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Realms of the Dead: A Forgotten Realms Anthology (The Haunted Lands) Mass Market Paperback – January 5, 2010
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"Pieces" by Richard Lee Byers is an interesting story where two undead, one a ghost and the other an undead bard who still possesses some of his magic powers, attempting to solve a murder mystery against the will of those who want to take advantage of the distraction to remove some insurgents from their midst. We see something of the underground opposing the ruler of Thay. It's an OK story, taking a good while to develop, and all the characters seem to be one step ahead of each other. If they were as clever as they thought, they'd not have repeatedly gotten themselves into so much trouble. It's frustrating that the characters just kept hitting their own walls so much.
"Soul Steel" by Lisa Smedman is a tale of an elfmaid seeking vengeance against the liege who murdered her brother. When she discovers the reason why, she will not relent. She arrives at a dangerous plan, requiring conspiracy with a drow wizard to forge a weapon capable of destroying her sworn enemy. The situation gets very complex, with a dwarf prisoner joining her cause, then becoming something of her savior, with a couple other twists along the way. Another decent story, but nothing spectacular.
"The Resurrection Agent" by Erin Evans is a story of two colleagues who served an information broker in various capacities trying to see that she receives a proper burial. When they are accosted by animated dead who were once their vicitms, of sorts, the victims turn the tables and steal the body of the information broker. Now the two agents must seek to recover their former employer to fulfill their last obligation, but can they defeat a vampire and its legion of minions to do so? Another decent story, though it started very slowly and was really only redeemed near the end, as the characters faced their fears and gave one final effort to complete their last mission.
"Wandering Stones" by Bruce Cordell is a fantastic story. A long-lost descendant of a rare breed capable of controlling dragons and bending them to her will seeks refuge in a place which dragons cannot enter. She is in flight because she presumed to order about a dragon, and her powers did not manifest themselves. She finds her destination, but the dragon is hot on her heels, and having located the hidden refuge it enters to seek its revenge upon this mortal who presumed to order it about. But the dragon does not believe the legend of the wandering stones, and will it survive the lesson? Great story, good characters, fast moving plot. This one's a winner.
"The Bone Bird", by Jaleigh Johnson, is a story that teaches the consequences of taking what does not belong to you. A priest has been summoned to help repel an undead creature that has repeatedly threatened a town on the edge of a wooded region. Nothing the villagers can do seem to harm the creature. The priest is old and ill and falls on the trip. Can his young protege complete the mission? This is a good story, but it's not the best in the book. Still, there are solid characters, some of whom get their comeuppance more than once, lessons are learned, including that it's sometimes better to let one's enemy get what it wants.
"Feast of the Moon" by Christopher Robert is a great story. A priest of Malar, the Beastlord, must complete a terrible hunt before the moon sets. His prey is the most dangerous in the region, as chosen by his god. Can he slay with no weapons the undead creature his god has set before him as prey? Given that he must complete the hunt before a pair of halflings can kill the creature in revenge for its killing of their friends only complicates matters.
"A Prayer for Brother Robert" by Philip Athans is a cute story. A young priest, more accustomed to kitchen work than fighting undead, is the reluctant hero seeking to clear a young lady's home of the terrible undead things inhabiting her inherited house. With no experience, he's forced into a situation he'd rather just run from, and he's clearly over his head. Can he save the lady and himself? This story is OK, a good read, but not world-changing. Call it a coming-of-age tale for the priest. This is another story set about a century after the Spellplague.
Richard Baker's "The King in Copper" is a great story about a young lord whose realm has been fading for decades. He's under the thumb of overbearing and crude mercenaries now serving only themselves. They want all his realm's riches and force him to take them to a forbidden site. He conspires in hopes of leading them to their deaths. Can he survive and keep them from killing him, raping his wife, and plundering what little remains of his realm? This is a really great story, with the characters getting what's coming to them, some in a good way and some not so much.
Rosemary Jones' "Dusty Bones" is a really fun story. Waterdeep's cemetaries are maintained by the Carver family, whose distant "cousin" has come to live with them and proved himself to be little more than a useless nuisance. When it turns out he's seeking a hidden treasure long-hidden in a crypt, leading to much chaos and other amusement, well, that's just good reading. The main character in this one is the best in the whole book, with his frustration at this idiot cousin interfering with his pursuit of brawls and wenches just perfectly painting the picture of young mister Carver.
Ed Greenwood's "The Many Murders of Manshoon" is something of a confusing tale, even for one who's read all of Greenwood's works. Manshoon, a terribly powerful wizard, now a vampire, is seeking revenge upon those who plotted his death. His elaborate plans keep going awry. Elminster, of course, makes his appearance as the traditional foil of Manshoon, but it's not simply the sage being one step ahead of his old foe. He's got personal stakes in the game and not all of them come out safely. This is a decent story, but if you've not read a lot of the backstory, you won't know who's who and you'll be lost.
"A Body in a Bag" by Erik Scott de Bie reads like a teen sitcom. The young demonspawn is in love with the young necromancer girl (think goth teen) who is betrothed to -- and deeply in love with -- the young heir to the lordship. The tiefling and the necromancer come upon her betrothed's brother, dead, and try to bring him back to life. When he turns into a flesh-eating ghoul, well, merriment ensues. There's all the cliched love triangle bits, where he can never tell her how he feels and she thinks they're just friends. It starts out great, moving right along, but it just loses itself in the old tired plot.
"Iruladoon" by RA Salvatore is a wonderful tale. Something of a sequel to his most recent novel, _The Ghost King_, we see something of the ultimate fate of Regis and Catti-Brie. They're still in their divine home in the forest, but who knew that forest had a location on Toril and not some higher plane? Great story, with the characters in it encountering these two as strangers, though they are plain to those of us who've read Salvatore's many works. Still, if you're reading these stories cold with no history in the novel line, you will have no idea what's happening here. Still, for those of us in the know, this is a beautiful little vignette.
Overall, the stories were good to read, with only a couple real misses.