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Realms of Magic edited by Brian Thomsen and J. Robert King

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

Stories full of magic and wonder, hopefully this isn’t any sleight of hand trick!


Realms of Magic edited by Brian Thomsen and J. Robert King was released in 1995 and is now out of print today (2009). This anthology has 17 short stories by R. A. Salvatore, Jeff Grubb, Mark Anthony, Christie Golden, Ed Greenwood, Dave Gross, Kate Novak-Grubb, Douglas Niles, Allen C. Kupfer, David Cook, Jean Rabe, Mary H. Herbert, William W. Connors, Tom Dupree, J. Robert King, Roger E. Moore, and Elaine Cunningham. Also included are a prologue and epilogue, both written by Brian Thomsen. The stories feature some of the Forgotten Realms most powerful wizards and magical artifacts.

Prologue by Brian Thomsen
As all prologues due, they set up the story and here is no different. Volo, a renown story-teller, goes to meet with his editor, Justin Tym, about his next book. During the conversation, Volo tells Justin that he’s  working on stories about magic, and proceeds to tell Justin a few.
Instead of me listing my negatives and positives, here is what I thought…
It’s funny and sets up the short stories pretty well.

Guenhwyvar by R. A. Salvatore
The story is about how Drizzt Do’Urden’s faithful feline companion was magically “created.”
Negatives:
1) Character Development. I thought that the characters of Josidiah Starym and the mage Anders Beltgarden were interesting, but they weren’t developed enough. I would like to read more about Guenhwyvar’s adventures with Josidiah.
Positives:
1) Interesting. I thought that the story in general was interesting and fun to read. I’ve always wondered how Guenhwyvar came to be and I wasn’t let down.
2) Characters. Josidiah and Anders were interesting characters as well, and like I mentioned I wish that there were more written about them.
Overall: 5/5
*Needed some more character development, otherwise it was wonderful to see how Guenhwyvar came to be.*

Smoke Powder and Mirrors by Jeff Grubb
The story is about a young apprentice mage named Jehan Wands. Jehan is upset that his teacher, his uncle, is making him work that has nothing to do with learning magic, and he goes out drinking with his friends to complain about it. During his tirade, Jehan brings up that the elder mages are not for change, namely in smoke powder (basically gun powder) and a merchant overhearing this asks Jehan to help him with moving some powder. Things don’t go as planned…
Negatives:
1) “?”. Whenever Khanos, the merchant talks, all his sentences end with a question mark. I don’t know why but it got kind of hard to understand what was the question being asked, and after a while I figured that it just seemed to show his dialect is different.
Positives:
1) Plot. The plot was wonderful and interesting. It kept me interested, and the scenes were down really well.
2) The end. I didn’t expect what happened to happen. I was wondering how he was going to make it out of there and how didn’t really disappoint.
Overall: 5/5
*Fun story, that’s all it really is.*

The Magic Thief by Mark Anthony
The story is about the city called Iriaebor’s “greatest wizard,” Morhion Gen’dahar. Morhion gets an invitation to meet a man named Zeth that, according to Zeth, would benefit them both. Morhion goes but soon realizes that he has to work without his magic to get it back.
Negatives:
1) Morhion’s characteristics. The problem I have with Morhion is that he seems to nice to be a wizards. Yes, some wizards are generally kind and whatnot, but Morhion is just too nice. I don’t know why this bugs me, maybe it’s just that I think that wizards are a little self-centered (he is by the way).
Positives:
1) Pacing. Fast paced and pretty exciting. I didn’t expect what happened to happen and even at the end, I knew the one small thing would be Zeth’s downfall. But it was a fast and exciting story.
2) Use of tricks. I liked how Morhion used some tricks to track down Zeth. I like how he figured out how to get into his protected tower and to get past a gate. It was pretty ingenious.
Overall: 4/5
*Good story, but I just don’t see how Morhion is just so “nice.”*

The Quiet Place by Christie Golden
The story follows the sun elf vampire Jander Sunstar and his ongoing quest to find a cure for his vampirism. During his travels, he comes across a sacred grove where he can live without his curse of vampirism, but would be unable to leave the grove. During his stay, a monk of Silvanus named Oakbrother Endris becomes friends with Jander. However, the abbey in which the monk gets attack and Jander has to make a hard choice, leave the grove and help or stay and watch it burn.
You know what? NO NEGATIVES!!!
Positives:
One word… Jander. One of my top five favorite characters. Yes, this review of this story is going to have a biasness attached to it. I will say that Christie Golden does a wonderful job with always keeping her stories about Jander tragic, like it was in Vampire of the Mists. And honestly, that is what really appeals to me about Jander. He is a hero in which things don’t work out for the better, yet the actions that happen always reinforces why Jander is good and noble. And the this story is no exception.
Overall: 5/5
*JANDER SUNSTAR! Need I say more?*

The Eye of the Dragon by Ed Greenwood
The story focuses on Ambreene Hawkwinter, the youngest daughter of the Hawkwinter family and a failing starting mage. Her grandmother, the matron of the house, is dying and gives Ambreene a jewel called the Eye of the Dragon, which can take memories. Upon going to Khelben Blackstaff, Ambreene wanted Khelben to save her grandmother but refuses. Ambreene swears revenge on Khelben, but does she get her revenge?
Negatives:
1) To many people. Once again, Ed Greenwood names off to many characters. While, there isn’t too many characters, it still was a lot for a short story.
Positives:
1) Flow. It was really well paced and flowed great. It was fast paced and actually interesting.
2) Ending. I liked the ending. I didn’t expect it and am glad it ends like it does.
Overall:4/5
*This is the FIRST Ed Greenwood short story I liked. The only problem was the character naming*

Every Dog His Day by Dave Gross
The story is about a boy named Jame searching for chasing his sister’s, Dauna, with the help of a dog names King. During the search, Jame comes across a mage who knows King very well and tells Jame of Kings secret. With this secret, Jame and King goes to find his sister.
Negatives:
1) The title. I think it’s an error that should read “Every Dog Has His Day.” It just is a little annoying to see it just saying Every Dog His Day. Doesn’t make much sense does it?
2) Descriptions. I didn’t like the descriptions and it felt like B-movie dialogue.
3) In the beginning, I don’t recall King getting spices thrown at him, causing him to whimper, maybe it’s because the story isn’t memorable.
Positives:
1) Child’s view. The view-point in what Jame, a younger person, would see and describe was pretty good.
2) The invisibility cap. That was pretty interesting on how Jame used it and how he felt when he was using it.
Overall: 2/5
*Not a memorable story and it didn’t hold my attention to much.*

The Common Spell by Kate Novak-Grubb
This is a story within a story with a story. Kith Lais, a teacher that teaches reading and writing, is trying to get her class to learn this. The class doesn’t seem to want to, so she starts telling a story about Alias and Dragonbait and how they were searching for a vampiric creature called a penanggalan. While Alias and Dragonbait are searching they tell a story of an adventuring group that stayed in Westgate with a weaver and her young apprentice. The youngest of the group, a mageling befriends the apprentice and teaches her to read and write. However, Alias’ story isn’t the right one and the stories all become connected in a way.
Negatives:
1) Predictable. The only thing that I felt was wrong with the story is that it was really predictable. You can, after a few pages into the story within the story, know who someone really is.
Positives:
1) Length. Being about ten pages, there is a lot of story “crammed” in and it was well written and done wonderfully.
2) Stories. The ones within the main story, were very interesting. Seeing Kith’s class asking questions about this and that about the story made it really easy to follow.
Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
It was just a little to predictable, but all in all, a good story.

The First Moonwell by Douglas Niles
The story is about creating the Moonshae Islands on Toril, the planet in which the Forgotten Realms setting takes place.
Negatives:
1) Creation Story. I don’t really enjoy creation stories. They are generally confusing and just bothersome with things that I wouldn’t know.
2) Second half. The second half of the story didn’t really mix well with the first part. It really seemed like two different stories with only the ending that connected the both.
Positives:
1) Creative. I do admit that the story was very original and creative. The descriptions of what “the goddess” was feeling and “seeing” were very interesting.
Overall: 3/5
*Like I said, I don’t like creation stories. However, this is my second time reading this one and I understand what was going on more this time than the first time. *

The Luck of Llewellyn the Loquacious by Allen C. Kupfer
The story is about a man names Llewellyn the Loquacious and his dealings with two bands of halfling (and one gnome) mercenaries that are looking for a treasure.
Negatives:
1) Dialogue. I didn’t really enjoy the dialogue at some points in the story. It was kind of hard to follow and most of the time didn’t make much sense.
2) Details, or lack there of. There wasn’t much back story and I left that there really needed to be.
Positives:
1) Llewellyn the Loquacious. He was a very unique character. I liked how he seemed to be “playing” both groups.
2) The “promises.” Going back to how I liked Llewellyn, I also enjoyed how he made these vows to each group and eventually broke them for himself. He made these “plans” and vows so believable that you could believe that he was going to do what he said he was going to do.
Overall: 3/5
*I felt that it needed a little more back story and some of the dialogue was oddly worded.*

Too Familiar by David Cook
The story is about a court wizard named Brown Maeve that is in search for a familiar. But she gets a little more than she bargained for.
Negatives:
1) Slow. It was slow to pick up and at times, I had a hard time figuring out what was going on.
2) Characters. Brown Maeve was boring. She wasn’t unique or really all that interesting. Will o’ Horse-Shank was nothing but a character that was uninteresting.
Positives:
1) The last few scenes. Those scenes were interesting and I was waiting to see what happened in them.
2) Fiddlenose. I really did like this character. He was simple, yet interesting with his pursuit of a farm cat.
Overall: 3/5
*Most of the characters were boring and that the pacing of the story really made a lot of scenes chores to read through.*

Red Ambition by Jean Rabe
The story is about Szass Tam, a lich red wizard zulkir (a ruler) of Thay. Szass Tam’s apprentice, Frodyne, tells Tam about a crown that she overheard a person talking about. Szass Tam sends a skeletal army to go recover the artifact but quickly loses touch with them. He goes there to see what the problem is and finds out not everything is what it seems and that goddesses are more cunning than he is.
Negatives:
None.
Positives:
1) Szass Tam. I like his character. He is interesting and wonderfully evil.
2) End. I like the ending. Everything that happens is clever and unique.
Overall: 5/5
*Fun, interesting story with a very memorable villain.*

Thieves’ Reward by Mary H. Herbert
The story follows a horse thief named Teza and her return to Immilmar, her home after leaving because of a price on her head. Teza runs into an old “friend” named Rafbit, who is forming a Thieves Guild in Immilmar and wants Teza to be his second-in-command. All Teza has to do is steal a book, yet with so simple a job things can go very wrong.
Negatives:
1) Predictable. This wasn’t a really big problem, but there were somethings that were very predictable and that you could see them coming miles away.
Positives:
1) Teza. She is a very interesting character and really well thought out.
2) Plot. From the beginning to the end, the story was interesting and exciting.
Overall: 4/5
*Even though it was predictable, it’s a fun, entertaining story.*

Six of Swords by William W. Conners
The story starts up as a thief named Jaybel getting murdered. It turns out that him and his wife, Gwynn, were members of an adventuring group called Six of Swords and were the first two that were found murdered. Two other members of the group, Orlando and Lelanda, go off to Waterdeep to uncover clues about their former friends deaths and along the way they stop by another members tower named Jolind to warn her. However, they find something they never expected waiting for them.
Negatives:
1) The ending. The lack of action and what happens really bothered me. It just sorta ends.
Positives:
1) The beginning. It really drew me in and made me want to know what was happening to the group.
2) Six of Swords. They were an interesting group and had a lot of back story adventures glanced over and I would have liked to read about some of them.
Overall: 4/5
*Good story that left me wanting to read more about this groups adventures, however, the main problem was the sudden ending.*

The Wild Bunch by Tom Dupree
The story is a story within a story. The main story is about an apprentice magician who doesn’t think he needs to study how to learn magic from a teacher. His teacher starts to tell him a story. This story that the teacher tells is about a young magician named Wiglaf Evertongue who, like the apprentice in the main story, thinks he needs to experience magic and not have it taught to him. Wiglaf goes an “steals” a robe that “helps” in casting magic. However, the robe isn’t all it seems, as well as, the teacher isn’t all he seems.
Negatives:
1) Dialogue. Some of the dialogue seems misplaced. For example, in the first scene towards the end, the teacher says two things that don’t fit together. Also, some of the dialogue is a little bland.
2) The ending. All I will say is that the main storyline ending was predictable.
Positives:
1) Humor. It was a pretty funny story. The whole scene in which Wiglaf needs to “show” his newfound abilities was pretty funny and clever.
2) Twist. The story within the story’s ending had a pretty clever twist. I’d never expect that person as the master mage.
Overall: 4/5
*Overall, a funny story. The biggest problem I have with the dialogue.*

A Worm Too Soft… by J. Robert King
The story is about a Waterdeep rogue named Bolton Quiad and his new job. The job is to secure a huge emerald for a woman named Olivia Verdlar and her getaway retreat called Stranded Tern. With such an easy job for a stunning woman with immense wealth, Bolton thinks he has it made. However, not everything is what it seems.
Negatives:
1) Slow Start. The story really has a slow start and it really felt like a chore to read through the first few pages.
2) Wording. Some of the wording didn’t seem to fit every once in a while. I guess it would be the word choices were the problem.
Positives:
1) Twist. I honestly did not see the twist coming at all. It was a shock yet it was very good.
2) The ending. What happens at the end to Olivia is just clever and sort of unique. I didn’t expect it nor did I ever think it would have ended like that.
Overall: 4/5
*The twist is what really makes this short story great. I didn’t see it coming and it came as an absolute surprise.*

Gunne Runner by Roger E. Moore
The story is about a wizard named Formathio on his way to have dinner with The Yellow Mage, who is going to show off his new “toy”, which is a gun. Upon arriving, Formathio finds his friend murder and a watch captain named Civilar Ardrum enlists Formathio to help bring down his friends murderer.
Negatives:
1) Guns. I don’t like that they are in here and everything. It just makes the Realms kind of cheap in my opinion.
2) Over my head. There were a few things that mentioned in the end that were really way over my head. I don’t know anything about these things so I was totally lost.
Positives:
1) Entertaining. Even though it’s about guns… The story is really fun and entertaining.
2) Formathio and Ardrum. These characters were really interesting, particularly Ardrum special “skill.”
Overall: 2/5
*My personal bias is in this rating, just because I loathe the idea of guns in the Realms…*

The Direct Approach by Elaine Cunningham
The story follows Liriel Baenre and her encounter with a barbarian warrior named Vasha the Red, who traveled through time to find a runecaster named Toth. Liriel helps Vasha find Toth in exchange for knowledge of rune magic.
Negatives:
1) When. I could not figure out when this story occurred in Liriel history. It kind of bugged me a little.
2) Vasha. I just felt that this character was really very annoying and I honestly didn’t like reading what she said.
Positives:
1) Concept. The whole “time coin” idea is pretty interesting, and that Vasha came through time to find Toth.
2) Ending. I do like how Liriel decides to capture Toth. The treachery of the drow…
Overall: 4/5
*Even though I didn’t like Vasha, it was an interesting concept and story with a good lesson at the end.*

Epilogue by Brian Thomsen
A basic continuation from the prologue involving Volo and his publisher Justin Tym. However things aren’t as they seem once Volo leaves.
*It just sort of leaves you wondering what the heck happened?

OVERALL ANTHOLOGY: 5/5
*I do have to say that a lot of these stories were just wonderful and great. Amazing plots, memorable characters, and unexpected twists are the major highlights of the anthology. I’m honestly amazed that the stories averaged a 5 out of 5.*

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