What I’m Reading

Over the past … umm … decade or so, I’ve let my reading habits slide. When I was much younger, I read avidly though nothing of particular note. I got my hands on The Hobbit in 5th Grade and quickly moved on to the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, which formed a nice fertile bed for an imagination steeped in fantasy to flourish. Roleplaying games – AD&D 2nd Edition specifically – came naturally out of that bed, and with it came the novels. The Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy had me hooked from the opening page, and I loved every word in those books.

Somewhere in there, I don’t exactly recall when, my family and I came upon a garage sale in a town just north of us (Maple Plain). There, someone had decided to sell their entire collection of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels for $0.50 each. A steal! I used up my own meager funds quickly and begged my parents to help with the rest, which they graciously did. A vast collection of novels flooded into my hands, most of which were Forgotten Realms but a few older Dragonlance novels as well in there.

The first trilogy I read from that pile was the Moonshae books by Douglas Niles (Darkwalker on Moonshae, Black Wizards, and Darkwell) which I believe I grabbed because they were the “first” set when you look at the books in chronological order, though I knew that the novels didn’t tie into one another beyond the shared setting. They were fantastic novels and a good introduction to the Forgotten Realms on a whole, but to be honest? I don’t remember a lot of details about them at this point.

What I do remember is the second trilogy I devoured – the Icewind Dale Trilogy, R.A. Salvatore’s first Forgotten Realms novels and the introduction of great, timeless characters. Drizz’t Do’Urden, Wulfgar, Catti-Brie, Regis, and Bruenor Battlehammer. The Dragonlance novels had the Companions of the Lance, and they were very interesting and well thought out, but here Salvatore had created a party of characters that wore their D&D origins on their sleeves. The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and The Halfling’s Gem were pure joys to read and set me upon my path as a devout Forgotten Realms fiction fan.

I think I picked up the Dark Elf Trilogy as the books were released, or maybe just after – I don’t recall, but those were also fantastic, telling of Drizz’t’s Menozoberranzan upbringing, years in the Underdark, and how he came to Icewind Dale. I couldn’t get enough of them, and as Salvatore wrote follow-ups to his original trilogy – The Legacy, Starless Night, Siege of Darkness, etc. – I kept up pace. But then something happened. I think it was the release of D&D 3rd Edition and my leaving of high school, but I found I didn’t make as much time for fiction reading. I would still pick up the books, and tried to read sporadically, but it was as if that need was being fed by the plethora of game books that I picked up and the stories I wanted to tell with my friends. My reading habits slipped down into a slump until only recently.

Why do I mention this in a post about what I’m reading? I decided with the release of D&D 5th Edition that I would try to get back into the fiction line, especially since Forgotten Realms had become the setting for the Adventurers League (the organized play arm of D&D). Big things had happened in the Realms that I was pretty oblivious to – the War of the Spider Queen, so many more Salvatore novels, the rise of Netheril and the Shade, and the Spellplague just to name a few. But Wizards was releasing a series of bridge novels called The Sundering that I was hoping would explain a lot.

The first one, The Companions, was written by R.A. Salvatore, and I read it quickly. It was good and reintroduced Regis, Bruenor, and Catti-Brie in new ways as they figured out the world around them, and I felt their journey reflected my own in part. While I didn’t read the novels where these iconic characters had died, I knew that they must have over the intervening years. Their resurrection into the world hooked me again and I wanted to read more about their activities.

It took a while longer but I snagged Salvatore’s follow up trilogy in hardcover, the Companions Codex, and finally just a few days ago I picked up the first book to read, Night of the Hunter. It’s strange, to read about these characters that I haven’t followed for a decade or more, but there’s more than a small twinge of the familiar as well. Salvatore is still a fantastic writer but I sometimes feel he relies a bit too much on the reader’s familiarity with the D&D game. Oh well, makes it more exciting for me!

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