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 Song & Sword series review (with minor spoilers)

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
BileDemon Posted - 18 Jul 2023 : 19:14:45
So - as I have recently read through the Songs & Swords series I want to give my review of it.

I have to say, maybe it was a "mistake" to read Starlight and Shadows before - because IMHO this is a better series than Song & Swords. This however felt like a rollercoaster in quality. Not saying it is bad, but you clearly see that the author has developed better qualities over the years.

Letīs begin:

1. Elfshadow
Overall I liked the book. It is a good read and Iīm aware that itīs Elaine Cunninghamīs first.
While I would have liked that Arilyn Moonblade would have been overall a bit more fleshed out in general the book had me captivated enough to enjoy it.
Still, TBH designing characters is - no offense - not really a strength of Elaine Cunningham. I overall had the feeling that something is missing to make me really feel sympathethic with Arilyn, I mean, we are dropped into the story when she is already mature, skipping her childhood and youth entirely, when she is already an accomplished fighter - IMHO Liriel is a far more interesting character. Anyway, I would recommend it.

2. Elfsong
Well, it was overall ok, but somehow failed to captivate me. Maybe because I expected more of Arilyn but then it was a single Danilo story. While Danilo has some qualities as character I fail a bit to see him as a really interesting protagonist. The theme was interesting and the characters like Morgalla likeable, but the end was a bit disappointing. Donīt know if it was intended that the antagonist might survive for later books. Maybe Iīm a bit allergic to uncertain endings as watcher of horror movies(like the Jason/Freddy/Michael Myers who always comes back) but would have wished it a bit better.
Ok to read, but not the best.

3. Silver Shadows
This is by far the best book in the series! The struggle of the Wood Elves to defend their homeland with the help of Arilyn really captivated me. Also the character struggle of Arilyn was good to read and finally she got more fleshed out. A really good book I can recommend without hesitation.

4. Thornhold
While itīs overall a good read it really feels as not belonging to the series or more like a spinoff. After Iīve read it I saw that it was indeed originally planned as standalone novel. It would have sufficed as that, too.
Still, like said, itīs a good book. I liked the new characters like Bronwyn and Ebenezer. And the part where they invaded the keep through unpleasant tunnels made me laugh out loud!
OTOH I have to say, Bronwyn overall felt a bit like a carbon copy of Arilyn, save for her struggle with the mixed heritage. Still, we have some kind of noble ancestry, but she makes a living as a rogue, then she also has a kind of identity crisis...
At least the evil characters like Dag Zorath are also interesting.
Would recommend the book despite some weaknesses.

5. Dream Spheres
Well, sorry...but that was a letdown. It began interesting and I really was interested to see how all the character stories will merge, but then it became too much of a hodgepodge. Was it really necessary to introduce this totally uninteresting storyline of a unknown sister of Danilo and the unsympathethic Isabeau Thione? A character that really felt unnecessary. Also the whole idea with the dream spheres seemed nonsense. The solution to this whole mess felt constructed(who would have thought some guy is not really dead but faked that?) and overally my impression was that the author felt for whatever reason that all of the series characters should join in a big final battle. Might work, but here unfortunately it didnīt.
Until we come to the finale, we have to go through this whole mess with half-hearted intrigues, accusations of friends, long-winded fight with reptilian monsters and whatsoever, and nobody really knows who is behind all that.
Iīm aware that wasnīt meant to be the end of the series but I wish there would have been a better end.

Thatīs my conclusion for that.
(Please be aware that english is not my native language, so if some phrases sound odd or wrong, thatīs the reason.)
18   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Delnyn Posted - 03 Dec 2023 : 12:26:13
quote:
Originally posted by Gord

I would love to see this series come to life on the big screen. With the new D&D film taking place in the Realms, there may be a chance it happens.



Preferably an independent producer who knows and respects the Realms. At the very least, consult with Elaine.
Gord Posted - 02 Dec 2023 : 14:11:46
I would love to see this series come to life on the big screen. With the new D&D film taking place in the Realms, there may be a chance it happens.
Seravin Posted - 02 Dec 2023 : 09:23:33
He's pretty great, I'll agree. I do like Arilyn and all but to me Elfsong >>>> Silver Shadows.
Gord Posted - 02 Dec 2023 : 01:07:00
I never did get around to reading the later novels in the series, but Danilo Thann is my favorite pulp fantasy character.
Shardnax Posted - 26 Sep 2023 : 21:34:38
A shame it went unreleased.
Seravin Posted - 24 Sep 2023 : 21:12:02
Yes the next book was to be about Elaith's child/redemption I believe? Reclamation was the name if memory serves. The cover art was very nice! But the book never saw the light of day because the world is an awful place. Elaine once posted an excerpt from it here; it was great!
Shardnax Posted - 24 Sep 2023 : 17:38:18
Finished Dream Spheres, I feel ambivalent about it. Throwaway characters created and tossed and plot threads abruptly resolved. Too many starts and stops before the climax. The conclusion and setup for future content is alright. Elaith potentially on the path to redemption is the best part of the book.
Shardnax Posted - 19 Aug 2023 : 01:30:29
I got the impression that something was in the works for Tyr. Maybe WotC changed the plans, perhaps I'm way off.
Seravin Posted - 14 Aug 2023 : 23:25:23
And even the contrivance I could live with if a scene was written to explain why all the paladins are oblivious to someone evil and fallen living among them in their holy place. Instead the reader has to come up with one or have George tell us on a forum. Maybe a scene was written that got cut in editing. I'm still smarting from why Holly didn't know Bear was evil in Finder's Bane; or why Detect Lie spells weren't used in many novels for trials/tribunals. Magical worlds with speak with dead, resurrect spells, detect lie, detect evil, etc are hard to write logical plots for using our real world framing devices.
Seravin Posted - 14 Aug 2023 : 23:16:57

In other series paladins sense evil without turning on their power (Holly in Finder's Bane). And it's so convenient that "Veil of Cyric" is so much more powerful than a paladin's natural ability in a temple to a good god and that good deity doesn't find a way to tip off their own paladins that something is amiss in their own temple. The deity would know about a fallen paladin, no? It's contrivance to move the plot. I hate when evil deities get directly involved in plots and characters but good deities just let whatever atrocity happen by the bad deities because reasons.
George Krashos Posted - 12 Aug 2023 : 03:48:49
quote:
Originally posted by Shardnax

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Shardnax

I read through Thornhold. The depiction of paladins seemed off, similar to Double Diamond Triangle. I'm at a loss for how they wouldn't have noticed something when near to Sir Gareth since he was involved in a lot of evil dealings and had an object on his person.



Simple: a paladin's evil radar isn't a continuous effect, they have to deliberately use it -- and why would they use it on a trusted member of their order, one who had proved himself repeatedly in the past?


I assumed that much on specifically detecting evil or lies. Algorind feels pain from being in proximity to Dag. Gareth has a personal item from Dag. How did an entire room of them not feel anything?



If you want a "rules" answer, it's because he had the "Veil of Cyric" feat from the 3E City of Splendors: Waterdeep sourcebook, pgs.49 and 146.

-- George Krashos
Shardnax Posted - 11 Aug 2023 : 14:01:16
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Shardnax

I read through Thornhold. The depiction of paladins seemed off, similar to Double Diamond Triangle. I'm at a loss for how they wouldn't have noticed something when near to Sir Gareth since he was involved in a lot of evil dealings and had an object on his person.



Simple: a paladin's evil radar isn't a continuous effect, they have to deliberately use it -- and why would they use it on a trusted member of their order, one who had proved himself repeatedly in the past?


I assumed that much on specifically detecting evil or lies. Algorind feels pain from being in proximity to Dag. Gareth has a personal item from Dag. How did an entire room of them not feel anything?
Wooly Rupert Posted - 11 Aug 2023 : 02:10:16
quote:
Originally posted by Shardnax

I read through Thornhold. The depiction of paladins seemed off, similar to Double Diamond Triangle. I'm at a loss for how they wouldn't have noticed something when near to Sir Gareth since he was involved in a lot of evil dealings and had an object on his person.



Simple: a paladin's evil radar isn't a continuous effect, they have to deliberately use it -- and why would they use it on a trusted member of their order, one who had proved himself repeatedly in the past?
Shardnax Posted - 11 Aug 2023 : 01:57:14
I read through Thornhold. The depiction of paladins seemed off, similar to Double Diamond Triangle. I'm at a loss for how they wouldn't have noticed something when near to Sir Gareth since he was involved in a lot of evil dealings and had an object on his person.
Shardnax Posted - 22 Jul 2023 : 19:56:05
I don't mind being tossed into a story for a new character; it was fitting with Elfshadow being a 'Harpers' title.

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I know Elaine frequents here and sometimes responds about her books (hi Elaine if you're watching!)

Danilo and Arilyn are both the main characters of Dream Spheres, Shardnax. I think you'll like it although for some reason it just doesn't captivate me to reread like Elfsong which is Danilo's main book.

I also agree with Shardnax that I found Silver Shadows harder to get through than the first 2 books, and I can't say why other than maybe I liked Danilo better than I thought? Elfsong is fantastic and I re-read it all the time. Not a single criticism really - although I would have liked Storm Silverhand to make an appearance given she's the premiere Harper Bard and her sister lives in Waterdeep.

I love a lot about Elfshadow, and think Arilyn and Danilo are well developed in it as characters; also the lore and backstory is top notch whether it's Harpers, Evermeet royalty, Waterdeep, or Evereska. I just did not like a few points about the ending which seemed contrived (eg that Arilyn couldn't kill Kymil or somehow she would be guilty even though there are things like detect lie and speak with dead and Khelben knowing the truth etc etc etc).

I did not like Thornhold, I think because it wasn't Arilyn and Danilo - I also wasn't crazy about the corrupted paladin not being detected by anyone in his holy temple at all despite his dealings with Cyric etc. Just seemed also very contrived. Not my fave book.

Dreamspheres was good. I didn't love it as much as the Elfsong but I think it's my 2nd fave in the series. Elaine is just a fantastic character and world builder to me. Only Novak/Grubb come closer than Elaine to capturing Ed's vision of the Forgotten Realms in my book (pun intended).


It seems like Thornhold is a Harpers novel and has a loose connection to S&S. Sounds like I'll enjoy DS well enough. I think I'll start on them next.
BileDemon Posted - 21 Jul 2023 : 12:09:35
Without Danilo doesnīt go much! Of course he is frequently in books 4 and 5. Only in book 3 there isnīt much Danilo. I have to say the frequent visits to his uncle Khelben are sometimes a bit annoying, but yes, necessary part.

I wouldnīt have minded a bit more backstory of Arilyn. I liked that about Liriel, I could get more into her character as her series followed her from training over the rest of her journey. While Arilyn is just there, has already done a lot of tasks for the Harpers and the reader is thrown in into the middle of it.
Seravin Posted - 20 Jul 2023 : 22:56:43
I know Elaine frequents here and sometimes responds about her books (hi Elaine if you're watching!)

Danilo and Arilyn are both the main characters of Dream Spheres, Shardnax. I think you'll like it although for some reason it just doesn't captivate me to reread like Elfsong which is Danilo's main book.

I also agree with Shardnax that I found Silver Shadows harder to get through than the first 2 books, and I can't say why other than maybe I liked Danilo better than I thought? Elfsong is fantastic and I re-read it all the time. Not a single criticism really - although I would have liked Storm Silverhand to make an appearance given she's the premiere Harper Bard and her sister lives in Waterdeep.

I love a lot about Elfshadow, and think Arilyn and Danilo are well developed in it as characters; also the lore and backstory is top notch whether it's Harpers, Evermeet royalty, Waterdeep, or Evereska. I just did not like a few points about the ending which seemed contrived (eg that Arilyn couldn't kill Kymil or somehow she would be guilty even though there are things like detect lie and speak with dead and Khelben knowing the truth etc etc etc).

I did not like Thornhold, I think because it wasn't Arilyn and Danilo - I also wasn't crazy about the corrupted paladin not being detected by anyone in his holy temple at all despite his dealings with Cyric etc. Just seemed also very contrived. Not my fave book.

Dreamspheres was good. I didn't love it as much as the Elfsong but I think it's my 2nd fave in the series. Elaine is just a fantastic character and world builder to me. Only Novak/Grubb come closer than Elaine to capturing Ed's vision of the Forgotten Realms in my book (pun intended).
Shardnax Posted - 19 Jul 2023 : 20:31:46
I haven't read Thornhold or Dream Sphere but I feel differently on what I have.

I appreciated the lack of time wasting on detailing Arilyn's past in Elfshadow. I nearly skipped chapters in Saga of the Old City because of that. I likely would've dropped Elfshadow. I liked that Elfsong focused on Danilo. I trudged through Silver Shadows after that and didn't think Arilyn did well as a solo protagonist.

Does Danilo have much presence in 4/5? I've been stalling on reading the rest because I didn't care for SS, but also because I know the series remains unfinished (likely forever).

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