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Ethshar
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
I've been reading Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar books lately. I started them years ago, but got distracted. They are high fantasy, not deep, but well-written and fun. Since I am lately finding myself awake at odd hours, something light to read was pretty much what the doctor ordered.

One thing I particularly admire about LWE's work is that his protagonists feel a lot more relatable to me than typical fantasy heroes. They are rarely ambitious or "heroic", but just good people trying to their best in difficult situations. Some of them *are* ambitious, but they all fall into the category of "young idiot who learns better". Interestingly, "young idiot who *doesn't* learn better" is a good description of most of his *an*tagonists (for those books that have one, at any rate; often the conflict is not on that sort of level). For that matter, the most threatening figure in any of his books is still more relatable than most Evil Overlords; when asked what he intended to *get* with his near-limitless power, he replies "Good food. Beautiful women. Sunny days. A comfortable home. The same thing that please anyone." The difference is that he doesn't care who he hurts while *getting* those things.

Interestingly, I feel no urge whatsoever to do an Ethshar Timeline, despite it being excellent material for one. The stories cover a fairly wide span of time and space, and are lightly interrelated. But LWE actually gives too *much* information for me to find the project interesting. He has clearly worked out his calendars and timelines in great detail, so there's really no need for me to reconstruct that work. I discover that part of the attraction to me of making Timelines is the prospect of finding apparent contradictions, and cleverly resolving them.

The series as a whole is recommended. I would specifically recommend starting with either _The Misenchanted Sword_ or _Night of Madness_. Both are well-written, set early in the chronology, and set up significant events and characers who will occasionally get referred to in later books. But all the books stand on their own quite well.
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It's an interesting world from a gaming perspective, too. There are rumors that Watt-Evans developed the world for gaming originally, and the world would work for that. Many people have suggested that it would make a good GURPS setting, but it's never happened. But the idea of having five different magic systems, all using different mechanics, is cool right by itself.

Hardly rumor, he says as much on the Ethshar FAQ. One of my other favorite series, and one I *have* done a Timeline for, Dragaera, also originated as an RPG, and also hasn't yet seen any publication of an RPG based on it.

The multiple magic systems is another of the things I like about the setting. Also from the FAQ: "Different authorities count the varieties differently, and come up with anywhere from three to twelve kinds; I make it either five or seven, depending on how I want to count a couple at any given time."

Ah! This explains a lot.

I have woven bits of his magic systems into various RPGs and stories of mine, especially the warlocks. That and, of course, the systems from Master Of The Five Magics, which are just such handy self-consistent views of magic.

It always seemed to me like he should open Ethshar up and make it a shared universe, but I didn't manage to catch him at the last Boskone to say so, and he seems to have given up on LJ...

Not entirely given up; he made a post just a few days ago...

You say of the recommended titles that they are "set early in the chronology." Are they published in order of internal chronology, or jumping around like the Dragaeran books?

I'm not sure what difference it would make to me, I'm just curious that way.

They're published out of order, but most can be read in any order.
Ethshar wiki page for publication and internal orders

And the author is here as lwe.

Cool. Somehow I have never read most of those, even though I LOVED The Misenchanted Sword and With A Single Spell way back when I read them. I also had an odd fan correspondence with LWE when I was self-publishing comics and realized that he (at that time) owned a comic shop.

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