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Realms of the Underdark edited by J. Robert King

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

The Underdark is full of mysteries, but most of them you don’t want to know exist.


Realms of the Underdark edited by J. Robert King was released in 1996. This anthology has five short stories by Mark Anthony, Ed Greenwood, Elaine Cunningham, Roger E. Moore, and Brian M. Thomsen. Thomsen also writes the preface and the postscript. As you can guess, the stories written in here have to do with the Underdark and those who live there.

Preface: At the Publishing House by Brian M. Thomsen
This little introduction is about the publisher of Tym Waterdeep Limited named Justin Tym as he worries over next years submissions and how his best author, Volo, and his relationship went downhill.
*I’m not going to comment on this seeing as it just introduces the story.*

The Fires of Narbondel by Mark Anthony
This story follows Zaknafein Do’Urden, the father of the ever famous Drizzt Do’Urden, on his quest to find a dagger for Matron Malice Do’Urden to gain Lloth’s, the Spider Queen’s, favor.
Negatives:
I have no problems with the story.
Positives:
1) Zaknafein. R. A. Salvatore may have created the weapon master, but Mark Anthony really brought him to life. I was really excited to read and see how Zaknafein looked being written by someone else and I was not disappointed. There was an added depth into the character and you really see how Zak is Zak.
2) Drizzt. Everyone’s favorite drow. This is pretty much the same case as above. I think that Mark Anthony really nailed Salvatore’s character, albeit Drizzt is only 11 years old, but pretty much mimicked how Drizzt was in Salvatore’s Homeland. At the same time, there was a new “twist” on to Drizzt character. I know this is blasphemy, but after reading this story… I really would have liked to see how Mark Anthony portrayed Drizzt in his never to be published book Shores of Dusk.
3) Mark Anthony. I just can’t believe how well he took the characters that Salvatore created and pretty much made it feel like it was a Salvatore story. From Zak to Malice, Drizzt to Briza, he really did a wonderful job at creating these characters.
4) Jalynfein. Now I won’t give up a lot of stuff on who this is, but I just WANT to read more about this character. He is very interesting and it’s a shame that he only appears on a few pages.
Overall: 5/5
*I’m just utterly blown away by this story.*

A Slow Day in Skullport by Ed Greenwood
The main story is about three people taking on a beholder to “save” a noblewoman. That’s about as in-depth as I can get when trying to summarize this story.
Negatives:
1) Too much. The reason why I can’t accurately summarize the story is because, well, there is just so much going on. I wasn’t even sure everything that happened was really supposed to be happening. It just was a mishmash of little pointless scenes and more headache driven pacing. I still don’t know what actually happened.
2) Pointless scenes. There were a bunch of useless, meaningless scenes. The story probably could have just been 20 pages if you took away all the uselessness. The scenes with Elminster and Halaster served no real purpose. I’m still clueless about why they were in here. I have no explanation at all.
3) Pacing. The scenes went by too fast to be able to make sense out of anything. I wasn’t even sure what was really supposed to be happening. One minute you’re looking through the eyes of Asper, the next Durnan suddenly did something that we missed and then Mirt did something else that I have no idea how he did it. It just needed to slow down a little.
Positives:
1) Dramatis Personae. At least you get to see who all played a part in this mess. It is nice to see who the characters are and everything. The only thing is, why list people who didn’t give anything except a line or just a very brief appearance? Still, some of the things said in here about the characters are pretty funny.
2) Main story. Now, even though I still can’t decipher what was going on, the main story was pretty interesting. The whole fight with the beholder was fun and exciting. Then the missing noblewoman was an interesting twist.
3) Asper, Durnan, and Mirt. The main characters were pretty interesting as well. Asper, in my opinion, was by fair the best of the trio with her acrobatics and agility. It was fun to read about all her “crazy” moves. Durnan was interesting in that he is a tavern keeper, yet adventurer and that in his “age” he can still put up a good fight. Mirt was interesting because even though he was “bigger,” he was agile and “smooth” with the women for some odd reason.
Overall: 2/5
*Too much going on to make any sense of it. My head is still trying to figure it all out. The only redeeming qualities were the character list at the end and the beholder fight.*

Rite of Blood by Elaine Cunningham
The story is about Liriel Baenre, the daughter of Gromph Baenre, who is the archmage of Menzoberranzan. Liriel is an up and coming mage, under the tutelage of Xandra Shobalar, the Mistress of Magic. During this time, Liriel is coming of age and is to undertake a ritual called “The Blooding” in which she would make her first kill and become a true drow. However, things don’t go as Liriel thought they would.
Negatives:
I can’t think of anything wrong about this story.
Positives:
1) Liriel. She’s a very interesting character and it’s nice to see a little more into her background than what we read in Starlight and Shadows trilogy. You can see how innocent, yet at the same time, not she is. And I liked that we get to see how bright and cunning she really is.
2) Story. The whole story was wonderful. From the start to the finish, everything was well done and it really made you want to read and finish the story.
3) Look into a drow’s mind. This really did offer a good look into how cunning and devious drow’s are. You can get a great sense of how cold and calculating they are. Also, you get a sense that not all drow’s are born evil, but become more and more twisted into being that way.
Overall: 5/5
*Great look into a drow’s mind and a great story revolving around Liriel Baenre.

Sea of Ghosts by Roger E. Moore
The story revolves around a deep gnome named Wykar and a derro named Geppo in search of a treasure that they buried when enslaved by drow. Wykar is utterly determined to destroy an egg, while promising that Geppo can have the gold. Along the way, peril and danger await them, along with betrayal.
Negatives:
1) Raurogh’s Hall. The scenes involving the little community of Raurogh’s Hall, were quite honestly, boring. I didn’t see the point to add them in there, sure it may have been more interesting if more thought and relevance to the story would have been into this part. The main thing I got out of this is they have an earthquake, a fisher women counts till she hears a splash and becomes a hero. Exciting.
2) Plains of Eastern Shaar. Once again, the same reason as above. It was almost as pointless. It was boring and at times, made no real sense to the plot. However, it does get somewhat tied in at the end, and I might be stretching it.
3) Geppo’s Speech. It did not seem like he was slow, in fact the reason he talked like that was because of a metal wire their drow masters tied around his neck. But why does that make him talk so, for lack of a better term, stupid? Granted, he probably couldn’t pronounce certain words, but come on…
Positives:
1) Wykar and Geppo. Both the characters were pretty thought out and very interesting. Wykar’s paranoia about Geppo betraying him was well done. Throughout the story, he doesn’t trust Geppo. Geppo on the other hand gets interesting towards the end, and because I don’t want to give anything away, his back story was touching and sad. And it makes me think that he really is mentally challenged. Even the relationship between the characters was very interesting. Geppo seemed to wholly trust Wykar, while Wykar didn’t seem to trust in Geppo at all. It made for an interesting story.
2) The End. The ending came unexpected and was very heart wrenching. It was one of those moments when I have to take a break, else I might lose it. It was that emotional and sad for me.
Overall: 4/5
*Even though I had some major problems with some scenes, the ending is what really made this story wonderful. It really made me feel some sort of sorrow for the two main characters.*

Volo Does Menzo by Brian M. Thomsen
The story is about a maître d’/waiter/cook named Percival Gallard Woodehous, commonly called Pig and the renowned traveling author Volo in their journey to Menzoberranzan, as prisoners.
Negatives:
1) Courun and Haukun. These were pathetic excuses for drow. It was terrible seeing how inept they are. I thought that all drow were a certain way…
Positives:
1) Percival. Every interesting character. He seemed like a maître d’ and was a very well done character.
2) Volo. I haven’t really read much about Volo, and it was interesting to see his personality and how complex a character he is at times. You couldn’t get very much information with the short stories that featured him.
3) Humor. An amazingly funny story. Mostly because of the ineptness of the drow duo.
Overall: 4/5
*It seemed like this should have been a little shorter and it really did feel pretty fast and short.*

Postscript: Back at the Publishing House by Brian M. Thomsen
Just pretty much wraps up the previous story and wraps up the anthology.
*Once again, not really commenting on this.*

OVERALL ANTHOLOGY: 4/5
*Good stories overall, except for the Ed Greenwood confusion laced story.*

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