The Companions by R.A. Salvatore

Book Synopsis

This latest installment in New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore’s beloved fantasy saga, The Companions moves Salvatore’s signature hero Drizzt into a new era of the Forgotten Realms. As Drizzt’s fate hangs in the balance, he reflects on the lives of the trusted allies who stood by his side throughout his early life–the friends now known as the Companions of the Hall. Meanwhile, the first stirrings of the Sundering begin.


My Thoughts

The Companions by R.A. Salvatore is the first in the six book Sundering series, a realms sweeping event that will once again change the face of Toril.

I have been a longtime fan of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series, following each and every adventure since the beginning.  Never once have I felt that the story dragged or had outlived itself.   Readers of The Last Threshold were left with a cliff hanger.  What would happen to Drizzt?  Had the series finally reached its end?  Had the mighty Drizzt finally reached the end of his adventures?  All of these questions ran through my head after finishing The Last Threshold.

I want to begin by saying that, in my opinion, The Companions represents Bob’s best work to date.  The book is filled with such heart rending emotion from both the characters and Drizzt’s signature introspection (which happen to be my favorite part of the Drizzt series). If you look back at my previous reviews you see that I mention emotion quite a bit.  This is an important factor for me.  I like books that make me feel what the character feels.  If I can cry when a character cries, feel his or her fury in battle, or laugh along with them, then I have experienced a great book.   Salvatore gave me this experience with The Companions more so than any other book he has written.

What would you do if you could live your life over again?  What things would you change?  What if you had a goal to work toward?  Something that could mean the life or death of a dear friend? All of these questions are asked and answered in The Companions and the journey to the end (or should I say a new beginning) was very entertaining.

I received a ARC through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Release Day for THE GODBORN by Paul S. Kemp

The Godborn, Book 2 of The Sundering

Today is the release day of Paul S. Kemp‘s highly anticipated Forgotten Realms tale,  The Godborn.  I received a review copy from Netgalley which can be found here. The Godborn has been my favorite read of 2013 and I am looking forward to reading it again. This time around I plan on listening to the audio version which is available from Audible.

I don’t think anyone could be more excited than the author on the release day of their book, but I am pretty damn excited myself.  I have been waiting for this book for years and I can’t wait to have a signed copy grace my bookshelves.

Even if you are new to the Erevis Cale saga, The Godborn is still a perfect place to start and there is enough backstory to catch readers up on past events.

The Godborn is available today in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats.

The GODBORN by Paul S. Kemp


In the 2nd book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale lives on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.

Living in a remote abbey nestled among the Thunder Peaks of Sembia, Vasen is haunted by dreams of his father, trapped in the frozen hell of Cania. He knows the day will come when he must assume his role in the divine drama unfolding across Faerûn. But Vasen knows not what that role should be . . . or whether he is ready to take it on. He only knows what his father tells him in dreams—that he must not fail.

Enter Drasek Riven, a former compatriot of Erevis Cale, now near divine and haunted by dreams of his own—he too knows the time to act is near. Shar, the great goddess of darkness, looks to cast her shadow on the world forever. Riven has glimpsed the cycle of night she hopes to complete, and he knows she must be stopped.

At the crossroads of divine intrigue and mortal destiny, unlikely heroes unite to thwart the powers of shadow and hell, and the sundering of worlds is set on its course.

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp  (published by Wizards of the Coast) is book two of The Sundering , an epic, world-spanning event in the Forgotten Realms. The first book is The Companions by R.A. Salvatore. Though both books detail events leading to the Sundering, reading the first one is not a requirement to enjoy and follow The Godborn.

​Some books just make you giddy with anticipation.  As a long time Paul S. Kemp fan, I have been waiting for Vasen Cale’s story for a long time, and now after so many years the story is told.  While there are previous books that detail some of the events that lead up to The Godborn there is enough backstory to bring new readers up to speed on previous events and characters yet not bog down the story for veteran fans.

​Vasen Cale, son of Erevis Cale and Varra, is a very interesting character. Baring his father’s shade heritage, but raised in the legendary Abbey of the Rose, he serves Amaunator, the Lord of Light.  His dusky skin and yellow eyes set him apart from others, but does not shake his faith in the god he serves.

​We meet up with old friends, Drasek Riven, Magadon, Rivelin Brennus, and the Lord of Cania himself, Mephistopheles, and meet new ones as well. As much I as enjoyed reading and learning more about about Vasen Cale, I equally enjoyed the supporting characters.  Their stories added great depth to the book.  I want to keep this review spoiler free so I will avoid detailing any events, but I will say that they are rendered with Paul’s signature “darkness” that I have enjoyed in his previous books.

​The book is fast paced, with several different groups of characters caught up in a maelstrom of events that ultimately lead them to a final epic scene. The prose and pacing were tight and each chapter pulled me further into the story, making it impossible to put the book down. ​There are many sad moments in The Godborn. Scenes that are so heartbreaking they take your breath away, yet just as Vasen walks the road between shadow and light, there are moments of overwhelming joy.

I highly recommend Paul’s previous work.  To get the entire picture of how awesome Erevis Cale and company are you should read the series from the beginning starting with, Shadow’s Witness,  then The Erevis Cale Trilogy and finally The Twilight War (Shadowbred, Shadowstorm, and Shadowrealm). The Godborn will not be released until October 1 so you have time to catch up on the story thus far.  But as I stated earlier, none of these are a requirement to enjoy The Godborn.  It stands on its own.

The Godborn is a must read for all Paul S. Kemp fans. He brings us the story that we have been waiting years to read. The wait is over, and trust me, it was definitely worth it.

My thanks to Wizards of the Coast for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley.

Spinner of Lies by Bruce Cordell

Memories of his past incarnations haunt Demascus, even as he searches for stolen portraits that contain the trapped souls of demigods. Meanwhile, drow creep beneath the city of Airspur, intent on precipitating war between Akanûl and a rival nation. As Demascus attempts to win freedom from the ghost of his murdered lover, he agrees to thwart the drow’s secret scheme, sending him on a trail that stretches between the Demonweb, Airspur, and an island that appears on no map.

Spinner of Lies is the sequel to Sword of the Gods and takes place a few months after Sword of the Gods. We meet back up with the cast of the previous book, Demascus, a divine assassin known as the Sword of the Gods, Riltana, a wise cracking windsoul genasi who steals from the wealth of Airspur, and Chant Morven, a pawn shop owner with a network of informants that keep him abreast of events in the city.  There is a new addition to the group, Jaul Morven, Chant’s son.  Their relationship is not on the best of terms and this provides a great side plot to the story.  I really enjoyed group’s interactions, especially Riltana’s scathing comments to Demascus in the heat of battle.  Bruce’s crowning achievement is his characters. He is able to weave a tight story but at the same time you get to hear the character’s inner monologues describing their hopes and fears.  Things like Demascus’s fear of losing his identity, Riltana’s hopes for her estranged lover, and Chant’s worry for his son, helped draw me in and really feel a kinship with the characters. Readers of Bruce’s Abolethic Sovereignty  will be happy to see Captain Thoster, the captain of the Green Siren, again.  There is also a reference to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons module, Tomb of Horrors, that longtime players will notice.  (I really enjoyed the reference).

There are lots of things going on in Spinner of Lies.  The first is Queen Arathane’s  request for Demascus and company to discover the reason communication has stopped to a mine on a secret island that left unchecked could lead to war with Tymanther, next is Demacus’s murdered lover that has come back to haunt him, then stolen paintings that hold the souls of demigods, and finally a potential drow invasion.  That is a lot of ground to cover in just one book but Bruce takes these plots and spins them (no pun intended) into thread that reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

Central to the plot are the drow.  The drow have been a favorite race of mine since I first read R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series years back.  Why are they lurking in Airspur and who are they in league with?  Spinner of Lies  is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Rise of the Underdark, an event that will have bold, sweeping ramifications across (and under) the Forgotten Realms.

Even with multiple plots going on there is still time to focus on the main character, Demascus.  He is a divine assassin, the “Sword of the Gods”, an instrument of divine retribution.  These words are inscribed on Demascus’s sarcophagus:

“Agent of Fate, Emissary of Divine Judgement, Cuttter of Destiny’s Thread. You died as you lived, and you will live again, Demascus, Sword of the Gods.”

Yet he is still only a shadow of his former self and without his artifact, the Whorl of Ioun,  he is more human than divine agent of vengeance.  But is this necessarily a bad thing?  Demascus wants to be more human, and not a tool of the gods, to control is own destiny.  He can feel the other part of himself, the part that revels in destruction, waiting to take over, and has to fight to keep it in check.  It would be so easy to let that part take over but it would truly cost him his humanity.  There is a scene where Demascus seeks divine counsel and things do not go well.  The dialog that occurs during that scene is fantastic.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I normally do not think on how well the title of a book fits a story,  I concentrate on the characters and the story itself, but this time the title really stood out to me.  Spinner of Lies is a very apt title as it perfectly describes the parallel plot lines in the book.  I will not go into detail as to spoil it for other readers, but it was very well done.

I have been a longtime reader of Bruce’s work and he continues to write books worthy of any fantasy reader’s bookshelf, and Spinner of Lies is no exception.  I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Spinner of Lies will be available in ebook on June 5, 2012 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This review was of an ARC from NetGalley.

The Rose of Sarifal by Paulina Claiborne

Cloaked in mist and layered in magic, the denizens of Moonshae Isles move in secret
circles as capricious rulers vie for power.
High Lady Ordalf wanted her niece, the princess known as the Rose of Sarifal, dead. Instead, the young regent was secreted away by the high lady’s opponents. For years the eladrin queen of Gwynneth Isle has searched for evidence of her niece’s death, and word has finally come in the form of a castaway’s tale. The princess lives on the island of Moray—a mad beauty who leads a nation of lycanthropes.
As long as her niece is alive, Lady Ordalf cannot rest secure in her claim to the throne. Enlisting a band of adventurers to seek out the princess is the
first step toward stemming the Rose of Sarifal and her tide of wolves. Will those heroes see the same threat the queen sees in the beautiful young maiden?

I was anxiously awaiting the release of The Rose of Sarifal because it was set in my favorite place in the Realms, the Moonshea Isles.  The Moonshea Trilogy by Douglas Niles (Darkwalker on Moonshea, Black Wizards, and Darkwell) was the one of the first series written in the Forgotten Realms.  Longtime realms readers will recognize names and places from the previous series but will see that some things do not stand the test of time.

Ms. Claiborne gave a unique voice to the realms with The Rose of Sarifal.  It was dark and gritty, and fans of Joe Abercrombie will like this book, with bloody battles, torture, but at the same time some very heart warming and touching scenes.  The characters are not necessarily dark and flawed; many are simple on hard times and looking to make a better way for themselves.

The driving force behind the group is Lukas, the captain of the Sphinx.  All look to him as their leader and follow him (for the most part) without question.  There are a mix of races in the group; human, gnome, elven, shape-shifter, and genasi.  One of the things I like most about this diverse mix was the way they were portrayed.  Their different ideologies and mannerisms were well written into the story.  I especially liked how the genasi was portrayed in an almost alien fashion.  Another unique aspect to the book was how the leShay and the gods were treated.  The leShay are so long lived that one cannot begin to understand their actions and Ms. Claiborne works this well into the storyline.  A few times I was left scratching my head as to why one of the leShay acted in a certain manner, but after looking back through the book it made sense.  Again it added to the alien feel of the race.  The godss Chauntea and Araushnee were portrayed in a much different manner than I have seen in the past.  This was one parts of the book that did not make sense to me, but I think when taken in a Greek context, one could see that the gods are capricious and their ways are not to be understood by mortals.  Again, this was one of the parts of the story that did not work for me.  I would have liked to see their goals explained a little more clearly.

The group is separated early in the book and from there we get to know the characters better.  We discover more of their backstory and how they came to be aboard the Sphinx.  I especially liked the parts dealing with the Savage, the elf.  Long time readers of the Forgotten Realms will notice some pre-Spellplague references.  There are some excellent characterization and dialogue in these sections and which are some of the crowning achievements of the book.

Ms Claiborne’s prose is magnificent and her descriptions were quite vivid. Here is one of my favorite examples, “The drow were beautiful, elves of the black night, eladrin of the shadows.”

I was not pleased with the ending, it did not feel rushed so much as incomplete.  It was abrupt and gave no sense of closure.  I wonder if there was more of the story to tell but due to space constraints had to be left on the cutting room floor.

I enjoyed this book but I do not recommend it for readers new to the Forgotten Realms.  There is quite a bit of history (Moonshea geography, past royalty, and deities) referenced throughout the book that, in my opinion, are critical to the story.  Readers more familiar with the Forgotten Realms may enjoy the book more.  If you are looking for a different kind of Realms book, give this one a try.

The Best of the Realms III: The Stories of Elaine Cunningham by Elaine Cunningham

The Best of the Realms: The Stories of Elaine Cunningham (Forgotten Realms: The Best of the Realms, #3)The Best of the Realms: The Stories of Elaine Cunningham by Elaine Cunningham

I was cleaning and rearranging my bookshelves last night when I came across this book and several hours later (no further cleaning of bookshelves occured) I put it back on the shelf, gently read once more. Re-reading a book is like visiting an old friend, you are happy to see them again but a little sadder when they leave.

The Best of the Realms: The Stories of Elaine Cunningham is a collection of 15 short stories Ms. Cunningham has produced over the years. Three of them are published here for the first time and the others have been published in various “Realms of” anthologies and Dragon magazine. I found this to be a very enjoyable collection and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Forgotten Realms series. One caveat, while these are all wonderful tales it does help if the reader is familiar with the Forgotten Realms, especially Ms. Cunningham’s works. Here is a listing of each of the stories in the anthology and a little bit about what I thought of each.

#1 – The Knights of Samalar – This story helps to give some closure to the events of the final Harpers novel “Thornhold”. This was an excellent story with an intriguing cast of characters. While “Thornhold” is one of the few books by Ms. Cunningham that I have not read, it stood well on its own.

#2 – The Bargain – This story takes place following the events in “Elfshadow”. Danilo Thann and Arilyn Moonblade are great characters because they both have such intriguing histories. I enjoy Danilo’s and Arilyn’s banter, it makes for a very enjoyable read.

#3 – Elminster’s Jest – While this is not a short story, but a ballad, it is still very entertaining. It kept me giggling for quite some time.

#4 – The More Things Change – This story gives a little history on my favorite of Ms. Cunningham’s characters, the moon elf, Elaith Craulnober. It goes back and gives the reader a little insight into how Elaith came to be who he is today, think “Batman Begins” in a very condensed form.

#5 – The Direct Approach – This story centers around Lirel, the drow from the “Starlight and Shadows” series. I am not as familiar with this series as I am the rest of Ms. Cunningham’s work but it was entertaining none the less and I really enjoyed the ending. Word to the wise, never under estimate a scantily clad barbarian with a really big sword.

#6 – Secrets of the Blood, Spirits of the Sea – I have always enjoyed “origin” tale and this one gives the origin of the sahuagin. I found myself really caught up in the story and thought the ending, while sad, was fantastic.

#7 – The Great Hunt – This is another story featuring Elaith and Arilyn. This time Danilo is absent and you get to witness the interaction between Arilyn and Elaith. On the surface they seem polar opposites but they have more in common than they care to admit.

#8 – Speaking with the Dead – This is another entertaining story involving Danilo, Arilyn, and Elaith. This time Danilo comes to Elaith’s rescue. I enjoyed the scene where you get to see a little of Elaith’s persona behind the cool facade.

#9 – Stolen Dreams – This the same story as “Speaking with the Dead”, but from another characters point of view. You get some interesting back story on some the nobles of Tethyr.

#10 – Fire is Fire – This was the darkest story in the anthology. I love first person narration and from what I have heard it can be difficult to pull off, but Ms. Cunningham does a stellar job. The story is told from the point of view of two combatants in the siege of WaterDeep (for those of who have not read The City of Splendors, I highly recommend it) that are battling each other. The ending left me speechless for a few moments. Tales of war are not as glorious as they might seem.

#11 – Possessions – Ms. Cunningham penned this as her first and only ghost story to date. It is certainly dark and rather depressing. I enjoy stories where the ghost doesn’t realize he or she is a ghost until later. This is also a story of actions and their consequences with a nice spell battle to boot!

#12 – A Little Knowledge – What would you do if you knew the potential outcomes to every situation? These characters are from the counselors and Kings series. Again, I am not as familiar with these characters as I am with others but that did not detract from the story whatsoever.

#13 – Games of Chance – This story features Elaith again. Aside from “The More Things Change”, this is my second favorite Elaith tale. You get a little taste of the rage that Elaith keeps chained away inside him. He releases a little in this story with deadly effect.

#14 – Tribute – This story takes place long before WaterDeep was established. It was a great story with the “maiden dragon sacrifice” theme but with a twist. Scenes from the movie “DragonSlayer” came to mind while I was reading this story.

#15 – Answered Prayers – This is another story featuring Lirel and her companions. I enjoy stories where characters grow. I am definitely going to finish the Starlight and Shadows trilogy get more back story on these characters.

My favorite story is “The More Things Change” thus it has been the most re-read one in the book.  I love the insight we get into Elaith and there is one line in this story that has stuck with me all these years, and as a parent I find them particularly poignant,  “Teach her the rules, and then tell her to question them.”  Elaith’s emotion is palpable as he utters these words.

Unfortunately this book is out of print but I hope that it will soon be revived in ebook format.  If you can find a copy in the mean time, I highly recommend reading it.