Some reading done in the recent days with the Elminster Series by Ed Greenwood, Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore and the zines Bardo Methodology and Forgotten Path. Sometimes I feel that my way of grouping books is perhaps odd, but that’s just the order in which I’ve been reading them.
Ed Greenwood – Eliminster Series (titles grouped as main series fo first five novels):
Elminster: The Making of a Mage
Elminster in Myth Drannor
The Temptation of Elminster
Elminster in Hell
Elminster is a creation of Ed Greenwood. A bearded mage, with a sarcastic kind of humor, a kind heart and powers beyond anyone else. He is known as the great meddler, the storm bird and worse by his enemies. He’s also great with women. If you google Ed Greenwood, you might thing he idealized himself in one of his characters actually, so that’s a bit odd. As a D&D player myself, I read these books with great interest, but found them often complex, unnatural and slightly unhinged. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great works of fireball-throwing-blood-gushing-damsell-seducing-divinely-inspired-dragons-swords-and-whatnot fantasy. They’re not very much to my taste, let me tell you why. I read it with enjoyment at times, but never worried about any outcome. Sure, this happens a lot in fantasy, but it doesn’t have to be so bloody obvious.
As a player, there’s one pitfall and that is loving your character too much. Elminster is as close to unfallible as any character has ever gotten. I mean, Gandalf and Dumbledore have nothing on this guy, who keeps defying death, withstands the most extreme torture and if all else fails just fucking fireballs himself out of any sort of trouble. It becomes rather boring if every rising action in your story, is a mere hick-up for the protagonist, so while the first book is very satisfying, it soon becomes a bit of a bore. I know there is more, but I feel sort of reluctant to start reading those, for exactly that reason. Another point is that Elminster seems to be a singular shining light in a world populated by cardboard characters. Every other player in this game is pretty much insignificant or very one dimensional. That and the fact that Gods tremble when He Who Walks passes makes me less fond of the books. Sometimes, I completely got lost in the woolly, jumpy descriptions. Sorry.
Canticle, In Sylvan Shadows, Night Masks, The Fallen Fortress, The Chaos Curse
The Cleric Quintet takes us back to a more simple and pleasant Forgotten Realms, where not Goddes-infused Elminster blasts his way through the world or the troubled Drizzt cuts and slices through the underdark. Salvatore started on the quintet after a couple of Drizzt series, in an attempt to start something new. In future series, the cast of both books would meet. That to me, was a greatly positive thing for the Drizzt series, which went on for a good run more afterwards. The quintet takes place in a region, dubbed the Baronies, where Cadderly is a student at the Efidicant Library. The library shines as a light of intellect and knowledge in the realms and draws visitors from far and wide.
At the side of Cadderly Bonaduce is Danica Maupoissant, a monk of a peculiar order with an uncanny strength and agility. Their adventures start, when an evil trinity of forces plans to take over the Baronies with an evil curse. To defeat their enemies the duo, who are playful lovers from the start, team up with the fantastic dwarven brothers Ivan and Pikel Bouldershoulder. The second wishes to be a druid and speaks only in affirmative or negating sounds. It makes for a fun and loose party, which is a nice change from the serious and dour group around Drizzt. Together they are going to have some great adventures. R.A. Salvatore pushes in some new directions with these novels, in a realm that feels cleaner and simpler in a sense. More warm and welcoming, which for me felt liek an interesting exploration.
Some magazines simply go beyond mere magazine-form. Bardo Methodology definitely counts as one of the favorite things I’ve read in a long time. Not only does Göransson pick some extremely interesting interviewees, but he never goes for the low hanging fruits with his questions. There’s a refreshing honesty to his writing, also when things don’t seem to go his way. At some point during one of the interviews, it seems that a conflict starts to rise. As the interview cuts up here, the author explains what happens in a neutral manner, making the reader feel even more like a fly on the wall during the interview. That is one of the things that makes this zine so remarkable.
The depth of questioning and of the authors knowledge is astonishing to me. Questions really dive into the deep end with most of the characters, though here and there this means unmasking the pretenders it seems. One or two interviews really illuminated some charaters for me in a way that also dispelled the magic these figures once held. That’s the way of things, but also proof of skill from the one asking the questions. I’m looking forward to #3. Maybe it’s also interesting to mention that ‘bardo’ is not derived from bards. The word refers to the transition between life and death, where much extreme metal holds sway.
Again, not that I’m in the habit of reviewing zines, but these thick slabs of metal history/journalism are well worth mentioning. Though Forgotten Path is not a one man operation, it seems that Odium, the main author, has an obsessive urge to put words on paper. The amount of pages in this edition astonishes me, the same goes for the wide range of bands covered. Pages full of miniscule font cd-reviews, dense interviews and here and there an opinion piece, make for a read that fills up multiple evenings and rarely starts to bore.
Opinionated is something that definitely applies to Odium. He has a very clear artistic vision and view on the world, which shines through in his introductions, questions and most of all opinion pieces. This is not a bad thing, unless there was any pretense of being the objective writer. A zine is always personal and shaped by the authors. That is for me one of the main charms of Forgotten Path. Apart from that, they also do a great job at writing in a way that feels very natural, using speaking language instead of complex, intellectual swivel. A joy to read.