Dance of the Dead (Ravenloft #3) ★☆☆☆½

danceofthedead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dance of the Dead
Series: Ravenloft #3
Author: Christie Golden
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Franchise Fiction
Pages: 310
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Raoul Dumont, captain of a paddle boat, steams up and down the rivers of Ravenloft bringing cheer and entertainment to all the small towns he visits. His troupe of actors regular perform a play he has written and Dumont’s young ward, Larissa Snowmane, is growing into her role as the villain of the piece.

However, while staying at an elven town, the main starlet of the show turns up dead and Dumont suspects the Elven Lord. He and the Crew make a run for it and pass through the mists. They come to a small town that Larissa recognizes as the one she grew up in many years ago before her father abandoned her to Dumont’s care.

Dumont begins to show his true colors and tries to take advantage of Larissa. She escapes, meets a young man named Willen and finds out that Dumont has a group of magical creatures as slaves in the hold of his boat. Dumont’s goal is to find a magical creature in this small town and in this he is aided by a Necromancer named Lond. Lond begins turning the crew into zombies that are directly controlled by Dumont. Lond wants out of the town, as he has made an enemy of the Lord of the Manor, a vampiric necromancer of immense power.

Larissa escapes into the swamp, finds out her white hair (hence the name Snowmane) gives her a special connection and is taught by the Swamp Witch. However, before they can attack Dumont or Lond, they must get permission from the Lord of the Manor, as nothing occurs without his personal approval. He teaches Larissa the Dance of the Dead and sends her on her way.

A battle ensues between the gang on the boat and denizens of the swamp. Things aren’t looking good for Larissa’s friends as Lond is just resurrecting them and using them for his side. Larissa dances the Dance of the Dead (which she was told would allow her to control all zombies) only to find out that not only can she control all zombies but she makes zombies of anyone who watches the dance. Willen gets zombified and Lond kills Dumont to try to escape. Lond ends up dying in a contest of wills and Larissa’s group wins.

The book ends with the remaining non-zombies asking Larissa to be the Captain of the Boat and she begins making eyes at one of the men.

 

My Thoughts:

What an utter piece of tripe. This had every cliché and trope possible for “Young Heroine Comes Into Her Own”.

Also, nothing about this seems to actually be in the Realm of Ravenloft. If Dumont could travel willy-nilly through the mists, he could have made himself king. This was just a Grl Power fantasy book with the name “Ravenloft” stamped on it.

A stinker of a book. If the next Ravenloft book is anything close to this I’m done with the series. I always knew this would happen but I have to admit I was hoping it wouldn’t happen until later in the series.

C’est la Vie!

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Knight of the Black Rose (Ravenloft #2) ★★★☆☆

knightoftheblackrose (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Knight of the Black Rose
Series: Ravenloft #2
Author: James Lowder
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 324
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Lord Soth was the highest in the Order of the White Rose. He was brave, virtuous, courageous and was a paragon. Until he committed adultery with an elf maid, had his first wife killed and then in a paroxysm of jealous rage burned his castle down killing his elven wife and new born son. For hundreds of years Soth wandered the land of Krynn as the Black Knight, a cursed, powerful, undead being in the service of the dark goddess. Soth met a beautiful general and even though she died, Soth plotted to bring her back. His plans went awry when he and his seneschal were sucked into the alternate realm of Ravenloft.

Told of a portal that will let him escape, Soth attacks Count Strahd’s enemy, a vampire duke of another portion of Ravenloft. Surviving all attacks, Soth survives only to find the portal is a fake. It leads nowhere. He heads off into the mists to force his way out. The dark gods of Ravenloft present him with a choice, renounce his pride and return to Krynn once again as a warrior of Light, or hold on to his damnable pride and be the owner of the Red Rose, a new portion of Ravenloft. Soth damns himself and vows vengeance against one and all.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read a Forgotten Realms book by Lowder a while ago, the Ring of Winter and it did not impress me. Therefore I lowered my expectations, already pretty low from the first book, and I made the right choice.

The first book was about a noble sun-elf turned vampire but he was still a good guy fighting against Strahd’s machinations. In this book we have someone even worse than Strahd and I was hoping to see some anti-hero action from Strahd. Vampire versus Undead Power Knight. A clash of Dark Titans, powerful destructive magic unleashed across the land. Nope. Strahd is a manipulator and he doesn’t change. He gets Soth to do some dirty work for him instead of clashing with him.

Soth wasn’t bad for a villain. He’s powerful, motivated by pride, hate and lust and yet has never forgotten his origins as a Knight of the White Rose. Unfortunately, he’s also as flat as a pancake. He had a few instances to shine darkly but his power was wasted. I don’t know if I hope he returns as a nemesis to Strahd or not.

Considering that Ravenloft seems to grow at the whim of the unnamed dark gods’ whims, I have this feeling Ravenloft will soon be full up of ultra-powerful badguys, who do nothing. Somebody powerful needs to die and they need to die spectacularly. Killing off gypsies just doesn’t cut it.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Vampire of the Mists (Ravenloft #1) ★★★☆☆

vampireofthemists (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Vampire of the Mists
Series: Ravenloft #1
Author: Christie Golden
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Jander Sunstar was a gold elf that was turned into a vampire 500 years ago. He’s been at the city of Waterdeep living off the insane asylums to slake his blood thirst. He meets a woman named Ana there and tries to make her life better. Something is off though as she doesn’t age in 100 years. Somehow she dies and Jander goes nuts and kills everyone in the asylum. He wanders away moaning and bitching like only a vampire elf could and goes through a mysterious fog bank and ends up in the land of Barovia.

Barovia is a land enshrouded by deadly mist that kills humans who try to wander through it. It is ruled by a Baron Strahd who is also a vampire. Jander has dreams of Ana urging him on to revenge her death and begins his search for her with the Baron’s help. Time passes, Jander gets nowhere and the Baron learns lots and lots from Jander.

Eventually a human gets sick of the vampires running around and with the help of Jander tries to destroy them all, including the Baron. Jander ends up dying, the human fails and Strahd continues his reign in the strangely removed Land of Barovia where the normal rules don’t seem to apply. Strahd is seriously hurt though and is out of commission for years, if not hundreds of years.

 

My Thoughts:

Even though I stopped reading the Forgotten Realms book last year, I had a relapse and figured I’d try this Ravenloft sub-series. It’s all gothic’y horroresque at the level of FR and not Lovecraft or Stoker. A decent time filler that I could poke a boat through the holes in it if I felt like. But I’m feeling rather magnanimous at the moment so I gave it a whole 3 stars. Now no one can ever say Bookstooge wasn’t generous, benevolent and merciful.

I believe that Strahd is a recurring character throughout this series and I thought he was going to be the main character. He is a main character but more of a villain than anything. He is a relatively young vampire and as such doesn’t have the wisdom to make the most of the situation he’s in. Nor does he seem overly concerned about Barovia ever returning to whereever it came from.

Jander Sunstar is also a vampire, but an elven vampire. I was expecting him to either be totally corrupted by his 500 years of being a vampire or to just get more and more bad ass and kick Strahd’s butt. I mean come on, a Vampire Elf? That just sounds cool. Sadly, Jander is a whiner and really isn’t much of a man. He just bends before Strahd like a reed in the wind until he learns that his Ana was a woman Strahd had sought in Barovia and destroyed. Then he gets all angry and whatnot but it doesn’t ring true. And Jander fails. I have a feeling most of these books are going to be adventures about various people/groups who go up against Strahd, and fail. Guess I need to psyche myself up for that.

This was Christie’s first book. However, from what I’ve read of her other stuff, in Star Wars, she hasn’t significantly changer her style or anything, from this one. A solid B-list author who writes well enough for Franchise books.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Rite (Forgotten Realms: The Year of Rogue Dragons #2) ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@30%

rite (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Rite
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Year of Rogue Dragons #2
Author: Richard Lee Byers
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 352/Abandoned
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

More and more dragons go rogue and the various characters attempt to figure out what the badguy Sammaster has done by backtracking him. One group to a mystic monastery currently under siege by dragons and another group to a some wizards who are working on Sammaster’s notes.

DNF’d at 30%

 

My Thoughts:

My first DNF of the year. Man, I was bored with this story. There are several factors leading into that though.

First, I have had a string of 4star books since the beginning of the year. My standards were thus higher. Second, I was on the fence about Forgotten Realms the whole of last year and kept giving them chance after chance. This year, No More Mr Nice Guy. Third, I don’t want to keep on eating badly cooked literary mac-n-cheese where I KNOW that half the stuff is half-baked. Finally, work was physically brutal this week and I ended up taking today off because of how hard Monday-Thursday had gone. Hiking an hour using showshoes, carrying 60lbs of equipment, shovelling out traverse stations all day, breaking trail, pulling a sled filled with 200lbs of equipment during the day, then ending the day by hiking an hour out with 60lbs of equipment again.

If I had read this last year, I probably would have given it 2.5stars and struggled through the final book in the trilogy. Not this year. I am done with this book and this trilogy and the whole Forgotten Realms series. It is written for a completely different target audience than me and I need to stop trying to shoehorn myself into that demographic. Objectively, it was the same as the first book, but I just don’t have the patience to deal with it anymore.

I have enough books on my Oasis and in Calibre to last me 2 years. That’s if I don’t add a single thing. So why should I persist in adding books that have an extremely high chance of being lower than 3stars? Not worth it.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

The Ring of Winter (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #5) ★★☆☆½

ringofwinter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Ring of Winter
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #5
Author: James Lowder
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Artus Cimber, a former harper, has been searching for the Ring of Winter for over a decade with almost no success. However, when a fellow Adventurer member comes back from an expedition in the deepest, hottest jungles where dinosaurs live and tells of a freak snowstorm that saved his life, Artus knows he’s hot on the trail.

Taking off in the middle of the night with his only friend, an older mage, so that the Harpers can’t pressure him in any way, Artus’s journey doesn’t start well. The ship they paid passage to be on forces them to be regular sailors and the captain is an insane witch woman. Artus ends up killing her. Artus and Pontifex finally make it to Dinosaur Land, only to be attacked by members of the Cult of Frost, who are led by Kaverin Ebonhand. Kaverin also desires the Ring of Winter as it supposedly endows its controller with immortal life.

Pontifex dies, Artus is on his own. Sets off into the jungles with a local guide, only to find out it is a magician in thrall to Kaveron. Artus is captured by goblins, thrown into a pit of a monster that they worship and escapes with the help of 2 talking wombats named Byrt and Lugg.

I am NOT kidding.

Kaveron gets all the goblins to unite and attack the city of Mezro which had 7 magical guardians. One of them revealed that he had had the Ring of Winter but that he couldn’t control it and so threw it into the testing chamber where new magical girls, errrr, guardians were tested and chosen. Artus goes after it, gets it and saves the city because he CAN control the Ring.

Everybody who is still alive is happy and Artus realizes that he’s still a Harper at heart and now with a super powerful artifact he can do lots and lots of good things. Yippeee!

 

My Thoughts:

This was a perfect example of an author forcing the character to act like the author wanted without regards to any past actions, feelings or explanations. Artus starts out as an impetuous, selfish idiot. He hates the Harpers, puts others in danger without regard when searching for the Ring of Winter and generally acts like an ass. The shazaaam, he gets tested by the god Ubtao and suddenly he’s the soul of wisdom, discretion and goodness.

The talking wombats? Besides getting him out of the monster pit the first time, and talking in fake british accents, dropping all their “h’s”, etc, they were pointless. Which leads into all the side characters. There were so many that none of them really got to be “real” people. Kaveron was the perfect example. He’s the leader of the Frost Cult, has stone hands due to fighting with Artus in the past, is in thrall to the mad god Cyric and can make magical icemen assassins. Yet he loses control of a small goblin tribe? He was just a name attached to a vehicle that moved the plot forward. People are introduced and in a lot of cases, die off within 10-20 pages. I gave up trying to keep track because I never knew if someone introduced was a long term character or just another meat bag for the mill.

I felt like this had too many elements contained in one story and it diluted the whole focus on the Ring of Winter. Well, I’m giving the Harpers sub-series one more book and then if that book doesn’t get a 3.5star rating I’ll be done. I’m not 12 or 14 years old.

And the Ring of Winter? It should have been a wicked super awesome cool artifact. Kind of like this M:TG card looks. But no. It is as disappointing as the rest of the book.

ringofwinter

 

★★☆☆½

bookstooge

 

The Rage (Forgotten Realms: The Year of Rogue Dragons #1) ★★★☆ ½

rage (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Rage
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Year of Rogue Dragons #1
Author: Richard Lee Byers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 356
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Cult of Dragons is alive and well. They are trying to bring about a prophecy, interpretated by their found, Sammaster, that states the undead lichdragons will one day rule the world. Dragons go through a periodic phase of “Rage” where they lose all reason and kill and destroy mindlessly. That time is happening now across all of Faerun and the Dragon Cult plans to make the most of it.

Opposing them is a small group of adventurers who are sucked in against their will. Becoming allied with a shapeshifting dragon AND an undead vampirric dragon, this group starts out simply trying to save one town. This leads to the discovery that Sammaster is somehow controlling, and increasing The Rage, for his own purposes.

Now it is up to this ragtag group of human priest, halfling, arctic dwarf, human/golem hybrid and various dragons, to save humanity from an all encompassing slavery at the hands of eternal lichdragons.

 

My Thoughts:

Finally! Another enjoyable Forgotten Realms book. I was starting to think that I’d have to give up on FR altogether after my last couple of forays which encompassed The Night Parade, Blood Walk and Red Magic. Those were just plain bad. Thankfully, Byers has a pretty good track record with me and FR. I’ve never given his stuff below a 3star and his Haunted Lands Trilogy was a solid 3.5 across the board.

This lived up to past reads and my expectations for the future. It was a solid read. Given it is Forgotten Realms and some things are just part of that, Byers is still a good author and it shows in his storytelling here. I think that is one thing I’ve really enjoyed about Byers. Beyond his qualified writing, he can tell a good story. Too many FR books are just “conflict in a fantasy setting”. Byers tells stories that I want to read about.

I’ve ALWAYS wondered why the world wasn’t overrun or ruled by dragons. It had to be something more than that they were rare. I believe this trilogy will clue us in as to why they are so rare and why they’re not bigger players in the FR realm.

A disparate group that hates and loves itself and bickers constantly while they try to singlehandedly save the world? It works this time. I do have to wonder though, since Sammaster is a former Chosen of Mystra, will other “big name” Forgotten Realms characters become involved? Say Elminster or Blackstaff or Alustriel? Not really keeping track of the timeline,so those characters might have been gone for 100’s of years for all I know.

Ok, going to add a Forgotten Realms date to these FR reviews from now. Man, as if real history isn’t bad enough!

Date: 1373 DR (Dale Reckoning)

★★★☆½

 

 

bookstooge

The Night Parade (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #4) ★☆☆☆ ½

nightparade (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Night Parade
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #4
Author: Scott Ciencin
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 310
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Myrmeen, ruler of a successful city, is approached by her ex-husband. He tells her that their only child never died but that he instead sold the baby girl into slavery to pay off his debts. After lopping off her ex’s head, Myrmeen calls together some of her former compatriots, who are all Harpers.

Their research leads them to the conclusion that every so many years a hideous group of supernatural beings kidnaps children for nefarious purposes and said group is known as the Night Parade. The group finds Krystin, Myrmeen’s daughter but in their rush to leave the city, things happen, people die and the Night Parade is no longer content to let them be.

The Myrmeen and Co group meet up with a vigilante who has a magical item that he uses to kill the Night Parade. They all start hunting down the badguys, For The Children, and the Night Parade hits back, hard. Harpers die left and right, betrayals happen even after death and hardly anybody is who they say they are.

Krystin was a plant to lure in Myrmeen, the Night Parade are barren creatures from another realm that they can’t return to and through the Power of Luv, Myrmeen and Krystin rack up a serious body count of all their friends and tear away the shadow hiding the Night Parade. The Night Parade is prevented from ever recruiting more members and Myrmeen finds out that her biological daughter is being raised in a neighboring kingdom as a Poet Princess. Myrmeen lets her go and sets off on living life with Krystin as her stand-in daughter.

 

My Thoughts:

Wow! And here I thought Red Magic bad. This is the kind of Forgotten Realms book that gives the series its b-class, sub-standard, fantasy is crap, kind of reputation.

I suspect that Ciencin was told to write for horny 13 year old boys, as there were lots of descriptions of generic cleavage and legs and beauty and desire and crap. Sadly, the rest of the writing I’m not sure that even a 13 year old boy would put up with. Maybe?

Myrmeen. Where do I even start? She doesn’t think, she reacts at all the wrong times, she doesn’t consider anyone else but herself and then the eyerolling, gag inducing saccharin sweetness of her desire to be a mom. It was done wrong and it was done lazily and it was done stupidly. It doesn’t help that she seems to be attracted to every male she comes into contact with and that every single one of them dies. Seriously, she’s worse than a black widow.

The only reason I’m not complaining about the other characters is because except for Krystin, they ALL die. That’s just laziness to me. Don’t know how to handle someone’s future? Easy, kill them off. Don’t know how to engage your readers on a gut level? Easy, kill off a trusted companion. Don’t know how to even write effectively? Easy, kill somebody.

If you stuck a gun to my head and forced me to answer the question, which was worse, this book or Bloodwalk I would be really hard pressed to know what to say. I have had a recent string of bad books in the Forgotten Realms and I have to wonder when it is going to end. This Harpers series is on life support and it’ll only take 1 more stinker to sink the ship. I just hate wasting my time on trash.

While I rated this 1/2star higher than Bloodwalk, I am giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as its Mother/Daughter thing was so badly done that I felt nauseous. Bravo! And it turns out that this is the FIRST book to ever have that dubious honor. Double Bravo!!

★☆☆☆ ½

bookstooge

  1. Red Magic (Book 3)
  2. Elfshadow (Book 2)
  3. The Parched Sea (Book 1)
  4. The Wizards series
  5. Threat from the Sea trilogy
  6. Return of the Archwizards trilogy