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Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: forgotten realms

Richard Awlinson – Waterdeep

Waterdeep (Forgotten Realms: Avatar #3)Waterdeep by Troy Denning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As good as the book before it in nearly every way. That’s to say we have x amount of pages of escapist popcorn-level fantasy that’s pretty much devoid of things like character building, literary flair and so on. Of course, you don’t read Forgotten Realms novels for these reasons – well, one hopes you don’t. Still, this is an enjoyable romp and wraps up a mostly serviceable trilogy about ordinary people becoming gods and goddesses in a magic-bedevilled world. So, this is the end for the “raven-haired mage”, the “hawk-nosed thief” and the “green-eyed warrior.” All wrapped up.

Well, it should wrap things up but there’s two additional books in this series. *Sigh* isn’t there always?

Whatever. It’s all good fun.

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Richard Awlinson – Tantras

Tantras (Forgotten Relalms: Avatar #2)Tantras by Scott Ciencin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Superior effort in nearly every way to its predecessor. It isn’t boring, which of course is a huge plus, and it’s almost a criminal offence for a D&D book to be tedious to read. Regardless of their value as literature, they should be popcorn page-turners.

Well, Tantras thankfully is. It’s competently written though it has all the faults of this particular niche of fantasy fiction – that’s to say minimal characterisation, few grey moral areas. overly tight plotting and character motivations that occasionally border on the nonsensical. Bad guys are bad guys because the plot says so, not from any logical reason or story progression.

But, as I keep saying in these D&D reviews: it’s all good fun. This time around, it actually was good fun. Here’s hoping the next instalment is just as fluid,.

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Kate Novak – The Wyvern’s Spur

The Wyvern's Spur (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #2)The Wyvern’s Spur by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3.75 out of 4. Not quite on the same entertaining level the first novel was, and that’s primarily the fault of the character Giogioni Wyvernspur, who spends the first 75% of the book a well-meaning doddering fool. In the end, when he mans up as such, things get moderately better.

The character of Flattery, the villain of the piece, is intriguingly written too – he’s a nasty piece of work, even resorting to hitting women, not something I expected to see in a D&D novel. Congratulations to Kate Novak for making a genuinely unlikable character.

As with the first book, Olive Ruskettle is the most well-rounded character here, morally and ethically ambivalent, though he rings true in the end. I enjoyed her knowing and cynical take on things.

Congratulations also for making an entertaining D&D novel where there’s almost minimal adventuring. All of the books in the Forgotten Realms series have been picaresque adventures. Not this one. The action mainly takes place inside and a few miles around Giogi’s manor house, and it works. There’s no need for a-roving I will go here.

Overall, a slightly weaker effort than the book before it, but it’s among the better non-Salvatore Forgotten Realms novels I’ve read.

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Kate Novak – Azure Bonds

I’ll preface this review by saying that Curse of the Azure bonds is the only Gold Box game in the Forgotten Realms series I haven’t played. I own it, so I should rectify that…

Azure Bonds (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #1)Azure Bonds by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great fun and it’s one of the better D&D books I’ve read. The ending was vaguely familiar to me and I was wondering if I’d read this book before, maybe when it was released. It’s hard to say, as I don’t generally forget books that I’ve read. Either way, it’s fast-moving and entertaining and doesn’t suffer the saccharine and soppy moments the Ed Greenwood books do. And despite characterisation not being the strong point of these D&D stories, there was something obliquely appealing about the characters of Alias and Olive Ruskettle.

Very good. Bring on the sequels.

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Ed Greenwood – Hand of Fire

Hand Of Fire (Forgotten Realms: Shandril's Saga, #3)Hand Of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wow…I struggled to finish this. It’s just that bad. Which is a shame as you don’t want your Forgotten Realms books to be bad – you want them to kick ass (even if it’s all popcorn). But when the milieu’s creator writes an execrably bad book, then what can you say?

Basically the protagonist and her whiny husband nuke, obliterate, annihilate, incinerate, deep fry, fricassee, broil, roast, scorch, blast and excoriate every one of the legion of over-confident bad guys that contend with her. Just endless waves of them. It’s like the literary version of Serious Sam 3.

That’s it. That’s what happens in this concluding tome. There’s zero character development at all, no suspense, and the marvellous world the author created barely gets a mention. Every dangerous encounter is swept aside by Shandril’s super-powers or the timely arrival of her equally faceless Harper allies.

Oh, Shandril dies at the end but she’ll come back as a ghost to keep a watch on Narm, who gets sent off to find himself another wife. Narm…urgh, through the course of these three poorly written adventures, he’s the common denominator that weighs them down. What a nobody! His single purpose is to provide a pillow and a shoulder for Shandril to cry on after she’s finished vaporising the opposition for the day. He’s an ineffectual and annoying cipher.

Summary: a godawful book. On to fresh woods and pastures, etc.

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Ed Greenwood – Crown of Fire

Crown of Fire (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers, #9; Shandril's Saga, #2)Crown of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More of a 2.75 out of 5. It’s better than its predecessor, but not by much. Arguably stronger writing, more focus in the storytelling and the narrative doesn’t drift as much. None of the characters within escape their cardboard boxes though, and there are too many deus ex machina elements for my liking as Gandalf Elminster saves the day once too often. Still, Ed Greenwood is having fun in the world that Ed Greenwood made and I can relate to his enthusiasm.

All taken, this book is slightly above average popcorn fiction.

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Ed Greenwood – Spellfire

Spellfire (Shandril's Saga #1)Spellfire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a likeable silly book. I think this was Greenwood’s first outing as a novelist and to say it shows is superfluous. But unneeded or not, I have to say it anyway. It’s written with such an overwhelmingly amateurish exuberance that almost glows with its own light. I’m sure this is Greenwood’s home D&D campaign transcribed into fiction, particularly from the way some of the action and set pieces are staged.

It’s lacking in many departments – the occasionally poor phrasing, the reliance upon coincidences, the minimal characterisations, the poorly disguised Gandalf in Elminster…but it’s fun and withal, it’s a quick and dirty read that won’t tax your intelligence. The author invented the milieu this book is set in, so there’s that. Ed Greenwood having fun in his own playground.

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