Forever Sisters

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Three Sisters Three Queens by Philipa Gregory is the 14th book she’s written within the Tudor saga, and if you’re reading the series by her suggested reading order based on real world chronology, it falls in line as the 8th book in the series.

The title is a bit misleading. At first glance you think of the three sisters all being related by blood, when in fact it’s the story of two blood related sisters and an in law: Margaret Tudor, Mary Tudor (sisters of King Henry the VIII) and Katherine of Aragon (his wife) who were all queens of England, France, and Scotland respectively.

It’s told entirely from the perspective of Margaret Tudor, and at times it was very hard to like this woman. She seemed very spoiled and vain, every time the attention was taken away from her for whatever reason she would complain about being ignored and put out.  The only time I really sympathized with her was when she was trying to live her own life free of the rules of the men who controlled her.  She fell in love with a man and married him after the death of her first husband on her own terms, but when it was found out he was no good, she fought to be free of him and was thwarted at every turn, even losing her firstborn son from her care for many years, having her second born die in captivity, and her daughter sent away from her.

That being said, despite my disconnect from the main character I could not put this book down. It features a bit more of Scottish history since Margaret Tudor married King James IV so that was what really held my interest to be honest.

Super excited for The Last Tudor, but we’ll have to wait a wee bit for that, as The Weaver of Dreams by Ed Greenwood is next.

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Resistance is Futile

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The Way by Ed Gentry ties into Neversfall in The Citidels series in some way, but I’m not sure how. It’s been so long since I read it and Google searching aren’t turning up a lot of stuff.

Anyways, we’re introduced to Corbrinn, a Halfling ranger, on his current assignment. Leading a caravan of merchants through a forest.

All goes well at first, until a woman wakes up screaming that her husband is missing.

Being the best at woodlore and it kinda being his job on this kind of trip, Corbrinn goes off in search of the missing caravaner. What he finds at the end is not at all what he expected.

The caravan is attacked by a motely crew of humans and humaoids, working together when history and demographics state they really shouldn’t be. Corbrinn does what he can to help, but is in the end is overcome but the creatures and their masters: Formians. Ant like creatures with telepathic abilities that can overcome the mind and enslave ‘lesser’ creatures in their seeming attempt to create the perfect world.

Alas and alack, Corbrinn and those caravaner who survive are overcome by these creatures and are now mind slaves to them

Resistance is futile.

Aside from not really knowing what ‘The Way’ is, it’s a good story. Like I can assume it’s either the hive mind of the Formians or Corbrinn’s ranger ways, but for me we’re not clearly pointed in one direction or the other as to what exactly ‘The Way’ is.

Super excited for what we got planned next.  Three Sisters Three Queens by Philippa Gregory!

As sisters they share an everlasting bond; As queens they can break each other’s hearts.

When Katherine of Aragón is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a sisterhood unique in all the world. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.

United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret’s proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.

And Boom Goes the…Pig…

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So the full title of this short story is Pigs Explode: A Tale of the Seigebreakers. We were first introduced to the Seigebreakers in Crypt of the Moaning Diamond, also by Rosemary Jones, and fourth in The Dungeons series.

A rag tag and eccentric group of mercenaries who claim they can bring down any walls. Sometimes with very…unconventional…methods.

I’m not entirely sure when this story takes place in regards to the Seigebreaker’s timeline, whether its before or after the events of the Crypt. I assume before as that’s kinda how these things go, but it’s not for certain.

Anyways, the Seigebreakers have been contracted to bring down the tower of a wizard that has kinda been…well not terrorizing the local townsfolk so much as annoying them, by killing their herds of swine and ensuring the meat was unharvestable.

We’re brought into the story as the Seigebreakers are surveying the land, trying to figure out how they’ll take this tower down while the wizard is away, and they happen on a very interesting and gross idea. The land around the tower is littered with hog corpses, bloated and decaying slowly.  So what do they do? Break into the tower’s basement, pile up the bloated corpse, light a match and run.

The methane gas that had built up within the dead swine was more than enough to make a big bada boom and bring down the tower in rubble amid a shower of dust, debris and pig guts. A smelly but successful ending to their latest endeavor.

And that’s it. It was fun seeing the Seigebreakers run around again, there was a scene with a yappy chihuaha or something that was pretty funny.

Up next we’re going to look at The Way by Ed Gentry.

Serpents and Thayans

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Serpentsong by Richard Lee Byers is again! One of those stories that while being good, is not what I was expecting.  I was thinking this to be something about Yuan-ti and was SUPER excited about it because we don’t see a lot of stuff with Yuan-ti in it, but sadly t’was not to be.

Instead we are introduced to a band of adventurers, one of whom is a Thayan bard named Bareris, held captive by lizardfolk and being led by their shaman-bard to a prison island surrounded by hundred of poisonous snakes. Only the lizard shaman’s song can calm the snakes enough to allow passage back and forth from the island to the mainland, so once the shaman leaves the group there, they’re trapped.

For a little while at least. It’s not long before the lizardfolk are back and the shaman sings a song to calm the serpents and call forth one of the adventurers to be sacrificed. This happens twice, each time with Bareris trying and failing to break the shaman’s magic.

It’s only when the surviving members of his company try to kill him for his failure, and he lights on the idea of working with the shaman’s magic to turn it against him. His fellows allow him to live for one more night, on the condition that if he fails again his life is forfeit.

Which of course doesn’t happen, and Bareris is able to subvert and take over the shaman’s song, allowing the rest of the company to kill the lizardfolk and escape.

So all in all a happy ending to a otherwise gruesome and disturbing tale. The next one we’re looking at seems like it’s going to be just as interesting.  Pigs Explode by Rosemary Jones.

Warpigs and Wizards

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Never a Warpig Born by Ed Greenwood is complete fluff. Just a fun, silly story about Elminster and the Simbul, and a boar who was once human.

Several years ago a warrior got too frisky with a priestess of Sune and was cursed by the priestess to wear the form of a boar until a series of inane and humerous tasks was accomplished.

When we meet this boar, he has completed all tasks but one: Kiss the Simbul, and return to being human.

Elminster and Mirt intercept the boar and his orc companion as they attempt just that, and Elminster has the brilliant idea to play a prank on his lover, the most powerful and volatile sorceress Faerun has seen in eons.

Not a bright idea.

But all’s well that ends well. The Simbul doesn’t kill anyone after being duped into kissing the boar, the boar is human once more, and Elminster of course makes off scot free.

So yeah. Total fluff, kinda more of a snippet of life between two lovers than anything else, but not bad.

Serpentsong by Richard Lee Byers is next.

Blacksmiths and their Genies

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Bold as Brass by Clayton Emery was a short story intended for an anthology called Neverwinter Nights that sadly never saw the light of day. And so far this is among my favorites of the Realms short stories I have come across.

We begin this story in the City of Brass in the Elemental Plane of Fire. We meet a djinn craftsmen Gisnervi who is to present a present to the favored grandchild of the sultan of the city.  Sadly for him, the gift is tampered with, the child is killed, and the djinn blamed and has to flee for his life.

Meanwhile on the material plane of Faerun, we meet Samir, a human blacksmith (I think, his race is never really mentioned or confirmed) on the run from the local cutthroat crafters guild. Captured by lizardfolk he is about to be killed and eaten when Gisnervi, on the run from the sultan’s gaurds, traverses the gateway of fire and pops out in the lizardfolk campsite, scaring most of them away and earning Samir’s gratitude.

In repayment for saving Samir’s life and after some discussion, Gisnervi tosses Samir into the plane of fire to try and have the boy Gisnervi doesn’t think is really dead.

Bit of slapstick here, but I enjoyed it because it was a fun, quick read set mostly in a plane we don’t often get to visit in the Realms so I liked it.

Now if this isn’t an interesting title I don’t know what is: Never a Warpig Born by Ed Greenwood is next.

Seven They Were

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Seven They Were by James P Davis is a bit of an odd one. It’s really hard to catch the thread of this story because it jumps around so much.

So in the first part we’re introduced to Serevan, youngest of a brood of three children born to a Nar warlord. Quiet and studious he ignores his brother’s bravado and goes about his own machinations.

Then we jump to the child of a king-priest, favored of the demon prince Graz’t and whose home has been conquered by the Nar.

Back to Serevan’s family, and his warlord’s father’s disspointment in the eldest son to breach the walls of a city he was to conqur.

Now we jump to a brother and sister who were raised in the wilds and disspaeared from their village one day with ‘ancient blood’ in their veins.

And it just goes back and forth like that. We’re eventually able to piece together that this Serevan is working on a dark ritual with a warlock? Sorcerer? Named Goorgian and that he needs the blood of seven children to make it work.

But what this ritual is, why they’re doing it, and just who these children are with ‘ancient blood’ in their veins is a complete mystery and I hate that. Don’t get me wrong the writing was fantastic and I super wanted more of it, just leaving it there with more questions than answers will always kinda irk me.

Few more to go! Another short story up next, Bold As Brass by Clayton Emery

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