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Realms of the Deep edited by Philip Athans

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

The terrors of the deep mostly remain unknown. Until now.

Realms of the Deep edited by Philip Athans was released in 1999. The anthology is composed of twelve short stories written by Lynn Abbey, Elaine Cunningham, Peter Archer, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Clayton Emery, Mel Odom, Troy Denning, Larry Hobbs, Thomas M. Reid, Steven E. Schend, and Keith Francis Strohm. Also included is a calendar, telling the names of the various months in the Realms. This anthology goes with The Threat From the Sea trilogy written by Mel Odom, and deals with all things with the sea.

“Hard Choices” by Lynn Abbey- The story is about a sea elf named Shemsen, the lone survivor of a Sahuagin attack on an outpost in Waterdeep Harbor. Shemsen feels uncomfortable as for the reason of his survival and goes deep down to a ship-sized hole called Umberlee’s Cache, where he hears the goddess’ voice giving him orders and a conch shell. Shemsen has to face his past and his origin to make a choice, save his friends or save his blood relatives.
1) Sentence structure. I don’t care for the writing style at times. In the beginning the story was hard to follow because of how it was awkwardly written. It didn’t seem coherent or understandable. It just felt like the words were just thrown down to create a “sentence.”
2) Intertwined Scenes. In the middle of the story there was this scene of Shemsen going to Umberlee’s Cache and recalling his past, which is fine. But how it read made it hard to tell what was the past and what was the present. There were no breaks or clues (right away) that we were in the past.
3) Cliché. I don’t want to go into detail about this without giving away much so needless to say, it’s been done before.
1) Interesting idea. I do like the clichéd concept however. It could have worked pretty well but it just fell flat on its face.
2) Shemsen. While I didn’t feel like you really get to know his struggle, he was an interesting character. I don’t really know why I think this, but I just liked him.
Overall: 2/5
*Cliché, confusing scenes, and sentences in which nothing is really told are the lowlights of this story. It fell flat in many ways and it’s sad because I thought it did have some potential.*

“Fire is Fire” by Elaine Cunningham- The story is about an apprentice wizard, Sydon, when he is protecting Waterdeep Harbor from the attack of the sahuagin. Also there are parts when the battle focuses on a sahuagin soldier and his fight.
1) Rushed. This really felt like a rushed story. It didn’t help that it felt short and just blew by fairly quickly. I wanted to read more and have this story last a little longer.
1) Sydon. He was an interesting character. You felt like he enjoyed throwing magic around and later you really could tell he was very scared and frightened. The emotions he felt were really portrayed well.
2) Action. The action scenes were pretty well written. All the bloodshed and the magic throwing was pretty neat and exciting.
Overall: 4/5
*Pretty fun and interesting story, I just thought it was a little rushed and I really wanted to read more.*

“Messenger to Seros” by Peter Archer- The story is about a merman named Thraxos and his journey to deliver a message to the Sea of Fallen Stars to send some reinforcements to Waterdeep because of the earlier attacks. Along the way, Thraxos gets transported to a place where he meets a little girl who helps him on his way.
1) The Beginning. I didn’t care for the introduction to Thraxos. It seemed cheesy and just overdone with the fish parting and whatnot. It was like I was watching a bad movie were the hero comes out of the flames or something like that.
2) The Ending. It just kind of ended. I don’t know what really happened and it just didn’t seem like it should have ended.
1) Thraxos. He was an interesting character because he didn’t seem like the kind of character that you would read about. He wasn’t really remarkable yet I liked him. Also I like how he was very flawed in some aspects. He just felt different.
2) The Middle. This was a pretty good part of the story. All the events, even the mundane ones, were pretty interesting and exciting.
Overall: 3/5
*What really made this story not work was the sudden ending. It was just too abrupt and sudden.*

“The Place Where Guards Snore at Their Posts” by Ed Greenwood- The story mainly focuses on an apprentice mage named Brandor and how he is a prankster of a mercenary company, the Black Buckler Band, stationed on the island of Mintarn.
1) Inconsistent. I just felt that somethings about the story was a little inconsistent. For example, I was lead to believe that Brandor never really spoken to the Tyrant of Mintarn’s daughter Shalara, yet later on it said that they talked often. Unless I miss read, which could be seeing as-
2) Sentence Structure. The sentence structure was horrible. I couldn’t make sense of what I was reading at times, and then other times I didn’t know who did what. This really brought the overall story down. It’s just too confusing and seemed to lack a few key details a lot.
3) The First Scene. One word can describe this… Irreverent. It doesn’t seem to have any significance upon the story, and it seemed the “plan” that was brought up wasn’t even used. Just pointless. Heck, the way the beginning was going I thought it was going to be an interesting story. Yet, nothing came out of this.
1) Brandor. The only real good thing was the main character, and even he wasn’t that interesting. While the idea behind him was really overused, he at least made the story bearable. The reason for this is because everyone knows he’s a troublemaker, and that his pranks are pretty funny and a little elaborate.
Overall: 1/5
*Confusing, confusing, and pointless seems to be the idea behind this story. I wasn’t interested and it sure didn’t try to keep my interest. Seriously, what was up with that first part?*

“Lost Cause” by Richard Lee Byers- The story is about a little village of Port Llast and their battle against crabmen and giant jellyfish. The telling of the story is through the eyes of Sergeant Kendrack of how the port’s new First Captain, Hylas of Elturel, is trying to deal with the problem.
1) Entertaining. Everything about this story is entertaining. It’s fast paced, funny, and action packed at times. Just a real fun story.
2) Sergeant Kendrack. He was an interesting character. You got to see his doubts as well as what he thinks about the First Captain. Also, how he deals with the garrison made him seem like a general leader.
3) Hylas. Although he comes off as a pompous, arrogant fool, it was nice to see how he changed. Also it’s surprising how the men regarded him in the beginning than at the end.
Overall: 5/5
*Maybe it’s because of the dreadful Greenwood story, but Richard Lee Byers really made this story fun and interesting. It was well written and kept me wanting more.*

“Forged In Fire” by Clayton Emery- The story is about a pirate captain named Heart of a Lion as his pirate crew is attacking a merchant vessel. The merchants put of a good fight, but alas they surrender. However, before anyone can celebrate, threats from the deep decide to join in.
1) Word Choice. I felt that at times, some of the words seemed wrong and didn’t make much sense to me. Mainly because I have no knowledge of boating/ sailing terms. But never the less, there were times when I didn’t follow what was going on because of a certain word didn’t seem to make much sense.
1) Action. The action I thought was well done. It was exciting and felt like it was well done.
2) Descriptions. I thought the way Clayton Emery described some of the creatures and whatnot were very helpful and pretty in-depth. He did a good job in painting a picture in my mind.
Overall: 4/5
*Pretty good story. It was fun to read and really kept the excitement at all times it seemed.*

“One Who Swims With Sekolah” by Mel Odom- The story focuses on how the sahuagin of the Alamber Sea were able to break down the Sharksbane Wall and be able to swim in the Sea of Fallen Stars. The focus of the story is on a priestess of Sekolah, the god of the sahuagin, a malenti named Laaqueel and her part in finding the ways to break down the wall. She serves the self-proclaimed king of the sahuagin, Iakhovas, who ironically, isn’t sahuagin. The story (I believe) ties in with Mel Odom’s Threat From the Sea trilogy, which this anthology comes from.
1) Background. Okay, so this is a personal fault I found with the story. I haven’t read Mel Odom’s Threat From the Sea trilogy as of yet, so I don’t know the background of what is happening. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to read that trilogy before reading this, but I digress.
1) Characters. Every main character in the story is interesting and creative. Laaqueel and Iakhovas are both the main focuses and they don’t disappoint. Laaqueel is fairly straightforward, she at times seemed level head and at others her sahuagin side gets the best of her but she was very interesting. She didn’t seem as heartless as some of the other characters who are malenti, but at the same time she was bloodthirsty and cruel. Then to top it off, she still remained somewhat of a mystery. Continuing with that thought, Iakhovas is a total mystery. You get glimpses and looks of what and who he is but it never really is throughly covered in too much detail and it works very well.
2) Exciting. The whole story is exciting. I felt that every aspect (characters, plot, etc.) were really well done and did have me at the edge of my seat at times. It never really got boring or slow, and even when it started to, it still made it very interesting.
Overall: 5/5
*Granted I had an issue with it, but it was of no fault to the story. The characters were the big highlight along with the way it was told. Everything was just well done and I really do want to read the trilogy now.*

“The Crystal Reef” by Troy Denning- The story is about two reef giants, Tanetoa and Kani, caught in between the war between the surface races and the water races. All Tanetoa wants to do is protect his reef and not get into the middle of the conflict but things don’t go the way he wants them to.
1) Descriptions. The wonderful description of the reef makes you really picture it in your mind. It really is the main focus of the story and it really does show.
2) Conflict. I like how Troy Denning did the conflict here. You really feel sorry for Tanetoa because all he wants is to not get involved, yet human’s and locathah’s (a race of nomadic fishmen) both make Tanetoa choice their respective sides. Then things start to fall apart. It was just done wonderfully and you do feel bad for what happens to Tanetoa.
Overall: 5/5
*Great story about a peaceful person being forced into some conflict they don’t want to be in. I really did feel bad about Tanetoa.*

“The Patrol” by Larry Hobbs- The story is about a recruit named Riordan, who is a watchmen for the city named Cimbar. Riordan is not liked by the other watchmen because of the mistakes and unnecessary dangers he puts on others. Throughout the story, Riordan slowly becomes a better swordsman and watchmen with the help from a former companion of his father named Bashar. When the everyone in the city thinks it’s under attack by a rival city, Riordan and Bashar find out that it’s not the case and that the creatures of the deep are the attackers.
1) Simple. Usually I don’t mind a story being simple, but this one just seemed like it was just to easy. For example, how fast Riordan picks up on becoming a better swordsman. It just happens within a few days. Not only that but just the overall story was simple.
2) Cliché. The reason the story was simple because it was just so clichéd. Who would have thought that the main character was of noble blood. Seen it before right? Then a “wise old man” teaches our hero. Done before. Now these things aren’t terrible or awful, but just felt like they weren’t really original and fresh.
1) Riordan. Even though his back story and training were kind of clichéd and simple, he was an enjoyable character. He really seemed to wanted to be taken seriously by his fellow watchmen. It just felt “real” in a way.
2) Elf. While this may spoil a little bit of the plot, the elf that they encounter was pretty interesting. He wasn’t overused and seemed to really connect the story together. I just like the use of the elf.
Overall: 3/5
*It’s not really a bad story, just wasn’t that original. The characters were pretty good and the plot was solid.*

“Star of Tethyr” by Thomas M. Reid- The story is about a crewman named Merrick on a naval ship called Lancer. While the building of a new flagship for Tethyr, an attack happens in which Merrick has to defend the new ship, called Star of Tethyr.
1) Merrick. He isn’t the normal “superhuman hero” that really appears in a lot of Forgotten Realms books. He doesn’t do anything really remarkable or heroic, and that is want makes him a good character. The most heroic thing he does is wound a dragon turtle, after three shots. But it didn’t seem to matter because you got to see this young crewman become a “man” and a true sailor from this attack.
2) Action. The battle was wonderful. While not to overly detailed, there was just enough to make the surrounding fighting really impressive. It’s just perfect really, not overdone or underdone. Also, the time between each focus was good. It was just enough to make it okay to switch to another fight, instead of the random moving some authors use.
Overall: 5/5
*Good story about a normal person being normal. That may sound bland, but in reality, it worked really well, and I can’t really explain why that is.*

“Persana’s Blade” by Steven E. Schend- The story is about a young triton named Keros who, by fate, becomes something called the Persana’s Blade. While Keros is cleaning a mural, it starts to break apart, knocking him unconscious. Upon awaking to his little sister trying to awake him, he finds the place a war zone, the triton’s were under attack. His mother tells him to take his sister and a sword far away from there and he does. However, hearing his mothers scream he turns around and heads back. Seeing his parents in trouble, he attacks the leader of the raid and comes away with some unexpected consequences.
1) Rushed. The whole story had a feeling of, “gotta finish, gotta finish now, Now, NOW.” There wasn’t any time to catch your breath. Another result of this rushed feeling is that everything seemed to jump around a lot. And I mean A LOT.
2) What Just Happened? The first part of the story you see Keros cleaning a mural, then the mural breaks apart, the wall behind breaks apart, and then he gets knocked out. When he wakes up, it doesn’t feel like right after him being knocked out, more like days later. Oh so I was lead to believe it was days later when in fact it was pretty much right after. The sense of time was really messed up.
3) Characters. Bland, unimpressive, and simple. No one stood out in my mind. Maybe it’s because a new name seemed to be added on every page and each person was just not very memorable. I’m not a fan of the name throwing game that I’ve seen some other authors do, it just really complicates things. Also, it doesn’t allow you to begin to like the main character(s).
4) Lack of Descriptions of Creatures. I’m never picked up a DnD Monster Manuel (Is that it’s called?) nor have played a game like that (not counting video games), so when some of this creatures popped up, I have no idea about what they looked like. For example, I don’t know anything about a triton’s or morkoth’s. It just made me scratch my head and wonder what they look like. While the triton was described later, the morkoth never really was, or wasn’t enough so I could picture it clearly. This is just really a personal problem but I like to know what creatures look like…
1) Idea. I do like the concept and idea of the story. Be it a little cliché, it still held promise.
Overall: 1/5
*Rushed, rushed, and rushed. There wasn’t any real good descriptions, any chance to know what is going on and at some points you have no idea how you ended up there. Not to mention the name throwing and the bland, boring characters.*

“And The Dark Tide Rises” by Keith Francis Strohm- The story is about a young fisherman named Morgan Kevlynson and his part in spreading the news of the sahuagin attacks. While fishing with his grandfather, Morgan notices, or daydreams, seeing a sea elf next to the boat. Morgan is always being called “Sea-touched” because he as a certain fixation on the sea. During the night, he hears is name in the wind and goes out to investigate. He finds that the source of the voice is, in fact, coming from a sea elf, the same one he thought he saw earlier. She tells Morgan about the sahuagin invasion and to go warn a wizard named Dhavrim. Morgan sets off to warn him and comes across the horrors of the deep.
1) Slow. There were parts in which I thought were unbearably slow-moving. They didn’t really impact the story but I just felt that they were a little annoying.
2) The “Love” Story. The whole Morgan and Avadriel love interested seem lack luster. It wasn’t done very well to make it believe able and at times I thought it was the point. What I mean is, it seems from Morgan’s view that they loved each other but it just didn’t seem to work.
1) Morgan. He was a good character. Not all that great and powerful but good nonetheless. I think that’s what I liked about him… He seemed average. It really did work for the story.
2) Mood. The mood of the story was pretty unique. The middle section really had a sense of desperation. The only thing that didn’t work was the romantic feeling. But you could really feel the desperation.
Overall: 3/5
*It’s really just an average story. The average character of Morgan worked well because of this.*


*It really boils down to an average anthology. Yes, there were great and interesting stories within, but at the same time there were bland and boring ones as well. But I did find them interesting in that they all talk about the Forgotten Realms sea life, which isn’t in very many books.*

Highlights: “Star of Tethyr” by Thomas M. Reid, “The Crystal Reef” by Troy Denning, “One Who Swims With Sekolah” by Mel Odom, and “Lost Cause” by Richard Lee Byers.

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