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on April 1, 2003
But unlike the Cyrinishad, this will not make you into a Follower of the One. Yes, Midnight, Kelemvor, Adon, and Cyric (and even Fzoul) are back again, albeit somewhat changed. But our hero, and narrator, is Malik, a merchant turned spy, devoted faithful of the mad god Cyric, riding forth on his not-really-that-faithful bone-crunching steed Halah (named after his not-really-that-faithful prince-dallying wife). With his Inspector Clouseau like antics, his god-given inability to suffer harm, and his "Liar Liar" like inability to say anything but the truth (even to his god), he provides us with a presumably accurate, sometimes touching, often gruesome, and occasionally humorous account of the time of Cyric's madness. Of course Midnight is now known as the Harlot, Kelemvor is the Ursurper, etc. etc. but their dialogue and actions are still familiar to those of us who have known them since Shadowdale. Mystra's love and devotion to Kelemvor, Adon, and her followers stands out, as do her frustrations in being reprimanded by the gods for her lack of objectivity or neutrality concerning good and evil. The story of the gods is interwoven with Malik's story of his quest to cure his god's madness while being pursued by the veiled Harper witch, Ruha, from Troy Denning's "The Parched Sea." We don't see enough of Adon (who's been getting the short end of the stick time-wise since his scarring in the Avatar Trilogy), and Rinda and Gwydion deserved more screen time. But Denning's prose and imagination really shine in this story -- here's hoping this isn't the last! And if you (like me) have a secret crush on Mystra, then you've got to get this book dude.
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on September 12, 2000
Troy Denning is one of the better TSR (I won't mention WOtc) fantasy authors, and he deserves credit for writing a novel in the form of a first-person account of the trial of Cyric and its circumstances. It's especially interesting since the point of view is that of Malik, a pathetic -and at times humorous- spy that clings to Cyric despite that god's cruelty to him. Thus the tone of the book is morbid, but Malik is an interesting enough character to keep one reading, if only to discover what extremes he will push himself to to attempt to free Cyric of his madness.
Like the previous Avatar books, the gods are major characters, and some are fleshed out better than they were before, such as Tyr and Talos. Torm, however, one of the protagonists of Prince of Lies, is barely to be found here. Instead, Mystra, who represents the 'good guys' in the book, appears to be fallible, and Kelemvor suddenly discovers the meaning of Lawful Neutral. The chapters that describe characters other than Malik are told mostly in a third-person narrative, but still from the pen of Malik, so Mystra is at times described as the "Harlot" and Cyric as the "One" or "Our Dark Lord."
This may be why the book does not much discuss the fate of Gwydion and Rinda, two prominent and likeable characters from Prince of Lies who are slain early in the book by Malik in a very Douglas Niles-like fashion. For that matter, much of the book is filled with grotesque imagery and gore, usually due to Cyric (surprise), but Denning's writing style is good enough so that this does not become cliche. Just be prepared for a character to enter the novel, begin to be fleshed out, then die in a horrific way. It all reminds the reader of the Moonshae Trilogy at times.
Malik himself is both amusing and disturbing, both because he is willing to go to shocking extremes for Cyric, who he seems to both love and hate, and because the little turd's stinginess is amazing (such as when he 'only has time to take the gold'). The end of the book does not tie up all of the loose ends that this series has presented, nor could it be expected to, since it is 'written' by a Cyricist, but its conclusion is very exciting and does not produce a clear victory for good or for evil.
Disgusting at times, but an engrossing read. In some ways, I wouldn't mind another novel that might involve some of the lesser characters -such as Rinda, whose cheap death is one of the books' more bothersome aspects- in some way, but this is good enough for now. At least Elminster kept himself out of this one.
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on May 12, 2000
For months after I'd heard rumor this title was being released I waited in anticipation for its arrival. When it arrived I was not dissappointed.
Following after the events in "Prince of Lies" by James Lowder, "Crucible" tells the tale of the eccentric Malik, a Calishite merchant, and devoted worshipper of Cyric. We watch as he seeks out the Cyrinishad, followed closely by a seethingly angry Ruha, a bedine witch made famous in "Veiled Dragon" also by Denning. The story is told as though Malik were the author, a tactic I found delightful. Not only does it allow you to look into the mind of a villain, but his narration in regards to the deities and other "good guys" is just wonderful, and often funny.
Any follower of this series of novels will also delight in the further delving into power plays between deities within the Forgotten Realms world. This title does a marvelous job of detailing Jergal, Tyr, Helm, Mystra, Kelemvor, Talos, Mask, and especially Cyric. We witness as we are allowed a greater understanding of how the gods think, and how they pine against other deities. We also gain witness to the growth of Kelemvor as a Fearunian god.
Despite a pile of nay sayers against this title, I suggest you give it a shot, it's a fun read, and a good book. However, if you're a staunch "canon" Realms fan, remember this is written by Malik, if you don't like his history consider it propoganda, but don't turn away from the book, it's worth the time.
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on April 13, 2000
If you're looking for the brave, valiant knight that leads the forces of good to victory over unholy evil then look elsewhere. The story is told from the perspective of Malik, a follower of Cyric, the evil God of Strife, Lies and Murder. Malik is an unlikely anti-hero who possesses traits more of a merchant and part-time rogue than a warrior who brandishes steel to combat his enemies directly. Malik is comical and sometimes clumsy. However its' his unwavering devotion to his god that gets him through a grueling fanatical life, which all makes him a very distinctive, unconventional, and enjoyable character.
The book fleshes out how Kelemvor and Mystra/Midnight came to terms with their new role as gods, and their transition from mortality to the responsibility of immortality and the worshipers and portfolio that came with it. On the other side of the coin, it also deals with Cyric's self-delusions caused by the Cyrinshad debacle, which drove him insane.
You'll also read of interactions between the newly crowned gods and the established personalities within the Faerunian Pantheon. Much intrigue occurs, particularly between Mask and Cyric, which I found highly amusing.
If you feel very strongly for the forces of good from the books in the Avatar Trilogy and Prince of Lies, then Crucible will probably leave a bitter taste in your mouth. If you abhor Cyric or similar evil Gods, then you'll be disappointed. If you've got an open mind about how mortals deal with their new existence and responsibilities that come with attaining godhood, as Troy Denning spells out here, then I think it's an excellent read.
Troy Denning, one of my favorite authors, has written an unconventional book that isn't your standard fair FR novel. This is how I'd describe Crucible in one statement: "Attaining power is easy, understanding it is difficult, and keeping it is extremely hard."
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on September 28, 1999
I know the book is written from the perspective of Malik but when so many authors have written about the gods in previous novels they all feel so different. (Read Spellfire, Elminster making of a mage etc. where Mystra is included). The novel was funny at times but here are some things I didn't like; Why is Mask scared of Keezef? Compare his powers(Faiths and avatars) as a lesser god against the stats of the hound(Powers and Pantheons) and you will know what I mean. Tempus speaks on Faerun!! It says in Faiths and avatars that he has never been known to speak there, he only snarls in battle fury. Lathander seems like a fop. He started the previous gods war(according to F&A) and one would think he would be a little bit more involved in the trial, not just being a love struck fool following Chaunteas whim.
Troy is a good writer but I think the realms have had it's share with powerful deities(not to menition the thousands of powerful archmages lurking around every corner!!) Keep the deities in the background just as Doug Niles did in his excellent Maztica triology.
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on June 4, 2004
If you enjoyed The Avatar Trilogy- Shadowdale, Tantras, and Waterdeep, and the Prince of Lies, you will love Crucible: the Trial of Cyric the Mad, which is the conclusion to this wonderful series set in the magical world of Toril! The books are so incredibly well written that the reader feels that they have been transported to another plane of existence and are actually present among the characters, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, sensing what they sense. The authors have truly outdone themselves and have presented us with a masterpiece of literature the likes of which we have seen only in JRR Tolkien's work, RA Salvatore's The Dark Elf and Icewind Dale trilogies, and in authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends trilogies. Magic, Gods and Heroes are all about. In conclusion, it's what Fantasy reading SHOULD be. A GREAT book indeed and a "must read" if you love Fantasy and especially if you love the Forgotten Realms! DON'T MISS IT!!!
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on September 11, 2001
I hate it so much when other writers screw up characters that have been created by other authors. In this case Troy Denning totaly destroies the characters of Kelemvor and Midnight created by James Lowder and Scott Ciencin respectively. Troy Denning decides to turn Kelemvor into something that he would not have had Lowder written this book and had Midnight just cry about it.
Also, the way in which it was written was bad. Not that Denning is a bad writter, but writing from the first person is very difficult and he did not accomplish what he set out to in this book.

I think Denning destroyed the entire Faerunian Pantheon single handedly with this book. If you want a good ending to the Avatar Trilogy just stop reading at Price of Lies by James Lowder. It gives you a much more refreshing feeling when you are done rather than a putrid feeling.
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on December 8, 1998
Well, when I first opened the book and saw the first person style, I put down the book for many weeks. How dare this sequal not follow like the others? Taking a course in college that is all about reading different styles from different cultures, I opened my horizon to reading this book. Soon enough I was caught skipping class to finish the book! Of course the book supported Cyric, for at the end it becomes clear to me that this is the holy book Cyric instructs Malik to write for Cyric's worshipers. The parts of the toiling god's was indeed most fun to read. I was a little mad about what happened to Mystra, Kelemvor, and Adon, but what the heck, good cannot always crush evil. My favorite character has always been Maask. This was a real novel, not some good over evil crap that plagues most novels. It makes way hopefully for more stories to come.
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on April 26, 2001
This novel unfolds the truth about Gods of Forgotten Realms. A reader will learn the history powers allies and true nature of each of the gods. That alone is reason enough to read it. But I feel that the most important things about this story is the point of view it's told from. A mad man, one lost in the love of his own God but not because of faith but because of power he will receive for staying in his favor. As you read this novel feel yourself as a mad man would. Cyric is the God of madness and for that reason the story is being told by a mad man. This allows the reader to truly see and feel what we will never (hopefully) feel in our lives and more importantly what Cyric truly feels. Read this novel if you true want to understand what goes on in the forgotten realms but even more importantly, when a God goes mad.
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on September 28, 1999
I read this book in order to give Mr. Denning another try (I had to see if I was wrong about how he has no grasp of the Forgotten Realms)...Disappointed again. Let somebody else do FR novels instead of him, please? And for those of you howling about how it's 'official', I beg to differ. The book was written from that sluggard Malik's perspective. It's complete allegory and hearsay, therefore it doesn't seem to be something that WotC will build upon. At least they better not...So, rejoice. Look to the Prince of Lies as the last 'offical' word on the goings-on of the FR gods (or to the trilogy of FR gods-related books such as Faiths & Avatars, Powers & Pantheons, and Demihuman Deities--at least James Lowder and Eric Boyd know the Realms well enough, both in novel and game terms!).
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