Book Club Discussion - Circle of Skulls - Chapters 1-3

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Hey all - Dadocollin is dealing with a lack of internet access thanks to his recent move, so he asked me to get the discussion thread going on Circle of Skulls.  I have to say, that is one creepy cover!

This thread will cover Chapters 1-3, which is pp. 1-50.  Looking forward to everyone's thoughts! 
Well--I guess that I will go first!

I am so far loving this--the Prolog I felt was absolutely amazing! The description of the whimsical romance so indicitive of the Forgotten Realms becoming a horrible horrible event was awesome! A simple scene rendered with absolute precision--I think I already understand where James is coming from when he describes himself as a character first author. This was absolutely awesome.

The High Levelness of the main Character was a welcome change--I loved his sidekick. The Interview with a Devil was great--dark, creepy, and really exciting all at once.

The relationships with in the story all strike me as definitely tools to build on--basically everywhere I look there are interesting story clues--but the Hag stands out as a character I would really like more back story on.

The Wizards tower was good--the cliche of the students studying in the library silenently only looking up when the characters raise their voices could have been more inventive--having them actually practiciing magic & the conversation interrupting that with humorous/tragic results seemed like it might have fit a little better--something along those lines.

I liked the evil wizard. I like how he is clearly underestimating the heros already. Basically, I think that this is going to go very well for our team until it doesn't--at which point I sense this is going to become a VERY dark tale. I cannot WAIT.

As a relative novice in the Forgotten Realms, I guess my question is if there were any Easter Eggs that Loremasters of Candlekeep would have seen that I just read right past that can be shared with the group? 
I'm back on the Internet, so hopefully I can catch up soon.  Thanks, Gemini!
I don't recall any Easter Eggs showing up this early in the book, much later in the book I drop in my favorite Easter Egg of all time, but that's mostly a shameless plug for one of my other books...which one I won't name here just yet.  ;)

I did use a ton of old maps and older lorebooks and with a bit of detail help from Ed Greenwood himself there's certainly some bits and pieces in there dating back to the Gray Box.
I really like the cover of the novel, too. I hope the folks reading the ebook can refer back to the cover while reading the prologue. The picture really adds to the darkness of the horrible act. I’m assuming the skeleton with black wings surrounded by the skulls is Sathariel, the agent of Asmodeus. Creepy!

When the reader learns that Tallus, the archmage of the House of Wonder, is working with Sathariel, the first thing that popped into my head was “this isn’t going to end well for Tallus!” It seems to me that making a deal with an agent of Asmodeus is a pretty risky undertaking. I hope we learn more about how this relationship started.  Maybe Tallus had no choice. 

Enjoying the book. Thank you James for joining in the discussion!
I'm reading the anthology version, so no specific 'Circle of Skulls' cover for me Frown

Anyhow, great start - and quite a change of opening pace from the last Book Club read. Feels somewhere between a whodunit and a thriller at the moment - lots of bits of info, with loads of tantalising gaps. I liked how the unpleasant crime in the prologue became suddenly more relevant to Jinn, and we already have a Big Bad Boss lurking in the wings. This feels like it could be quite a complex novel - lots of relationships to learn about already. Looking forward to the next section!
> I liked how the unpleasant crime in the prologue became suddenly more relevant to Jinn,
Agreed! And the more I read the more I like about the prologue.

I wonder if James always had the prologue section there or if it was added during the editing phase. I think, it is really a great decision either way--provides amazing contrast between the clueless and the well informed characters in this novel as well has hitting all the right Forgotten Realm notes.
So - andstopmeifyaheardthisone - a deva, a night hag, and a devil walk into a cultist's shrine...

I'm really liking this story so far.  As David mentioned, it's interesting to see these higher-level characters, especially after City of the Dead, in which the characters were essentially non-adventuring normal folk.  The fact that there's a night hag masquerading as a shopkeeper in Waterdeep just goes to show what a crazy city it is.  For the record, Mara's place in Jinn's quest is for me the most intriguing topic yet to be fully disclosed.

The prologue was really well-done.  Very creepy, and I felt so sorry for the young couple.  That it gets connected to our main hero through Rorden Allek was a nice bonus.

Jinn seems like a very interesting character so far.  I'm very eager to learn more about exactly what drives his quest.  It's also a pretty cool take on devas (who don't have amnesia).  Actually, the more I think about it, the more every characters seems interesting so far.  Kudos to James for a job well done on that.

One little thing that I thought was cool - that there's a warlock in the wizard's tower!  Quessahn seems to have a past with Jinn - one more thing I hope gets explored.

On to the next section! 
Glad everyone is enjoying so far! And thanks for taking time to read and share your thoughts, I've been away from the Realms for a while, so it's nice to come back and find these characters still roaming around in my head.

>>I wonder if James always had the prologue section there or if it was added during the editing phase.<<

The prologue was planned almost as soon as the plot gelled in my head during my research phase. One of my greatest fears has always been being convicted of some heinous crime that I was innocent of committing, but for which the evidence against me was nigh conclusive. That young couple (with a bit of supernatural intervention) displayed that fear and as soon as I thought of it I knew the book had to begin there in that horrible moment.

And I'm a big fan of 'high-level' characters, glad to see I'm not alone. I've noticed many readers think that high-level means low-risk and when you really look at where they're operating nothing could be further from the truth. The stakes are higher. Whereas a lower level character might fail to defeat the orc and allow a 'damsel in distress' to die, if a high-level character fails, that damsel could be an entire town. Or a battle. Or a war. I'm a big fan of high stakes and making some big sacrifices for the greater good as I'm sure you'll all find out pretty soon. ;)

Best,
--James
I'll echo what the others have said about the contrast between this book and the last one we read.  It's nice to see a setting where there can be so much variation in the types of stories being told.

I was a little dismayed to see a deva character right at the beginning, as that seems to be popping up quite a bit in the novels lately (althought this might have actually been the first one), but Jinn definitely sets himself off from the others.

The Night Hag was totally cool too.  I never would have thought of having a character like that and I love to be surprised! I also liked the battle with the devil.  So many fantasy battles you never feel like the hero is in danger of losing, and this one seemed pretty back and forth for a while there.