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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.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Review: Mistress of the Night by Don Bassingthwaite and Dave Gross

 This is a great novel in two ways: First it is a well written, standalone novel set in the Forgotten Realms, particularly in Sembia which gets little attention in lore as a setting. Second, it fits into one of the most beloved Realms series: The Sembia and Erevis Cale books. This book works perfectly as a sequel to Dave Gross' Black Wolf from the Sembia series, and doubles as a prequel to The Twilight War Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp. 

Watch the video version of this review here.

Mistress of the Night is a 2004 novel by Don Bassingthwaite and Dave Gross. It is part of The Priests series, book two, but those are all standalones focusing on different faiths. This story puts it on Shar and her twinly opposite, Selune. The stage for this dark rivalry is Yhaunn, a port east of the capital Ordulin. The place much of the story will take place is Moon Shadow Hall. 

We are quickly introduced to two opposing forces, Variance, a Shade of Thultanthar, who we will actually see very little of; and Dahanna, aged high priestess of Selune.

Feena is a character those who have read Black Wolf may recognize. She is a priestess of Selune, she is also a werewolf. For those unaware, she is a good aligned werewolf, as a evil aligned were creature would likely follow Malar, the Beast Lord. She has recently lived in the Arch Wood but returns to Yhaunn at the behest of Dahanna whom seems at the end of her life.

Keph is another character, he is a scion of a house in Yhaunn. His house is made of entirely of mages besides young Keph. This causes him to be resentful and to fall into dark ways, particularly when it comes to Shar and her cult. This will devolve into acquistion of a certain artifact called the Leaves of One Night.

This is a dark novel, like many have been that are set in Sembia. We explore faith and deception, and are led down a well paced and exciting plot. This is overall a fun and worthwhile excursion into the Forgotten Realms, one you could even say is Exceptional when compared to some others I have read recently. 


You can track my current progress here.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Review: The Best of the Realms II - The Stories of Ed Greenwood

Once upon a time there was a small series of collections called Best of the Realms. The first had short stories from R. A. Salvatore, the third to Elaine Cunningham, both deservedly, but the second was for the creator of the Realms, Ed Greenwood. That is the one we are looking at today.

Released in 2005, this one gives us a huge variety, even a story from before the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, which I mentioned in the Genesis article. I will briefly touch on each of the stories in the collection so you can get an idea of what they are about and which you may want to read. I did do a video version of this review if you prefer that, watch it here.

1: Not the Most Successful of Feasts is a prologue to Elminster: The Making of a Mage, it follows Myrjal Darkeyes, an infamous sorceress in the Delimbyr Vale, as there is a feast at Morlin Castle with visiting dignitaries of the dwarves of Ammarindar and the elves of  Siluvanede. We don’t see Elminster but he would have been about 12 at that time, as he was at the start of the first book. This is a great Greenwood tale with a twist at the end that perfectly frames the first Elminster book. 

2: Dark Talons Forbear Thee seems to take place after The Temptation of ElminsterIt starts with a worshipper, or specifically a priestess, of the goddess of lost, Shar, calling out in tears to her matron. She is told by her goddess to go kill Dove, Storm, and Laeral who are teenagers at this point and in the care of Elminster. 

This story is fast paced, bloody like many of Greenwood’s sword & sorcery style. But it’s also heartfelt, almost made me cry, but I’m a baby. 

3: The Whispering Crown takes places in 902 DR in the small kingdom of Dusklake, which seems to be part of present day eastern Amn. Young Queen Aerindel must defend her kingdom against King Rammast and the neighboring Thentan’s who seek to invade and enslave the Duskan’s.

When all seems futile, a magical object seems to provide salvation from her enemies, but the item may be more costly than it’s worth. 

4: So High a Price takes place in 1334 DR and is about Manshoon’s move to put the Zhentarim in control of Zhentil Keep. It’s a politicking story full of treachery and death but it ends on a sweet note that Greenwood is really good at. 

5: One Comes, Unheralded, to Zirta is cool for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was written in 1967 by a seven year old Ed Greenwood. It is the first Forgotten Realms story penned, seven years before D&D was created. Zirta is also not a place spoken of, but apparently it was on the south side of the Chinothar River right across from Scornubel. This story stars six famous Realms figures, Mirt the Moneylender, Durnan, Elminster, two of the seven sisters and a regent of Cormyr. It is set in the year 1339 DR. I made a video on this story.

6: A Dance In Storm’s Garden is very short. Set in 1354 DR, we have a silly story told in the present tense rather than the past. We see Elminster, one of the Seven Sisters and another mage. 

7: A Slow Day in Skullport. Mirt and Durnan two characters I have heard described by Greenwood, the latter as a thinking man’s Conan, and the former as John Falstaff and Glencannon. As the name suggests, it takes place in Skullport in 1357 DR, during the same time as Spellfire. It is a fun romp. It is very much flavored with sword & sorcery if you see Waterdeep as Lankhmar and a beholder as an eldritch and sorcerous evil. Asper, Mirt’s wife who I don’t think I’ve read a story with her before, appears as well.

8: Bloodbound is set during the time of Hand of Fire and is about Red Wizards of Thay. Specifically, an apprentice to a Red Wizard. Storm Silverhand, Bard of Shadowdale, makes an appearance in this one, as well as the god Azuth. This is the longest tale, but not by much. 

9: How Wisdom Came to the Maimed Wizard, apparently a coda to Shandril’s Saga, and specifically a villain from Crown of Fire, Yirhan the Maimed. 

10: The Eye of the Dragon, a story about a young woman learning magic as she grows up in Waterdeep and encounters Blackstaff and Elminster. 

11: Nothing But Trouble,  originally in Dragon magazine it is another story of Mirt. This is very short and cute.

12: The Grinning Ghost of Taverton Hall features a character from some Cormyr novels and other stories.

13: The Place Where Guards Snore at Their Posts; In Mintarn with a whole new cast of Realms characters. About a young man coming into magical powers as well. Sahuagin and maybe during the time of the Threat From the Sea trilogy. I really found this one cute.

14: Living Forever: in the Ruins of Myth Drannor. Written as a mood piece for the ruins. It is in first person, seems to be a spirit of sorts living off of the mythal and is set around the time of Bebis’s Ruins of Myth Drannor novel. 

15: The Long Road Home takes place very early in Alisair’s reign in Cormyr.

This is just a very brief overview, but I hardily enjoyed almost all of these stories. I find that I am not the biggest fan of Mirt, though he has his charm. Otherwise, I think Greenwood shines in short story form, which is something many modern fantasy readers forget altogether with novels taking up all the shelf space in bookstores. This is not a bad taste of Greenwood, if you have not tried him or the Realms out. Overall, I found it Exceptional.


You can track my current progress here.