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Realms of War edited by Philip Athans

Posted by travizzt on November 4, 2009

War is hell, and these stories show why. Remember, “War, war never changes”.


Realms of War
edited by Philip Athans- This anthology is included in The Twilight War trilogy by Paul S. Kemp. Comprised of twelve short stories by Paul S. Kemp, Lisa Smedman, Susan J. Morris, Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Jess Lebow, Mark Sehestedt, Elaine Cunningham, Mel Odom, Jaleigh Johnson, R. A. Salvatore, and Richard Lee Byers. There are many famous characters from the Forgotten Realms that appear in the different stories.

Continuum by Paul S. Kemp
This short story fills in some of the back story found in the third book of The Twilight War trilogy entitled Shadowrealm. So it takes place between the second and third book of the trilogy. It first tells of Rivalen Tanthul’s conversion to Shar, the Lady of Loss. Then it fills the reader in with what happened to Varra and how Rivalen’s brother, Brennus, finds their mothers’ necklace.
Negatives:
1) Rivalen. The short story didn’t really add much to the character, only how he converted and how he feels towards Shar. There really wasn’t any added dimension or anything to the character.
Positives:
1) Brennus. Throughout the trilogy, you didn’t really hear too much about the younger brother. He showed up here and there, but didn’t get a lot of the limelight. In this short story, he is interesting and is more dimensional than I thought Rivalen was.
2) What happened to Varra? I was wondering what did happen to Varra during Shadowrealm, and it’s good to see that we find out. I was obvious who she was talking to, but what happens I really felt comfortable with and it explained a lot without going into too much detail.
3) Answers. When I was reading Shadowrealm, I always wondered by how Brennus found his mothers’ necklace and with what happened to Varra. I am happy that the questions I had were answered and I think I should have read the short story before going into Shadowrealm.
Overall: 4.5/5
*While a good short story, Rivalen just seemed to be there. However, Brennus and Varra did become a little more than secondary characters and were interesting.*

Weasel’s Run by Lisa Smedman
This story follows Weasel, who is a spriggan (a creature that can change sizes) that tries to escape priests of Malar, the Beastlord, in their hunt. The priests are halfling werewolves, who follow their leader names The Beast.
Negatives:
1) Confusing. I just felt confused at times. I’m not all that knowing on creatures of the Realms or anything so a lot of these things Lisa Smedman included, I didn’t know about. That and the time frame was weird, I kind of forgot that -67 is farther back than the more recent -65. But that wasn’t the big problem. I just felt that the jumping between the years just seemed confusing and got me lost at times.
2) War? Seeing as this is the Realms of War, I would think it would have been a more action focused. Yes there was fighting, but it wasn’t really touched on.
Positives:
1) Fast paced. Even though I had to take a moment to figure out what was that thing, I was relatively fast. The chase scenes were appropriately paced and it left you with a sense of urgency.
2) Creative. The story was pretty creative at parts in which Weasel tries to either elude pursuit or when he fights. That was the real highlight I think.
Overall: 3.5/5
*For me, it was just a little to confusing with creatures I never heard of, so I was hard pressed to try to figure out what the descriptions were of these things. *

The Last Paladin of Ilmater by Susan J. Morris
The story centers around two women kidnapping a fallen paladin’s son. Maze, an assassin, and Jaeriko, a druid, decide to kidnap the General of Arrabar’s son by the General of Reth, to stop a war in which the fallen paladin is using ghouls to win the war.
Negatives:
1) Lacking. Some paragraphs seemed to be lacking an important detail. They seemed to be wrapped up either way to quickly or wrapped up in which an action is missing. Then there were times when there wasn’t enough information given about what was going on.
2) Confusing. The story was kind of confusing at times. There were times in which I didn’t know which woman was talking or doing something and I didn’t really know what suddenly happened between the two.
Positives:
1) Interesting ideas. I have to like the overall plot and ideas behind what was going on. They were pretty interesting and new. Who would think a paladin would use ghouls to fight a war? Not only that, but to have him do other unspeakable things to other people, it just felt different, in a good way.
2) Characters. After getting passed who was talking and what was going on, the characters themselves were pretty interesting. Maze was your typical bull-headed leader. Jaeriko was the more interesting of the two. She had a lot of different dimensions and didn’t seem to be your typical main character.
Overall: 3/5
*The confusing aspects and how it sometimes lacked details really made this hard to read and follow clearly. But the overall concept is exciting and fresh.*

Black Arrow by Bruce R. Cordell
The story opens with a letter to a mother saying that her son has died in a battle to save a city called Sarshel. After the letter, the story then follows Jotharam, the son, in what happened.
Negatives:
None. However, I’d liked to know more about what happened to Jotharam and the battle/ war in general.
Positives:
1) Fast paced. I was really sucked into how smooth and fast the story went. I didn’t want to put it down, even after finishing it, I don’t want it to stop.
2) Characters. The characters in the story is perfect. Simple, yet there is enough to make you like them. Yet at the same time, the characters didn’t seem to be overly powerful or important enough that made them invincible, and that was really needed in a story like this.
3) Plot. Simple, yet very effective. It didn’t bog you down with useless information or with so much going on that you couldn’t follow. Simplicity, in this case, is best.
Overall: 5/5
*Great all round with everything*

Too Many Princes by Ed Greenwood
The story is about a war in Amn and how a group of merchant nobles and mercenaries are being kept in a fortified cathedral called Ombreir. The focus of the story is on Mirt the Merciless, the leader of the mercenaries has he tries and find out who is real and who is murdering the merchant nobles.
Negatives:
1) Too many names and characters. This is always a fault I have with Ed Greenwood’s short stories (I have yet to read a full novel by him). He throws at you to many names of characters that quite frankly, you don’t need to know their names.
2) To much information. Yet another fault I have with Ed Greenwood’s short stories. There is an over abundance of trivial and pointless information that is given that doesn’t need to be included in the story at all. Then the useful information that’s given is given in a round-about fashion.
3) The beginning. With all the name throwing and the pointless, over abundant information, it surpasses the point of confusion. I honestly had no idea what the story is about, who it’s about, and what is going on.
Positives:
1) The end. I did like the end. It made sense of the confusion at the beginning and there was even a small twist. I’ve noticed other people didn’t like the fact of the super powerful characters that you find in Ed Greenwood’s work showing up, but to me, it made the ending at least a little comprehensible. Those super powerful characters were like the “voice” of reason, which made sense of the mess that was this short story.
2) The idea. I also liked the idea of what the plot could have been, when I figured it out. It was interesting and could have been very exciting. Basically, a murder mystery with an army coming to kill you, is a great idea.
Overall: 2/5
*Some people liked the beginning, I didn’t. That’s why I’m rating it so low. Simplification would have made this story so much better.*

The Siege of Zerith Hold by Jess Lebow
The story is about a siege happening against Zerith Hold. Lord Purdun and his companion, a half-elf, half-steel dragon named Jivam Tammsel are the main focus of the story as they try to hold Zerith Hold from a force of goblins.
Negatives:
1) Lack of character depth. Purdun and Tammsel seem to be very interesting characters, but they didn’t have enough time to become more fleshed out.
Positives:
1) Action. I hardly ever say this, but I really enjoyed the action. It’s not like I don’t enjoy it, they just always seem to be the same usually. Here though, I really thought it was well done and very exciting.
2) Plot. I did like where the story was heading. You can feel the desperation that the main characters are feeling with the plan they make to have a last-ditch effort to try to live. Simple, yet good.
Overall: 4/5
*The characters really need some work, but seeing all the action involved, a longer story would have made it better.*

Mercy’s Reward by Mark Sehestedt
The story involves a man named Gethred and how he winds up the target of a werebear after freeing a wolf. He escapes the werebear when the army that he escaped capture from hunts him down.
Negatives:
1) Gethred. While he at times, especially in the beginning, seemed to be a fun and interesting character, kind of fell flat towards the middle and at the end. He started with some promise, but didn’t really grow or change all that much.
2) Felt cliché. The story did seem to like feel like I’ve read this before. And yet, Mark Sehestedt wrote another book, Frostfell part of the Wizards series, that kind of dealt with roughly the same things. It was like I was reading something that I’ve before, and during parts of the story, roughly some of the same things happened in Frostfell.
Positives:
1) Pacing. It was a pretty fast read. I have to say that the reason for this is that I was pretty interested about what happens.
2) Message. There was a sort of message that was brought up when reading the story. Do a good deed and you may get rewarded.
Overall: 3.5/5
*I really don’t know how I feel about this story. It was interesting and did have a good positive message, yet at the same time, it just felt like I’ve read this before and seen it done better.*

Redemption by Elaine Cunningham
The story involves an elf assassin named Ferret that goes and kills a commander of a garrison of troops. But she is caught and it takes Elaith Craulnober to cover up the evidence.
Negatives:
1) Background. I don’t fault Elaine Cunningham, but myself on this fact. It seems to me that you need to read the series called Songs & Swords to really understand what is happening. I haven’t, but will one day. But I was utterly confused when reading this.
Positives:
1) Characters. I’ve heard that Elaith is a very complex and interesting character. Seeing him in this story and the things and inner demons he faces is pretty interesting. Ferret seemed like an interesting character in the few scenes she was in. But I have to say that Elaith stole the story.
2) Clever. The way that Elaith decides to cover up the assassination is pretty ingenious.
Overall: 4/5
*Like I said, it would be a good story, if I had the background to understand what was going on.*

Changing Tides by Mel Odom
The focus of the story is on Rytagir Volak and his deep-sea treasure hunting. When exploring for a sunken ship, Rytagir encounters sea elves led by Irdinmai, in which she and Rytagir strike a bargain with helping salvage the wreckage. However trouble comes in the form of the sea devils, called sahuagin.
Negatives:
1) Left me wanted more. It’s not a negative by any means. I just want to read more about what happened and am really bummed it ended so soon.
Positives:
1) Characters. Wonderful. Rytagir was an interesting and complex. Irdinmai was also very interesting. They were what really made this story great. Along with…
2) … the Plot. Excellent. Interesting and kept me interested in what was going to happen. Action isn’t everything in this story and it really benefits that. Nevertheless, the story was fast paced and exciting.
3) Dialogue. Some stories have dialogue that seems “forced” and unnatural, here it felt natural and real. It wasn’t cheesy and it wasn’t overly serious, it was just good.
Overall: 5/5
*Very good characters and a fast paced plot line are the major highlights.*

Chase the Dark by Jaleigh Johnson
The story follows Devlen Torthil, who is a charlatan and an outcast in Amn, who just wants to be a hero.
Negatives:
1) Confusing. I wasn’t, and still am not, sure about why Devlen was a charlatan. I didn’t think that it was really explained to well. Was he able to use magic? Is that what made him a charlatan? I just felt it wasn’t very clear.
Positives:
1) Characters. Each character was very interesting. The relationship between Devlen and his commander, Morla, was very interesting. Devlen himself was well thought out and the major highlight. While the priest Gerond was also an intriguing character.
2) Twist. What happened I never really expected. It was a shock, and totally unexpected.
3) Memoirs. I liked this little insight into Devlen’s thought on what happens. I think that this is what really made him interesting and a developed character. Also, I liked how it briefly either, recapped or set up, the next scenes.
Overall: 4/5
*Even though it was confusing to me at times, the characters were the highlights.*

Bones and Stones by R. A. Salvatore
The story follows Thibbledorf Pwent and his search for a fallen companion after the battle between Obould and Mithral Hall. During Pwent’s search, he comes across and orc, G’nurk, who is searching for his daughter. Anger rises and realization ensues.
Negatives:
1) Drizzt Diaries. If there is one thing I don’t like about Drizzt it has to be his philosophical diaries. They aren’t bad, most of the time, but they just drag on. While in this short story, the diaries serve as an insight, I just felt like it wasn’t necessary, and quite honestly, it started to get a little boring.
Positives:
1) Pwent. I used to think that Pwent was just battle crazed and unable to do anything else but fight and kill. Here he has some added depth and I’m really surprised to see how complex he is.
2) Philosophical meanings. When Pwent and G’nurk, fight and their realizations hit, it carries a lot of meaning. Who would have thought that Pwent has a conscious?
Overall: 4.5/5
*I don’t like the Drizzt Diaries, they are a nice touch, but they always come across as whiny and just boring.*

Second Chance by Richard Lee Byers
The story starts with an apprentice, Kemas, who became captured after fleeing a temple of Kossuth that was under attack, and to gain information on the temple through torture. However, Bareris Anskuld, intervenes and saves Kemas. Bareris than tell Kemas to go back to the temple with the plans of attack to allow the temple a way to defeat them. Facing the gruesome undead, does Kemas gain courage?
Negatives:
1) Mirror. Where was Mirror in all of this? For those of you who don’t know, Mirror is Bareris’ ghostly companion in The Haunted Lands trilogy. He was only mentioned twice and yet I like Mirror so I was a little bummed.
Positives:
1) Kemas. I liked the character for the reason that he HAD to become braver unless he dies. It was an interesting look into the mind of a person who was fearful, yet later, becomes brave. It isn’t often that you see a character mature before your eyes. Most heroes are generally brave and fearless, it was a nice change to have one that was actually scared.
2) Plot. I liked how fast the story moved and how entertaining it was. It was well written so  that you didn’t notice the events happening quickly as they were.
3) Bareris. I can’t get enough of this character. I liked him in The Haunted Lands trilogy and its nice to see him, albeit, quickly here.
Overall 4.75/5
*Good story, yet it just needed more Mirror.*

OVERALL ANTHOLOGY: 4/5

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