Book Club Discussion - Mistshore - Prologue & Chapters 1-3

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Hey, it's summer and we're discussing another great Realms book with Jaleigh Johnson.  It just feels right, doesn't it?  I'm excited to get back to Waterdeep.  It's starting to feel like a second home for the Book Club.  Let's get to it then.

This forum will cover the Prologue and Chapters 1-3, pages 1-50.

Looking forward to your thoughts, as always! 
This is my first book discussion post, so I'm going to keep it to a few quick comments. I'm still reading through Chapter 3. I was hooked from the very beginning of this book. Icelin is a very believable character. I like strong female characters, and the Forgotten Realms books have features some very good ones over the years, and Icelin is definitely one of them. We get a very good sense of who she is, what she stands for, from the very beginning with that dung prank. I'm usually not as crazy about stories that take place in cities. I love the Forgotten Realms, but as in real life, I prefer outdoors, or village settings. But Waterdeep really comes alive in this book. Not only can I picture it very well, sounds, sights, and even smells, but the descriptions makes me want to walk down those streets, no matter how dangerous or dirty they are. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

This is a curious tale we’ve got going!  I find it interesting that there must be a really important backstory but the reader is pretty clueless what it is.  Cerest has some serious hatred for Icelin.  But is it from something Icelin did as a young girl?  Or something her grandfather, Elgreth did?  We just don’t know yet.  It’s going to be a neat story because Icelin will have to reconstruct the past in order to understand her current danger.  And now that Brant is gone, she’s basically left with no one.


I really like Ristlara Lock and Shenan Lock.  Completely corrupted and amoral, not caring at all for innocent life.  I have a feeling we’ll see them do some pretty depraved stuff.  My suspicion is Jaleigh has a freaky side, and uses her literature to live some of it out. 


As with previous novels, I really like Jaleigh’s writing style.  Maybe I don’t comprehend as well as some more avid readers, so I’m thankful for a plot that is easy to follow and the reader isn’t left scratching his head about what is going on.  I’ve always found Jaleigh’s writing to be clear and concise and thankfully Misthore is the same way.  I’m excited to read on!

Just finished Chapter 3, and it's VERY intriguing.  Like GP, I think it has a good balance between hiding some backstory and being clear about events and character motivations.  There's still a decent tease of mystery, but I don't feel lost.

Actually, one thing that strikes me as still being mysterious is Cerest's actual motivations for going after Icelin.  By his comment to the Locks, the fact that she is Elgreth's granddaughter is the primary reason.  Since the Locks are involved, you might think it has to do with some treasure (maybe the golden box?).  Icelin is assuming that he's after her for revenge for some event that caused her scars (I dunno if it was actually said in these chapters, but the back cover teaser basically says what she did).  Now, are those two things related or not?  I don't know, but I'm very interested to find out!

Like JulesPierre, I enjoyed the descriptions of the city itself.  Ed Greenwood's Introduction mentions the job Jaleigh did of really making the people of Waterdeep stand out, and I definitely saw what he meant.

Looking forward to the next section! 
I'm glad everyone's enjoying the novel so far!  But wait, nothing about the prologue letter???  Okay, I'll get to that in a minute.  Also, Sull?  He's my favorite butcher in the novel, so I can't resist mentioning him whenever I can.

Jules, I have to admit, the chance to write in Waterdeep was one of the things I was truly excited about when I started this book.  It's a huge symbol of the Realms, so to get to leave some footprints here and there was a dream come true.  I'll be interested to see what you think when you get to the sights (and smells) of Mistshore itself.  Do you think we're drawn to Waterdeep because it's like its own world within a world?  That's the feeling I often get from the city.

Gold piece--a freaky side, huh...ahem, I don't know what you could possibly mean.  ;)  I do remember at the time I was writing the book having long conversations with my brother (I think I mentioned in a past book club that he's the one I bounce a lot of my ideas off of) about sociopaths and villains in literature.  He was reading The Sociopath Next Door at the time (anyone here ever read it?), and a lot of those discussions wound up creeping into the novel.  None of this is doing anything to quell those 'freaky side' rumors, is it, heh.  Anyway, in light of that, I'll be interested to see how you view Cerest's feelings for Icelin as the book goes along.  

Gemini, you're reading the omnibus version?  I just checked the back cover and did a major facepalm at the spoiler.  I had no idea that had been included.  *sigh*  Don't worry, there are still mysteries here, you've just got the jump on one of them.  You've also got some keen insights on a couple of other points as well, but more on that later.

And I was very grateful for Ed's introduction to the novel.  I'll treasure that for a long time. 

One of the things I wanted to talk about before going on was the letter to Icelin at the beginning of the book because it was one of my favorite parts to write, and it actually came to me fairly early in the process that I wanted to start the book with a voice from the past.  Some background: when my then-editor Susan Morris asked me to write a book set in Waterdeep, 4th edition and the 100-year jump in the FR timeline had not been announced yet.  The Waterdeep series was intended to be both an entry point for newcomers to the Realms and an entry point for the new timeline.  I talked with both Susan and Ed about the new lore, but some of the rule changes were still being worked out, and you'll see that in the text, especially when it comes to Icelin's magic, which is more heavily influenced by 3rd edition rules.

Knowing that this would potentially be an entry point for new readers, I wanted to include a message that would attempt to communicate how much I loved the Realms, that sense of wonder when I first discovered it, back when I read Spellfire and realized this was a huge world that I was free to explore from the safety of my own couch.  I tried to put all those feelings into the letter and to make the rest of the book reflective of that sense of adventure, wonder and danger that I get from the Realms.

And yeah, there are some freaky things too.  ;)
I'm a little late to the game this week, but I actually loved both of the things you mentioned, Jaleigh - the letter that began the book and Sull, the butcher.  I thought the letter was an interesting and thought-provoking way to do the prologue instead of your normal scene from the past that makes no sense until you get to a certain point in the novel.  And Sull - what's not to love!

A lot of the other characters are excellent too - Icelin with her mysterious powers, Cerest with his scarred past, and the Locks, which yes GP, seemed a bit naughty.  However, I know that one of the worst things for authors to deal with is readers assuming that every character is really them in disguise.  Sometimes writers just like to write about different personalities.  I mean look at that innocent face that Jaleigh has - there couldn't possibly be a darkness lingering behind that, right?

GP also commented on Jaleigh's writing style.  I don't think her plot is any less complex than usual, I just think that she does a really good job of providing clarity, even at a fast pace.  It's tough to put a finger on what within the writing causes this, but I think we know it when we see it.  At this point in the book, I'm not confused about anything and I can't wait to turn the page.  That's a success! 
and the Locks, which yes GP, seemed a bit naughty.  However, I know that one of the worst things for authors to deal with is readers assuming that every character is really them in disguise.  Sometimes writers just like to write about different personalities.  I mean look at that innocent face that Jaleigh has - there couldn't possibly be a darkness lingering behind that, right?



Heh, see, I figured I'd hear about this more with the shadar-kai books.  :P  Actually, it's funny, I was talking to Erin Evans recently about parts of ourselves that we see in our characters, things that end up in the text that we didn't realize came from us, and I told her that of all my characters, Icelin is probably the most like me in personality, especially when I was younger.  And when I say 'most like me,' make no mistake, she's definitely not me, but there are echoes.

As for the Lock sisters, I've been trying to remember where the inspiration for them came from.  I think in part it was that I wanted some elf villains that weren't drow.  I also wanted some characters that already had a reputation in this 100-years-later Waterdeep, a reputation built as much on rumor, gossip, and playacting as fact--thus their over-the-top antics and Cerest's speculations about them in chapter 3.  More than that, though, Ristlara and Shenan represent the decadence and depravity of Waterdeep.  They have power through wealth and resources, things that Icelin and many other people of the lower classes in Waterdeep lack.  Plus, you know how actors always say in interviews that villains are the most fun to play?  Well, the Lock sisters are like that to write.
Hi everyone. Sorry I am late. I was camping for a few days and was disconnected from the internet....not complaining about it though. Reading stories about the Forgotten Realms while sitting in the woods, listening to the sounds of nature, and smelling a campfire is something that everyone needs to experience at some point in their lives. Even if the story does take place in a bustling city like Waterdeep. 

I think it is safe to say that I am a "characters" kind of guy. I think my initial impression of a book is greatly influenced by my ability to make a connection with the characters. If I find myself curious to learn more about them, hoping they escape peril,or praying they meet an untimely and horrible end, then I find myself drawn into the book. If I don't care about the characters I usually end up not finishing the book. Jaleigh was succesful at providing me with a handful of characters that I have different feelings towards, but feel stronglyabout. For example, I am very curious about Icelin's past and how she crossed paths with Cerest. I find Sull to be very mysterious and I want to know if he is some kind of Conan the Barbarian turned butcher. I do find myself curious about the Lock sisters, but that may be in more of an infatuated adolescent boy kind of way. Tongue Out

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was they way that Jaleigh describes Waterdeep to the reader. It was so easy for me to create this image of the streets of Waterdeep, and that makes it so much easier for me to immerse myself into the novel. I know that we haven't quite started to talk about the next section yet, but I am very excited to delve into the imagery of Mistshore. Does anyone else expect to hear the words "wretched hive of scum and villainy" in their heads when we are treated to Jaleigh's descriptions of Mistshore?
"Wretched hive of scum and villainy"... I love it! 

I understand what you mean about the special experience of reading a Forgotten Realms novel while immersing yourself in nature. I fell in love with the series while camping and reading the very first Forgotten realms novel, Darkwalker on Moonshae (or at least, I think it was the first of the series). I've been reading them ever since, and the experience is kicked up a notch every time I read one while sitting under a tree. Speaking of that, I'm going outside right now to do just that...
Well, I've been frustrated by a lack of free time recently, but have finally managed to carve a few hours out to sit down and catch up. I've never been particularly good at pacing myself, either, when it comes to reading a good novel, and Mistshore made it easy for me to dive in and keep going. This is the first book I've read by Jaleigh; I think I discovered the book club just as the discussion was winding up on one of her other novels.

I do enjoy Ed's introductions; he has a great turn of phrase and a conversational style, and I still wonder at how challenging it must be to write a story in someone else's world. I realise I'm rather behind the times here, but Jaleigh, if you're still reading these earlier threads, what sort of material did you have to work with when creating Mistshore? Was the location of Mistshore specified in the original brief, or did you choose to stage the story there yourself?

As for the way the story opens, I liked the letter a lot. I imagine writing letters between characters can be challenging, in that you have to strike the right tone, especially when used to start the novel - the prologue has to act as an introduction and initial hook for the reader, but it has to feel like a genuine letter. Elgreth writes with a mix of excitement and regret, but his spirit of adventure shines through.

The opening chapters show Icelin to be a feisty individual with what seem to be very unusual talents; I can't recall offhand of any other characters who suffer in the same way when spellcasting, but then my memory is nothing like Icelin's! The idea of a memory-palace-in-reverse is intriguing, too - somewhere where you have to lock away memories otherwise they'll overwhelm you.

I'll try to finish off quickly as I'm so far behind - Cerest is obviously a nasty piece of work. At first I'd assumed that he was simply 'the villain', keen to catch Icelin because she'd wronged him, but as this section progresses, it becomes clear that there's something altogether more unpleasant under the surface - he seems to have an unhealthy need for her.

The first three chapters kick things off at high speed - Mistshore definitely feels to be quite an uncompromising book with all the deaths and general unpleasantness that we've seen so far. In a way, it reminds me of the TV series '24' - I have a strong feeling that Icelin's going to have a tough journey ahead of her...
Well, I've been frustrated by a lack of free time recently, but have finally managed to carve a few hours out to sit down and catch up. 

I realise I'm rather behind the times here, but Jaleigh, if you're still reading these earlier threads, what sort of material did you have to work with when creating Mistshore? Was the location of Mistshore specified in the original brief, or did you choose to stage the story there yourself?


No worries, I understand the feeling.  I'll probably be playing catch-up all this week.  When I was doing research for the novel, my editor gave me two story bibles.  One was written by Ed that detailed Waterdeep, including new NPCs and new neighborhoods like Mistshore and Downshadow; and I also got a general story bible that outlined the changes that had taken place in the Realms over the 100-year time jump.  I wasn't given any specific mandates on the location of the story within the city.  The only requirement was that the story had to take place in Waterdeep. When I read about Mistshore in the story bible, I was immediately drawn to that location, and even more so once I started writing about it and developing it further.