal written by Drew Karpyshyn. 

Sadly, the novel line was ended in several years ago, so beyond the occasional release of a Drizzt novel or the movie tie-in, we don't get any novels. Many fans believe a tie-in to the new game would make a lot of sense, too bad we don't have any sway at Wizards of the Coast.

However, there is more than just these three novels. While Dark Alliance never got blessed with any fiction, there are a number of short stories that deal tangentially with the story of the Baldur's Gate games. These are as follows: 

"Final Exam" by Dave Gross (read on page 317 here)

"Unburdened" by Dave Gross (read it here)

"Best Friends" by Dave Gross (read on page 324 here)

"Rancor" by Dave Gross (read on page 89 here)

"Law and Order" by Dave Gross (read on page 188 here)

(These next three specifically tie into the first game's expansion, Siege of Dragonspear)

"Amulet Fellow and the Regal Rose/Glint's Story" by Andrew Foley (read on page 17 here)

"Den of Chaos" by Amber Scott (read here)

"Dangerous World" by Andrew Foley (read here)


You can track my current progress here.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Remembering Those Passed

 In the Realms, when you die you go to the realm of your chiefest deity. Such realms range from terrible to awesome. If you are not claimed by one you are then accepted into the Realm of the Dead by its Lord. This position has changed several times, from Jergal to Myrkul to Cyric to Kelemvor. Thankfully this last has the most peaceful version of the realm. In real life there are many places people do and do not believe in. I won’t get into that today, but it’s pertinent.

I wanted to make a special post today to remember those fallen. However it happens, it’s a circumstance of life. We all die. There are plenty people that large swaths remember, the likes of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson spring to mind as the creators of Dungeons & Dragons. I also think of Ed Greenwood’s late wife, Jenny. But there are those more close to home, family, friends. I am young and have not experienced much death in the family. As far as D&D is concerned and the reason for this publication date, is my friend, Wes. 

Wes was a fantastic Dungeon Master, and a similarly great player when I DMed. He even played a character I made, Daoine “Dao” of the Forest of Shadows (from the Cleric Quintet). I have generally played TTRPGs with my brothers, but a group I was a part of while living in Colorado (2020-2021) had Saturday set aside to play. Well after I moved, a year ago today, Wes passed away after a serious car accident. 

While I miss him and his congenial nature and his happy attitude, I am grateful for the memories. I cannot think of anything negative associated with him. It was grand adventures, good food and copious snacks. We travelled through the Underdark, fought cultists in Neverwinter, traversed the plains, had WWE style matches with giants, and experienced so much that was “not natural”(an inside joke, stay with me). 

The first Day of Might, October 2021, we appropriately played Dungeons & Dragons. We lit our red candles, drank root beer, and I even brought gifts of sword and sorcery books for my pals (Howard’s Conan and Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, for those curious). 

I’ve had characters die, and I’m grateful for the time I had with them. I’m even more grateful for friends like Wes, taken far too young. But he’ll live on as himself and the multiple hours of fun he was a part of. My latest 5e character is named “Wes of the Mattock” and is a Rashemi version of Montana born Wes. Maybe one day we’ll roll some new characters together, in the meantime I’ll roll more with him in mind. 

Anerriphto kubos, friends.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Review: Realms of the Deep

Realms of the Deep is the accompanying anthology to the Threat from the Sea trilogy by Mel Odom. It was only the fourth anthology I have read on my quest so far, the others being The Halls of Stormweather, Realms of War, and The Best of the Realms II. This concludes the fiction content for the Realms event, the only other piece being the short story not included here: "Dark Legacy".

Released in 2000 and edited by Philip Athans, the anthology contains twelve stories about the Twelfth Seros War that went from the Sea of Swords to the Sea of Fallen Stars.

"Our Choices" by Lynn Abbey takes place on the 19th of Ches in the Year of the Gauntlet. The story is about sea elves who are new refugees in service to a Triton king. A beacon has just been destroyed by the Sahuagin. Turns out one of these sea elves is a malenti, a Sahuagin that looks like a sea elf, just like Laaqueel in the trilogy. This is a story of fate, similar to something like "Before the Firing Squad" by John Chioles. It is a rare Lynn Abbey Realms story that you should appreciate while it lasts.

"Fire is Fire" is by Elaine Cunningham and takes place on the 30th of Ches of the same year. A wizard associated with Khelben Blackstaff is the main character and his parts are told in first person. This is a young and arrogant wizard tutored by the Archmage. He seeks glory in the attack on Waterdeep by the Sahuagin, the battle that commenced in the first story. There is also another character. A first-person account of a Sahuagin. It was odd switching to another POV in the first person in the same story. The idea of fire is fire brings about respect and a great comparison to the Sahuagin mantra of “meat is meat” we hear often in the trilogy. Cunningham definitely has talent.

"Messenger to Seros" by Peter Archer takes place on the 10th of Tarsahk; once again in the same year. Thraksos needs to find a way to Seros to warn the good sea peoples in the Inner Sea of the battle at Waterdeep. Not much to comment on here.

"The Place Where Guards Sleep at their Post" by Ed Greenwood takes place on the 9th of Kythorn. This is a cheeky story set around Mintarn. We have bits from Brandor, a black buckle apprentice mage. This is a fantastic ending involving burning oysters in the barrel. This one also appears in The Best of the Realms II

"Lost Cause" by Richard Lee Byers is set on the 17th of Kythorn. Told in the first-person, our main character is ex-military. His name is Sergeant Kendrack. This is a battle sequence that is really immersive, with great imagery, unique voices for the soldiers and raw human emotion. It has redemption and pride. Hylas and Aquinder with Kendrack make a great cast. This takes place at Port Llast and the foes are actually crabmen allied with the Sahuagin, which is also a nice change of pace. 

"Forged in Fire" by Clayton Emery takes place on the 22nd of Kythorn. This is a story about pirates, it starts in medias res as pirates are boarding a merchant vessel. This seems to be set in the sea near Calimshan. This time we need enemies to work together, and Emery makes sure we know there are plenty of female pirates. 

"One Who Swims with Sekolah" by Mel Odom is set on the 4th of Flamerule. This seems to be the longest in the anthology, and it being from the man largely behind the Threat From the Sea or Twelfth Seros War, it makes sense. This describes the breaking of the Sharksbane Wall that occurs later in the trilogy. It follows Laaqueel in her service to Iakhovas so those who have read the trilogy will probably like this addition even if they don’t want to read the rest of the stories. 

"The Crystal Reef" by Troy Denning is set on the 8th of Flamerule. On a small island west of Tharsult there lies a crystal wreath protected by a couple giants on a small island. The story is kicked into motion because a fleet of ships is suddenly anchored off the reef. This is a story of sacrifice, and it is a little sad. 

"The Patrol" by Larry Hobbs takes place on the 10th of Flamerule. A watchman in the port city of Cimbar is our protagonist. He is the third son of a noble known as a hero. He is in a scuffle in the streets and ends up getting berated by his superior. It is fine but I feel I’ve read it before.

"The Star of Tethyr" by Thomas M. Reid is next. This one is about the new flagship of the Tethyr fleet, though it doesn’t take place on it said ship. Our main character is a young sailor and it’s about his chance to aid the ship when the Sahuagin attack.

"Persana’s Blade" by Steven E. Schend is the penultimate story.  A young triton is involved in a morkoth attack and must protect his little sister. 

"And the Dark Tide Rises" by Keith Francis Strohm takes place in Mourktar with an outsider youth being our protagonist. I found it a little tedious since it was the fourth story in a row about a young man. It’s not bad though, it’s an enchanting tale of the sea and belonging. 

This was my first time reading by Archer, Hobbs and Strohm. The rest are all veterans of the Realms I’ve read in novels or short stories. Overall, I enjoyed my time and I look forward to getting into more of the "Realms of" anthologies. This is a Good one.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Review: Dark Legacy by Mel Odom

I recently reviewed the entire Threat from the Sea trilogy by Mel Odom. What you, lucky reader, may not have realized is that there are more stories to read about this big Realms event. The first released was this short story, found in Dragon Magazine issue 255. The other is the anthology Realms of the Deep, which I will be reviewing soon.

story art by David Kooharian

In January 1999, the same month book one, Rising Tide, was released, we got a short story introducing the conflict. It can be found on pages 66-77. The story starts on the 22 Ches (actually misspelled as Chess in the article) 1355 DR. That means it is early Spring, essentially late March, and it is one year after the prologue of Rising Tide

Narros is woken by his wife, Klyss. They are merfolk of Laakos' Reef, forty miles east of Calimport. He says a prayer to Eadro before grabbing his trident and checking on the disturbance that woke them. Narros is the chief priest of the village and safeguards the temple that has housed an artifact for thounsands ofyears. He feels the disturbed currents coming from the passage that connects his reef home to the temple.

Narros and Klyss have two adult sons, and they take their charge of keeping the artifact very seriously. The old priest, Kallos, was fearful of what would happen if the artifact was removed. This artifact is the Taker's Circlet. When trouble arrives they go to Harric, their chieftain, for aid. Another character is the wealthy Revek who sells fish to surface dwellers, wears robes (most go naked) and has furniture.

We learn the locathah also revere Eadro, though in a different manner. We don't have them present, but they are mentioned. We do get a look at a pirate vessel, The Wayfarer captained by Kenson.

This story is immediately gripping. Not many of these short stories in Dragon are, but I found this was a very fast and interesting read. Overall, it is Good.

The story has a brief section on the 26th and another on the 29th of the month of Ches too. It is a satisfying end that connects well with the rest of the trilogy, introducing a people and place I would like to revisit someday. 


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

The Unimpressive Fictional Legacy of Dragon+

 Dragon Magazine from its start was a magazine of variety. At its inception this included fiction. The first issue even he part 1 of 6 of the novella “The Gnome Cache” by Garrison Ernst, a pen name for Gary Gygax. Other famous writers would even appear in the early pages, Harry Otto Fischer, Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague de Camp, and Gardner Fox worth noting.

Dragon+ was a short lived, mediocre, sequel. Only half the heart was put into it, and there is no excuse because it was digital only—the last 71 issues of Dragon were also digital only. After six years of digital only content, the magazine was sunsetted in December 2013. 

But like a Phoenix it survived. In April 2015 Dragon+ was born as a successor to both Dragon and Dungeon magazines. While this gave hope for free content compatible for your fifth editions table, it was a sickly Phoenix. Issues came out bimonthly, making six a year. It lasted 7 years itself, the 41st and last issue releasing in March/April 2022 before being quietly shut down in July.

I failed to cover this when it happened, as my blog was on hiatus. I can’t say I know how the business was ran, but I feel there was much more fiction that could have been. Dragon+ was a wan light when the novel line ended. In 14 issues fiction appeared, all being somewhat connected to the Forgotten Realms as the flagship setting of the current product. The last piece came in October 2020 when “Ice Out” was released as a tie-in to Rime of the Frostmaiden. 

Apparently it tied into Candlekeep Mysteries too, and beyond that there has been very little attention given to the Realms from the sorcerers who live on the shore. 

While the recent movie tie-ins provide some light, the novel lines death accompanied with the death of short fiction in Dragon magazine marks a disdapointingdissapointing state. While fiction did decrease after the 1990s in Dragon Magazine, the venue still saw the likes of George R. R. Martin and others. When I think of Dragon’s legacy I can see much worthwhile fiction in the thousands of pages. I can’t say I see the same in Dragon+. 

I did see Ed Greenwood was part of a Spin a Yarn panel at GenCon and I had hoped it would be set in the Realms. Alas, even that hope was futile. We’ll see what happens from here.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Community Spotlight: Renfail

 Those who have not lived under a rock realize that the Forgotten Realms is much more than a D&D campaign setting. Magic cards call it home, hundreds of novels, and many video games. I got my own start with video games when I was a child, and while I will go more into that another time, that same series just got a new entry after many years. 

Baldur's Gate 3 is now out! Of course, early access has been available for a few years, but I have been enjoying the content of one creator in particular. He has been streaming much and releasing guides for the expansive world of Baldur's Gate 3.

Beyond that, he has played the older Baldur’s Gate games, Icewind Dale, the new Dark Alliance, and other adjacent things to Forgotten Realms and D&D. 

Check out his channel here.

Check out his Baldur’s Gate 3 playlist here


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Review: The Spine of the World by R.A. Salvatore

 The Spine of the World was released in 1999 and falls as number twelve in the ongoing Legend of Drizzt. Though it is part of the super series the main character is Wulfgar. In fact, Drizzt only appears in the narrative entries that separate the different sections of the novel. This is a sequel to The Silent Blade, as this starts with Wulfgar being a bouncer in Luskan just as he was in the previous novel.

I read this one in December 2022, right after finishing the Threat from the Sea trilogy.

The prologue shows Wulfgar at the docks with Morik, a recent friend set to watch over the barbarian by Jarlaxle. They are drinking and playing and are confronted by would-be-muggers. This interaction shows us the depressed and destitute state of Wulfgar. His lack of care may be costing The Cutlass, the tavern he works at, more money than he is now worth. 

Chapter 1 then shows the Sea Sprite, Captain Deudermonts ship, making its way into Luskan for repairs after an engagement with two pirate vessels.

Ch 2 shows us the Auck family of the village of Auckney to the Northwest of Luskan. The map at the front of the book is actually for the fiefdom of Auckney. This map puts Fireshear to the northwest when the text says it is to the south. 

The interludes are still from Drizzt and about his morals: he doesn’t like drugs for example and doesn’t think you should have sex with someone you don’t love but won’t judge if you do. 

The fighting is overdone, as always. 

The characters, especially just about all of them in Auckney are dislikable for the bad things they do, buuuuut, if you read this as Salvatore’s look at the plight of the poor, it kind of reads like Glenn Cook’s Shadows Linger. I think the expectations are wrong, and his characterization is not up to par; but it’s not terrible, though this novel is generally hated by Drizzt fans. 

Wulfgar is a thug, and a wretch; generally, what the Companions of the Hall fight. 

Does it end in tragedy? No, this is a redemption story that is actually done okay. I got quite emotional at the end even. Very unexpected. Almost Arthurian in some respects. 

Merelda is a tragic character, one the reader should pity. Jaka is my least favorite type of person in the world, the worst of toxic teenage boys. 

Most fans don’t like this novel, and since I’m not a huge fan of this series I thought maybe I would end up liking it. But no, it’s not that good. As is typical of Salvatore, I found it mediocre at best and maybe okay for tween boys.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Review: Only A Woman Can Take This Sort of Abuse by Ed Greenwood

 It has been a minute since reviewing a Spin a Yarn tale by Ed Greenwood. Like the previous two, this was a tale written by Ed Greenwood after attendees at Gen Con gave outlandish suggestions.

This one is divided into two parts and is quite long. They were released in December 2003 and January 2004, respectively. Read parts 1 and 2

the picture on the original article

This one starts really comical, as Manshoon, Lord of the Zhentarim, wakes up not remembering exactly what happened. He knows he was lured by the Seven Sisters and he awakes dressed as a “saucy tavern wench”. When leaving the bedroom he finds Volo dresses in a corset and proceeds to try to murder the traveling writer and wizard. 

The Seven Sisters mean to trap someone and disguise it as a revel. Volo is present because he is writing his guide to Catering. We learn this is at a cabin on the Dragon Coast. 

Aravil Kettlesworth is the cook in a less than efficient and clean kitchen. He is a dwarf and all the others are followers of Loviater, goddess of pain. Their leader seems to be a priestess named Roreldra who is literally whipping frosting onto a cake. Or welol, she is the spiritual leader; Kettlesworth Fine Feasts is of course led by the dwarf.

There is a short conversation on how to cook tarrasque so it is safe to eat. Around this comes an aged paladin of Tyr with a sapient sword capable of loving some on its own, one eager to protect supposed innocents.

The story introduces Elminster in part 2, and we get a proper explanation (or showing) of how Manshoon and Volo get where they are at the start. It’s very fun, maybe a tad long. I’d say it’s a Good one and of course free to enjoy.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Completed Series: The Threat From the Sea Trilogy by Mel Odom

The Threat From the Sea Trilogy by Mel Odom is one of those rare fantasy series focused on sea adventure, whether that is at port, on ships, or underwater. I read all three of these novels in December 2022. It is a rather large Realms event taking place from 1369 to 1370 DR, and spanning from off the Sword Coast to the Sea of Fallen Stars. There is an accompanying anthology, Realms from the Deep, which goes along with the events of the novels. I will be reviewing it at a later date.

Rising Tide (1999) - Good

UnderFallen Stars (1999) - Good

The Sea Devil's Eye (2000) - Acceptable

Rising Tide starts in 1354 and introduces Laaqueel. She is really one of the two main characters, though maybe slightly less of one than the other. Laaqueel is a sahuagin but is the malenti version of that race. She has a surface persons skin tone rather than green or blue and otherwise looks like a sea elf with a few very small distinguishing attributes. We will learn later in book three that malenti are only born where sahugain have settled near sea elves; they are often used as spies among them. Laaqueel  is a priestess of Sekolah, the shark god and chief deity of the sahugain. Even though she looks more relatable we are quickly reminded of her somewhat monstrous nature.

A heretical tale took Laaqueel from Baldur’s Gate and apparently leads in the end to this sea bordering Chult. This heresy is about one called “one who swims with Sekolah” and kicks off the events that will come to fruition with the trilogy.

The rest of the story takes place in 1369, starting on 9 Mirtul. It involves in ancient power known as Iakhovas. We know he is not a god, but we’re not really privy to what he is exactly, until much later in the series.

Beyond Laaqueel, Jherek is our main character. He is nineteen year old sailor, a deckhand, I believe in Amn at the start. He is from Vellen in Tethyr and has some secret the goody, worshipper of Ilmater, thinks is terrible. Jherek is rather silly, as his secret is not bad at all, but it holds this otherwise mary sue character back.Jherek has almost Christian morals, just so you can get an understanding. Plus he doesn’t drink. He is pretty good at controlling himself, though temptations on this line are a big plot point. 

Another character is Pacys, a bard of Oghma. He is aged and had his share of adventures. Another character is Sabyna, she is mage on a ship similar to Robillard's position on the Sea Sprite.

This novel is very much a prologue, and ends with a good conclusion. You really need to continue to get to a satisfying place. I think having someone that could be a mary sue as the good guy, with Pacys in the middle to experience and sing about things, and Laaqueel who is the bad guy but never comes off as truly evil (though she is partner to plenty of death dealing, it’s simply what I expect from a sahuagin. It’s not like she’s an evil sorceress) saves the book from being bland.

Sahuagin culture is interesting, the fear of fireand magic is dominant. We also get to see places like Velen and Athkatla, and the more common Waterdeep. Plus there is much sea action, so those who want a good sea adventure, regardless if you’ve read Forgotten Realms before, maybe try this shorter novel. Something like the god Sekolah was new even to me. 

Watch/listen to my review of Rising Tide on YouTube here.

the omnibus has this

Raymond Swanland cover

Under Fallen Stars takes place largely in Seros another name for the Sea of Fallen Stars. The name of the book gives that one away, its my favorite title of the series. The story starts with a triton facing a morkoth that has killed his companions in the name of the Taker, Iakhovas. The tritons had been sent to spy and were discovered. The Tritons guard against an evil in the Inner Sea, and know that Iakhovas‘s lost and magical eye is in lost Myth Nantor.

This is a section of hot progression. Famous cities are burned and we know the war is about to get even more heated.

We do get sea elves in this book, which is a nice addition. Their king in the Sea of Fallen Stars wants to look for the Taleweaver, a bard who is prophesied to sing of the conflict with Iakhovas and the seeming champion of Jherek.

We also have a dwarf character, Khlinat, in this book as well as a paladin, Glawinn, from Corymr, and the famous Elfsong Tavern makes an appearance. 

Watch/listen to my review here.

The Sea Devil's Eye starts right where book two ends, and there is little I can say without spoiling the previous books. I was a little disappointed with Sabyna's arc, and most definitely with Laaqueel's, who is my favorite character. Her nature is odd, and it makes sense, but was not super satisfying. Most of the series the good and bad guys do not actually come into contact and that changes here. The concept of fate is explored and even relations between merfolk with sea elves gets explored. Fans of Lathander and Eldath may take note though, their faiths are present.

Watch/listen to my review here.

Issue 255 of Dragon has images of the characters in the Rogues Gallery.

The greatest benefit of these novels are their change of pace from other novels. Sea fantasy is oddly rare enough, and getting a plethora of species at war dominantly underwater is very fun. Sadly it the main character is a bit of a mary sue, though Odom's talent makes up for that some. Overall, it is a Good series potentially worth your time. Hopefully I have helped you decide on whether it is for
you or not.

The cover art for the trilogy and accompanying anthology is one piece done by Don Maitz.


You can track my current progress here.