Dragonwall

“After all, the one thing D&D was really lacking was yet another goddamned word for polearms…”

Horselords

“I appreciate Cook’s nuanced portrayal of the Tuigan: they’re dirty, brutal, and barbaric, but also clever, well-organized, and surprisingly sophisticated in some respects. It’s a much more realistic and complex depiction of a culture than the Mazticans, who seemed to be strictly divided into cartoonishly evil nobles and virtuous noble savages.”

Ironhelm

“You know the plot already; you learned it in high school. They’re even wearing full conquistador outfits in the cover art, just to ensure you don’t miss the historical parallels and confuse this for a fantasy story.”

The Wyvern’s Spur

“It’s about one-third comedy of manners, one-third mystery novel, and one-third swashbuckling action, which adds up to a much greater focus on the characters and their society than any of the other Realms novels to date.”

The Halfling’s Gem

The Halfling’s Gem, unfortunately, is a textbook example of Orientalist literature: the noble northern (Western) characters visit exotic Calimshan (the Middle East), are disgusted by what they find, demonstrate their moral and physical superiority by kicking seven kinds of hell out of the depraved Calishites, then return to their home.”

Pool of Radiance

“An apprentice mage who’s accidentally transformed herself into a buff amazon, a retired thief mourning his dead lover, and a fervent young priest of Tyr walk into a bar… stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”

Waterdeep

“It’s not perfect — the pacing drags at points, Adon’s survival feels more preposterous than miraculous, and there are a few duds among the supporting cast — but it’s still a marked improvement over the previous couple of books.”

Tantras

“I’m intrigued by how Ciencin tries to take Shadowdale’s established “peaceful utopia” characterization and twist it into something darker and more cynical. It doesn’t actually work, but it could have if it had been handled more deftly.”

Shadowdale

“The setting was only two years old at this point — it’s not like it was growing stodgy and needed some sort of shake-up to make it feel fresh again. All it accomplishes is to show you the bones of the tabletop ruleset poking through the fiction like a compound fracture.”

Darkwell

“It’s as if Niles needed some sort of generically evil Dark Lord for his plot, so he scanned through the long list of Realms deities, saw a god of murder, and thought “Yeah, that sounds evil. He’ll do!” without actually thinking it through.”

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