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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.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Community Spotlight: The Sembian Revival by Longwinded One

This is first in a series of short articles I will be writing to showcase some of the great fan-made Forgotten Realms content out there. Considering I am a fan and the community here is rather small, I still find it is helpful to have some sort of camaraderie with other members in the Realms fandom.

So first and foremost, I want to highlight a fun podcast by the Longwinded One, website here (YouTube if you prefer). Specifically, the fourth season which is titled The Sembian Revival. It is a sort of audio drama about Sembia in 1491 DR, a sort of follow-up to the Erevis Cale novels, particularly the last one, The Godborn. It was released in short episodes, originally based off the events of a campaign played around a table before being messed with to create a story in podcast form. The whole thing can be listened to on platforoms where podcasts are hosted, such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Each episode can also be listened to on YouTube. There is a final episode, number 200, which is all of them combined to make a more than five-hour long experience somewhat like a short novel.

This is a story that will take you on a tour of Sembia and even some close locations like Battlerise, Cormyr. It is very well researched and put together. Fans of epic campaigns will not be disappointed. 

The one thing left out of the final episode are all the interviews the host, Jared, was able to put together throughout, including talking with Realms names like Ed Greenwood, Philip Athans, Richard Lee Byers, Dave Gross, John Pruden and Clayton Emery. There are also interviews with the cast, so you can get to know them. Of all the content I have watched in recent years, this just might be the most underrated. Almost no one knows about this show, and I think many Realms fans would enjoy it considering the dearth of novels and other lore heavy materials today.

I know that there was a follow up campaign in Cormyr, and maybe someday we will get a similar audio drama in podcast form going over those events. I would be ecstatic if that happens, but for now, go and check out The Sembian Revival from Longwinded One.

It is also worth noting, that it was my conversations with Jared that led to this blog being created. I was reading many Forgotten Realms novels as I was rocking my newborn daughter and in conversation with him on Twitter. That was almost three years ago, to the day, I created this blog.


You can track my current progress here.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Review: D&D Honor Among Thieves: The Druid’s Call

The upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie, Honor Among Thieves, has giving us a blessing, though whether it is from Tymora or Beshaba, I think you will have to decide. It was 2016 since we last got a novel in the Realms besides Drizzt. It is nice to be back in the Realms, but is it utilized to its full potential?

If you would like, there is a video version of my review found here.

The Druid's Call is a young adult novel telling us the prequel of the druid Doric who in the movie is played by actress Sophia Lillis. It is written by E.K. Johnston, a newbie to writing in the Realms.

Doric is a tiefling, a mortal with infernal blood. She was orphaned because of her obvious nonhuman traits, horns and a tail, and grew up in Neverwinter Wood. There she was raised by the wood elves. Her backstory is actually a bit more tragic, and this is told to us in special sections of flashback marked with different paper in the physical version.

Doric is not naturally built for the wood like her adoptive kin. She can’t seem to hunt for the life of her, even with her training as a ranger, but she gets an opportunity to prove herself when her and her friend Torrieth go to check out a disturbance. It turns out to be loggers and they encounter a bear who has gone without food because of these loggers. Doric has an interesting interaction her, one that leads her to becoming more in tune with the nature around her. 

In the trailer Doric appears shape-changed, called wildshape, as an Owlbear. I felt this novel satisfyingly answers as to why that is possible, but some will likely feel it does not. For those curious, the other movie prequel novel, The Road to Neverwinter by Jaleigh Johnson is a more direct prequel of the party of adventurers led by Chris Pines character.

In The Druid's Call character group is Doric, Torrieth, and Deverel. Toriath is good at everything and popular. Deverel is very optimistic and good hearted, even giving Doric credit where others would see an obvious failure. 

Later there is even a character that uses 3rd person singular pronouns as they/them. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that in a novel. 

This is a D&D adventure and this one takes us south to Ardeep Forest near Waterdeep and involves the Emerald Enclave, not surprising based off its general status in 5e. We get a ton of races of characters, more than you normally get in Forgotten Realms novels, probably because the Realms have gotten a lot more colorful since 4e. 

The verdict for the Realms is that it doesn’t push a lot of boundaries for the Realms, no great amounts of lore utilized, but it was nice to be in the Realms again. Sadly, if you changed the place names around this could easily be set in any other generic fantasy world. I realize this is partially due to it being a young adult novel, but more likely it is because Wizards wants to sell you D&D, not Forgotten Realms. This comes as no surprise, as the Realms has been mistreated in 5e so far. I do not blame Johnston for this.

If you would like a YA novel that uses the Realms phenomenal ally and also happens to be in and around Neverwinter, try Brimstone Angels by Erin M. Evans.

Oh, and Simon who is another character in the movie appears in this book too. He is apparently a decedent of Elminster


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Review: The Simbul’s Gift by Lynn Abbey

The Simbul's Gift is a standalone novel that falls into the spot of book 5 in The Nobles series. Like many Forgotten Realms series (Lost Empires, for example), these books have a loose theme but are written by different authors about different places and people in Faerun. This story is, unsurprisingly, about The Simbul. I believe this is one of two novels that Lynn Abbey (best known for coedited the Thieves' World anthologies) contributed to the Realms, the other being The Nether Scroll in the previously mentioned Lost Empires series.

Alassra Shentranta Silverhand, Witch-Queen of Aglarond, one of the seven sisters, Chosen of  Mystra-the Goddess of Magic. Quite a character, huh? For those less aware of the Realms characters that appear often and with great power, Alassra, generally called the Simbul, is not really mortal as she doesn’t age. She was raised in Rashemen by the witches there, specifically the witch Oraumae. She is the sixth sister but the most powerful in the Arcane Art (as opposed the Divine variant).  We get a short introduction of her history, and chapter one is set in 1365 DR but most of the story is set in 1368 DR. 

I have yet to read it, but I believe we get more of her history in the short story "In the Bleak Deepwinter" from Dragon 242. I will be reviewing it soon.

We get a great contrast of the Yuirwood elven settlements and the grand capital of Velprintalar, showcasing the lack of homogeneity in Aglarond. The Yuir elves have a deity unique to them, which fits with the verisimilitude since the real world was like that, Zandilar who is sort of Hanali Celanil and Sune mixed with Sharess, she is a goddess of lust basically. In this wood is Ebroin, shortered to Bro, who owns a horse known as Zandilar’s Dancer. He is one of our characters beside The Simbul.

There are also some red wizards of Thay that are important, not surprising knowing their foreign tendencies and closeness to Aglarond. The two countries are often at war, trading territory in their disputes. This makes for a fun conflict, but what Abbey always excels at is her character work. I think you would be hard pressed to find any other author of speculative fiction with such realistic and well put-together characters. 

Which means it is quite a treat to have Abbey write a novel about such an important and beloved character. The cha’tel’quessir and their gods feel so authentic and make this one of the Forgotten Realms stories with the most verisimilitude. It feels so real! Not to mention this cool thing, I won't spoil, that explains the origin of Alassra's title. It is very, very cool.

If this sounds like the novel for you, it is not a terrible place to start. Some do not like the character focus, background plot, that Abbey presents, but I think fans of the Seven Sisters will truly enjoy this novel. For me, it is Exceptional. You can watch my YouTube review here.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Gamebook Review: Spawn of Dragonspear by Steve Perrin

 Spawn of Dragonspear is a gamebook, a short adventure similar to Choose Your Own Adventure, or Endless Quest. Number 17 in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebook series, it is a little bit more complicated than the other, more popular series. Spawn of Dragonspear is the only gamebook to be set in the Forgotten Realms. It was released in 1988.

You play as Kelson Darktreader, an elven ranger from Daggerford. He also appears in the adventures Under Illefarn, Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, Scourge of the Sword Coast, and Dead in Thay. The rules are explained at the start and they are very simple. You have hit points for health, skill points for skills, and experience points for adding to dice rolls. 

The year is 1354 DR, this being inferred since Kelvin is said to be 55, while in Under Illefarn he is said to be 58 in the year 1357 DR. 1354 is the same year devils take hold of Dragonspear Castle according to The Grand History of the Realms. Kelson during this time is in the Misty Forest, described as "several hundred miles to the southeast . . . of Daggerford" but it's really much closer (see the map).

I acquired the gamebook in the Summer of 2021, right around the time I started my YouTube channel, and I had a thought around that time to stream it on my channel. I waited until I had more of a following, and at the beginning of the year I finally did. I played with my wife and viewers for about an hour and a half. In the end we failed in our quest. You can watch the whole thing here.

Darktreader in 5e

It was a fun experience, though an interesting one. Choices are important. Even if you roll well on some things, you will get poor results if it's the wrong choice of sorts, though there are boons still to be had. I thought I was doomed in the first half an hour before getting a chance to have more adventures. It was thrilling and I am looking forward to playing again. 

The gamebook can be pricey if you find a copy, but it is worth it, especially if you find one with the original pull out character sheet.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Completed Series: Shadow of the Avatar Trilogy by Ed Greenwood

The Shadow of the Avatar trilogy by Ed Greenwood is concurrent with the events of the original Avatar Trilogy (expanded to five books later). The purpose is to show why certain heroes of the Realms did not help Midnight, Cyric, Adon and Kelemvor in their search for the Tablets of Fate. Because of that it focuses on Elminster and the Rangers Three.

I started the books in late December 2021 and finished in the middle of February the next year.

Shadows of Doom (1995) - Mediocre
Cloak of Shadows (1995) - Acceptable
All Shadows Fled (1995) - Acceptable

Shadows of Doom is about Elminster’s lost of control over his arcane abilities with the Time of Troubles and Mystra’s casting out of the Planes with all the other gods and goddesses. I previously reviewed this one separate from the rest of the series. We get to see good old rogue Elminster as if he was back in Athalantar of his youth, something shown in Elminster: The Making of a Mage.

The liberation of High Dale from the Zhentarim by Elminster and the Rangers Three is the main plot. The latter is accomplished by Sharantyr of the Knights of Myth Drannor, along with harpers  Belkram Hardeth of Baldur’s Gate, and Itharr Jathram of Athkatla, Amn. This small party is called the Rangers Three.

There are some inconsistencies, as the Avatar Trilogy and Shadow of the Avatar do not line up. This is likely due to the series not being written simultaneously or even consecutively with each other. These all released in 1995, as opposed to 1989 of the Avatar Trilogy. I advise you ignore this discrepancy and enjoy a Leiberian (see Fritz Leiber) swashbuckling adventure.

Cloak of Shadows is book two. If you did not like the first book, you may still enjoy the second. Many people bounce off of this series, but I think this one is very lighthearted fun that is supposed to explain the lack of help from these powers to the heroes in the Avatar Trilogy. A magical item, one cloak of shadows is key here, and so are the malaugrym. These are shapeshifting beings from a pocket dimension, they feature prominently in the Shandril's Saga (review forthcoming).

All Shadows Fled concludes the romp, being much more of a direct sequel to book two. Elminster and the Ranger's Three have been doing largely separate things, but for the good of the Realms. There are fun tidbits of Realms lore scattered throughout, something Greenwood is great for.

Overall the series is Acceptable. I would recommend it to fans of the Realms and those looking for a lighthearted campy romp and not something deep to think about, but still having good lessons to find, since Greenwood excels in such circumstances.


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Original Moonshaes and More Revealed!


In November of 2022 Ed Greenwood went onto the Lord Gosumba twitch channel to show off and chat Forgotten Realms maps spanning from 1969, shortly after its conception, to 1986 when it was acquired by TSR and sent to them in several pieces.

One of the highlights begins around the 49:30 mark: Greenwood’s original Moonshaes being shown for the very first time publicly. The last person beside Ed to see these was Jeff Grubb back in ‘86 or so. For those unaware, Douglas Niles was working on a a setting for the United Kingdom branch of TSR which ended up being scrapped. Since the Forgotten Realms was bought as a kitchen-sink setting, it was decided that Nile’s Druidic and fay islands would replace the original Hebrides inspired Moonshaes created by Ed. 

I recently read that Alex Kammer acquired the map that was put together at TSR in the late 80s, but that artifact has the later Moonshaes taped over the original.

We also see early maps of Waterdeep; Halruaa; The Lonesome Tankard in Eveningstar; Suzail; Serpent's Cowl (for the first time); Shadowdale; and more! Go enjoy this three hour video of Ed and his fountain of knowledge and experience. You may find it as glorious as I did. 



You can track my current progress here.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Review: Honest and True by Troy Denning

Honest and True is a short story found in Dragon Magazine 245 from March 1998. It is a tie-in to Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, also by Denning and released the month prior as the fifth and final volume in the Avatar Saga. The story follows Malik el Sami, Chosen of Cyric, as he still tries to do his god’s bidding shortly after the events of the novel. 

The story can be found from pages 57-64, with story artwork by Matt Wilson on page 56. 

The story is in first person like the novel, but we learn that Malik still has the truth spell put in him by Mystra. This leads to a great narration that is inaccurate to many but true to Malik’s view of the world. Such as calling the Harper’s “a band of meddling fools” and Deneir “the Prattler”. Like in The Sentinel, Malik is the Seraph of Lies, a special servant of Cyric’s.

He is in Waterdeep attempting to get his story published, which is of course proving difficult. This is exasperated when the Harper Ruha, the Bedine Witch, shows up. 

This story is very gripping and the perfect length. I enjoyed being back in a story from Malik’s point-of-view, and it makes an Exceptional short story for fans of book five.

I believe there is at least one more tie-in story to the Avatar Saga in Realms of Valor


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, January 9, 2023

2022 is Wrapped: Reading Update

In 2022 I only published four posts, a record low. I moved on the first of the year and being without my family for a few months was hard emotionally. I also stopped making videos at this time. While I got back into the habit of making videos, I somewhat forgot about this blog, the Forgotten Realms Lyceum.

So while I had a lackluster year posting, my hits have never been better. I have no clue what brings people to my blog, but apparently they come regardless if I’m updating it. Besides chronicling my experience reading through every Forgotten Realms story, I would also like to cultivate a healthy creative fan base for the Realms. Especially with how dismal lore is in present fifth edition material and the scarcity of novels. 

While I largely failed on the blog side, I did make some videos in the Forgotten Realms on YouTube. Here is the playlist, but I want to highlight a hours long chat with the creator of the Realms, Ed Greenwood, back in May!

As far as reading goes, out of the 295 (exact number could be wrong, will be easier to tell as I approach the end) novels, anthologies, and novellas to read, I read 17 this year. This means I have read 78 since I first read Brimstone Angels in 2017. I read 22 before starting this blog (having finished Downshadow earlier the same day), and so have read 56 since starting this blog. That means I’ve averaged about 18.6 each year since starting. I should hit above that, since my anniversary is not until March 7, but it’s easier to confine my years to that of the calendar: from Hammer to Nightal! At this rate it will take me more than a decade to finish, longer if they starting publishing more novels.

So for 2022 I read: 

7 books by Ed Greenwood

3 by Mel Odom

2 by Troy Denning

1 by Scott Ciencin

1 by James Lowder

1 by Lynn Abbey

1 by both Don Bassingthwaite and Dave Gross

1 by R.A. Salvatore 

So you do not have to go through my sheet, which is accessible at the bottom of each post, I read the follow books:

  • Tantras
  • Waterdeep
  • Prince of Lies
  • Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad
  • Cloak of Shadows
  • All Shadows Fled
  • The Best of the Realms II: The Stories of Ed Greenwood
  • The Temptation of Elminster
  • Spellfire
  • Crown of Fire
  • Hand of Fire
  • The Simbul’s Gift
  • Mistress of the Night
  • Rising Tide
  • Under Fallen Stars
  • The Sea Devil’s Eye
  • The Spine of the World


You can track my current progress here.