A Class Above: Books for Fans of D&D

Throughout this week, I’ve been discussing Dungeons and Dragons’ character classes, and giving examples of each class in literature. I have had an enormous amount of help with this. So many bookbloggers and authors have contributed to each post and I want to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone who made this series so awesome: Behind the Pages, Ricardo Victoria, Ryan Howse, The Swordsmith, Geeky Galaxy, Beneath a Thousand Skies, Bees and Books, The Irresponsible Reader, Kerri McBookNerd, and The Cyberbard. There is no way this series would have worked out without all of you taking the time and effort to contribute. You are the best!

I figure the appropriate way to end this week’s posts would be to shake it up a little bit: instead of talking about D&D classes in novels, I’m going to give some suggestions of novels for fans of Dungeons and Dragons. I’ll explain a little bit about the reason behind my picks. And..away we go!

First, before I run away with it, Geeky Galaxy has a recommendation:

NPCs by Drew Hayes

What happens when the haggling is done and the shops are closed? When the quest has been given, the steeds saddled, and the adventurers are off to their next encounter? They keep the world running, the food cooked, and the horses shoed, yet what adventurer has ever spared a thought or concern for the Non-Player Characters? (taken from Amazon)

“NPCs is a lot less serious and lots more fun. If you’ve wondered what happens when your adventuring party disappears, leaving the locals of the average fantasy tavern to pick up the pieces, NPCs is the book for you. Perfect for D&D and fantasy video games (think Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Skyrim), then this may just be the book for you!”

Now, brace yourself: I’m about to spout opinions.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help — the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together. (taken from Amazon)

Oh, how I loved this book! This is the best “we’re getting the band back together” book I think I’ve ever read. It’s also perfect for fans of roleplaying games. It has an effortless sense of humor, lots of viscera (and heart), the group dynamic, and it’s just flat-out fun. (Review)

Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Once merely creatures of legend, the dragons have returned to Krynn. But with their arrival comes the departure of the old gods—and all healing magic. As war threatens to engulf the land, lifelong friends reunite for an adventure that will change their lives and shape their world forever . . . 
 
When Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff see a woman use a blue crystal staff to heal a villager, they wonder if it’s a sign the gods have not abandoned them after all. Fueled by this glimmer of hope, the Companions band together to uncover the truth behind the gods’ absence—though they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the staff. The Seekers, a new religious order, wants the artifact for their own ends, believing it will help them replace the gods and overtake the continent of Ansalon. Now, the Companions must assume the unlikely roles of heroes if they hope to prevent the staff from falling into the hands of darkness. (taken from Amazon)

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, there’s no way you’re surprised that I brought Dragonlance into this. I promise, it isn’t my adoration of this series that puts it on the list. It absolutely fits. Originally, this trilogy was written in conjunction with TSR (now owned by Wizards of the Coast, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons). It has that adventuring feel, a mismatched group of companions that have to fight inner and outer darkness, and a vast world peopled with all sorts of fantastical creatures. Oh- and did I mention that there are actually Dragonlance campaign settings? Yup, you can totally play D&D in Dragonlance’s world of Krynn.

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs–a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts–five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light. (taken from Amazon)

Not only is there the D&D party dynamic, this series has something that most gamers will recognize: characters “level up”. They don’t start out awesome. Instead, they improve as they go along, facing bigger challenges as their skills grow.

Lexcalibur: Useful Poetry for Adventurers Above and Below the World by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik

And now for something different. Lexcalibur is not a novel. Nope. Instead, it’s a poetry collection that is perfect for roleplaying gamers and fantasy lovers of all kinds. It’s full of humor and wonder. (Review)

Okay, gamers, your turn: what books give you that wonderful “D&D feel”?

Links to the blog series:

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Fighters and Barbarians
A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Paladins, Clerics, and Druids
A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Rogues and Rangers
A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Bards and Magic Users

The Common Tongue: A Dark Fantasy Literary Magazine

Thank you to the editor for providing me with the first issue of The Common Tongue magazine in exchange for my honest opinion. Issue number one will be available on March 31st. Please be aware, readers, that while my review is appropriate for everyone, this is a horror and dark fantasy magazine. As such, younger readers might not be suited to its content.

Wow, this is a strong first issue! The tone of the magazine was well established from the first story, and it continued in a consistently creepy vein throughout. Every story brought its own brand of chilling (up until I got to the nonfiction pieces). I was very impressed at the variety of entries. Not only was there fiction; poetry and nonfiction opinion pieces also made an appearance.

While I thought every piece was very well written, there were three that stood out to me. Deeper Into Darkness by J. Porteous was incredible. It had an eerie vibe to it, and a tension that made me almost hold my breath. It followed a Beastman, a monster hunter, who was sent to a small town to catch and kill a vampyre. The story was told with enough detail to paint a vivid picture of a small place peopled with terrified folk demanding an answer, while equally scared of the one sent to provide it. I loved the way the ending cut off after giving just enough information for the reader to know what happened next. It was skillfully told.

“Everdeath” by Qril was brilliant! A poem that basically describes a total party kill from the perspective of the demon that did the deed, it was phenomenally told. I loved that it rhymed without feeling forced. Each member of the deceased fantasy party (cleric, minstrel, wizard, etc) had their own stanza. It was witty, dark, and altogether a great read. Absolutely genius.

Last, but most certainly not least, I was fascinated by the editorial piece “Differences in Dark Fantasy Subgenres”, written by Kade Draven. I was actually discussing dark fantasy, grimdark, and horror with a friend the other day and how the lines between them can get a little blurred. I really liked reading Kade Draven’s knowledgeable and well researched take on it. It was also a really smart addition to a magazine that will feature a little bit of each subgenre. I’ll be gnawing on this piece for quite a while.

The Common Tongue will be a great magazine for those who enjoy a macabre read, who appreciate that darker area and the things that often lurk in it.

Lexcalibur: Useful Poetry for Adventurers Above and Below the World by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik

Useful poetry for adventurers above and below the world from the guys at Penny Arcade. A collection of nerdy poems for adventurers of all ages, written by Jerry Holkins and featuring illustrations by Mike Krahulik. (taken from Amazon)

I was gifted this poetry collection. My friend described it as “Shel Silverstein poems for nerds”, and there’s really no better description. It’s all kinds of nerdy fun!

The poems are generally on the shorter side, and are extremely clever. There’s never that feeling of trying too hard and I found myself chuckling as I read through the book. The poems are engaging enough for children with enough wit and little nods that adults will be just as entertained.

The book covers all things fantasy, ranging from important topics such as were beasts, to concerns about viziers, and complaints about mimics. It’s incredibly obvious that both the author and illustrator are well versed in both the tropes and the lesser-known gems of the fantasy genre. They appreciate all things imaginative and fun.

Lexcalibur is made even better by the inclusion of whimsical and fun illustrations which are scattered throughout. They’re truly delightful and add so much to the book.

I should mention that Lexcalibur can only be found on the Penny Arcade website ( link here, for your convenience). The Penny Arcade comics themselves are meant for adults to enjoy, but this book is all-ages fun. I have heard rumors that there will be a second poetry collection coming before too long. If that’s true, I’m ready to pre-order it.

I loved, loved, loved this collection of poems! If you’re a lover of all things fantastical, you’ll really enjoy Lexcalibur. I’ll leave you with one of the poems:

Irony Lesson

I got a ring, and it makes me invisible.

No one can see me! A marvelous thing!

As I suggested, your eyes have been bested.

Completely invisible.

Except for the ring.

For the authors: thank you


I’ll start this post by saying the now overused phrase, it’s been a tough year. I kind of think that’s the unspoken assumption at this point: “I’m doing well” (considering it’s a tough year), or “It’s been a bad day” (in the middle of a tough year). The book community isn’t exempt from the “tough year” unfortunately. I could go into the nitty gritty, but smarter minds than mine have already done that. So, this one is for the authors: you are appreciated.

I know it must be a discouraging time for so many of you, either with news you might have received, or just with life in general. Being an author is not for the faint of heart. You do not have it easy. To take the words in your mind and share them with others requires a massive amount of bravery. It also requires being willing to relinquish a little bit of your vision, knowing that the reader will picture your characters differently in their mind than you do. That takes guts.

This year has been full of changes in schedules, jobs, and lifestyle. There has been worry, and there has been loss. I cannot tell you what a godsend it has been to be able to curl up with a book – either an old friend, or a new discovery – and leave it all behind for a bit. From familiar favorites such as Dragonlance and The Night Circus, to more recent favorites, like The Ventifact Colossus and The Devil and the Dark Water, these books have kept me calm(ish).

Authors, what you do is important. So, so important. You aren’t just writing words on a page. Rather, you are building an escape pod. Your words are reminding us that even though we’re all stuck in our homes bunker-style, we aren’t alone. Good still exists and so does hope, laughter, creativity, new worlds, and mystery.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for all you do. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading.

With Love,

A Voracious Reader

Awenydd and Conversations with a Country Boy by J.R. Maston

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“Awenydd” is an exploration of the self, growth, and measuring our internal perspective against the world around us. “Conversations With A Country Boy” is a collection of memories, recollections and thoughts on the culture and lives of the people growing up in rural Northern California.From the author of “Velvet” and “The Jar Curse.” (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often review poetry, probably because it’s such a personal medium. I find poetry to either be beautiful and real, or trite and annoying. There’s really no in-between for me. J.R. Maston’s poetry is of the beautiful and real variety.

What I loved about this collection was how incredibly raw it was. There was no holding back, or shying away. This isn’t a book about happy trees, or cute bunnies. It’s more like a conversation held late at night, when people are too tired to quiet themselves and their hidden thoughts and fears come out. Some of the poems felt so brutally honest that they were tough to read. I loved them, though.

This collection felt like a journey: you can walk it with the author. Themes of nostalgia, love, regret, loss, and healing can be found throughout. I can’t really say that I had a favorite poem: more like lines and snippets that stuck with me. At the moment,  parts from “Little Gray Dove” are circling though my mind.

“You know sometimes grief is like a little gray dove
we take him into the cup of our hand
we take all the time we need
whisper into him our sorrow”… (excerpt from “Little Gray Dove”)

I highly recommend this book, as well as the other collections by Maston: Velvet, and The Jar Curse.