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Realms of the Elves edited by Philip Athans

Posted by travizzt on January 14, 2011

Elves. Those pointy-eared beings found in almost every fantasy storyline. Here we have seven short stories that focus on the elves in the Forgotten Realms.

Realms of the Elves Anthology

Realms of the Elves is edited by Philip Athans.  It was released in February 2006 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc. This anthology is based on the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. The Realms of the Elves anthology ties into Richard Baker’s The Last Mythal trilogy. There are seven stories included in this anthology and are written by Richard Lee Byers, Philip Athans, Lisa Smedman, Erik Scott de Bie, R. A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Richard Baker. The Realms of the Elves anthology focuses on the elves of Faerûn.

“Traitors” by Richard Lee Byers
Rhespen Ash has been a councilor to the gold dragon Orchtrien for over a hundred years. After barely surviving an ambush by a group of rebellious elves, Rhespen is put in charge of overseeing a hostage named Lady Winterflower. After time passes, Rhespen falls in love with his ward and goes to Orchtrien only to be sent away on a mission to raid enemy land. When he returns, he finds out things he would have rather not known.
Criticisms:
1) Hostages. The biggest issue with “Traitors” is the whole idea behind the hostages. Why would a rebel leader send his daughter into the care of his enemy? Seems kind of farfetched and too convenient. It’s very obvious that she would be a spy. I just felt like this whole premise seemed very convenient and an easy way to tell a story.
Praises:
1) Story. Even with the odd premise of how ‘hostages’ were willingly given up, the story was still interesting. It didn’t rely on combat to carry the story and instead relied on the relationships that the main characters had. The plot seemed almost believable and something that could actually happen, well aside from the convenient plot point. It was entertaining and fun to read.
2) Rhespen Ash. Rhespen was just great. He was likeable and what he goes through in the story was almost ‘realistic’. You felt sorry for him with what happens when he returns to the city. His development during the story was also very impressive. We see the wheels turning in his head as he discovers more and more things about his king. He just was a surprisingly well-developed and likeable character.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts:
“Traitors” was a good way to start this anthology. It had a great main character in Rhespen. Everything that he goes through develops him into a wonderful protagonist. The story was really good as well. It relied more on the relationships the characters had to carry it along and that added something unique to the experience. However, the whole ‘hostage’ situation didn’t sit right with me. Why would an enemy send their daughter to their enemy? It just seemed too convenient and lessened the overall enjoyment of the story. Also, a quick side note is that “Traitors” ties into Richard Lee Byers’ The Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy and the story could have done with less dragons in it. “Traitors” is a fairly entertaining story and is worth the read.

“The Staff of Valmaxian” by Philip Athans
Valmaxian is an apprentice mage who crafts magical equipment and weapons. After countless failures, he goes against his teacher’s wishes and warnings to summon a demon. The demon offers him power in exchange for something to be named at a later time. Valmaxian agrees, but is power worth the sacrifice?
Criticisms:
1) Cliché. “The Staff of Valmaxian” has the most overused and cliché premise in all of storytelling, with making a deal with a devil-like being only to regret it in the long run. With this story, there isn’t anything new offered and it just plays out like every similar story before this. It’s just disappointing.
2) Quick. The other issue with this story is that everything seemed ‘quick’. What I mean is that the sentences, paragraphs, dialogue, and everything about this story had sudden conclusions. It just seemed like everything didn’t feel finished and let a lot unsaid. The best way to explain what I mean would be that the story read like someone’s shorthand notes. It left me wanting more depth to everything.
Praises:
1) Valmaxian. The main character is fairly interesting. Valmaxian isn’t a ‘normal’ character in this type of story. He’s cold and came across as robotic. He was always thinking about numbers and distance, and seemed to calculate everything. He seemed uncaring about everything and everyone around him, and it just came across as different enough to make me take notice.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts:
“The Staff of Valmaxian” is a cliché, basic, and widely known story. The premise has been told countless times in various medias, and with this story, nothing new is added. It’s a very formulaic story. The way it was written felt like someones notes and there wasn’t much depth to anything. Valmaxian was decent character. He was cold and uncaring, which made him really stand out. This story is readable, but you can skip it.

“Necessary Sacrifices” by Lisa Smedman
Sorrell is seeking revenge. Two years have passed and all that’s been on the elf’s mind is vengeance. Two years prior, he lost his wife and son to drow and has sworn vengeance against them. He joins the order of Shevarash, whose goal is to eradicate all drow. After a drow scouting party was discovered, he joins in the hunt to prevent the drow from returning to wherever they came from, only to find out that cruelty wears many faces.
Criticisms:
None.
Praises:
1) Characters. The characters in “Necessary Sacrifices” were just phenomenal. Sorrell was a great main character and really brought a lot of emotion and depth to the story. The other characters, while not as developed, left a lasting impression on me that I couldn’t shake off. There was something to each of their tales that were chilling and that helped add a lot to the stories final pages.
2) Ending. I don’t know what to say about this ending other than wow. I’m seriously speechless. This is the closest thing I’ve seen to a perfect ending for a story. I’m amazed by how emotionally, psychologically, and philosophically deep the last page and a half was. I’m just blown away.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts:
“Necessary Sacrifices” is a fantastic story that everyone would enjoy. The characters are wonderful, the story is just fantastic, and the ending will leave you at a loss for words. Everything about this story is done right. I don’t even want to say anything else because this is something you should experience blindly.

“The Greater Treasure” by Erik Scott de Bie
Yldar and Cythara Nathalan arrive in the city of Elversult in search of an ancient relic called the Bracer of Ynloeth. The brother and sister find information in the form of a mysterious moon elf named Fox-at-Twilight. However, their information leads them to a cult of a demon-god and power the cult could give.
Criticisms:
1) More. The biggest problem with this short story is that there could have been so much more. The story felt more like a chapter out of a full-length novel. There was a lot that was left out and the ending wasn’t as tied-up as it could have been. I was just left wanting more.
Praises:
1) Twilight. Fox-at-Twilight is probably the most humorous and mysterious character I’ve ever came across. She’s unpredictable and rash, which is something that I haven’t seen pulled off well, but Twilight does it. After reading “The Greatest Treasure” I want to see more of her.
2) Tone. The dark tone of the story gives it something unique and interesting. There wasn’t a happy ending, story-wise, and there were a lot of darker, more disturbing things. At the same time, the tone was lighthearted and funny. It was a blend that made “The Greatest Treasure” all the more interesting.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts:
“The Greater Treasure” is a good story but it felt like there should have been more. In fact, this story felt more like a preview chapter for an upcoming book than a short story. It just makes you want more. Twilight is a fantastic character. She’s unique and had something that a lot of characters don’t have, unpredictability. There were times when I had no idea what she will do next. The tone of the story also was something that I didn’t expect. It was darker and more disturbing, but able to blend in some good humor and lightheartedness. This story just left me wanting more.

“Comrades at Odds” by R. A. Salvatore
Drizzt Do’Urden and his friend Innovindil go on a journey to recover the body of Ellifain, who Drizzt mistakenly killed. Along the journey the two friends discover that the orcs who are at war with the dwarves of Mithral Hall are seemingly starting a kingdom. Strange behavior for orcs. On the outskirts of the newly established orc kingdom, a drow named Tos’un Armgo is slaughtering the orcs with the help of the sentient blade, Khazid’hea.
Criticisms:
1) Ending. The story just kind of ended. Drizzt was able to make peace with himself for killing Ellifain, but it just didn’t have the impact it should have had.
2) Background. If you are unfamiliar with Drizzt Do’Urden and The Legend of Drizzt Series, you’re going to be left in the dark about a lot of things. This is not a story that would get you into the Drizzt series.
Praises:
1) Tos’un. I was very surprised with Tos’un. He’s an interesting character and I really do wish the story would have focused more on him. You can almost see him changing into a newer personality, and it’s interesting.
2) Continuity. The story does tie together nicely with The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy. A lot of the things that were going on in that trilogy are reintroduced and makes you wonder what is going to happen next.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts:
“Comrades at Odds” is really a mediocre story. The ending made me feel like I was ripped off. It just ended, but there could have been so much more. Also, if you are at all unfamiliar with the Drizzt series, you would be lost. This story will definitely not make you want to check out the previous books. Thankfully, Tos’un is a real highlight. He’s interesting and gives the story something very different. It’s welcoming to see a new character being focused on, I just wish the story would have just been about him. Also, this story ties in nicely with The Hunter’s Blade Trilogy, so it would be worth reading if you’ve read that trilogy.

“Tears So White” by Ed Greenwood
The Knights of Myth Drannor are sitting around having dinner with Storm Silverhand, until Eliminster arrives. The Old Mage takes a few of the knights and goes to stop something from happening.
Criticisms:
1) Point? Truth be told, I have no idea what the point of this story was. Was this a story about elves? Honestly, I couldn’t tell if there were any elves. Sure mythals, which are creations by elves, were brought up and maybe a character or two were elves, but it didn’t seem to focus on that. It doesn’t help that you couldn’t figure out what was going on.
2) Conversation. The dialogue and conversations between the characters are awful. Ninety percent of the dialogue didn’t match up with what was happening during the story. It was hard to follow what was being said because the dialogue seemed to go everywhere at once. Not to mention that the “Shakespearean” language is a chore to get through.
3) Story. It’s just a big battle. That’s it. Aside from that, I couldn’t tell what the story was. I couldn’t figure out what the Knights of Myth Drannor were doing or even what their goal was. It’s all a mystery, but a poor one.
Praises:
None.
Overall: 1/5
Thoughts:
“Tears So White” is a boring, broken, and a pointless story. It doesn’t seem to belong in an anthology about elves. It may have tied into elven things, mythals for example, but this story never seemed to focus on that. The dialogue is horrible. Conversations didn’t flow and seemed to be broken. When someone talked, it never seemed to make any sense. Finally, the story was just a big fight. There isn’t much more than that, and for as long as this story was, it was disappointing. This story put me to sleep.

“The Bladesinger’s Lesson” by Richard Baker
During the elves battle against the daemonfey army, a small contingent of elves were tasked to watch for the Sembian army from flanking the elves. The contingent’s leader, Daried Selsherryn’s families ancient home in the forest of Cormanthor lies in ruins. After investigating his former home, he finds evidence of thieves and sets off to the nearest human settlement, Glen. In Glen he learns that the town’s mayor, now dead due to a raid on his house, had a sword that was felt for Daried’s family to watch over. As he sets off to find the ancient sword and to take it back, he learns that not all humans are thieves.
Criticisms:
1) Cliché. This story is pretty cliché. You have a person finding out that the people he looked down on aren’t that bad, and that’s the main premise of the story. It’s not terrible, but it’s something that you’ve probably read before. There are other things within the story that seemed really cheesy and unoriginal, but still weren’t terrible. It leaves you with a feeling that you may have already read this story.
Praises:
1) Daried. Daried really developed in such a short time. You see him bitter against the humans, but slowly starts to see that they aren’t all that bad. It may have been cliché, but the way it plays out was fantastic. It actually seemed like something that could happen to a real person.
2) Pacing. The story is really hard to put down. It’s paced very well and before you know it, thirty pages have flown by.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts:
“The Bladesinger’s Lesson” is a good short story, but is cliché. It feels like you’ve seen or read something similar hundreds of times. There things within the story that may make you groan because they are just that cliché. Thankfully this isn’t a huge deterrent. It just makes the story not seem that original. Daried does help with the cliché feeling. While his story is something that you may have seen countless times, you really see him develop and that causes the cliché feelings to die down. He’s just an interesting character that goes through a natural and realistic change. Another thing that helps the story is the pacing, which is perfect. You don’t want to put the story down for too long. I found myself just tearing through half of the story before I even known I was that far in. It’s a good and fun story.

OVERALL AVERAGED ANTHOLOGY: 3/5
Final Thoughts:
Realms of the Elves is a decent anthology. Most of the stories are fairly good and entertaining, but there are a few that do ruin the experience. Most of the stories do focus on the elves of the Forgotten Realms, but there times when I felt that the stories could have been more focused on the elves. There were a few that focused on other races, but it didn’t really take away from the overall experience. All in all, this was a decent anthology. It may be worth picking for a few stories, but you could also skip it.

Stories Worth Reading:
1) “Necessary Sacrifices” by Lisa Smedman
Stories Best Avoided:
1) “Tears So White” by Ed Greenwood

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