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Herr Doktor
Seeker

52 Posts

Posted - 29 Jan 2004 :  17:39:34  Show Profile  Visit Herr Doktor's Homepage Send Herr Doktor a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
A player in my weekly D&D group used to work at a book shop (Walden Books outlet) and he happened to join the group while he was working there, which lead to his discovery of the Realms and purchasing many Realms novels. Which he has read far too many of and now he's a pile of books ripe for the lending.

So, I had him bring me a bundle. This time it is the Cleric Quintet and the three books that make up Shandril's Saga.

I haven't heard much about the Cleric Quintet, though I did read Servant of the Shard and it involved characters from the series.

Shandril's Saga, on the other hand, I have been afraid to touch. Every review I've seen is blasting this book, on EN World people we're calling Spellfire "the worst fantasy novel ever."

I'm looking for reviews, by the fans, of both series, in particular Shandril's Saga.

Thanks ahead for any help.

Faraer
Great Reader

3308 Posts

Posted - 29 Jan 2004 :  17:57:42  Show Profile  Visit Faraer's Homepage Send Faraer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There's no book and series I would recommend more highly to anyone who likes the Realms or who wants to find out about them. For wit, density of imagination, turn of phrase, heart-on-sleeve emotion, wryness without cynicism, and absolute confidence of worldbuilding, Ed's novels are definitive in his own world; and Spellfire is the best to start with and features most of the wonderful camaraderie of the Knights of Myth Drannor (who are to finally get their own trilogy in a couple of years). It encapsulates so much of what's good about the Realms that I think it's almost impossible to like Ed's Realms (and the published Realms in as far as it's like Ed's Realms) and dislike Spellfire.

I've gone into more detail (though not reviews) on the now-deleted wizards.com novel board, but this is the gist. Don't be put off by naysayers.

Edited by - Faraer on 29 Jan 2004 17:58:36
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Signal-9
Acolyte

Canada
37 Posts

Posted - 29 Jan 2004 :  22:35:06  Show Profile  Visit Signal-9's Homepage Send Signal-9 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also had this problem. I got alot of mixed reactions about Spellfire. I am new to the FR novels (not the games tho), and I decided to start with the Sembia series. Its been very good and its a 7 book series. Once I have completed that I think I am going to check out the spellfire series. But alot of the new series look tempting...

"Dont make him come near me, Tanis !. I assure you. I am capable of this, truly. What i have sought all my life is within my grasp. I will let nothing stop me. Look at Caramon's face, Tanis ! He Knows ! I kiled him once. I can do it again..."
- Raistlin (Dragons of Spring Dawning)

Edited by - Signal-9 on 29 Jan 2004 22:36:33
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Lord Rad
Great Reader

United Kingdom
2080 Posts

Posted - 29 Jan 2004 :  22:52:58  Show Profile  Visit Lord Rad's Homepage Send Lord Rad a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Whilst I quite enjoyed Spellfire and it contains a varied number of Realms uniqueness and material, it is all very high-powered, TOO high-powered really. That said, its a good novel...... unfortunately, the last novel in the series is VERY boring and uneventful and lets the series down greatly....IMHO of course

Lord Rad

"What? No, I wasn't reading your module. I was just looking at the pictures"
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  00:22:34  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Herr Doktor

Shandril's Saga, on the other hand, I have been afraid to touch. Every review I've seen is blasting this book, on EN World people we're calling Spellfire "the worst fantasy novel ever."




That amazes me. Spellfire and Crown of Fire are, IMHO, two of the best FR books in its entire library. Of all the books in the FR library, there are no others I would recommend more, perhaps aside from the Shadow of the Avatar trilogy.

Spellfire is Forgottem Realms. It's the crown jewel of the library, hands down. It is everything an FR novel should be, and I base every other novel upon its standards.

Read it and enjoy.

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  02:50:53  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here's my review of Spellfire: http://www.livejournal.com/community/bash_em/281.html

Note, it's my opinion and mine alone, though obviously some people share it. Take it for what it's worth. Also note that I tried to like Spellfire.
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Faraer
Great Reader

3308 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  03:03:34  Show Profile  Visit Faraer's Homepage Send Faraer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
And there in point of contradistinction is wryness with cynicism. 'Ware spoilers.
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  04:28:36  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Faraer

And there in point of contradistinction is wryness with cynicism.



*blinks* What?

And yes, my review does indeed contain spoilers.
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Thysl
Seeker

USA
64 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  06:50:03  Show Profile  Visit Thysl's Homepage Send Thysl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
*Cheers Winterfox for her on-the-mark review*

It's trite, plot-forced, poo-poo-kaa, fit only as fire-starter! I like Mr. Greenwood, I do! He's a funny, creative gentleman who is passionate about his world. Right on! But be shouldn't be allowed to write without supervision.

I can't finish this book. I've started it twice and both times I tossed it to the side in disgust. I have only done that with one other novel, but to Spellfire twice. The last time I ripped it in two, insuring that my abused peepers won't have to slog through that dross field again.
But, what do I know?

There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.
--Carl Jung
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  13:19:05  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I see the points made in the review, but I think those points focus a little too much on the negative. I could come up with an equal number of shortcomings in every FR novel.

I liked Spellfire because it introduced us to the Zhentarim and their relationship with beholders, the Cult and their relationship with dracoliches, the malaugrym, the Knights, Elminster, spellfire, Manshoon, Fzoul, Sememmon, and other adventuring companies of the Realms. It opens the reader's eyes to, basically, the entire scope of the north eastern Heartlands. I don't think any other FR novel packs in so much information about the Realms.

The snatches of interaction with Elminster and Jhessail teaching Narm how to study his spellbook even amidst much chaos was very solid. Elminster teaching Shandril how to wield spellfire was very interesting. Torm and Rathan's antics were enjoyable, and though not the driving force behind the novel, were certainly aplenty enough throughout the book. The so-called "idiot magelings" who seemingly commited suicide while chasing Shandril were easily explained and understood when you understand the hierarchy of the Zhentarim and the cruel nature of Manshoon. In no other novel are the Zhentarim so completely understood (with the possible exception of Crown of Fire).

Like was mentioned in the posts below, the novel is an excellent preparation tool for any FR DM.

It must also be noted that spellfire then was not the spellfire of today. We didn't have rules for it, we didn't have spellfire channelers. Spellfire was an anomaly at the time, and I think that explains the near-limitless power of the thing.

I think Greenwood's literary voice is much different than that of any other FR author. His characters "speak" like characters should when taking into account the diversity of the culture. Greenwood actually included a "dialect" in his writing, something that I don't think any other FR author uses (with the exception of RAS's Scottish dwarves). Most other FR authors have their characters speaking like your average VH1 VJ, and it can get tiresome. Most FR authors have their humans, elves, halflings, and various humans from Waterdeep to Mulhorand speaking exactly the same, as if they all grew up in eastern Ohio. I don't want my FR characters sounding like the people I interract with, work with, and spend time with everyday. I want FR characters to sound like people who live in the Dales, or Cormyr, or who grew up in a completely different world than my own. Greenwood brings you into his world more than any other author. I can stand a few "vast and terribles" along the way.

After all, if the dracolich is, in fact, vast and terrible, why not explain that to us by using the words "vast" and "terrible"?

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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Fireheart
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  15:39:37  Show Profile Send Fireheart a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Greetings!

I have to agree with the esteemed Crust. Spellfire, more than any other FR book I have read, really gives you the feel of Forgotten Realms. I just finished Spellfire and am searching for Crown of Fire so I can continue the series.

I found the novel engaging, interesting and full of interactions that filled out the world for me. In addition to the different accents/dialects of the characters, the way they act also seems to show the different aspects of the realm.

I hope you enjoy it.

-Fireheart

PS, I tended to Lurk on the WOTC boards but rarely posted. Moved over here when they closed so I could keep up with the authors and decided to try and be bit more active of a poster. (I apologize in advance if I upset/offend anyone.)

I believe in what I see/I believe in what I hear/I believe that what I'm feeling/Changes how the world appears
-Rush "Totem"
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Valdar Oakensong
Learned Scribe

United Kingdom
159 Posts

Posted - 30 Jan 2004 :  21:35:33  Show Profile Send Valdar Oakensong a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think that in my honest opinion people are being too harsh in their condemnation of Spellfire. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot, I havn't got round to reading the other 2 yet but Spellfire was 1 of the first books to get me into the Realms novels. So hurrah to it for that

Guns don't kill people, magic missiles do.
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  03:13:09  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
I see the points made in the review, but I think those points focus a little too much on the negative. I could come up with an equal number of shortcomings in every FR novel.


Likewise, your comments focus solely on the positive. I at least included a "redeeming qualities" bit. Point?

quote:
I liked Spellfire because it introduced us to the Zhentarim and their relationship with beholders, the Cult and their relationship with dracoliches, the malaugrym, the Knights, Elminster, spellfire, Manshoon, Fzoul, Sememmon, and other adventuring companies of the Realms. It opens the reader's eyes to, basically, the entire scope of the north eastern Heartlands. I don't think any other FR novel packs in so much information about the Realms.


Question: should a FR reader read a novel because of its story and characters, or because it provides nifty Realms information? I agree with you on the information bit, but since I want to enjoy characters and story -- both of which I find poor in this book -- it's a moot point for me. But eh, I'm neither a PnP (I refuse to use the word "tabletop") gamer nor a DM, what do I know?

quote:
It must also be noted that spellfire then was not the spellfire of today. We didn't have rules for it, we didn't have spellfire channelers. Spellfire was an anomaly at the time, and I think that explains the near-limitless power of the thing.


It's boring to read about someone who will emerge victorious at every turn and will burn all opponents to cinders. The all-powerful spellfire is a deus ex machina, and not only that, turns Shandril who might otherwise have been an interesting character into a killing machine. Who whines an awful lot.

There's a reason that I stopped reading the Drizzt books: Drizzt never loses. Ditto for Shandril.

quote:
I think Greenwood's literary voice is much different than that of any other FR author. His characters "speak" like characters should when taking into account the diversity of the culture. Greenwood actually included a "dialect" in his writing, something that I don't think any other FR author uses (with the exception of RAS's Scottish dwarves).


One, I find written accent annoying. Two, I find that Greenwood's characters all talk identically. Except the pretentious few whose speech patterns have a few "ye" and "thee" put in. Nope, quasi-archaic words do not a cultural difference make.

quote:
After all, if the dracolich is, in fact, vast and terrible, why not explain that to us by using the words "vast" and "terrible"?


...or maybe, just maybe, the "vast" and "terrible" could be done away with entirely.
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Lina
Senior Scribe

Australia
469 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  09:12:01  Show Profile  Visit Lina's Homepage Send Lina a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Although I haven't read Spellfire in ages, it was one of the novels which got me into FR. I haven't read any reviews which give the book a bad rep which was certainly a good thing in my case.

As you hear in most circles that there are some books written for men and some for women. Spellfire, since it was one of the earlier FR novels, was what I thought more for females. The main character portrayed was weak which reflected on the earlier views of women, but her adventure and unbelievable life which she lead was what I thought offered females a sense of escape from the mundane world. That's my view and it's been ages since I've read it and my memory of it is not that sharp so I may be a bit off track. But I thought it was a good read.

“Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows! Buried in the flow of time. In thy great name. I pledge myself to darkness. All the fools who stand in our way shall be destroyed…by the power you and I possess! DRAGON SLAVE!!!”

"Thieves? Ah, such an ugly word... look upon them as the most honest sort of merchant."
-Oglar the Thieflord
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  10:30:39  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
But I am female.

The thing is that I don't mind weak female characters. What I mind is the lack of development. Shandril is weak and whiny in Spellfire; Shandril is still weak and whiny in Crown of Fire. Ditto for Narm, who remains weak and mostly useless throughout both books with -- sarcasm -- admirable consistency.

I don't like female characters who are all-powerful and strong, either -- they become boring and god-like. If anything, I seem to shun most books that are supposed to appeal to female audience by featuring strong female characters, such as the children's book Alanna: First Adventure or the more adult Earth's Children. Authors seem to fall into the trap of extremes. A female character is either a damsel in distress or someone possessing super-powers that will blow everyone away. Or becomes plain ol'Mary Sue.

Some of the best strong female leads I've read about are:

Morgaine (Mists of Avalon) -- She's not overly pretty -- some people regard her "fairy-like" looks as ugly -- and doesn't get her man (Lancelot). She makes mistakes and suffers the consequences (turning away from Avalon). There are moments when she despairs and shows weaknesses. She has flaws -- petty jealousy, manipulation, and so on. All the same, she has spirit, and resolve -- as can be seen in her attempt to restore the old faith against the surge of Christianity and an impending war. Simply put, she's human and realistic.

Mara of the Acoma (The Empires Trilogy) -- she's fairly pleasant-looking, but no ravishing beauty. Throughout the trilogy, she never once lifts a sword or casts a spell. She's neither a great mage, a great swordswoman, nor an individual gifted with godly power. Rather, she achieves what she does with wits, feminine guiles, and sheer intelligence. The setting is that of an oriental culture, where women are less prominent, but Mara doesn't whine about it and uses the underestimation to her advantage. She ends up as the most politically powerful person (Mistress of the Empire), second only to the emperor. Like Morgaine, she makes her share of mistakes and suffers for them.

Daenerys Stormborn (A Song of Ice and Fire) -- starts off as a submissive teenage girl who's been dominated by her brother all her life. She later develops into a mature, strong woman leading a campaign to reclaim her Westeros throne. Heck, initially, she's hardly better than Shandril -- if anything, she's worse off, as she's abused by her brother. But Daenerys grows. Shandril doesn't.

These are what I call good female characters. Not the whimpering, bereft-of-intelligence Shandril. Not the all-wise, all-powerful, loved-by-all, immune-to-permanent-death, but not particularly intelligent Seven Sisters.

Edited by - Winterfox on 31 Jan 2004 10:37:25
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  14:16:46  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox
Likewise, your comments focus solely on the positive. I at least included a "redeeming qualities" bit. Point?


My point was to give Spellfire a positive light after your negative contribution. The balance must be preserved.

quote:
Question: should a FR reader read a novel because of its story and characters, or because it provides nifty Realms information? I agree with you on the information bit, but since I want to enjoy characters and story -- both of which I find poor in this book -- it's a moot point for me. But eh, I'm neither a PnP (I refuse to use the word "tabletop") gamer nor a DM, what do I know?


You know enough to post here. I'm sure a lot of people posting here don't game.

As for me, a large reason why I read the FR novels is to keep up with my Realmslore for gaming purposes. I started reading them because I heard Drizzt was a cool character, but I made the decision to commit to them so that I could start DMing FR with a large amount of Realmslore in my brain. It was only after I had commited to the nvoels that I wanted to know what each of my favorite characters did with each new novel.

quote:
It's boring to read about someone who will emerge victorious at every turn and will burn all opponents to cinders. The all-powerful spellfire is a deus ex machina, and not only that, turns Shandril who might otherwise have been an interesting character into a killing machine. Who whines an awful lot.

There's a reason that I stopped reading the Drizzt books: Drizzt never loses. Ditto for Shandril.


I understand your thoughts here, but you might consider the idea that Drizzt doesn't lose because he doesn't let himself get in over his head. If Drizzt were to fight Errtu at the end of Passage to Dawn by himself, he would have certainly died. Errtu commented plenty of times that he underestimated the drow, and would never let him get the upper hand again. Drizzt has powerful allies, and he doesn't fight anything more challenging that some other drow elves who simply aren't as experienced as he is. Drizzt's constantly winning has nothing to do with what might be considered annoying luck.

Shandril, on the same token, has powerful allies (like Elminster) who help her along and teach her how to use spellfire, how to cope with "adventuring," and how to deal with loss and death. If she had stumbled around Myth Drannor and not been rescued by the Knights (a group who would be found in the area - if not them, then Harpers would have helped her), she would have certainly died. I'm sure there are plenty of stories out there of scared lasses who died at the hands of goblins or brigands. The fact that Shandril's story happened the way it did means it should be chronicled. If Frodo had stumbled through his life with the Ring and no help from Gandalf, he would have died without a struggle. What kind of story would that have been? Realistic? Perhaps, but worthy of a a trilogy that spawned a set of movies that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars? No.

And I did appreciate your observation of the title of the first chapter. I saw that as a nod to Tolkien, who obviously planted the seeds of Elminster in Greenwood with Gandalf.

I see your point (and it does seem poisonously cynical - I'm not flaming, that would be a compliment for Winterfox ), but there is also the other side of it. Without experience and/or friends to help you, sure, you're going to fail.

quote:
One, I find written accent annoying. Two, I find that Greenwood's characters all talk identically. Except the pretentious few whose speech patterns have a few "ye" and "thee" put in. Nope, quasi-archaic words do not a cultural difference make.


His characters all talk the same because they're all from Faerun. And it's not just about singular words themselves. It's about syntax and word patterns, the expletives, curses, and greetings they make to one another. That's what makes the dialect I connect with the Realms (and is so often absent in other FR books).

quote:
...or maybe, just maybe, the "vast" and "terrible" could be done away with entirely.



Man, there's a lot of hate working here.

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood

Edited by - Crust on 31 Jan 2004 19:35:01
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The Hooded One
Lady Herald of Realmslore

5056 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  16:09:45  Show Profile  Visit The Hooded One's Homepage Send The Hooded One a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ah, the old "Shandril is a weak whiner but incredibly overpowered" rant again. And ah, yes, Darkmistress again. :}
You miss the point. The entire book was and is supposed to be an examination of what happens when a naive young gal dreaming of adventure gets what she thought she wanted, AND gets too much power (that will ultimately destroy her).
What many folks here probably don't know is that Ed is an incredibly democratic DM. We all vote on rules editions and so on, in the original Realms campaign.
We voted against having our PCs as the central characters of the first "introduce the Realms" novel from Ed. So he opted to use a fictional character jolted with too much power for any FRP campaign. The power level was designed to do two things: keep her alive when realism would have seen her dead in a few pages, AND bring her to the attention of a lot of important Realms NPC power groups, so as to drag them onstage and introduce them to Realms readers. Even in its one-third-chopped-out, heavily edited original version, it does that very well.
As one of the three regular female players in Ed's original campaign, I find Shandril to be VERY realistic. Not comfortable to be around, but that's a very different thing. Yes, Narm IS a doormat. Ed did that deliberately (he was turning the "male as Conan, female as helpless gasping rescue object" cliche on its head). As for all of the characters sounding the same, the editing smoothed out a lot of the speech colour, in both versions of the novel, but those who claim that all characters speak with EXACTLY the same voice betray one thing to me: they don't take the trouble to read with much attention. And as for not liking the dialect, my reply is: shrug.
The Realms is Ed's world. TSR's agreement was to let him present it (and in fact with Spellfire, he was URGED to present it, exactly as he saw it: Jeff Grubb said: "Show us all the Realms."), so finding fault with him for having characters speak in dialect is very much like telling Tolkien he didn't understand Middle Earth, but (ahem) you do. [Note: I'm NOT drawing quality comparisons here.]
I personally find it amazing that Ed continues to be as good-natured as he is, in the face of years of sneering crit from folks who don't write books (that I know of), but could have written several by now if they spent half the time writing prose as they do posting negative comments about the work of others.
So there. I have six books to edit this week, so I'll go do that now, and wait for the inevitable return fire.
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Zacas
Learned Scribe

USA
261 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  17:58:25  Show Profile  Visit Zacas's Homepage Send Zacas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
hmm... i wouldn't say that most of the Main characters that have had series spawned about them, ALWAYS win... they may win the war, but not ALL the battles... they've all had their losses... getting captured, seriously wounded, etc.

But if they were to lose the 'war'... the series of that character would be over... it would decrease the number of novels put out, esp. by some of the favorite authors. Kind of like many cartoons/tv shows of this sort of thing... if they have the main character killed... it's extremely hard to continue the series without having that character brought back (Hmm... Buffy?)

But instead of continuing on with the back and forth bantering about how the series/stories are great/suck... i'm going to just give a quote...

"To Each Their Own."

I am like a superhero, with no powers or motivation.
I have gone to find myself. If I get back before I return, please keep me here.
People like you are the reason people like me are on medication.
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 31 Jan 2004 :  19:31:40  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Hooded One,

Wow! To think that you were a player in one of Greenwood's campaigns totally blows my mind. You are very lucky. Would we recognize the character you played? One of the Knights of Myth Drannor?

By the way, the group I DM now is effectionately know as The Company of Grimstead (for their conquering of the monster-infested dungeons below the ruined castle outside Shadowdale), as a nod to the Knights.

What you said about Spellfire is how I've thought for a long time. It's also very close to what is explained at the beginning of the reprint (which I have yet to read through, and am very excited to do so).

By the way, who are you? If you'd be willing to give that information, please e-mail me at crust600@hotmail.com. If not, I understand.

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  05:06:12  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
You miss the point. The entire book was and is supposed to be an examination of what happens when a naive young gal dreaming of adventure gets what she thought she wanted, AND gets too much power (that will ultimately destroy her).


And the point's worth what? I don't see how "getting" it or not has anything to do with this. I find the book poorly executed all around regardless of its premise. For that matter, it's not a particularly meaningful premise, as far as I'm concerned. What, is it supposed to be somehow deep and philosophical and educational and I missed it?

quote:
Ed did that deliberately (he was turning the "male as Conan, female as helpless gasping rescue object" cliche on its head).


As I said, many authors fall into the trap of the extremes. Extremes are generally not good. In this case, it's waaay heavy-handed. Like bludgeoning the reader repeatedly on the head. I want some of my IQ back, mommy!

quote:
I personally find it amazing that Ed continues to be as good-natured as he is, in the face of years of sneering crit from folks who don't write books (that I know of), but could have written several by now if they spent half the time writing prose as they do posting negative comments about the work of others.


FYI, I am one of the amatuerish nobody-writer-wanna-bes that are so numerous on the 'Net. Due to various restrictions and reasons, I've not sent a single manuscript to a publisher. One of them being that I know my work's not up to the snuff and I still have a long, long way to go before I can produce anything publishable. No, m'friend, I don't spend all my time posting negative comments. I do that in my spare time because I find it entertaining.

Oh, and "sneering crit from folks who don't write books"? Are you saying that, unless you're president -- nay, make that George Washington -- you should not be criticizing, say, Mr. Bush?

Edited by - Winterfox on 01 Feb 2004 07:00:00
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Winterfox
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Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  07:16:08  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Crust said:

quote:
I'm sure there are plenty of stories out there of scared lasses who died at the hands of goblins or brigands. The fact that Shandril's story happened the way it did means it should be chronicled. If Frodo had stumbled through his life with the Ring and no help from Gandalf, he would have died without a struggle. What kind of story would that have been? Realistic? Perhaps, but worthy of a a trilogy that spawned a set of movies that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars? No.


This will be fun. Let's go by the book canon, because bringing in the movieverse always muddles up things. Frodo at first relies heavily on the more experienced Walkers -- Boromir, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas. All the hobbits do.

As much as I malign Tolkien's characterization, even his characters change. Frodo, at one point, makes a decision and heads into Mordor with only Sam at his side. Pippin grows up after he witnesses war and its ravages; Merry stands up and, along with Eowyn, defeats the Witch-king. In the Scouring of the Shire, the characters' maturity is further emphasized: they have acquired a worldly streak, no longer naive and sheltered (relatively speaking) as they were before the War of the Ring. They've gone through a lot of hardships and emerged the stronger for it.

Shandril never does this. She whines, whines, and whines some more, with the occasional break-down-crying routine. For someone who's gone through what she has, she remains an unsympathetically spineless character, IMO. A lot of time as I read Crown of Fire and Spellfire, I had an urge to slap Shandril and scream, "Get over it al-bloody-ready, you pathetic milksop!"

Mind you, I acknowledge the bits where she becomes all determined and ready to kill. Except that she is still in the "You won't hurt my friends! You won't hurt my lover! Oh, why did the gods curse me with spellfire?" schmuck. *facepalms*

And I was rooting for the demi-lich so much. *sniffles* The poor itty-bitty skull-thing.
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
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Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  15:20:36  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hey, we've heard the "what's what" about Spellfire from someone who knows Greenwood and had a hand at chosing the path of the book. That's enough for me.

Sure, Shandril whines, but it's not all whining. It's certainly not something that dominates the book. It might be something that dominates the thoughts of the reader, but it still has tons of other great moments. It's the first novel where we learn who Manshoon is, and who Fzoul is, and how the Knights behave with each other, and how those same Knights and Elminster help to train a pair of potential young adventurers. It's where we first learn about Mourngrym and Shaerl and Florin and Storm and The Simbul and Sylune and the malaugrym and dracoliches and tons and tons of other fantasy, Realms, D&D relationships that are the types of things that make gaming in FR endlessly rewarding.

Spellfire has its bits of bad points, but those bad points certainly don't ruin the book. Even Crown of Fire is extremely entertaining if you like reading about Manshoon, demi-liches, the rift in the Zhentarim between Manshoon and Fzoul, the heroics of Mirt, Delg, Elminster, and Storm, and the importance of keeping an eye on Shandril, someone who might wind up getting too powerful for her own good. You can focus on the bad stuff and let that dominate your thoughts, or you can make an attempt to recognize the strong points of the book (strong points made clearer by a direct acquaintance of the author) and thereby gain a greater understanding of the book, the author, and the setting it's set in.

I will say, however, that I didn't enjoy Hand of Fire half as much as the first two.

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  15:42:08  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox



As much as I malign Tolkien's characterization, even his characters change. Frodo, at one point, makes a decision and heads into Mordor with only Sam at his side. Pippin grows up after he witnesses war and its ravages; Merry stands up and, along with Eowyn, defeats the Witch-king. In the Scouring of the Shire, the characters' maturity is further emphasized: they have acquired a worldly streak, no longer naive and sheltered (relatively speaking) as they were before the War of the Ring. They've gone through a lot of hardships and emerged the stronger for it.


Actually, Frodo and Sam only succeed with the help of everyone they've met previously. They're helped by the elves in the form of their trail ration lembas, the elven cloaks, and the rope and phail of Galadriel. The only reason Sam and Frodo aren't scooped up immediately by the Nazgul is because #1 Gollum knows the hiding places and secret entrances, and #2 Aragorn, Gandalf, and the foolishness of Denethor have Sauron thinking that they will use the Ring against him. Sauron never once guessed that a pair of hobbits were going to destroy the Ring. Aragorn and Gandalf help Frodo and Sam more than ever as the two hobbits enter Mordor. They're never alone. If Frodo were really alone, even without the treacherous help of Gollum, he'd have died very quickly.

As for Merry, the only reason he was able to stab the Witch King is due to the same reason Eowyn is able to slay him: he didn't think for a second that they could harm him, so he brushed them off. He certainly didn't devote even an ounce of attention to Merry. Further, the Ent draughts both Merry and Pippin drink turn them into the closed things to hobbit soldiers the Shire had ever seen. The hobbits come into their own, yes, but certainly not by themselves, and then only after a year's worth of hard times.

quote:
Shandril never does this. She whines, whines, and whines some more, with the occasional break-down-crying routine. For someone who's gone through what she has, she remains an unsympathetically spineless character, IMO. A lot of time as I read Crown of Fire and Spellfire, I had an urge to slap Shandril and scream, "Get over it al-bloody-ready, you pathetic milksop!"


Firstly, she really doesn't whine all that much. Secondly, think of the difference in time concerning your comparison. The time between Spellfire and Hand of Fire is, if I remember, only a few months, maybe two. The Quest of the Ring lasts over a year, giving Frodo and the gang time to harden themselves the way you wish Shandril had done in a fraction of the time. Also, hobbits are hardy folk, and are capable of much. They're certainly more hardy and able to acccept hardships than a waffery maid in her late teens. Frodo is 50 years old when he sets out, if I remember. Not that that means he's as wise and learned as a 50-year-old human being, but it's more than what Shandril has under her slim belt.

quote:
Mind you, I acknowledge the bits where she becomes all determined and ready to kill. Except that she is still in the "You won't hurt my friends! You won't hurt my lover! Oh, why did the gods curse me with spellfire?" schmuck. *facepalms*


How would you behave in a similar situation? I'm certain you'd become the ever-wise, calm, controlled, cool-headed adventurer soon after dealing with the events Shandril dealt with in the first 100 pages of the novel. Shandril's behavior is fine. She's a young girl acting like a young girl.

quote:
And I was rooting for the demi-lich so much.


I loved that demi-lich! That whole angle was very tight. Iliph Thraun. The beholder belching out that bone for Fzoul as the controlling device really inspired me. I love Greenwood's books!

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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The Hooded One
Lady Herald of Realmslore

5056 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  16:07:13  Show Profile  Visit The Hooded One's Homepage Send The Hooded One a Private Message  Reply with Quote
No, Winterfox, lets leave real-world politics out of this. I wasnt being mean or sarcastic. I REALLY meant what I said: that if you put the time and energy into creative fantasy fiction writing rather than into the reviews you yourself label as snarky and inaccurate crit (you say Shandril doesnt develop as a character over the three books, which tells me you didnt read them with any attention, or that you cant perceive literary subtleties and therefore shouldnt review anything, or that you have a personal hate-on for Ed and are determined to read into his writing only what you want to see), we would all benefit by having more good fantasy to read. From my professional access to the market, I estimate SPELLFIRE has sold well over half a million copies, so if its as bad as you say it is, your own self-described-as-weak literary efforts should do well.
Im not trying to be nasty, here. Im quite serious: why dont you write some fiction instead?
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Shadowlord
Master of Realmslore

USA
1298 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  16:21:03  Show Profile  Visit Shadowlord's Homepage Send Shadowlord a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Crust

quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox



As much as I malign Tolkien's characterization, even his characters change. Frodo, at one point, makes a decision and heads into Mordor with only Sam at his side. Pippin grows up after he witnesses war and its ravages; Merry stands up and, along with Eowyn, defeats the Witch-king. In the Scouring of the Shire, the characters' maturity is further emphasized: they have acquired a worldly streak, no longer naive and sheltered (relatively speaking) as they were before the War of the Ring. They've gone through a lot of hardships and emerged the stronger for it.


Actually, Frodo and Sam only succeed with the help of everyone they've met previously. They're helped by the elves in the form of their trail ration lembas, the elven cloaks, and the rope and phail of Galadriel. The only reason Sam and Frodo aren't scooped up immediately by the Nazgul is because #1 Gollum knows the hiding places and secret entrances, and #2 Aragorn, Gandalf, and the foolishness of Denethor have Sauron thinking that they will use the Ring against him. Sauron never once guessed that a pair of hobbits were going to destroy the Ring. Aragorn and Gandalf help Frodo and Sam more than ever as the two hobbits enter Mordor. They're never alone. If Frodo were really alone, even without the treacherous help of Gollum, he'd have died very quickly.

As for Merry, the only reason he was able to stab the Witch King is due to the same reason Eowyn is able to slay him: he didn't think for a second that they could harm him, so he brushed them off. He certainly didn't devote even an ounce of attention to Merry. Further, the Ent draughts both Merry and Pippin drink turn them into the closed things to hobbit soldiers the Shire had ever seen. The hobbits come into their own, yes, but certainly not by themselves, and then only after a year's worth of hard times.

quote:
Shandril never does this. She whines, whines, and whines some more, with the occasional break-down-crying routine. For someone who's gone through what she has, she remains an unsympathetically spineless character, IMO. A lot of time as I read Crown of Fire and Spellfire, I had an urge to slap Shandril and scream, "Get over it al-bloody-ready, you pathetic milksop!"


Firstly, she really doesn't whine all that much. Secondly, think of the difference in time concerning your comparison. The time between Spellfire and Hand of Fire is, if I remember, only a few months, maybe two. The Quest of the Ring lasts over a year, giving Frodo and the gang time to harden themselves the way you wish Shandril had done in a fraction of the time. Also, hobbits are hardy folk, and are capable of much. They're certainly more hardy and able to acccept hardships than a waffery maid in her late teens. Frodo is 50 years old when he sets out, if I remember. Not that that means he's as wise and learned as a 50-year-old human being, but it's more than what Shandril has under her slim belt.

quote:
Mind you, I acknowledge the bits where she becomes all determined and ready to kill. Except that she is still in the "You won't hurt my friends! You won't hurt my lover! Oh, why did the gods curse me with spellfire?" schmuck. *facepalms*


How would you behave in a similar situation? I'm certain you'd become the ever-wise, calm, controlled, cool-headed adventurer soon after dealing with the events Shandril dealt with in the first 100 pages of the novel. Shandril's behavior is fine. She's a young girl acting like a young girl.

quote:
And I was rooting for the demi-lich so much.


I loved that demi-lich! That whole angle was very tight. Iliph Thraun. The beholder belching out that bone for Fzoul as the controlling device really inspired me. I love Greenwood's books!


I like his books, but I wouldn't say that I love them. I much prefer Richard Lee Byers writing style. However, I did like Silverfall, just because it had Qilue Veladorn in it.

The Chosen of Vhaeraun
"Nature is governed by certain immutable rules. By virtue of claw and fang, the lion will always triumph over the goat.Given time, the pounding of the sea will wear away the stone. And when dark elves mingle with the lighter races, the offspring invariably take after the dark parent. It is all much the same. That which is greater shall prevail. Our numbers increase steadily, both through birth and conquest. The dark elves are the dominant race, so ordained by the gods." Ka'Narlist of the Ilythiiri.
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Crust
Learned Scribe

USA
273 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2004 :  16:49:42  Show Profile  Visit Crust's Homepage Send Crust a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hey, don't get me wrong! I love the new work out there. Some of the new characters introduced in the last couple years have really caught my interest. Especially Cale.

"That's right, hurl back views that force ye to think by name-calling - 'tis the grand old tradition, let it not down! Anything to keep from having to think, or - Mystra forfend - change thy own views!"

Narnra glowered at her father. "Just how am I to learn how to think? By being taught by you?"

"Some folk in the Realms would give their lives for the chance to learn at my feet," Elminster said mildly. "Several already have."

~from Elminster's Daughter, Ed Greenwood
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Winterfox
Senior Scribe

895 Posts

Posted - 02 Feb 2004 :  04:22:12  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Hooded One

No, Winterfox, lets leave real-world politics out of this. I wasnt being mean or sarcastic. I REALLY meant what I said: that if you put the time and energy into creative fantasy fiction writing rather than into the reviews you yourself label as snarky and inaccurate crit (you say Shandril doesnt develop as a character over the three books, which tells me you didnt read them with any attention, or that you cant perceive literary subtleties and therefore shouldnt review anything, or that you have a personal hate-on for Ed and are determined to read into his writing only what you want to see)...


Wow. Just wow.

And I thought I was the only person to post flamey messages. At least I try not to make assumptions about other people, you know, because that dangerously hovers over the line of "personal attack." Of course, since Darkmistress/Winterfox is not the one doing the "attack", no one is likely to take the offender "to task" or anything. It's wrong only if Darkmistress/Winterfox does it, right? *blandly* That, or I'm being overly sensitive and what the Hooded One has typed above is completely acceptable as polite, mature, civil and intelligent conduct.

No, I'm not bringing in "real-world politics" -- I'm only applying your logic to another situation. But hey, thanks. I think I now have something very close to being worthy of otf_w.

quote:
Im not trying to be nasty, here. Im quite serious: why dont you write some fiction instead?


*smacks head against desk several times*

Which part of the "I'm an amatuerish nobody-writer-wannabe" did you not comprehend? For the last time, I'll say this in bold and underline: yes, I do write fiction! Let me explain. Slowly. Yes, I do open up MS Word, put my fingers to the keyboard and start smashing the keys. Alphabetical symbols then (magically!) appear on my monitor, which together make words. Words combine to make sentences. Sentences combine to make prose or dialogue. It may be fiction or non-fiction, English or other languages, depending on the subject. There!

What, just because I'm not published, do you think I spend all my time staring blankly at the monitor and drool?

Edited by - Winterfox on 02 Feb 2004 07:11:49
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Shadowlord
Master of Realmslore

USA
1298 Posts

Posted - 02 Feb 2004 :  04:54:23  Show Profile  Visit Shadowlord's Homepage Send Shadowlord a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Crust

Hey, don't get me wrong! I love the new work out there. Some of the new characters introduced in the last couple years have really caught my interest. Especially Cale.


Ah, Erevis Cale by Paul S. Kemp. I can't wait for Dawn of Night, which If I Recall Correctly, is due to come out around June or July.

The Chosen of Vhaeraun
"Nature is governed by certain immutable rules. By virtue of claw and fang, the lion will always triumph over the goat.Given time, the pounding of the sea will wear away the stone. And when dark elves mingle with the lighter races, the offspring invariably take after the dark parent. It is all much the same. That which is greater shall prevail. Our numbers increase steadily, both through birth and conquest. The dark elves are the dominant race, so ordained by the gods." Ka'Narlist of the Ilythiiri.
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Alaundo
Head Moderator
Admin

United Kingdom
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Posted - 02 Feb 2004 :  08:46:43  Show Profile  Visit Alaundo's Homepage Send Alaundo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well met

AHEM!! kindly keep comments in a friendly nature! 'Twould do well to take a moment before responding to a fellow scribe to allow any anger to be quashed! That way, we can all delight in the sharing of Realmslore and the library would be a much more pleasant place to study

Thank ye! SO ANY MORE OF THAT AND ITS DOWN TO THE DUNGEONS WITH THEE!

Alaundo
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Zacas
Learned Scribe

USA
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Posted - 02 Feb 2004 :  21:02:39  Show Profile  Visit Zacas's Homepage Send Zacas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Alaundo

Well met

AHEM!! kindly keep comments in a friendly nature! 'Twould do well to take a moment before responding to a fellow scribe to allow any anger to be quashed! That way, we can all delight in the sharing of Realmslore and the library would be a much more pleasant place to study

Thank ye! SO ANY MORE OF THAT AND ITS DOWN TO THE DUNGEONS WITH THEE!




::Is standing behind Alaundo... and begins to wave the 'confiscated' Staff of the Irritated Moderator +5 menacingly... almost comically while Alaundo speaks... then quickly hides it before Alaundo turns around::

Hmm... I'd just kinda think that maybe Ed made Shandril that way cause she was a teenage-type person :P Honestly... if you go from being a tavern 'servant' and then thrust into stuff like that suddenly... i don't see many people that wouldn't be somewhat whiney about stuff like she was...
Personally... i know i've been extremely whiney in the past due to difficulties IRL that have to slam me in the face repeatedly, with very little 'recouping' time before the next face-slamming... but that's all another story that i won't go into :P i'm just saying i can kinda understand why she'd have acted that way... and MAYBE just MAYBE Ed intended her to be that way for that reason? :P but that's just my thoughts... and those two cents tend to not be worth too much.

I am like a superhero, with no powers or motivation.
I have gone to find myself. If I get back before I return, please keep me here.
People like you are the reason people like me are on medication.
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The Hooded One
Lady Herald of Realmslore

5056 Posts

Posted - 02 Feb 2004 :  23:29:59  Show Profile  Visit The Hooded One's Homepage Send The Hooded One a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You are definitely correct about Shandril, Zacas. Ed intended Shandril to be a rather dreamy, very naive teenager. I notice that in an earlier post Winterfox listed three strong female characters from fantasy fiction that she liked (BTW, Winterfox, I like them too), and when measured against these, Shandril certainly comes out looking weak.
However, she also comes across to me, one of the original Realms players, as very realistic FOR THE REALMS (not for feminist role models or Red Sonja clones or any other flavour of the month in fantasy fiction). Not that every scullery lass in the Realms would be like Shandril (most of them would have been far more scared, less brave, and less curious than she is, for one thing).
All of us players had to sign legal release forms when TSR started to publish the Realms (if we didnt, our PCs would simply have disappeared completely from the published Realms), and we had some quite entertaining discussions about Spellfire and the roles of our PC in it.
Ed couldnt see any realistic way, within the Realms as hed created and detailed it, to keep Shandril alive unless spellfire was so gosh-awesome powerful as to let an inexperienced idiot (which Shan basically starts as) blow away mighty foes, AND to be so important that good NPCs would show up to guide and aid her, as well as evil NPC power groups swoop in to grab spellfire. He couldnt otherwise see any realistic way to drag all the important Realms VIPs onstage that he was asked to feature in the book (this was, remember, the very first Realms novel written FOR the Realms, unlike the added in Moonshae novels by Mr. Niles), plus the places and people he wanted to squeeze in, AND provide young female readers with a character they could identify with (and before some posters jump down my throat to say theyd never WANT to identify with Shandril, please remember were talking teachers and librarians maybe ordering this book from an abbreviated catalogue blurb because THEY think young gals might like it).
I agree that Spellfire, as published (both the first and second versions) has been so heavily edited (over one-third of the book is missing, folks) that the result is a bad book. Entertaining, yes, even vital to Realms fans (it is THE cornerstone Realms novel, and nothing can ever change that), also brilliant as the introduction to the Realms that it was intended to be, but flawed. Deeply flawed.
Ed will tell you that, far more colourfully than I can. I can add to this that although he was given a fairly free hand in writing Hand of Fire, Shandrils fate was handed to him as a firm order before he started.
In my real-world life, I edit and sometimes fix (yes, there are such things as book fixers) lots of novels by lots of people, and I can say that Ed ranks in the upper rank of what are sometimes called hack writers. Hes never trying to write literature, but he can write in specific styles, very quickly, and under heavy editorial direction. Which makes him gold in any editors book. Hes also a much better writer than anyone can tell who just reads his Realms fiction.
But he still has a lot to learn. Winding up a plot in the word lengths hes given, for one thing (this wasnt his fault in Spellfire, as Mr. Lowder has explained on the WotC boards and elsewhere). Many of his Realms books are like Keystone Kops movies in the last few pages, as everything gets tied up at once. Sometimes this is the result of a subtle fight between Ed and the Wizards approach to fiction. Ed prefers to write picaresque novels with dozens of subplots, which WONT (like real life) all get wrapped up by the end of a book. Wizards wants adventures that wont anger or disappoint readers by not having clear climaxes and resolutions.
I really loved ELMINSTER IN HELL because, well, Ed won one. Some readers hated it. Fair enough. A warning: I snuck a glance at his forthcoming TOR novel, THE SILENT HOUSE, and its like Cormyr: it whizzes down the centuries, so that fans of the earlier Aglirta books will love learning the secrets behind all the NPC villains and their plots, but someone who comes to it cold will probably say, Huh? Who ARE all these people, and why does he keep dropping them and telling us about other ones?
I am also happy to report that ELMINSTERS DAUGHTER isnt like this at all. Ed tells me its straight-ahead, A-to-Z chronological and then this happens, and then this storytelling. Me, Im waiting to see my character in the Knights trilogy, but theres this little matter of a Waterdeep book, first.
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