The Ring of Winter (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #5) ★★☆☆½

ringofwinter (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Ring of Winter
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #5
Author: James Lowder
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Edition



Artus Cimber, a former harper, has been searching for the Ring of Winter for over a decade with almost no success. However, when a fellow Adventurer member comes back from an expedition in the deepest, hottest jungles where dinosaurs live and tells of a freak snowstorm that saved his life, Artus knows he’s hot on the trail.

Taking off in the middle of the night with his only friend, an older mage, so that the Harpers can’t pressure him in any way, Artus’s journey doesn’t start well. The ship they paid passage to be on forces them to be regular sailors and the captain is an insane witch woman. Artus ends up killing her. Artus and Pontifex finally make it to Dinosaur Land, only to be attacked by members of the Cult of Frost, who are led by Kaverin Ebonhand. Kaverin also desires the Ring of Winter as it supposedly endows its controller with immortal life.

Pontifex dies, Artus is on his own. Sets off into the jungles with a local guide, only to find out it is a magician in thrall to Kaveron. Artus is captured by goblins, thrown into a pit of a monster that they worship and escapes with the help of 2 talking wombats named Byrt and Lugg.

I am NOT kidding.

Kaveron gets all the goblins to unite and attack the city of Mezro which had 7 magical guardians. One of them revealed that he had had the Ring of Winter but that he couldn’t control it and so threw it into the testing chamber where new magical girls, errrr, guardians were tested and chosen. Artus goes after it, gets it and saves the city because he CAN control the Ring.

Everybody who is still alive is happy and Artus realizes that he’s still a Harper at heart and now with a super powerful artifact he can do lots and lots of good things. Yippeee!


My Thoughts:

This was a perfect example of an author forcing the character to act like the author wanted without regards to any past actions, feelings or explanations. Artus starts out as an impetuous, selfish idiot. He hates the Harpers, puts others in danger without regard when searching for the Ring of Winter and generally acts like an ass. The shazaaam, he gets tested by the god Ubtao and suddenly he’s the soul of wisdom, discretion and goodness.

The talking wombats? Besides getting him out of the monster pit the first time, and talking in fake british accents, dropping all their “h’s”, etc, they were pointless. Which leads into all the side characters. There were so many that none of them really got to be “real” people. Kaveron was the perfect example. He’s the leader of the Frost Cult, has stone hands due to fighting with Artus in the past, is in thrall to the mad god Cyric and can make magical icemen assassins. Yet he loses control of a small goblin tribe? He was just a name attached to a vehicle that moved the plot forward. People are introduced and in a lot of cases, die off within 10-20 pages. I gave up trying to keep track because I never knew if someone introduced was a long term character or just another meat bag for the mill.

I felt like this had too many elements contained in one story and it diluted the whole focus on the Ring of Winter. Well, I’m giving the Harpers sub-series one more book and then if that book doesn’t get a 3.5star rating I’ll be done. I’m not 12 or 14 years old.

And the Ring of Winter? It should have been a wicked super awesome cool artifact. Kind of like this M:TG card looks. But no. It is as disappointing as the rest of the book.






The Night Parade (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #4) ★☆☆☆ ½

nightparade (Custom)

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Title: The Night Parade
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #4
Author: Scott Ciencin
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 310
Format: Digital Edition



Myrmeen, ruler of a successful city, is approached by her ex-husband. He tells her that their only child never died but that he instead sold the baby girl into slavery to pay off his debts. After lopping off her ex’s head, Myrmeen calls together some of her former compatriots, who are all Harpers.

Their research leads them to the conclusion that every so many years a hideous group of supernatural beings kidnaps children for nefarious purposes and said group is known as the Night Parade. The group finds Krystin, Myrmeen’s daughter but in their rush to leave the city, things happen, people die and the Night Parade is no longer content to let them be.

The Myrmeen and Co group meet up with a vigilante who has a magical item that he uses to kill the Night Parade. They all start hunting down the badguys, For The Children, and the Night Parade hits back, hard. Harpers die left and right, betrayals happen even after death and hardly anybody is who they say they are.

Krystin was a plant to lure in Myrmeen, the Night Parade are barren creatures from another realm that they can’t return to and through the Power of Luv, Myrmeen and Krystin rack up a serious body count of all their friends and tear away the shadow hiding the Night Parade. The Night Parade is prevented from ever recruiting more members and Myrmeen finds out that her biological daughter is being raised in a neighboring kingdom as a Poet Princess. Myrmeen lets her go and sets off on living life with Krystin as her stand-in daughter.


My Thoughts:

Wow! And here I thought Red Magic bad. This is the kind of Forgotten Realms book that gives the series its b-class, sub-standard, fantasy is crap, kind of reputation.

I suspect that Ciencin was told to write for horny 13 year old boys, as there were lots of descriptions of generic cleavage and legs and beauty and desire and crap. Sadly, the rest of the writing I’m not sure that even a 13 year old boy would put up with. Maybe?

Myrmeen. Where do I even start? She doesn’t think, she reacts at all the wrong times, she doesn’t consider anyone else but herself and then the eyerolling, gag inducing saccharin sweetness of her desire to be a mom. It was done wrong and it was done lazily and it was done stupidly. It doesn’t help that she seems to be attracted to every male she comes into contact with and that every single one of them dies. Seriously, she’s worse than a black widow.

The only reason I’m not complaining about the other characters is because except for Krystin, they ALL die. That’s just laziness to me. Don’t know how to handle someone’s future? Easy, kill them off. Don’t know how to engage your readers on a gut level? Easy, kill off a trusted companion. Don’t know how to even write effectively? Easy, kill somebody.

If you stuck a gun to my head and forced me to answer the question, which was worse, this book or Bloodwalk I would be really hard pressed to know what to say. I have had a recent string of bad books in the Forgotten Realms and I have to wonder when it is going to end. This Harpers series is on life support and it’ll only take 1 more stinker to sink the ship. I just hate wasting my time on trash.

While I rated this 1/2star higher than Bloodwalk, I am giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as its Mother/Daughter thing was so badly done that I felt nauseous. Bravo! And it turns out that this is the FIRST book to ever have that dubious honor. Double Bravo!!

★☆☆☆ ½


  1. Red Magic (Book 3)
  2. Elfshadow (Book 2)
  3. The Parched Sea (Book 1)
  4. The Wizards series
  5. Threat from the Sea trilogy
  6. Return of the Archwizards trilogy


Red Magic (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #3) ★★☆☆☆

redmagic (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Red Magic
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #3
Author: Jean Rabe
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Scan



Maligor, a Red Wizard of Thay, has plans, big plans. He’s built himself up an army of gnolls and has let it be known that a newly established young red wizard has built his tower on some land that Maligor wants. In secret, Maligor has been building an army of darkenbeasts out of cute wittle woodland animals and is planning on taking over the gold mines for his own personal enrichment.

The city of Aglarond, which is close to Thay, is worried about all the activity going on and they hire some Harpers to investigate. Galvin the druid and his friend Wynter the pacifist minotaur. Aglarond sends it own representative in the form of Brenna Greycloak, a small time politician and enchantress.

In the process of infiltrating Thay, the Harpers are captured by Szass Tam, lich wizard and main character in other future books. Szass Tam has them lead an attack on the mine to stop Maligor. They succeed, skedaddle out of Thay and go their separate ways.


My Thoughts:

I enjoy stories about the Red Wizards of Thay and about Szass Tam, so I was hoping this book was going to hit the spot, kind of like a good chili dog. Sadly, this chili dog had been left on the counter for a week then overcooked in the microwave for 10minutes.

The interactions between ANY of the characters, whether with other main characters or side characters, was complete cardboard. Galvin and Brenna fall in love for the adventure but then realize their separate life goals aren’t compatible at the end, so they amicably go their separate ways. Wynter the minotaur. THAT should have been awesome. But partway through he gets “magic’d” and acts like a child for some time. And don’t get me started on Maligor and his assistant Asp. I got whiplash from how they interacted. It was completely dictated by the plot instead of the other way around.

Then all the harping (hahahaha) about what a great strategic genius Maligor is because he’s using a public gnoll army to distract everyone while doing his real business with the darkenbeasts? It was bogus. I’m no military genius and even I would have been smarter than Maligor. I would have gathered in some other Red Wizards as “allies” and then betrayed them all like a Good Red Wizard is supposed to. Use their forces for my ends, weaken them and my other enemies and then crush them all in the end, using yet another set of “allies”. Szass Tam did this, Maligor, not so much.

Honestly, this whole book felt like the author hadn’t written any fantasy before, didn’t know how to make use of her characters, hadn’t ever watched one war movie and had no idea how to write a battle scene. “Meh” probably accurately sums up this whole book.

And this is what I got to read last week when I was super busy and doing lots of stuff outside of work as well. Not that I’m bitter or anything.



  1. The Parched Sea (Book 1)
  2. Elfshadow (Book 2)

Elfshadow (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #2) ★★★☆ ½

elfshadow (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Elfshadow
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #2
Author: Elaine Cunningham
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 324
Format: Digital Edition



Arilyn Moonblade, poor little half human and moon elf, is taken under wing by a gold elf who teaches her how to be the ultimate fighter. With her magical moonblade, she becomes an associate of the Harper organization to do the deeds they don’t want to sully their hands with.

When Arilyn’s acquaintances begin to die, all Harpers and all marked by a Harper symbol, she sets out to find the killer before the killer finds her. Unbeknownst to her however, her moonblade is a portal to the hidden elven realm of Evermeet and that is the true goal of the assassin.

She encounters Danilo Thann, foppish nobleman, amateur bard and in secret, the protege of Blackstaff Arunsen, major wizard in the city of Waterdeep. Danilo has been tasked with protecting Arilyn and her moonblade without revealing his true identity.

Lots of fights, flights and betrayals occur before the showdown where Arilyn learns about her family, who her secret adversary is and Danilo’s true identity. Sometimes belonging to a secret organization isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.


My Thoughts:

So much better than the first Harper book. The story was predictable as the sun and you know who the real badguy is by the halfway mark (at least, I did) but the interaction between Danilo and Arilyn was perfect. While Arilyn was the main character, Danilo was one of those sidecharacters who almost steals the show. He has to pretend to be a stupid fop even while being on guard against assassins both mundane and magical. The fact that he carries it off just made it all the better.

One problem I had, which is all me, is that I came across people and places whose names I recognized from other Forgotten Realms books but I couldn’t remember a lot of detail. It doesn’t help that I’m reading the overall Forgotten Realms books out of order. Evereska, city of Elves is mentioned as is Blackstaff Arunsen and both of those played a large part in the Return of the Archwizards trilogy.

After Denning’s writing style in the first book (I don’t like Denning and I’ll probably never stop mentioning that, fyi), Cunningham’s straightforward approach was refreshing. She can write well and while this setting doesn’t allow for spectacular writing, I was pretty pleased with how she handled everything.

The story about Arilyn’s moonblade, it’s magical history, her family drama, etc, were all ok but really, I only liked the fighting bits. And as for the Elfshadow, that was so blatantly obvious that I don’t even feel the need to comment on it beyond this.

On a kind of silly note, the cover just about makes me gag. Danilo looks like he’s about to turn into a fat merchant in about 2 years while Arilyn looks like an angry hobbit with pointy ears. I also found out that the adventures of Arilyn and Danilo are not only part of the Harpers series but eventually split off to become their own little thing called Swords and Songs. I don’t know if I’ll pursue that at some point or not.

★★★☆ ½



  1. The Parched Sea (Book 1)


The Parched Sea (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #1) ★★☆☆ ½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title:       The Parched Sea
Series:    Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #1
Author:  Troy Denning
Rating:   2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre:    Fantasy
Pages:     310
Format:  Digital Edition



The Zentarim, followers of the god Cyric, are trying to forge a path through the desert to establish a lock on future trade routes. This “forging” includes the pacification of the tribes of the desert, whether by bribery or coercian, the Zentarim don’t particularly care. The tribes must either support the Zentarim or perish tribe by tribe at the hands of the lizard mercenaries hired by the Zentarim.

Into this situation comes Lander, a relatively new Harper. He has been chosen to oversee the situation and do what he can to unite the tribes against the Zentarim. He comes across a lone survivor of one of the tribes, an outcast young woman named Ruha, who has been outcast for her magical powers. Now it is up to these 2 to convince children in the guise of tribesmen to confront a force that only promises riches.

With the help of a god, Ruha and Lander can do it. But the victories that the Harpers win are not without cost, as Lander finds out.


My Thoughts: Spoilers

I’ve read enough Forgotten Realms books to know when I’ve hit a good one or a bad one pretty soon from the get go. Unfortunately, this was a typical Troy Denning book, which means it was mediocre pablum, even given the context of the universe he was writing in. So this was not a good book.

The Harpers sub-series is written by enough various authors that I’m not giving up on it just from the first book, but I have to say, this does not bode well.

Lander was not a very engaging main character and when he dies near the end, it was more of a “meh” moment than anything else. Ruha is more of token “woman” than anything even while becoming more central to the story than Lander. For a Harpers novel, they certainly didn’t play much of a part. The little bit I did see of them makes me wonder if I’m going to enjoy their adventures or not. They seem to be meddlers and instead of taking direct action, manipulate others to do their work [dirty or otherwise] for them. While they claim to be proponents of freedom, etc, they sure don’t act like it.

★★☆☆ ½