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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.