291507Every time I think I have a handle on these anthologies and how they’re going to play out, they surprise me.

Realms of the Arcane is a compilation of stories all focused on wizards or magic in some form.  However all these stories are part of a larger one.

We start off in Candlekeep, legendary repository of lore and knowledge, where a young initiate is being berated and bullied by an ordained brother before being called upon by the abbot to clean a disused reading room.  But a secret door hiding another room holding tomes and volumes long untouched prove too much of a temptation for the young would-be brother and he begins reading.

That’s what most of these stories are, stories that the initiate is reading when he should be cleaning.  Stories of mad mages, talking skulls, brave princes, bards, creation myths, floating castles, ancient civilizations, and even -of course- Elminster.  All culminating to one of the deepest, darkest secrets of Candlekeep.  One that the young man gives his existence to keep.

Usually these anthologies are just a collection of stories that follow a common theme, such as they’re all about barbarians, or all set in a specific time frame, or all set around a specific event.  But this is the first framed story anthology I have seen…well…ever I think.  That’s probably why I was so drawn to it, it was a narrative structure I hadn’t seen in this platform before.

But all in all, an interesting and exciting read by itself.

One more Hollows book to go, and I think I’m caught up. The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison is next.

17285883Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever after from shrinking, but at a high cost. Now strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the races, between Inderlander and human, is shattering.

Rachel must stop the occurrences before the undead vampire masters who keep the rest of the undead under control are lost and it becomes all-out supernatural war. However, the only way to do so is through the ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils.