Alta, before the Vista

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Second in the Dragon Jouster trilogy, in Alta we are reintroduced to Vetch, who is a little bit more grown up now, and so is his dragon.  But Vetch is not happy under Tian rule, and he carefully comes up with a plan to escape and head back to his own country of Alta.

Things are not as they seem in his old country.  Of course at first he is seen with suspicion as he is flying in on an Tian dragon wearing with Tian gear, but then he is grudgingly accepted into the home of a wealthy Altan and introduced to his daughter.  He lives with the family for a bit, trying to teach is people his new ways of training dragons in an attempt to get the Altans to build a stronger dragon army than the Tians.

But behind the scenes are priest kings, ruling with iron fists and not willing to give up any iota of power.  So Vetch flees Alta with a small band of followers, looking for find a place free from politics and vying for power.

As Joust showed the strong Egyptian influence of the Tian culture, so does Alta show the Atlantian influence in the culture and country of Alta.  This I found especially fascinating as there aren’t many books out there with Atlantian mythology or culture featured and I feel it was very well done.

But onwards and upwards my friends! Sanctuary is next.

In the third novel of the best-selling Dragon Jousters series, The Altan serf Vetch has escaped the enemy kingdom of Tia, only to find his homeland, Alta, enslaved by the evil Priest-Kings. With a small band of followers, Vetch must gather a secret army of dragon riders to rid their world of war and magical domination once and for all.

JOUST!

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I LOVED. THIS. BOOK.  Methinks I found a new fav author.

Joust is set in a prehistoric world based loosely off Egyptian (Tia) and Atlantian (Alta) mythology.  Vetch is an Altan boy who was enslaved to Tia and sent to the jouster’s compound to serve them, the very compound where the jousters train and learn how to ride dragons.  Now Alta has their own dragons, their own jousters, but the forces of Tia are stronger, allowing them to take over more Altan lands and enslaving most of their people.

All Vetch wants to do is become a jouster, despite the fact that it is forbidden because of his status as a slave.  But that does not stop him from finding an egg, hatching it and raising it in secret, and in time turning everything the jouster’s know about raising and training dragons upside down.

Now it could be that I’m a bit biased cuz I love Egyptian anything so much but yeah.  This book just KILLED it for me which is why we’re going straight off to the next one: Alta.

In the second novel in Mercedes Lackey’s richly-conceived Dragon Jousters series, the dragonrider Vetch escapes to Alta, the subjugated land of his birth. There, he hopes to teach his people to raise and train dragons-and build an army that will liberate his homeland.

Out of the Abyss

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So Out of The Abyss is not a novel per se, but I had to read it as I was running it for one of my D&D groups so here it is.

Third official published campaign from Wizards of the Coast, Out of the Abyss takes place mostly in the Underdark.  If anyone has been reading the more recent Realms books you will notice obvious tie ins between this and the novels.

The realm of the Abyss, home of the chaotics demon races, is held at bay from the prime material plane of Toril (or Abeir-Toril as it is now known) by a force called the faezrass.  Dark elves and denzions if the Underdark (the subterranean world beneath the surface of Toril) are most familiar with it as they are in contact with it almost daily, a subliminal itching or buzzing in the back of their minds to let them know it’s there.

But what happens when one goddess’ lust for power and one wizards arrogance combine to take that magical wall down?  Chaos of course, and the demons and their lords spew forth to wreck as much havoc as they can before being drawn/sent back to their own plane.

And that’s the gist of the story for this campaign.  Lloth decided she wanted more power, so she tricked the drow race’s greatest Archmage Gromph Baenre into tearing that barrier down and letting the demons out to play.  And while Demogorgon, Grazzt, Baphomet and the others are having a grand old time in their new kingdoms, Lloth is quietly taking over their old ones.

So. Players start off as prisoners of the drow in the underdark and in their attempts to escape and reach the surface they come across all manner of demons and possibly the demon lords themselves.  They can eventually make it back to the surface but then of course they are told they are the only ones who can help close the breach and take out the demon lords so down they go again.

Lots of different ways to end this campaign, and it’s different from the other ones I’ve run in that it’s very open world/sandbox-y.  There is not straight line to the end of the story, not even a semi-straight line with a few side branches.  Players can literally go wherever they want, whenever they want, which does make planning ahead and prepping per session difficult.  You pretty much have to have EVERYTHING on hand to be able to follow along where the players lead.

But that’s really the only downside to this campaign.  Pretty standard aside from that.

And now we’re off to the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood with The Thief by J.R. Ward next.

Having allied themselves with the Band of Bastards, the Brotherhood is committed now more than ever to eradicating the Lessening Society. Recovering from their most recent battle against the last of the lessers, the Brotherhood comes to realize that the fight against their enemies is far from over.

Throe, Xcor’s former second in command, is using an ancient tome to summon a new army engineered by a force more dangerous and evil than the Omega.

And now the brothers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood will be tested both at home and on the battlefield

 

The Blade Rises

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And I spoke to soon when I said we were done with Realms short stories.  Looks like we have one more here with Rise of the Blade. It was supposed to be another Harper tale but got held up in legal publishing limbo and was never officially released though you can find free PDF versions here and there, pretty sure the author Charles Moffat put it up on his site too.

Anywhoodle, Rise of the Blade is set in Waterdeep (of course) and starts off with a pair of Harpers: Witter, an old grizzled veteran who gets himself blown up on the first page, and Pierce aka The Doctor, his protégé and master of the Acadamy of Combat.  After Witter’s death, Pierce kinda seeks vengeance and shuts down the smuggling operation that killed Witter, squaring off against Giffs and guns.  Then he wanders around the city a wee bit, introducing you to his friends and allies who will be important later on as the real story unfolds.  Chev, Waterdeep’s most famous and talented swordsman, has been imprisoned in stone for hundreds of years.  Now free, he goes on a murderous rampage across the city, seeking revenge against the d’Or family for the wrongs their ancestor did to him so long ago.

A fun little story.  I would have liked it more as a complete novel with Chev’s backstory more fleshed out, but the characters are engaging and the combat isn’t boring so overall a good short story.

Ok.  Pretty sure we’re done with Realms for now.  Onwards to The Devil’s Cut by J.R. Ward.

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company’s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there’s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer–only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing’s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder. 

The Last of the Tudors

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The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory is indeed the last.  It’s mentioned somewhere in the book that this is the last one in the Tudor series that she planned, and that she intends to embark on a new series soon.  Haven’t seen anything on that yet, but I’m looking!

Ok so as reading order goes it’s the 15th book published, and the 14th book in the series if you’re going by real world chronology.  It’s from the perspective of the three daughters of Frances Grey: Jane, Katherine, and Mary who were great nieces to King Henry VIII (their grandmother being his youngest sister Mary Tudor who was briefly Queen of France) and their lives.

Quick breakdown, it’s divided into three parts.  The first part follows Jane Grey who was queen of England as per the will of King Edward VI, but she only ruled for nine days before being overthrown by Queen Mary I, King Henry VIII eldest child and beheaded at the Tower of London.

Katherine’s story is all about her life at court under Queen Mary and later Queen Elizabeth I, and about her eventual trial, imprisonment, and death.  Katherine married her husband in secret and without the consent of Queen Elizabeth and was accused of marrying her husband to put him or his family on the throne.  She was thrown in prison while pregnant and bore her first child.  Her husband later joined her in the Tower and there her second child was born.  She was eventually freed to live under house arrest, but separate from her husband and eldest son.  It was suspected when she finally died she had starved herself to death due to a broken heart.

Mary’s story I think is the saddest of all.  It seems she was born with a form of dwarfism, and was largely able to escape the intrigues and politics of court, surviving both her other sisters.  She fell in love later in life with an older man and followed Katherine’s footsteps by marrying him in secret.  She was suspected of treason and placed under house arrest for most of her life, separated from her husband for most of their marriage and he died before they could be reunited.  Mary however was eventually freed from her imprisonment to live a quiet life before succumbing to plague.

What amazes me most about this book is that I remember how much I enjoyed and sympathized with Queen Elizabeth’s character when she was featured in The Virgin’s Lover, but here I just hated her.  Her sister Queen Mary was portrayed as a relatively sad figure, a good person who felt like they had to do bad things to protect themselves, and you almost think she had a feeling of regret for her actions.  Queen Elizabeth however, was portrayed here as mean, spiteful, paranoid, and cruel. I loathed her has a character and it really speaks to Philippa Gregory’s ability as a writer to make you love a character in one book and hate them in the next.

So yeah, complete and utterly fascinating read.  I just devoured this thing from start to finish and I cannot wait for the new series she’s supposed to be coming out with.

But until then, moar Realms!  Rise of the Blade by Charles Moffat is next.

Rise of the Blade is a fantasy novel written by Charles Moffat in 1998 for the Harpers Series of Forgotten Realms

 

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