Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top Ten Forgotten Realms Novels (Part 1)

Forgotten Realms novels are by far and away my favorite vice.  For me, they’re like salty potato chips.  Even when they’re good, they’re not really good for you, but... once you get started, they’re awfully hard to put down.  

D&D has been on my mind this week because I just finished reading R.A. Salvatore’s newest Realms novel Charon’s Claw (reviewed here) and because with the advent of D&D Next, I’ve been considering how I’m gonna start teaching the game to my kids.  My friend Keith and I discussed this a bit at one of the neighborhood birthday parties over the weekend, so this family D&D project is slowly starting to come into focus.  Bottom line, this thing is looking like it’s really gonna happen.

With that in mind, and because I've done nothing but D&D on this site all week, I figured now might be the time to count down my favorite ten Forgotten Realms novels.  I was gonna do the top five, but as I started putting the list together, I came out with ten.  And since ten is a nice round number, that’s what we’ve got.

Here we go!
Danno’s Top Ten Forgotten Realms Novels (Part 1)

10.  Streams of Silver by R.A. Salvatore. 

Streams of Silver is Salvatore’s second Realms novel and the second of the Icewind Dale Trilogy, though it works fine as a standalone story.  It follows the dark elf ranger Drizzt, the dwarf king Bruneor Battlehammer, and their soon-to-be-famous Companions of the Hall as they seek Mithral Hall, the fabled clan home of the Battlehammer dwarves.  It also introduces the City of Luskan, the Hosttower of the Arcane, and the assassin Artemis Entreri, all of which become foundational structures in the Realms universe. 
I like this book primarily because it’s a quest book in the best, most D&D-centric idea of the genre.  Not only is it a riot of a read, it’s also kind of the ur-ideal of what Forgotten Realms party-based fiction is supposed to be.

9.  Swordmage by Richard Baker.

The concept of the swordmage (or spellsword or bladesinger) is not a new one in fantasy fiction.  However, Swordmage as a class was new to D&D in the Fourth Edition, and without much source material behind it, Richard Baker, one of D&D’s designers at the time, wrote the novel Swordmage to sort of explain what the class was and how it worked.  What makes the book awesome, though, is the fact that its hero Geran is a fallen man.  Like Aragon in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Geran is a guy who’s spent a lot of time around elves and who mourns what he’s lost.  Now back home after years of wandering aimlessly, this book explores his life and his little town by the sea in eminently readable fashion.

Swordmage is the first book of the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy.

8.  Circle of Skulls by James P. Davis

Circle of Skulls is the fifth book in the Ed Greenwood Presents: Waterdeep series, but it’s a standalone novel that exists entirely independently of the rest of the Waterdeep books.  I liked it because it was kind of a supernatural crime thriller set in the Realms’ version of New York.  It’s also wild as all get out.  The hero is a perpetually reincarnating angel who’s haunted by an infinity of past lives that he can only just glimpse in memory fragments and the hauntings of dreams.

If you’re curious about this Forgotten Realms thing, but the idea of reading something involving D&D scares you, try Circle of Skulls.  It’s a terrific book, and way different than the genre arch-types more commonly associated with the Realms’ brand.

7.  Hand of the Hunter by Mark Sehestedt

Hand of the Hunter is the second of the Chosen of Nendawen trilogy, and while I liked that trilogy a lot, it was a real toss-up for me as to which book was superior, Hand or the first book in the series, The Fall of Highwatch.  Both have quite a bit going for them, including a strong female protagonist and an interesting and unusual predominant setting, the Realms’ version of Faerie, called the Feywild.  I ultimately decided that I liked Hand of the Hunter better based mostly on the fact that the series’ protagonist Hweilan is a lot more interesting once she starts developing her super-powers.  That said, this trilogy is basically a single story told in three separate books, so if you decide you want to give this one a try, you’re pretty much going to have to start with The Fall of Highwatch.

There’s nothing I can do about that, unfortunately.

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