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Realms of Infamy edited by James Lowder

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

Evil and villainy. Murder and slaughter. The vile of the vile can be found here, be warned!


Realms of Infamy
edited by James Lowder was released in 1994 and is now out of printed today (2009). Comprised of 16 short stories by Ed Greenwood, Elaine Cunningham, Barb Hendee, Elaine Bergstrom, R. A. Salvatore, Christie Golden, David Cook, James M. Ward, Denise Vitola, J. Robert King, Troy Denning, Mark Anthony, Jane Cooper Hong, Mary H. Herbert, James Lowder, and Roger E. Moore. Some stories feature some of the Forgotten Realms most infamous villains; Artemis Entreri, Manshoon of Zhentil Keep, and Elaith Craulnober, with an appearance by Jander Sunstar.

So High a Price by Ed Greenwood
The story details the raise of the Zhentarim, an evil organization, and the attempted raise of Manshoon to rule over Zhentil Keep.
Negatives:
1) Slow to build up. The story was a little slow. It kind of detracted from what was going on and just dragged on during some scenes.
2) Dialogue. Most of the dialogue, I thought was hard to follow at times. I really didn’t know who was talking or really even understanding what was really being said.
Positives:
1) Manshoon. I almost hate to say it, but I do want to learn more about him and the Zhentarim. The story really perked my interest.
2) The ending. I didn’t really expect a certain mage to show up and talk the lords of Zhentil Keep out of something disastrous.
Overall: 3/5
* The reason being, the dialogue was hard to understand and that they story was a little slow to get going.*

The More Things Change by Elaine Cunningham
The story is about Elaith Craulnober, an elf, who leaves Evermeet because he can’t wield his families moonblade, a magical sword passed down through elf families. Elaith joins a group of treasure hunters, thus causing him to ruin his cultural beliefs. Elaith appears in some other stories by Elaine Cunningham.
Negatives:
1) Short. The story was extremely short and just didn’t really explain much.
2) The ending. I wasn’t really sure what was going on in the last scene. It just seemed rushed.
Positives:
1) Elaith. He seems like a troubled character and I want to read more about him. He really is just interesting.
2) Setting up. The story seemed to set up another story, but as of this moment, I don’t really know what it was setting up. My guess is another one of Elaine Cunningham’s novels. But it does do a good job in making you want more.
Overall: 3.5/5
* The problem is that it just is to short and it just needed more.*

The Meaning of Lore by Barb Hendee
The story is about a loremaster of Oghma, Chane Troiban, and his selfish quest of gaining knowledge for power. He attempts to steal some ancient, forgotten knowledge from a Oghma temple and finds himself lost.
Negatives:
1) The story didn’t feel evil. When reading this anthology, I kind of expected that the story would be about an evil person and his evil deeds. This just didn’t really fit. Yes, Chane did seem corrupt and bad, but not on the level of pure evil.
Positives:
1) Chane. I did like Chane, with his single-mindedness and selfishness. He didn’t truly fit the role of a villain, but nonetheless, he did have some infamous quality.
2) The moral. At the end, I did like the moral and the understanding that Chane receives. Sure, he still is a selfish and amoral person but the message to the reader was pretty good.
Overall: 4/5
* A good story, but just not that evil and it really had the potential to be evil.*

Raven’s Egg by Elaine Bergstrom
This is a tale about a lord, Sharven, his plot to kill his most hated enemy. Written by Sharven himself, he recounts what led him to believe who it is and what he planned on doing. However, not all enemies come from the outside.
Negatives:
None. I really enjoyed this story.
Positives:
1) First Person. The point of view was very well done. It tells of Sharven’s insecurities and his paranoia.
2) The paranoia. Sharven seemed to think everyone was out to get him, and the way the story reflected that mindset was well done.
3) The Ending. I thought that it was beautifully written, and even though you knew what was about to happen, the way it was described made it feel fresh.
Overall: 5/5
*I really liked the story and I liked the way everything worked together.*

The Third Level by R. A. Salvatore
The assassin Artemis Entreri’s first kill is the main focus and his raise in a thieves guild by sly upon sly.
Negatives:
None. Entreri is a great character and the story was well written.
Positives:
1) Back story. The first thing I thought of after reading this is that we get some answer on where Entreri came from. What a dark, horrifying past.
2) The creativeness of the kill. I won’t go into much detail, but the way Entreri killed that one person was ingenious.
Overall: 5/5
*Entreri is a great bad guy and I always have liked reading about him.*

Blood Sport by Christie Golden
A vampire hunter by the name Shark is looking for Jander Sunstar, an elven vampire. The Shark finds out the truth of Jander and goes to great lengths to stop from being in his debt. This short story follows the short story in Realms of Valor entitled One Last Drink.
Negatives:
None. Though not as good as One Last Drink, it still is a great story.
Positives:
1) The Shark. I can’t help but absolutely loathe the Shark and her blindness. Which is what this whole collection is truly about, making you hate the “hero” of the story.
2) Adds to Jander. Now, I’ve said this before, Jander is one of my favorite characters. This story really shows the lengths in which he doesn’t want people to know he is a vampire. His carvings and his home really do show that.
3) The End. So far, the endings of each story were good, but this one really does take the cake. The Shark remains the evil intended person she always was.
Overall: 5/5
* More pieces of Jander’s life are such a good thing.*

Gallows Day by David Cook
A thief is about to get hung. His gang attempts to try to free him, but at the same time discover who turned on the group.
Negatives:
1) The writing style. I didn’t really care for it much. It just seemed to drag on in some parts
2) Minor characters. The minor characters; Brown Maeve and Sprite-Heels, weren’t really that exciting and just really lame.
Positives:
1) Pinch. The gang leader was a pretty neat character and was really well-developed. Plus his calculating mind was pretty interesting.
2) The plan. The plan that Pinch comes up with was original. And I thought that the plan was well thought out.
Overall: 3/5
* Like I said, I didn’t care for writing style.*

A Matter of Thorns by James M. Ward
The story is about a rose garden and it’s thirst for human slaves.
Negatives:
1) The ‘silliness.’ I don’t know how to put it, but having the villain be a rosebush is just, well… silly.
2) It’s like a B-list horror movie. Cheesy concept and just seemed like it would be a direct to video movie.
Positives:
1) Good story. Even if the bad guy is a rosebush, it was a fun and entertaining story. Well written and it really did hold my attention. Even the humor is pretty funny at times.
2) Humor. There are a few laughable scenes, but the ending is just great.
Overall: 4/5
* Even though I thought it had a b-list movie feel, it still was a fun story.*

Stolen Spells by Denise Vitola
A thief, Arek Adar, that only steals magical items is on a mission to take a potion that lets the drinker grow young again. However his employer has other ideas and disfigures the thief’s hand. Arek wants revenge and he gets it with a shawl.
Negatives:
1) Repetition. It seemed like there was a lot of repeating things in the story. It’s just a feeling I had when reading. Some scenes seemed to say the same thing that was already said before.
Positives:
1) The trick. The trick that Arek played on his employer was really ingenious.
2) Arek. He was a great character. At first he didn’t come off as infamously evil, just like a normal guy that’s a thief for a living. Also, the way he explained things was great.
Overall: 4/5
*The story was great and Arek was an interesting character.*

The Greatest Hero Who Ever Died by J. Robert King
This is a tale within a story. A cloaked man walks into a tavern and begins telling a story of a Knight named Sir Paramore and how he rescued the kingdoms children. But the teller has ideas of his own.
Negatives:
1) The deaths. There were too many pointless deaths that didn’t really make sense. For instance, getting hit in the face with a fist killed someone, when the hitter was falling down. It just didn’t make sense.
Positives:
1) Gruesome. The deaths in the story were just awful, in a good way. Plus using someone’s face as a puppet is just sick.
2) The tale. It was good. It really made you focus more on the story within and it made you feel like one of the patrons in the tavern listening.
Overall: 4/5
* Good story, just the outrageous deaths were the big problem.*

Twilight by Troy Denning
This story is a giant-kind mythology tale. That’s the best way to describe it. Basically, it tells how the giant kingdom was lost.
Negatives:
1) Mythology. Now I like mythology stories, except this one was just to confusing. I don’t know any of the giant gods.
2) Name throwing. I don’t like short stories that just throw names at you. It just gets hard to remember who is who.
Positives:
1) Interesting story. While I didn’t understand the myth behind this, it nonetheless was interesting. The middle and ending are what really made the story.
2) The characters. Every important person had their own distinct personalities and that made them bearable.
Overall: 2.5/5
*The name throwing and the general confusion of a myth story, caused me to really dislike this.*

The Walls of Midnight by Mark Anthony
The story is about a warrior, Ravendas, and a mage, Marnok, in their attempt to steal an ancient artifact called the Finger of Ckai-el-Ckaan.
Negatives:
1) Predictable. The story was a little predictable with somethings. You could tell certain things were going to happen after the first five or so pages.
2) The Artifact. The power to resurrect the sorcerer, Ckai-el-Ckaan, just sounded lame. I think it would have been better if it was a wand with some amazing power.
Positives:
1) Story. Even though it was predictable, it was a good, fun read. The characters were interesting and the action was fun.
2) The main characters. Ravendas was a terrific character. How she didn’t let her feelings get involved with getting what she wanted really made her interesting. On the other hand, Marnok was a great character because he seemed to want to change Ravendas but failed. Just reading about him being so naïve was funny.
Overall: 4/5
* Good story and characters but a little to predictable.*

And Wringing of Hands by Jane Cooper Hong
The story follows a poison maker, Tine, and how he helps his master, an assassin named Reneck, with his assignments. However, the assignments become more and more evil and Tine grows fond of some of the targets.
Negatives:
None that really mattered.
Positives:
1) Tine. I really felt sorry for him and his profession. He isn’t a killer, just a ‘helper.’ He really isn’t the bad guy.
2) Story. I did like the story a lot because it was well written and a great look into Tine’s mind.
3) Sympathy. I was really sympathetic with Tine and some of the marks that he grew fond of. Like I said above, he isn’t the real bad guy and you can really tell he isn’t.
Overall: 5/5
*There were a few small problems, but I did like the story so much that I overlooked the things I didn’t care for.*

Thieves’ Honor by Mary H. Herbert
The story follows a horse thief, Teza, and her part in kidnapping a prince of Rashemen for one of the powerful witches.
Negatives:
1) Dull. The story was kind of boring. It just didn’t really interest me all too much.
2) Convenience. First there was this random item that can control this horse Teza has in her pack. Yet, she didn’t use it when she first tried to steal it. Sure she left her pack in a log, but why? Then second, the easiness of entering the princes camp was just unbearably too easy.
Positives:
1) Teza. She was an interesting character in a boring story. A horse thief? I would have never have guessed that anyone would write about such a boring profession, but somehow, Mary H. Herbert made it a little interesting.
2) The kidnapping. That was well done, if a bit to easy.
Overall: 3/5
* Kind of a boring story, but Teza was the real highlight.*

Laughter in the Flames by James Lowder
The story follows Sir Hamnet Hawklin and his travel to meet Cyric; the Lord of the Dead, the Dark Sun, Master of Strife, the Prince of Lies, and the Mad God. Hawklin, an adventure of some fame, wrote books accounting his adventures. Are they history or are they fiction? Only Cyric knows the truth.
Negatives:
None. I really enjoyed this story.
Positives:
1) Descriptive. The whole story was had very good descriptions of the setting and of the people. You could really picture it in your mind’s eye.
2) Plot. What happens throughout the story was great and creepy at the same time. The talking weasel, the body snatchers, and the servant named Uther really made this story great.
3) The truth. What happens with Hawklin and his ‘history’ was just great. Plus it was ironic that it took Cyric, the Prince of Lies, to get the truth out of him was just comical in a way.
Overall: 5/5
*The story, descriptions, and the ending is what really makes this story a fun, great read.*

Vision by Roger E. Moore
A goblin captain named Kergis is forcibly made to follow his shaman’s half-breed grandchild, Zeth. Zeth, who is blind, weapon and armor-less, is on a mission to teach others the ways of old. Throughout this teaching, Kergis slowly learns what it is to be a goblin.
Negatives:
1) Preachy. I really don’t like preachy stories at all. They are just not my cup of tea.
2) Hard to believe. When I think of goblins, they come off as idiots and stupid, yet Kergis and Zeth don’t seem to be that way. Also, I thought they were cowards, yet these goblins seemed to be brave.
Positives:
1) The message. Even though I don’t like preachy stories, they message was a good one. It kind of made sense in a way that the goblins were rather ‘civil’ and not monsters that they should be.
2) Kergis and Zeth. Kergis was a good character. He seemed to be smart and didn’t buy into what Zeth was teaching, yet Kergis was understanding. I don’t know how else to explain it. Zeth on the other hand had me believing at first he was crazy and mad. Yet, he really did surprise me.
Overall: 3/5
* The preachy nature of the story really made me not enjoy it, but while it was preachy it wasn’t over my head preachy.*

OVERALL ANTHOLOGY: 3.9/5
*Overall, the stories were good and fun to read. It really enlightens you on the infamous personalities of the Forgotten Realms*

2 Responses to “Realms of Infamy edited by James Lowder”

  1. Jane Cooper Hong said

    Belated thanks for the review, Travizzt. Just stumbled into it while looking for something else, but it was good to hear from someone who appreciated the story.

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