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The rise of the Realms’ most powerful wizard!

Collecting the first three of Ed Greenwood's classic Elminster tales: Elminster: The Making of a Mage, Elminster in Myth Drannor, and The Temptation of Elminster, together in a gorgeous trade paperback package, Elminster Ascending is a must-read for every Realms fan—particularly those looking forward to the much-anticipated sequel, Elminster Must Die!

Elminster Ascending chronicles the early years of the Realms' most powerful and colorful wizard, the Sage of Shadowdale, Elminster. Follow Elminster from his humble beginnings as a traveling mage to the tragic collapse of an elven empire, and on to a personal turning point that could have sent him down a path to corruption and darkness.

757 pages, Paperback

First published November 2, 2010

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About the author

Ed Greenwood

323 books772 followers
Ed Greenwood is the creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world, which became the setting for his home D&D game in 1975. Play still continues in this long-running campaign, and Ed also keeps busy producing Realmslore for various TSR publications.

Ed has published over two hundred articles in Dragon magazine and Polyhedron newszine, is a lifetime charter member of the Role Playing Game Associaton (RPGA) network, has written over thirty books and modules for TSR, and been Gen Con Game Fair guest of honor several times.

In addition to all these activities, Ed works as a library clerk and has edited over a dozen small press magazines.

Invented the character Elminster from the popular Forgotten Realms RPG series. Currently resides in an old farmhouse in the countryside of Ontario, Canada.

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5 stars
115 (46%)
4 stars
73 (29%)
3 stars
38 (15%)
2 stars
12 (4%)
1 star
7 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
September 8, 2020
As I read through the three novels collected here, I'll rate and briefly review each individually, both to mark my progress and so that my thoughts on each individual book are captured before I comment on the whole.

(Book 1) Elminster: The Making of a Mage - 3 stars

The Making of a Mage is a somewhat competently-written, flawed piece of brand-fantasy. It features a young Elminster, who is more commonly known as an Odin- or Merlin-like supreme sorceror in the world of the Forgotten Realms. Multiple years of El's life are depicted here, from a boy who (extremely quickly in the story, I'll add) loses everything, to a thief in the streets of Hastarl, to a gender-swapped version of himself learning from the Elves, and finally to a reawakened Elminster storming the magelords of Athalantar.

It's a somewhat trite tale whose cliches are mitigated somewhat by the way in which it is told, in that it is written like a legend. However, this is marred by a notable amount of typographical errors and the excessive amount of scenes Greenwood writes about naked people. Some of the prose, especially the more filler-feeling bits at the end, were also somewhat tough to get through even when not typo-riddled. Regardless, it was an average-enough story with some small twists on the formula, and that's good enough for me to recommend it to a bona-fide Forgotten Realms fan. We'll see if this changes going into book two.

(Book 2) Elminster In Myth Drannor - 1 star

This novel is atrocious. I almost gave it two stars, since I was able to push myself to finish it, but it truly is abysmal. Meandering, horribly paced drudgery meets the reader at every single turn in this inane, pointless drivel. This novel shouldn't be an Elminster book, and really just shouldn't exist except as a summary in an art book about the Elves of the Forgotten Realms or something. It means nothing to anyone who isn't deeply entrenched in and passionate about Forgotten Realms lore.

Regardless, here's a summary of the extremely, appallingly bare-bones 'plot'. Elminster was sent away to Cormanthor, realm of the elves, on some mysterious quest by his deus-ex-machina friend with benefits, Mystra. He's waylaid on the way, tries to save a dying elf, and takes on a 'kiira', a stone that apparently holds a person's memories, and the task of passing it on to the elf's family. Elminster does and promptly becomes of absolutely no real consequence to the plot. The rest of the book is Ed Greenwood painstakingly showing us again and again that elves are extremely, irredeemably fantastical-racist, and nobody should really care about any of them. If you're able to remember a single one of their names and the extremely thin character traits attributed to each, I applaud you.

I will reiterate, for complete clarity: this book is basically worthless. The only perspective I could see this novel having any value from is if you really, truly care about Myth Drannor and its (again, extremely dull) history. It meanders, it is pointless, it describes and enumerates and dialogues ad nauseum and it all adds up to nothing. Though I haven't attempted to brave book three of this collection yet, I can near-certainly assure you that you can, and should, just skip this one.

(Book Three) The Tempation of Elminster - 2 stars

Somewhat thankfully, the third novel in this collection is mostly competent. Again here, Greenwood focuses on far too many characters and events that have nothing really to do with Elminster, and it detracts from the "protagonist"'s story far too much. Yet again, as in the second novel, Greenwood constantly introduces new characters with their own unimportant narratives that I confused with each other on occasion and basically just gave up on following.

However, this book actually has a plot structure and the bits with Elminster were somewhat more satisfying than the second. The plot vaguely goes as thus: Elminster is once again sent off for another lesson by his matron goddess/mother-figure/lover/guide/whatever else Mystra. This time, she instructs him not to use magic but to journey the land and, essentially, discover himself. So, he of course frees a land from a tyrant and sleeps with the girl who had just met him for some reason. He proceeds to a magical study tower, which houses some (admittedly charming) side characters in a couple of brotherly mages. From there it's on to different places that mages have died so that Elminster can plant magical artifacts for other mage hopefuls to find. Admittedly, it's not much of a plot and it's heavily dictated by whatever errand Mystra wanted to send the protagonist on for that fifty pages, but it was genuinely much easier to get through than In Myth Drannor.

To conclude, this novel is pleasant enough if you don't mind a couple meandering threads. It falls about squarely in the middle in terms of the quality of the three books collected here, but you can easily skip it if the first novel didn't impress you at all.

OVERALL: Elminster Ascending

As you can see above, I averaged out the star scores of each of the three novels to rate the collection as a whole. Regardless of each individual score, though, Elminster Ascending earns a 2 regardless. A very average opener leads to an abysmal second act, followed by a subpar third. Each, of course, has its own unique quirks that they apparently didn't deign to edit out: the first is riddled with typographical errors, the second is unreadable due to content, and the third wildly varies between single and double dashes for hyphenated words.

Additionally, after reading three of his novels in a row many of Greenwood's own writing tics become very apparent. He can't stop writing about and describing nude/naked people, to an almost lecherous degree; there are far too many people shrugging as a response to everything; many 'unshed tears' glisten in characters' eyes... it doesn't sound so bad here, but actually reading these constant same phrasings and descriptions gets quite tiresome once you start to pick up on them.

So, finally, here is my recommendation: get the first book, skip the rest. They're not worth it.
Author 2 books32 followers
October 4, 2020
I came into this series excited, as I had already read a large portion of the Drizzt Chronicles, and I was interested to explore another facet of the Forgotten Realms. However, while the world was well-built and the story was admittedly interesting, I found that the characters ultimately fell flat for me. As someone who plays Dungeons and Dragons, I found Elminster to be akin to a new player's first character. My biggest issue with the characters was Elminster himself. El had a true drive for revenge against the mages, which I thought was well within reason, and I've never found issue with characters that have to overcome their hatred of something and accept it in order to complete their destiny, but to me, it seemed that Elminster's method of gaining his powers was vainglorious and a bit hard to accept. Elminster became a wizard because the goddess of magic, Mystra took him as her lover. Overall, this greatest of wizards came off as a pervert and a philanderer, and despite the fact that through the majority of the series, he was an old man, everyone seemed to view him as the most desirable man in all the world. There were several references to his surprising "skill and stamina" that left my spine-shivering and a foul taste in my mouth. Some of the side characters were genuinely likable, but by and large, these characters ended up being only side characters that didn't see much depth put into them.
The last two books I read were, in my opinion, the worst of the worst. Elminster in Hell was repetitive, with the format of El gets tortured by a devil, in ways that were a strange combination of gruesome and bland, then we see some memory from his past. Following that memory, the devil says something to the effect of, "Clever mage, showing me these memories that aren't what I desire. Keep this up, and I will kill you." But the devil never followed through on these threats, making them feel extremely empty. I found myself more interested in the side-story presented by Mort the Moneylender and his wife Asper than what was happening with Elminster. Though we got another dose of young woman loves an old man with those two, at least it was believable based on what we saw them experience. The final book, with Narnra, the daughter El didn't know he had was also bland, and the finale didn't really seem like the reconciliation I was hoping for, and I can't blame Narnra for that decision. Elminster was aloof and unlike Scanlan from Critical Role, didn't seem to care about his newfound child.
I would recommend the Drizzt series much more highly than this series, though I'm sure that somebody could find interest in it. There were several short bits that I thought could make very interesting stories if developed more, and I wish Greenwood had spent more time on those characters than his sex-addict old man.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tyler Chelf.
5 reviews6 followers
February 24, 2014
So I went into reading these books (this is a collection of the first 3 books about this character) hoping to really enjoy it. I have read other books set in the Forgotten Realms, and find the world itself very interesting. The material presented about the character this series is about is engaging in the gaming source books, so I wanted to learn a bit more about his background and story. Unfortunately I found the books to be a bit of a let down.

The first of the 3, Elminster - The Making of a Mage, describes Elminster's journey from a child to a mage and 'Chosen' of the Goddess of Magic, Mystra. The story starts out interestingly enough, a dragon and mage destroying a city and the child vowing to get revenge, but the story had a tendency to meander most of the time until suddenly the big bad reveals themselves and the story ends. There is a period where Elminster (or El as the books call him now and then) spends time as a brigand in the woods, but is later told to go live in the city as a thief under the bad guys' noses and learn to hide in the shadows, until he discovers Mystra and becomes a priest and finally a mage. A lot of effort goes into describing his life during these times, and they piece together in the end, but weakly. I finished the book feeling less like I had read a cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end, and more like I had read a random journal indicating "Well, I did this for a while and that got old, then went to do that and finally figured I would do this." While defeating the bad guys is the ultimate goal, it takes back seat for a significant portion of the book.

The next book in the series, Elminster in Myth Drannor, was a big better in that regard. It seemed more cohesive through out and there was a clear goal in mind from early on, but it still suffered from jumping from story to story. One minute Elminster is headed to the secretive Elven kingdom that has closed its borders to the other races, the next he's a knight in the city, suddenly he's a ghost exploring, and then he has a body again. You also end up with a big of character flip-flop at times. One elven elder tells his house not to attack El because he will destroy them and bring dishonor on him, and when they ignore him and his predictions come true he swears to hunt Elminster down and kill him, making you wonder if he was lying earlier or if you missed something. As the book nears the end it starts hinting at the creation of a magical barrier to keep out evil, and after building it up the most you see of it is in the epilogue when its casually mentioned having been created but 'evil forces tried to break it'.

The last book, The Temptation of Elminster, takes place 100 years later. It starts out with Elminster having been caught in a trap for that time and you know nothing of what happened between the last two, save that the city from the last book is now overrun with demons and devils. This one seems to suffer story jumps worse than the other two, first Elminster can't use magic, then he can use magic but has to go find and serve a sorceress... oops, sorceress was an avatar of your god testing you, now go plant magic for mages in training to find.. ps there is a ghost and elf hunting you. You are well into the last 4th of the book before pieces start to come close to fitting together and new characters are still being introduced.

All 3 books sort of leave you wondering what Elminster's real power is. He is purported to be the most powerful mage is all the lands, but as the story unfolds you find that his real power is being saved by luck or the goddess he serves. In fact the 3rd book ends with someone that has been hunting Elminster to hill him killing the closest approximation to a central antagonist, and then being killed by magical backlash.

As I said before, I really wanted to like these books when I started reading them and they seem to have a high score of user reviews, but after finishing the books I have to wonder if the scores are based more on the character and author than the actual content of the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Fco. Salvador.
Author 3 books13 followers
June 10, 2015
Si Merlín es el gran mago del Ciclo Artúrico y Gandalf lo es en la Tierra Media, al hablar de Faerûn y los Reinos Olvidados el arquetípico usuario de magia es Elminster.

Elminster Aumar es uno de los primeros personajes creados por Ed Greenwood para la ambientación de los Reinos (podríamos decir incluso que es su alter ego). El trabajo de este autor en la revista Dragon incluía descripciones de sortilegios y fantásticos trasfondos de multitud de objetos mágicos, pero creo sinceramente que un relato de cierta longitud no es su fuerte.

Así pues, y a pesar de su icónico aspecto (como el sabio del Valle de las Sombras), la historia narrada en la serie de novelas queda un poco desarticulada, a base de partes pegadas unas a otras con poca trama común, y donde los combates entre dos magos tienen más peso que los diálogos o la descripción de lugares. Además, en demasiadas ocasiones el protagonista es salvado de la muerte por la diosa Mytra ("deus ex machina" donde los haya, o mejor dicho "Mystra ex magica").

{Más detalles en mis reseñas de los libros individuales: Elminster: La Forja De Un Mago, Elminster En Myth Drannor y La Tentación De Elminster}
Profile Image for Stephanie.
308 reviews16 followers
June 11, 2014
the first half of the third book (Temptation of Elminister) had a good pace and good concept so of course the author killed it and made it dumb in the end. the second half was just as stupid as the second book with characters that have zero interaction with each other and come up again hundreds of pages down the line. maybe I'm not smart enough to understand this writing concept but it sucks to me
Profile Image for Phil.
62 reviews
August 10, 2011
Overall, alot of the time I felt like I had no idea where the story was going and I wanted it to be over already. Other parts were good. Honestly, it only worth 2.5 stars but since its Elminster he gets superstar bonus.
Profile Image for Joe.
142 reviews
May 2, 2017
This is a collection of the first three Elminster novels. The first was the origin story and it was a good read. The second was only a two star, seems like it could have been told in a short story. The third was much better although the first is the standout.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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