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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.

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