Author: Forgotten Realms
Over the last dozen or so years, the Forgotten Realms has put out a series of "Realms of the...." short story books featuring short stories from various authors that have contributed to the Forgotten Realms world and series of books. I had yet to read any of the "Realms of the..." titles and figured this compilation of what other readers had voted online as the "Best of the Realms" series would provide a good idea of what the short story series offered and perhaps provide an idea for future reading.
Suffice to say that I was not impressed with what the editors and other readers considered the "Best" of the short stories. A few gems shine through such as Eliane Cunningham's Rite of Blood which introduces one of Cunningham's popular dark elf characters prior in age to her appearence in Cunningham's triology about her. R.A. Salvatore contributes a brand new short story to the book to entice people who have read the previous Realms books to make the purchase, and it was actually a fairly decent story revisiting two vilans of his previous trilogies. Of particular boredom were stories by Douglas Niles and Troy Denning which managed to put me to sleep.
Perhaps I am just put off by the short story format in general. Everytime you finally sunk your teeth into a story and started getting into the story or the characters and entered into that "can't put the book down" mentality, the story reached it's conclusion. At that point, I HAD to put the book down because starting another story immediately after finishing one is something I have a hard time doing. Essentially, this book took nearly three weeks to read despite the page count only being a reasonable 335 pages broken up between 14 different stories.
The best feature of the book was how each story was introduced. Each story featured a one page introduction by the authors themselves followed by a one page blurb about the authors' history and current comings and goings (most of the authors in the book no longer contribute to the Forgotten Realms world it seemed). A common thread ran through those biographies which really put me off. Most of the authors seemed to originate their writing careers as Dungeons & Dragons players instead of as a serious writer. I think this in part contributes to the poor writing of many of the Realms authors, that they are great at being creative and immaginative... especially on the fly as a DM. But since they are not trained as serious writers, writing style and story flow and making interconnections in the plot and deepening characterization offer suffer for the sake of the creative and story telling aspect. This also contributes to my least favorite part of many of the Realms authors writing styles: an overly long drawn out battle scene that is essentially filler to meet the requisite 325 pages needed to publish a full novel. Even in the short stories of "Best of the Realms," long and overdrawn out battle scenes made frequent appearences despite the economy of words needed to write a short story.
The Best of the Realms is most definitely not a good place for a first time or novice reader of the Realms to start which is counterintuitive to what I thought the book would be when I started reading. Rather, it provides long term readers with a general idea of what the "Realms of the..." were about and tries to get readers interested in pursueing the 10 or so titles in the series. Long time readers may find the additional and often background and deeper information within the plot lines insightful; however, no new ground or truly important plots within the Realms are uncovered within the Realms series.