Realms of the Dragons: The Year of Rogue Dragons Mass Market Paperback – Dec 1 2004
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While his is usually the best among Forgotten Realms anthologies, Salvatore's "Wickless in the Nether" is not really anything to rave about. This is another Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle story, this time having them being manipulated by dragons. The story really does not go anywhere, though it might tie into the next novel involving them. This one just did not do it for me, though it was the reason I bought the book.
"Soulbound" gives us a story of a Shadow Dragon and its dealings with some clerics of Shadow. The ending was disappointing, though there might be a sequel at some point, or so I hope.
"First Flight" by Edward Bolme is a great read. This one has a wizard of Netheril investigating some mysterious happenings, and being caught up in some deific meddling.
Cunningham's "Gorlist's Dragon" was so-so, telling the tale of a drow in Ched Nasad. This is something of a coming-of-age tale, and was worth the read.
Greenwood's "Keeper of Secrets" was also a so-so read. This is a story set in Waterdeep, with some familiar characters. Mirt the Moneylender contacts a mysterious figure of rumor in his attempt to solve the murder of one of those in debt to him.
"The Topaz Dragon" by Lebow was a nice story. This one has a dragon trying to use those who would steal her egg to her own ends.
"Serpestrillvyth" by Richard Baker was a really nice story. While many others have nice touchy-feely resolutions, this one certainly does not. It deals with a band of adventurers in their mission to save a town from the depredations of an evil dragon.
"Waylaid" is a good read, brought to us by Thomas Reid. It has a half-elf snared by a white dragon and coerced into doing its bidding.
"Standard Delving Procedure" by Smedman started out very promising, though the ending was somewhat abrupt and only partially satisfying. I liked it overall though, with an older dwarf trying to mentor a younger impetuous one.
"An Icy Heart" provides a nice story about Dragon Turtles and their attempts to deal with the Rage, the malady that is making dragons go crazy.
"Penitential Rites" by Strohm is a murder mystery that was really not that tough to solve. I did not get much from this tale of a half-dragon trying to repent for his past misdeeds.
Dave Gross's "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" is a truly great story. This one has a theater troupe writing and performing a play as a special commission. The characterization and plot development, as well as the details of the day-to-day theater life. This and Byers' story are the two best in the book.
"Beer with a Fat Dragon" is another so-so story. This one has characters from the Forgotten Realms' Far East dealing with a dragon legend from that region.
Richard Lee Byers' "The Prisoner of Hulburg" is another great story. Evil Zhents, archeological delvings, thieves, psionics, clerics, demons, and fighting, all good stuff. Definitely a page turner.
While most of the stories are so-so, the writing itself is generally good. The two stories by Byers and Gross alone make this collection worth picking up.
One great thing is that there are so many familiar characters from other Forgotten Realms stories. It is very interesting to touch in on some of these characters to see what they are up to after the last story they were in, or to see how this short story will affect the next book they might appear in.
A few of the better stories were authored by Kemp, Bolme, Salvatore, and Byers. Cunningham's story was pretty decent, but not exceptional for the same reason that some of the others were: this anthology is about dragons, and in some of the stories there is very little interaction with dragons. Sometimes they only make a brief appearance, which is very dissappointing. And in some of the stories, they are just people in disguise. I wish the author's would have collaborated and talked about what they were going to do with the dragons in their respective stories, so there would not be quite so much overlap.
However, most of the stories are good, interesting, and definately worth reading. The worst story in the collection was "Standard Delving Procedure," by Lisa Smedman. It was pretty awful and was very dissappointed in the content of the story. Other than that big flop, the collection is very satisfactory.
Realms of the Dragons is a Forgotten Realms based anthology, written by a fairly good group of FR authors. Some of the authors are legends in FR, while some were fairly new to this genre when they wrote for this anthology (and some have faded away as well). But the greats always bring something special to any of their works - even the short stories contained in this book.
So yes, this is an anthology - a collection of short stories all centered around a single theme. In this case - Dragons! Forgotten Realms history is rife with dragon lore. Almost every imaginable color of dragon has a place in one Forgotten Realms book or another - whether those books pertain to stories or gaming modules to help players and game masters develop their plot. Dragonos are the ultimate creatures on the planet. Even the gods show respect for the wisdom and capabilty of this species. Good dragons, bad dragons, fun dragons, and angry dragons...and covered by this book.
None of the stories really develops too deeply (remember, short stories), but lets you feel what the author was trying to portray. Sure, some of the authors do a better job at this than others, but honestly - the book was a pleasure to read from beginning to end.
Overall, the noble dragon, regardless of color or alignment has won a place in the minds of most fantasy lovers. Even real worth mythology, whether Europeon, Asian, or American has some form of dragon lore. It is in our dreams to believe that such a creature could or did exist. Sometimes evil, sometimes good, sometimes with wing and other times just a flying scaled worm. But the dragon...the dragon will live on. This book is for you - the guy that likes dragon stories and wants to see some of the details flushed out a bit more. Enjoy Forgotten Realms? Find dragons fascinating? Then, this is the book for you.
"Soulbound" by Paul S. Kemp
Kesson Rel is the first Chosen of Mask, who drank from the chalice that Mask forbade anyone from drinking. Labeled a heretic by the followers of Mask, he seeks revenge on his fellow priests. However, an oath prevents him from just killing the priests. But he has another idea, use a Shadow Dragon to do it. After a vision that Avnon the Seer has, he knows what he must do.
"Soulbound" is an okay story. For those who haven't read The Erevis Cale Trilogy or the Twilight War Trilogy you will be left in the dark. However, Kesson Rel is a very interesting character who makes you want to find out more about him. It's still an entertaining story, but it could leave a lot of new readers in the dark.
"First Flight" by Edward Bolme
Serreg is an archwizard of the floating city Delia sent to discover why the earth and creatures below the city are dying. After coming to the conclusion that its something magic related, Serreg goes out to put a stop to the spell and its casters. However, Serreg underestimates the beings and cries out for help, which is answered by a god. The god gives Serreg a dagger that gives its wielder an amazing power, but at a cost. But is it enough to save the archwizard from the creatures?
"First Flight" was a good story, but it really felt out-of-place in this anthology. I would have expected that a story in an anthology about dragons be primarily about dragons. Instead we have a story that is based more on magic and the arcane than on dragons. However, the story itself was very entertaining and did hold my interest. It still is a good read, but still feels very out-of-place.
"Gorlist's Dragon" by Elaine Cunningham
Young Gorlist doesn't want to be a wizard like his father. Instead, he wants to be a warrior, just like his mother. He wants to follow in her footsteps, become a renowned gladiator like her and be as respected and feared. But that doesn't work in the drow society, and it doesn't help that Gorlist loves his mother blindly. So when she sells him to the gladiator pit, he wins every battle, to prove he's worth it. That is, until trickery and deceit pit Gorlist against a dragon in a battle he must win.
"Gorlist's Dragon" was a really fun and exciting story. The only problem was that I wished that Gorlist's relationship with his mother was a little more fleshed out and not tossed out like it was. That was a big disappointed. However, this story is a good way to get introduced into drow culture and the way they think. Also, the story itself felt more like two stories fit into one. All in all, this was a very good character driven story.
"The Keeper of Secrets" by Ed Greenwood
Mirt the Moneylender is trying to collect a debt from Yelver, but discovers him murdered. Mirt then goes off to find the secrets the man kept, seeking the aid of a person calling herself the Keeper of Secrets. However he is unable to find anything out and as they leave, a fight occurs and the Keeper asks him for help in exchange for Yelver's secrets. What was Yelver hiding and who exactly is this Keeper?
"The Keeper of Secrets" had an interesting beginning, but soon became confusing and bothersome. The murder mystery beginning of the story was interesting, but there wasn't a resolution to it, as far as I could tell. After that was scrapped and forgotten everything became a mess. It was just plain confusing, due to it feeling like it lost it's way. It actually felt like there wasn't a point to any of this. I didn't learn anything new, nor did I really care after the turn of events. Also, the dialogue had an unnatural pacing to it and it came across as forced. I would skip this story unless you can understand what is happening.
"The Topaz Dragon" by Jess Lebow
Captain Clay and his crew of the Expatriate are out to find an egg that's worth a small fortune. The only problem is that the egg is that of a topaz dragon. However, as they reach the island the dragon comes to them and asks for aid in recovering her stolen egg. It appears as though someone else took it before they could have. Captain Clay agrees to recover it, but finds himself up against something he didn't expect.
"The Topaz Dragon" was a pretty good story. The ending fight didn't really feel right. It was too quick and it seemed way to easy for the topaz dragon. The story, while basic, was still exciting and fun. The action scenes were really thrilling and kept the story moving. Also, Captain Clay came off as a very interesting character. I don't know why but something about him just makes me want to read more about him. Overall, the story was very exciting and definitely worth the read.
"Wickless in the Nether" by R. A. Salvatore
Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle are hired out to recover a flute that their benefactor's rival is in possession of. However, things don't go according to plan and identities aren't what they appear to be.
"Wickless in the Nether" is a good story. It builds on the friendship between Jarlaxle and Entreri and you should probably read this before going into Salvatore's Promise of the Witch King, which is part of The Sellswords trilogy. Otherwise, the story was fun as well as a good read.
"Serpestrillvyth" by Richard Baker
A group of adventurers arrive in a small town asking for aid. The townsfolk tell the adventuring company that a dragon is plaguing the village and has already slayed one group of adventurers already. After hearing this, the group hires the guide that led the first group to the dragon and set off. Things don't go according to plan.
"Serpestrillvyth" was an entertaining story with bad prose. When reading the story, it came off as sudden and jerky, instead of smooth and tight. However, this story was very unique. It was dark, with no happy ending. It felt refreshing to get a story that ends like this one does. Also, the dragon was terrifying and felt like a dragon should feel like. Serpestrillvyth was a powerhouse and not an easy kill, something that authors seem to forget about dragons. Overall, this was a good story and probably one of the darker ones of this anthology.
"Waylaid" by Thomas M. Reid
A young woman, Lynaelle, is on her way to the city of Silverymoon in the dead of winter. However, she gets waylaid by a white dragon and taken to its lair. The dragon than demands that Lynaelle serve him by killing the thief who stole his treasure. But is the thief really a thief? It is an orc after all.
"Waylaid" was another good story, but with an extremely cheesy ending. The ending itself wasn't terrible, but it was just too convenient and silly to be taken seriously. However, the rest of the story was wonderful. Lynaelle was a great character who played her part perfectly. I actually cared about her well-being and hoped everything turned out fine. Also, you could feel the fear she felt. It was a very frightening experience for her and it was written so that the reader would feel the same. Overall, this story was well worth the read, even with the silly and cliché ending.
"Standard Delving Procedure" by Lisa Smedman
Two dwarves, an old delver named Durin and a new recruit named Frivaldi, are searching for a magical weapon called The Bane of Caeruleus. This weapon was forged to be able kill a blue dragon, and the knowledge of how to forge more of these weapons is what the duo are after. However, Frivaldi isn't following standard delving procedure and is getting the pair into trouble, but are they able to get out of it?
"Standard Delving Procedure" is a great story. It's clever and amusing and kept me entertained throughout. I really liked the use of acronyms for the 'rules of delving', they were just clever. The dwarves really worked well together. They were the usual foils to each other, but it worked to perfection. They brought a lot of amusement and humor to the story. All in all, this story was a great read and had some wonderful characters.
"An Icy Heart" by Voronica Whitney-Robinson
Chorael, a dragon turtle is about to lay her eggs. While creating her nest, she reflects on the rage that has afflicted dragonkind and what it's doing to her species. After laying her eggs, she returns to the icy waters of the lake only to discover a man drowning. She makes a last second decision and saves him, but somethings not quite right about the situation and she is too late to stop it.
"An Icy Heart" was a good story, albeit a slow one. The story felt very sluggish at times and I found myself not caring about what happens early on. However, that soon changed because the story was actually interesting and heartbreaking. What also interested me were the dragon turtles themselves, and I would like to know about these creatures. If you can get past the slow development, this story may just surprise you.
"Penitential Rites" by Keith Francis Strohm
Drakken Thaal, a half-dragon, finds himself losing to the urges of the rage. He is afraid that he killed a friend, a sub-prior in a temple of Ilmater, due to it. However, the rest of the members of the temple don't think he did and he is tasked to uncover the murder. What he finds both relieves and boils the rage inside him.
"Penitential Rites" was a very interesting story, however paced very slowly. The slow pacing didn't fit with the murder mystery plot. It wasn't as exciting and fast paced as other murder mysteries. However, the murder mystery itself was interesting. It was exciting to see the effect the mystery had on Drakken. Also, Drakken was a great character for that reason as well. It was interesting to see him try to fight off the mounting rage he was feeling. Overall, this story was good and definitely worth a read for another view of the dragon rage.
"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" by Dave Gross
Talbot Uskevren does not do commissions. As the majority shareholder for the Wide Realms playhouse, that should have some say. However, when an alluring woman comes to them with an offer to create a play, Talbot can't help but accept. She wants a play that can "break a miser's heart", but what Talbot crafts is something beyond that. That is, until the special guest the woman mentioned arrives to attend.
"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" is a fantastic story. It was interesting and engaging. It added just enough humor to keep it fresh and exciting. Also, it's next to see a new dimension to Talbot. Overall, read this story.
"Beer with a Fat Dragon" by Don Bassingthwaite
A caravan arrives at an oasis, much to the joy of the group. Tycho Arisaenn, a bard, eyes up the women and heads off for the oasis' tavern, which is little more than a filthy large tent. After winning the locals over with song, he makes a mistake in dishonoring the people's beliefs by using magic. However, that's not all he dishonors.
"Beer with a Fat Dragon" was an amusing and fun story to read. However, there were a few times in the story that I found my self confused for a moment. There were more than a few awkward sentences or outbursts that never really seemed to fit in the moment. Otherwise, everything else was great. Tycho was a very interesting character and I would like to read more about him. He's charisma just had me hooked from the start. I was also surprised by how humorous the story was. I found myself with a smile on my face more than once while reading. All in all, this story is definitely worth a read and hopefully you can understand some of the awkward scenes better than I could.
"The Prisoner of Hulberg" by Richard Lee Byers
Will and Pavel travel to Hulburg in hopes of discovering another clue to the rage. However, what they find isn't what they expected. Deciding to intervene, they find themselves in a dire situation that only luck could get them out.
"The Prisoner of Hulberg" didn't seem to really do much, other than have a pretty good fight scene. Will and Pavel didn't really have that much more development, other than solidifying their friendship. The action was really entertaining and did help hold my interest. It's worth a read if you want a more action heavy story.
OVERALL AVERAGED ANTHOLOGY: 4/5
Realms of the Dragons is a very enjoyable anthology with not very many terrible or bad stories. Each story does do a competent job at capturing your interest in dragon culture of the Forgotten Realms. While there were a few stories that could've had better representation of dragons, they were still very enjoyable. All in all, this was a very pleasing and enjoyable anthology. Should you go pick this up? Yes, this is more than worth a purchase with a vast amount of great story and it can introduce you to some wonderful new authors.
Stories That You Should Definitely Read:
1) "Wickless in the Nether" by R. A. Salvatore
2) "Standard Delving Procedure" by Lisa Smedman
3) "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" by Dave Gross
1. Soulbound by Paul S. Kemp. Dark, mythical and simply brilliant. Kemp keeps his high standard. Sheds some light on Mask's relationship with Cale and Riven. *****
2. First Flight by Edward Bolme. Set in ancient Netheril. A bit boring and naive for my money. Doesn't deal with dragons that much.**
3. Gorlist's Dragon by Elaine Cunningham. Deals with the past of Gorlist, a villain from Starlight and Shadows series. Fleshes him out a great deal. Otherwise, nothing special. ***
4. The Keeper of Secrets by Ed Greenwood. Thank you for creating this wonderful world Mr. Greenwood, but please stick to design of game material. *
5. The Topaz Dragon by Jess Lebow. Offers some nice dialogues, good description of the setting (An island off the coast of Chult), but otherwise too ordinary. ***
6. Wickless in the Nether by R.A. Salvatore. Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle always guarantee a lot of fun with their bickering and outsmarting. This story can even be considered a short prequel to the "Promise of the Witch King". Besides two mentioned characters, the story offers nothing spectacular.****
7. Serpestrillvyth by Richard Baker. Story as unimaginative as its title. At least stays away from cliché endings. **
8. Waylaid by Thomas M. Reid. Good characterization and cliché story. So unlike Reid. **
9. Standard Delving Procedure by Lisa Smedman. Funny and different. Just the way it was intended to be.****
10. An Icy Heart by Voronica Whitney-Robinson. Very short and very strong. ****
11. Penitential Rites by Keith Francis Strohm. The best story of the book, and one of the best short stories ever to appear in FR. This came as a surprise to me, since I thought Strohm's novel "Bladesinger" was awfully written. Make sure to read this one.*****
12. How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth by Dave Gross. A fresh story and good writing. Features Talbot Uskreven and his theater. ****
13. Beer with a Fat Dragon by Don Bassingthwaite. If you liked "Yellow Silk", you're going to like this story as well. Witty writing and a different concept. And Tycho, of course. Very Good.****
14. The Prisoner of Hulburg by Richard Lee Byers. I didn't like this one at all. Strained dialogues, a pointless plot and lots of fighting. Not my idea of a short story. **
All in all, this book offers more good stories, than bad ones. It also has a lot of pages, so it gives it additional value. Very good.
I would also like to mention the book Realms of Dragons II. Although it's significantly shorter, and doesn't offer stories by "big guns" of the Realms (Salvatore, Cunningham, Kemp), it has a lot to offer. Check out both of the books.