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Ascendant
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41 years old
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January 22, 1979

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Website URL  http://thewertzone.blogspot.com/

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  1. In Topic: Weis & Hickman Suing WOTC!

    Yesterday, 02:20 PM

    View PostQuickTidal, on 23 October 2020 - 01:29 PM, said:

    This is not accurate. The animated movie came out in January 2008, DWARVEN DEPTHS came out in 2006, and had been planned/worked on by Weis and Hickman since 2004 when they went to WOTC with the idea. WOTC reportedly agreed because the Chronicles and Legends sold bananas, and War Of The Souls era didn't. They were trying to return to the well.


    Ah, that makes more sense then.

    Quote

    Nope. The abandonment of the last books' marketing and especially its print run had everything to do with D&D 4th edition (I said 5e above, which was not accurate, it was 4th ed. I meant to say), not the animated movie. The marketing push for the first two books was fine, as were the print runs (they are easy to come by today as a result), it was Hourglass Mage that got screwed over at the 11th hour.


    That's in accord with the point I was making, that WotC dropped all interest in DRAGONLANCE pretty damn fast because of 4th Edition and the desire to blast through the contractual agreement.

    I think the situation with Jim Butcher doing a total reboot of the franchise developed during this timeframe (2008-11 or so) which is also why WotC wanted to wash their hands of W&H and move on with that project, which also never happened because Butcher had integrity.

    Quote

    Not true. Lost Chronicles was literally in 2006, 2007, and 2009, and begun in 2004. W&H literally rolled right from War of the Souls in 2003 into work on Lost Chronicles in 2004, for release in 2006-07, and didn't stop working on the IP till mid-to-late 2008 when they finished editing on MAGE.


    No, the gaming material. WotC released all of those novels, but they sold Weis and Sovereign the licence for D&D DRAGONLANCE tie-in material in 2003 after that one single rulebook was published (which in turn was the first DRAGONLANCE product released since the 15th anniversary adventure book in 1999) and then reverted the licence in 2008. So I don't think they had any interest at all in what was going on with the setting material at all, they were solely interested in the novels.

    The actual D&D gameplay material for DRAGONLANCE has always sold rather poorly, after the initial flurry of interest in 1984 for the original run of DL# adventures. That wouldn't necessarily be the case in the current market - where WotC are publishing D&D material so infrequently that anything with the logo on sells like hot cakes - and there were strong rumours that DRAGONLANCE was going to be relaunched with a setting and adventure book next year or in 2022, but those plans seem to have also been changed.
  2. In Topic: Weis & Hickman Suing WOTC!

    Yesterday, 12:15 PM

    Quote

    However, I see this as a necessary kick in the ass of a company that has not performed well in the past regarding racism, treating authors and stories well, building diversity, and has not changed significantly enough to really begin addressing those beyond PR pablum.


    This appears to be the crux of the matter. WotC like to say they are being diverse, inclusive, progressive etc, but they have gargantuan problems behind the scenes. One of the problems with the DRAGONLANCE project seems to have been them assigning Nic Kelman as editor to look over the book after it was already accepted for publication. Kelman is notorious for having written a novel in 2003 that glamourised pederasty and people have been urging WotC to get rid of him for ages, but they've ignored them. Assigning him to the project is like asking a fox to do a health and safety check of the henhouse.

    They also hired a QAnon-spouting idiot as a MAGIC artist, quietly rehired Mike Mearls (having removed him for reportedly passing details of sex abuse claims to the alleged abuser, a freelancer working for the company) and alienated a few of their writers and artists of colour by refusing to use their work whilst letting subpar work from white writers and editors through.

    WotC, at heart, do not seem to understand the issues around representation and prefer to do the minimum required so they look progressive but don't follow through behind the scenes.

    View PostQuickTidal, on 20 October 2020 - 04:23 PM, said:

    WOTC also were annoyed by the fact that the 'Lost Chronicles' books weren't helping to sell the post-War Of Souls setting by instead being nostalgic looks back at the Companions/Legends Era (something WOTC commissioned so I'm unsure why they thought that it would do that)...so they completely destroyed the marketing push for the final book, and fucked the print runs to nothing (making it a rarity now), and telling Weis and Hickman were to 'stick it' when they spoke up.


    This is interesting. IIRC, the Lost Chronicles was commissioned in 2005-06 because they thought the animated movie might do big business, so a series of books set in the same timeframe was a good idea. The movie did virtually no business at all (to the point where most people don't even know it exists today), so that didn't work so well. When D&D switched to 4th Edition in 2008, they brought all the settings back inhouse and terminated them (apart from FORGOTTEN REALMS, for which they have to keep publishing material annually or the rights revert to Ed Greenwood), which made them much less interested in the DRAGONLANCE books; the last Lost Chronicles novels was pushed out in 2009 to fulfil the contract and nothing more, and it remains the last DRAGONLANCE novel to be released.

    I don't think it had anything to do with the tabletop material because WotC have not released a single DRAGONLANCE-branded product since 2003. All of the material released in 2003-08 was from Margaret Weis's own company, Sovereign Press, and WotC was completely uninterested in any of it apart from the fairly minimal money it brought in via the licence fee.
  3. In Topic: The Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore

    12 October 2020 - 02:17 PM

    The Icewind Dale Trilogy Book 3: The Halfling's Gem by R.A. Salvatore

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    The Companions of the Hall have successfully located Mithril Hall, the ancestral home of Bruenor Battlehammer and his clansmen. Unfortunately, the quest was completed only at great cost: Bruenor was lost in combat with the shadow dragon Shimmergloom and the halfling Regis was captured by the assassin Artemis Entreri. Entreri is now taking his prisoner back to the great southern metropolis of Calimport, leaving Drizzt Do'Urden and Wulfgar with no choice but to pursue them, whilst Catti-brie organises the armies coming together to retake Mithril Hall. The pursuit is long and dangerous, and Drizzt must decide whether the recovery of his friend is true motivation, or the knowledge that Entreri is the first warrior to have ever matched him blade to blade, and how eagerly he seeks a rematch.

    The Halfling's Gem (1990) wraps up R.A. Salvatore's first fantasy series, The Icewind Dale Trilogy. The Crystal Shard had introduced the world to the dark elven ranger Drizzt Do'Urden and his companions and Streams of Silver had given them an epic, Tolkienesque quest to undertake. This concluding book sees them divided and hot on the heels of one of their kidnapped fellows, a scenario ripe for pulp fantasy adventure, and that's what we get. Drizzt and company visit the grand cities of Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate, Memnon and Calimport; engage in all manner of hijinks on the high seas; and are then pitched into battle with a shadowy thieves' guild and its allies, a mixture of wizards, giants and wererats. It's mostly splendid fun.

    By this third book, Salvatore has become a reasonable writer of straightforward action adventure and delivers an entertaining book in that mode. It does feel like he has larger aspirations to write an engaging travelogue of the Sword Coast (the west coast of the main Forgotten Realms continent of Faerun and the focus for many of the works in the setting), and in that respect falters; 320 pages isn't really enough time to do that and both Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate get decidedly short shrift in this book. Calimport is more fully fleshed out, but it's questionable to what extent Salvatore consulted the source material: the city's distinction of being divided into many dozen drudachs or subdistricts, each walled off from its neighbours, is not mentioned at all. As a result the unique character and flavour of Calimport is lost (Salvatore is also smarter than to rely on Arabian stereotypes for the city or Calimshan as a whole, although one hapless Memnon merchant does start leaning in that direction).

    Characterisation remains reasonable and Salvatore explores some interesting ideas, such as Drizzt using a magical mask to pass as a surface elf and avoid the racist appraisals of his character stemming from his skin colour alone, and facing a crisis of identity as a result. Drizzt also has to face his motives for dealing with Entreri, and whether these stem from a desire for revenge, a desire for a rematch with a worthy foe or a genuine desire to save his friend Regis. Wulfgar also gets a fish-out-of-water storyline as he finds himself trying to survive in civilised surrounds for prolonged periods for the first time, and we meet a few more characters who will become important in future volumes of the wider Legend of Drizzt series, such as Captain Deudermont and the crew of the Sea Sprite.

    On the minus side, there isn't much. This very much remains an action-focused, fast food meal of a fantasy novel and is enjoyable on that level, but those looking for a deeper, richer experience best look elsewhere.

    Otherwise, The Halfling's Gem (***½) wraps up this trilogy reasonably well. From this book readers can go back to experience Drizzt's backstory in The Dark Elf Trilogy or press on to find out what happens to the Companions of the Hall and Mithril Hall next in the Legacy of the Drow Quartet (I'd strongly recommend the former). The book is available now in the UK and USA.
  4. In Topic: The Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore

    13 September 2020 - 04:46 PM

    The Icewind Dale Trilogy Book 2: Streams of Silver

    Quote

    Having successfully saved Icewind Dale from the invading army of the sorcerer Akar Kessell - albeit at a high cost - Bruenor Battlehammer, Drizzt Do'Urden, Wulfgar and Regis embark on a new quest. This time their goal is Mithril Hall, the long-lost homeland of Bruenor. Unfortunately, Bruenor was only a child when the hall fell and has no memory of its location. The companions set out for the cities of Luskan and Silverymoon, hoping they will find clues to the Hall's whereabouts. But danger stalks the party, for the assassin Artemis Entreri is on their tail, seeking the halfling Regis, whilst the mages of Luskan are anxious for news of the Crystal Shard and are determined to recover it.

    Streams of Silver (1989) is the middle volume of the Icewind Dale Trilogy but mercifully escapes "middle book syndrome" by virtue of Salvatore not planning a trilogy in the first place. The Crystal Shard had to stand well enough alone so that if it bombed, readers would not be left on too much of a cliffhanger for a sequel that would never come. Fortunately, the book did very well and two sequels were commissioned, which are more tightly connected together (the "standalone+duology" school of trilogies, which has an honourable precedent in the original Star Wars trilogy).

    Streams of Silver is a less tightly-plotted book than The Crystal Shard and less epic in terms of having large armies clashing, but it's much more of a traditional Dungeons & Dragons adventure. We have our party, who even now get a cool name (The Companions of the Hall™) and they have a quest which takes them across the Savage North of the Forgotten Realms. Many, many later books would also focus on this region but it's interesting to see it in a nascent state here with a lot of the worldbuilding still in a fairly embryonic stage, to the point where Salvatore overlooks the existence of the later very high-profile city of Neverwinter, which is amusing, and Alustriel Silverhand, one of the infamous Seven Sisters, only has two sisters at this juncture. We get a nicely varied story as well, taking in political-magical intrigue in the city of Luskan, a semi-comic interlude in the whimsical wizard hamlet of Longsaddle, a more desperate long-running battle across the troll-infested Evermoors, an angsty stay in the city of Silverymoon (a bastion of peace and enlightenment where Drizzt hopes for respite, only to be turned away because of his dark elven heritage) and a final descent into Mithril Hall, presumably thoroughly checked by TSR's legal team to stave off the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate suing them into the next universe.

    An interesting parallel storyline emerges where the assassin Artemis Entreri is hot on our heroes' trail and assembles an "evil party" to bring parity to their encounter, complete with its own wizard, tracker, magical construct and a reluctant guide in the form of Catti-brie, Bruenor's adopted daughter now turned hostage. Given that Catti-brie was barely even in the first book, it's good to see her have some character development in this volume.

    There's a lot more female characters in general, including several among the villains, which remedies one of the oddities of the first book. There's a fair bit of action, although not quite as breathlessly over-the-top as in the first book (sadly Drizzt and Wulfgar don't get to take out two dozen giants single-handed, which was stretching credibility just a bit), and Salvatore's writing calms down. No more excited exclamation marks after every other sentence! His prose can still veer towards the cheesy (especially whenever he decides Drizzt needs to be introspective and ponder on the unfairness of the world), but it's easily accessible and straightforward. There's still more enthusiasm than skill here, but it's surprising how much fun that can be.

    The novel is very much still in the "Big Mac with extra fries" mode of fantasy literature, but it does make some clumsy nods towards engaging with a big theme when it comes to racism. Drizzt is a dark elf or drow, whose people were cursed and outcast from the rest of elven civilisation ten thousand years ago after betraying the other elven peoples during the Crown Wars. As a result, Drizzt encounters extreme hostility from pretty much everyone he meets. Later Forgotten Realms fiction would cast this event as a grand tragedy, with many tens of thousands of innocent and "good" dark elves punished for the crimes of their evil brethren, with many drow fighting for redemption under the banner of the goddess Eilistraee. At this early stage in the setting's history, though, the worldbuilding is more that all the drow are evil all the time (apart from a small number who are merely totally amoral instead), and Drizzt is the only exception in the whole world. On that basis it's hard to make Drizzt's story about racism work when virtually all the other drow we meet are inherently evil (shades of Dragon Age trying to make a story about bigotry against its mages because the run the risk of being overwhelmed by evil forces, despite the fact that almost every single mage we meet does go insane and get possessed by a demon at one point or another). Later books, which introduce more nuance to the setting, do deal with the issue more successfully.

    Streams of Silver (***½) is a reasonable follow-up to The Crystal Shard. Salvatore has improved as a writer, although this is still very much at the enjoyable pulp end of the literary spectrum, and makes a couple of nods at larger themes around racism, homelands and belonging in this book, which are not altogether successful. He does deliver a readable, action-packed story which moves with verve through an interesting setting. With the success of this novel a bit more assured, there's a cliffhanger ending leading into the concluding book in the trilogy, The Halfling's Gem.
  5. In Topic: The Age of Madness by Joe Abercrombie

    28 August 2020 - 04:00 PM

    Book 2: The Trouble with Peace

    Quote

    Trilogies can be a tricky structure to pull off. All too often they consist of a great opening volume and a solid conclusion, but where the middle book exists mainly to pad out the wordcount. In the case of The Age of Madness, the second trilogy set in Joe Abercrombie's First Law world, the work justifies the length. A Little Hatred set up the characters and reintroduced us to the world some thirty years on from the events of the original trilogy and three stand-alone follow-ups, and focused on a series of somewhat self-contained storylines to introduce us to the new core cast of characters. It did its job splendidly.

    The Trouble with Peace builds on those foundations with a surprisingly epic novel. If A Little Hatred was a bit more small-scale than what we are used to from Abercrombie, focusing mainly on politics in Adua, civil discontent in Valbeck and yet more violence in the North (well-handled, but it feels like that plot well has been visited quite a few times already), The Trouble with Peace expands the scope considerably. In just under 500 pages, Abercrombie delivers us a tense election in Westport, political machinations in Styria, fuming discontent over refugees in Midderland, yet more political chaos in Adua, a quest by a brave band of Northmen (and two women) to find a sorceress, more economic and technological advancements in the Union crushing the little people underfoot, and whispered conspiracies in dark corners that eventually lead to a huge conflagration. A Little Hatred was the prelude to a much bigger story, which not only begins in The Trouble with Peace but feels like it climaxes, with a surprising amount of closure before the last chapter blows open the story again for the grand conclusion.

    The result is one of Abercrombie's strongest novels to date, a story of politics and war and the individuals swept up in events. One of the most remarkable things about it is that it opens a yawning chasm between the characters who were (more or less) on the same side of things in the first volume. Characters choose sides for logical reasons and the reader's sympathies may be tested because it's hard to say who is in the right and who is in the wrong. Those who want to overthrow the old order because it is bloated and corrupt and backed by Bayaz, whom we know through seven previous novels is not a particularly trustworthy guy, have some excellent points, but those who want a continuation of peace, not sticking swords through people and undertaking more gradual reforms also have a point (and Bayaz may be a ruthless and untrustworthy git, but he also did kind of save the Union from a far greater evil in the original trilogy, from a certain point of view), and seeing the two sides come to blows is decidedly painful.

    As the novel unfolds there are traditional shocks and surprises, abrupt reversals of fortune, dramatic falls from grace and sudden elevations to grace. There's also moments of friendship and mercy, but moments when even sensible and solid characters fall prey to bigotry and are easily manipulated by outside forces. There's also moments when those blessed with intelligence and cunning find themselves laid low by their own overconfidence.

    There's also a feeling of topicality swirling through the novel. Abercrombie started planning this trilogy way back before he even finished the stand-alone successors to The First Law in 2012, so the underlying plot presumably was not based on contemporary politics, but it's hard not to consider the topicality of a city's referendum on the wisdom of leaving the Union, or the simmering and unreasoning rage being stoked in a rich and prosperous kingdom by an influx of immigrants contributing to that prosperity but who have the temerity to have differently-coloured skin. This is also firmly inspired by more distant historical events of course - the Industrial Revolution and the protest movements it sparked, like the Redressers and the Luddites - but watching contemporary events being reflected in a work of epic fantasy (not normally the most politically sophisticated genre of fiction) is unusual and refreshing.

    The Trouble with Peace (*****) is Abercrombie delivering what he usually does - a story packed with memorable characters, action and dark humour - but with also more attention to worldbuilding and pace. A lot happens in a constrained page count (by the standards of the genre) and the pages fly by. There's also an increasing, Pratchett-esque attention to fantasy's oft-unfulfilled potential to reflect the world we live in, making for a smarter and more intelligent book. The novel will be released on 15 September in the UK and USA.

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  1. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    05 Mar 2020 - 09:29
    Sorry, missed your birthday this year. Hope it was a good one.
  2. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    22 Jan 2019 - 11:51
    Dun dun dunnnnn ...
    Forty! YAAAAAHHHHHH!
    Have a good one.
  3. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    22 Jan 2018 - 08:24
    Same as below. Better make it a good one because it's 40 next year.
  4. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    22 Jan 2010 - 15:32
    Happy Birthday, now go out and get wrecked :)
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