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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.

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