The Sundering

By now, many have you have heard about The Sundering, an event set in the Forgotten Realms.  You can learn more if you watch the GenCon D&D Keynote here.  I want to address three things with this post. First, a brief summary of what is The Sundering (both the event and the novel series), in my own words. Second, what my participation in The Sundering series means for The Cycle of Night trilogy.  Third, my general thoughts and opinion about what The Sundering means for the Forgotten Realms.

What is The Sundering?

The Sundering is both an event in the Forgotten Realms and the title of a set of six novels that occur against the backdrop of that event. It is not a reboot of the setting.  It’s not a retcon.  Everything that happened, happened.  The Sundering moves the setting forward, though it happens that that movement circles back to (what I believe are) the roots of the Realms.

As an event (and in brief), the Sundering represents the separation of the currently ‘overlapping’ worlds of Abeir and Toril (the worlds became ‘overlapped’ as a result of the Spellplague and its aftermath) and an end to the Age of Upheaval.

The gods know that Lord Ao will rewrite the Tablets of Fate at or near the end of The Sundering, and many of Faerun’s powerful know that as well, or speculate that it might be so, or least know that something is afoot. They do not, however, know what that might mean for them. As a result, lots of forces are put in motion during this time: armies, Chosen of the Gods, powerful clerics and archmages, all of them trying to figure out what is going on and how best they can weather it and/or turn it to their advantage, etc.

During all this, the six novels of The Sundering series tell their stories — smaller stories, stories that show the Sundering through the eyes of both ordinary folk and some of Faerun’s iconic heroes.  Each novel in The Sundering is self-contained. There are some connections between the novels — some Easter eggs, if you will — but each stands alone.  What they share is a common background, with all of them occurring against the backdrop of the Sundering.

Each novel in The Sundering series will be released in hardcover and ebook (with a mass market paperback release to follow about a year later, presumably). The novels feature some characters you’ll know (Drizz’t, Elminster, Farideh, Malik, and so on), and others you’ll come to know.  The stories of these characters will continue after the Sundering.

So, the six books of The Sundering are as follows:

The Companions, by R.A. Salvatore

The Godborn, by Paul S. Kemp

The Adversary, by Erin M. Evans

The Reaver, by Richard Lee Byers

The Sentinel, by Troy Denning

The Herald, by Ed Greenwood.

Here’s the art of the characters from the novels.  It’s incredible.

What Does This Mean for the Cycle of Night

Those of you who’ve read my Erevis Cale novels know that the next series I was to write featuring Cale and Company was The Cycle of Night, and Godborn (minus the ‘the’) was to be the first book in that trilogy.  This has changed.  Some background so that you understand how.

While writing Godborn, intended to be book one of The Cycle of the Night, I was approached by WotC and asked if I wanted to participate in what would later become known as The Sundering.  Hearing that Bob and Ed were aboard, hearing that at least one purpose of the series was to circle the setting back to its essence, I jumped at the chance. When we talked about what that would mean for The Cycle of Night, we didn’t quite reach resolution (we had lots of options on the table) and decided we should just let the matter lie for the moment while we turned our attention to the upcoming Sundering story summit.

Fast forward to the story summit (which included all of the authors and various WotC luminaries), where we discussed ideas for the Sundering.  Almost immediately, and I mean right away, it became clear to me that the story I intended to tell with The Cycle of Night was perfectly suited to the role I was to play in The Sundering.  I mentioned this to the team (in a very long email), explained my thinking, and the others agreed.  We decided that Godborn would become The Godborn, book two of The Sundering, and that The Cycle of Night Trilogy would not be written (as such; but stay with me).

So, The Godborn is going to tell the story I’d intended to tell with The Cycle of Night, but it’s going to do it in one big book, and do it as part of The Sundering (and it’s a better book for it, by the way).  After The Godborn, the characters (again, some old, some new) from the book will continue in further books.  I don’t know what the titles of those are going to be just yet, but there will be more books.  They’ll be “sequels” to The Godborn in that they build on and occur after the events of the The Godborn, but the story of The Godborn will be standalone and complete in the one book (there won’t be some cliffhanger, for example).

So, that’s what that is.  This is all very clear in my mind, but I’m not sure I’m explaining it all that well.  So if you have questions, just ask in the comments and I’ll answer if I can.

My Thoughts About the Sundering and the Realms

What follows is entirely my own opinion/interpretation.

So, the events in the Forgotten Realms that precipitated the switch to the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons created a lot of controversy.  The Spellplague changed the Realms in profound ways, as the worlds of Abeir and Toril “intermixed.”  New continents and realms appeared, and old ones disappeared.  Magic was changed.  Many gods seemed to die or disappear.  New races of beings appeared. The timeline for game products and novels was advanced 100 years.  And the upshot of all of this was that the Realms post-Spellplague was a very different place from the Realms pre-Spellplague.

Now, lots of people liked the new Realms and still do.  Lots of people didn’t and still don’t. What’s indisputable is that the post-Spellplague Realms was a very different place, with a very different feel, from pre-Spellplague Realms.

So, what did I think about this? I think I would have loved the post-Spellplague Realms if it wasn’t supposed to be the Realms, but was instead some new world invented from scratch.  The cataclysm of the Spellplague and its aftermath (spell-scarred and plague-changed creatures and lands), lots of faiths whose gods had just ‘died,’ created a rich setting with lots of storytelling opportunities. Frankly, I think the designers and novelists did great work in the post-Spellplague Realms.  But, in the end, this wasn’t a new setting.  It was the Realms, the Realms 100 years later, and therein lay the problem.

To me, the post-Spellplague Realms felt unmoored from the setting material that had sold me on the Realms in the first place, way back in the time of the grey box. I have a hard time articulating why.  The Realms isn’t post-apocalyptic or relentlessly dark.  For me it’s about a layered setting rich in history and detail, fat with mysteries unplumbed, shrouded in a sense of wonder that invites you to come on in and adventure.  It is, in the end, optimistic. Somehow the post-Spellplague Realms never spoke to me that way.

Consider this, from the DM’s Sourcebook of the Realms, in the original Forgotten Realms grey box, in a section called, “Recent News and Rumors in the Realms:”

Barroch’s Hold has been found. The fabled citadel of the first great bandit lord of the Inner Sea lies south and east of the cities of the Moonsea, in the Glacier of the White Worm. The adventurers who found it encountered a number of strange creatures and were scattered or slain. Two survivors reached Orm to tell the tale: Feenoch the Five-Fingered, a rogue of some infamy, and Yostur Ulhmond, a young fighter from the villages of the Snow People in Thar, blond-haired and strong as an ox. The two evaded queries about treasure, but there is talk in Hillsfar that they have been trying to gather together a large adventuring band with sledges.

That’s magic for me, just magic, and there are dozens just like it in the same section.  That single paragraph communicates the idea of the Realms as a living, breathing, high fantasy world of interconnected people and events where the wondrous sometimes occurs right alongside the mundane.  I love that kind of feel. That’s the feel of the Realms for me.

And based on all my discussions with the folks involved in the Sundering, that’s the vibe to which we’re circling back.  The “Core Truth of the Realms” is a concept that I heard mentioned several times by those involved in the Sundering, and it’s necessarily a subjective term.  But based on the discussions that I’ve heard and participated in, everyone is circling around the same guiding star — the roots of the Realms, its essence, its core. YMMV, of course, but for me that essence looks a lot like an adventuring company getting nearly wiped out in Barroch’s Hold, with the survivors, led by Feenoch Five-Fingers, returning to Hillsfar to drum up some additional blades and have another go at whatever dark creatures nearly killed them the first time.

In any event, I think the Realms are moving quickly and assuredly in the right direction. People seem to be in the right seat on the bus (with Ed Greenwood driving, while regaling us with tales of yore). WotC has listened and is listening to readers and players who love the Realms. The upshot is that I’m pleased, excited, and honored to be part of it. :-)

 

 

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129 Comments

  1. Insane work Man!!! keep it up love your books and Bob’s. You know its a good read when you get shivers when reading and don’t want to put it down. Awesome work you’ve done and looking forward to many more.

  2. Really looking forward to this. BTW, which character in that poster/pic is yours?

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  4. Will one be able to read The Godborn independently of the rest of The Sundering, purely as a sequel to the Twilight War? How much will a reader lose by skipping The Companions and later novels?

    -Nick

    • Alrin,

      The Godborn is direct continuation from the Twilight War and you wouldn’t have to read anything else. That said, if you wanted the complete story of The Sundering (as opposed to just the story of Cale, Riven, and the Shadovar, etc.) you’d want to read all of the Sundering novels.

  5. Under the picture you posted above, can you list the names of the characters. Left to right sorta thing. I recognize most from book descriptions but some I’m not sure of and others I don’t know at all. Thanks.

  6. You know, I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, Ryan. That’s Storm Silverhand on the far left, Farideh with the ball of flame in her palm, Cale in the second row with the bald head and big sword, Vasen Cale before him with shield and sword, Elminster and Drizz’t center and foremost, Cleef of Helm is the big guy in the front row with the sword and helmet, Malik is rightmost, Riven is to the immediate left of Malik.

  7. Cool. That’s pretty much the same list that I had though I wasn’t sure if that was Storm or a sister and Malik I didn’t know. The guy standing behind Farideh with the large tome I thought might be Dahl Peredur, the fallen paladin of Oghma. Still leaves a few. I guess I’ll know for sure when I read the books! I was hoping to see Liriel Baenre in there to but I guess since Elaine isn’t a part of this particular series that we will see her again eventually. I hope anyhow. As it is, I’m more interested in finding out what becomes of Cale and company more than any of the others. Cale is a nasty piece of work(in an awesome sorta way!) and his boy is looking to be as much or more so! Can’t wait!

  8. Is there anyway of getting that artwork of all the characters in the Sundering? I tried looking for anything and just finding digital image. I would like to purchase a print.

  9. I was so sad when I learned Cycle of Night would not be a trilogy. But I am very excited for The Sundering. I absolutely LOVED Cale and look forward to reading about Vasen. I also loved that he is named for his father. Is Varra in The Sundering? I liked her and Cale’s time together at Wayrock. October is too far away!!!! I was very sad when Cale died :’( but I did like seeing Cale and Riven finally become friends. Although they being enemies was very entertaining!

  10. You know they need a VILLIANS print to counter the Heroes they have for the Sundering

    I did send a message on facebook to the artist by the way hopefully something will come of it. I even mentioned your name Paul although I dont see why you as one of the authors wouldnt have any trouble of getting a print.

  11. It would be awesome if mask came back!

  12. I can honestly say I’m looking forward to the return to the “old realms”. I have been collecting the novels since high school, and found all of the old Harper novels. It was such a switch reading these and then reading novels from after the spell plague. So Bring it on Mr. Kemp et al., and thanks for providing hours of entertainment over the last 20 years for me.

  13. This was an interesting read as I’ve only been reading Bob’s Drizzt books for the last looong while & had no idea how or why everything had changed, though I knew it did somehow. Thanks Paul.

  14. I have a friend who said if I read LotR he would read a Drizzt book. I said that is an unfair exchange. He told me I should read Harry Potter, I told him that’s not enough for me to place Drizzt on the backburner. Read this read that, suggestions from everyone, but Drizzt comes second to no one. Then I met Erevis Cale, and Drizzt had to wait. I love god play/business. I don’t mean to make competition, but Mask, Mephistopheles… I was in a state of bliss! Great work!!! I can’t wait for the Sundering.
    Anyway, I got on to D&D late, so the post spell-plague didn’t hit me negatively at all, but happy writers means better stories, so I’m on board!
    Great article! I’ve just about completed my own world and hearing how the older or “original” times are cherished has given me some things to ponder.
    Keep it up!!!

  15. Hi Paul,
    Im a huge Drizzt (ra salvatore) fan, and im excited to read his next book. i am not familiar with your books, except war of the spider queen. I will be buying all of the sundering books, but i dont know anything about your character. Which books of yours pertain to erevis, so i can get a back ground of him. Thank you.

    • Dave,

      If you wanted to catch up fast, I’d recommend this: The Erevis Cale Trilogy (Twilight Falling, Dawn of Night, and Midnight’s Mask; the three books are also available as an Omnibus), then the Twilight War (Shadowbred, Shadowstorm, Shadowrealm). There are a couple earlier stories and a few short stories, but reading those six would give you a very solid background.

      And thanks for the interest. :-)

  16. For me the realms has always been about one thing:

    divine politics.

    My favorite books have been the avatar series, or ones where heroes face off against the avatars of gods (Alias comes to mind, though to be fair, that may stem from the fact that I was a teenaged youth at the time and she had certain “assets” as a character I must have found appealing). The Crown of Horns was suspiciously absent not only from the continuity mess of a game Mask of the Betrayer (which, otherwise, I thought was pretty masterful storytelling wise), but also from 4th edition as a whole, which rather annoyed me, as it was one of those things that I had an interest in-and, indeed, had centered past campaigns around.

    To me, 4th edition’s greatest sin was in Cyric murdering Mystra “off-screen.” After reading Prince of Lies and The Crucible, that all the effort that was put into that conflict decades ago would be handwaved in order to create a cataclysm was more than a bit distressing.

    I’m glad to hear Malik of all people is returning though-and rather surprised, to be quite frank. He’s a more interesting character than Cyric himself, I should say (though let not The One know I professed such blasphemy etc).

  17. Paul, are you aware that you consistently misspell Drizzt Do’Urden as Drizz’t Do Urden?

  18. Pingback: Is The Godborn a standalone novel? | Paul S. Kemp, Fictioneer

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  20. I have been reading FR since I first found a copy of the Avatar trilogy. a Long time ago. I have always been a loyal reader of the Realms, with book cases full of hard copies. I have to admit since the Spellplague most of the “magic” of the realms was lost for me, I thought it was because I had gotten older, but here I am in my 40th year reading the Sundering and the feelings I had as a boy reading about the Realms just rushed back in with overwhelming feelings of joy at thinking the realms are going back to the core. as a solidier I have taken realms books with me to Afganistan and used them as an escape from the reality around me for brief periods of time. My wife says she’s never seen me as excited as i am now for the next book and the direction you are all taking the realms. Thank you for your work and aiding in my escape.
    loyal reader to the end.

  21. So far love the way the series is going. I did give an email to R.A Salvatore and I was wondering this.

    Would it be possible to set up some of our encounters (From stores and what not) to allow as filler for writers to write inbetween books or to connect things together that some of us typically didn’t bat an eye at?

    For example Bruenor best friend has become a vampire and a host of vampire drow happen to be living underground. What happened for the last hundred years with his friend? what was he doing down there when drizzt denied him peace and a warm welcome in dwarfhome? Could it be that some adventurer set out there before and encountered him? could it be that there is now a man or woman roaming the land in search of a cure or perhaps to be polymorphed from a vampire to something else? It would be interesting if the little details that often go unnoted in the novels had a place to be reused or collected in our encounter games and from there Ebooks could be made from whoever has the best tale. Of course the writers could/would do with the tales as the choose to, but I find the concept interesting.

  22. “The Realms isn’t post-apocalyptic or relentlessly dark. For me it’s about a layered setting rich in history and detail, fat with mysteries unplumbed, shrouded in a sense of wonder that invites you to come on in and adventure. It is, in the end, optimistic. Somehow the post-Spellplague Realms never spoke to me that way.” <— exactly. the allure of the realms was its visceral sense of urgency. money, greed, addiction, death, chamber pots, wars that are destructive and debauched and not so glorious, these are the details that made the realms so real. the too fantastic, WoW-esque landscapes of the new realms bares little of the old subtleties and realism. i havnt spent much time on the later side of the Spellplague, although yes the popular authors did a great job making it a cool event in and of itself.

  23. Pingback: The Companions | Hundred Books A Year

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  25. I am glad to hear that there will be sequels to Godborn. The book is great but the ending seemed a bit rushed to me so I am looking forward to more books with these characters.

  26. I love your book the godborn as I love all of the books in the realm. And I simply love r.a. salvatore’s writing style and the storylines. But I was disappointed that the sundering series didn’t include drizzit and friends in all the books and that each book stood alone. I was wondering is the character’s Drizzit and friends only reserved for writing by r.a. salvatore alone. I mean can no one else in series write about them.

  27. Ervis cale is a boss good work man :-)

  28. This has been an interesting read and enjoyed the comments.

    This one
    <blockquote cite="I think I would have loved the post-Spellplague Realms if it wasn’t supposed to be the Realms, but was instead some new world invented from scratch. The cataclysm of the Spellplague and its aftermath (spell-scarred and plague-changed creatures and lands), lots of faiths whose gods had just ‘died,’ created a rich setting with lots of storytelling opportunities. Frankly, I think the designers and novelists did great work in the post-Spellplague Realms. But, in the end, this wasn’t a new setting. It"

    Raised an interesting point, and would make for a cool realm as its self, a new word and setting, so that maybe the spell plague affected other worlds. Something new and raw, a darker place to imagine.

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