Elminster Enraged is the third book in Ed Greenwood’s Sage of Shadowdale series. It follows the arch wizard Elminster’s experiences after the death of the Goddess of Magic, Mystra, and the spread of the Spellplague, which renders magic a dangerous and unreliable force. Though no fourth book appears to have been announced yet, the story is such that I imagine another is forthcoming.
This guy just can’t catch a break
Given that the two previous books in this series are called Elminster Must Die and Bury Elminster Deep, and that prior to this he’s also featured in Elminster In Hell, it is no surprise that he’s pretty pissed off at this point. For standard sword & sorcery fantasy, we’ve actually hit a pretty dark place in the story. For those who aren’t familiar with Elminster, he is a Chosen of the Mystra. He’s hundreds of years old at this point, and he has dedicated essentially his entire life to spreading the use of magic in the world and protecting people from the abuses of the powers of evil in the Realms.
When we join him in Elminster Enraged, his Goddess is dead, magic is highly unreliable and dangerous, and those who can use it are viewed with even more suspicion than usual in fantasy. Add to that the fact that the only real legitimate force of magic in the world right now (The War Wizards of Cormyr) basically thinks he’s a fake pretending to be Elminster to steal magic items and generally be a nuisance. All this combines to create an Elminster who is very different than that of the earlier books who could basically go anywhere, do anything, and meet with nothing but awed respect.
But where’s the rage? It’s titular even!
For a book called Elminster Enraged, he really doesn’t get angry all that much. He keeps up the “long-suffering mage” routine pretty well, and he has a few moments of “oh why me” throughout, but serious rage is severely lacking here. Honestly, I know it’s supposed to be a testament to his loyalty to his Goddess that in spite of all the bullshit, he continues doing the job, but it’s getting so unrealistic as to be completely ridiculous. It takes massive amounts of patience and dedication to try to do the right thing when it seems like every single person around you is dead set on screwing themselves over and ignoring your advice. That is hard enough to do for ten minutes; Elminster appears to have been doing it for centuries.
Assuming there’s a next book that picks up exactly where this one leaves off, -it- is the one I’d have called Elminster Enraged. I think I’d have called this one Elminster Trucks Along or Elminster Starts to get Cheesed and really set him loose in the next book. Having watched him get crapped on for the past several books, I was really looking forward to seeing him give in and get a little Dark Side on us, but I was left disappointed.
Why should you read this book?
This was still a great book, despite the fact that the rage made little more than a brief cameo. Elminster is an excellent character, and Greenwood writes him very well and very consistently (a feat, considering he first appeared in print twenty-five years ago). As a story, it was quite enjoyable. It is a little tough, as somebody who spent so much time in the main chronology of the Forgotten Realms, to keep track of everything happening now nearly 100 years later in Realms time, but it was worth it.
Elminster really is a character for the ages. At once serious and absurd, stoic and passionate, he struggles to do what he knows he should, even when nobody around him understands. He’s also one of the most completely written characters in history, with thousands of pages dedicated to him from a young man up to now, 1200 years later.