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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.

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