Literature: The Elminster Series

"Life has no meaning but what we give it. I wish a few more of ye would give it a little."
— Elminster of Shadowdale

The Elminster Series is an ongoing series of novels set in the Forgotten Realms D&D campaign setting, written by setting creator Ed Greenwood. Its starring character is the archwizard Elminster Aumar, one of the Chosen of the goddess of magic.

The series currently includes the following books:
  • Elminster: The Making of a Mage (1994): Elminster's quiet life as a shepherd in his hometown is violently disrupted by a dragon-riding wizard. The murder of his parents and entire village sets the stage for his long life as one of the Chosen of Mystra.
  • Elminster in Myth Drannor (1997): Now one of the Chosen, but still in his twenties and relatively inexperienced, Elminster is sent to the elven realm of Cormanthor to learn magic.
  • The Temptation of Elminster (1998): Several hundred years later. After accidentally getting himself sealed in a can for a century, Elminster emerges to find that Myth Drannor (formerly Cormanthor) fell to yugoloths while he was in stasis. He sets out to regain his life, then Mystra sends him to learn from a sorceress called the Lady of Shadows.
  • Elminster in Hell (2001): The first entry set following the Time of Troubles, during which the original Mystra was killed and the mortal wizard Midnight ascended to fill the position. After events in Return Of The Archwizards result in a dimensional breach between the Prime Material Plane and the Nine Hells, Elminster dives into the hole to seal it and is captured by an archdevil.
  • Elminster's Daughter (2004): Centered not around Elminster, but rather one of his various children, a Waterdhavian thief named Narnra Shalace. By dumb luck, she tries to rob him one night, follows him through a portal, and becomes involved in a plot by the Red Wizards of Thay against the crown of Cormyr.
  • The Annotated Elminster (2007): Omnibus edition of the first three books.
  • Elminster Must Die (2010): The first book set after the Spellplague. Mystra is dead by the hand of Cyric, and the Chosen have lost much of their power. Elminster's many enemies decide now is the perfect time to eliminate their old foe.
  • Bury Elminster Deep (2011): Manshoon thinks he finally killed Elminster, but he survived as magical ash. He now forms an adventuring party to counterattack and stop Manshoon.
  • Elminster Enraged (2012): Despite a command by the ghostly vestige of Mystara herself that they must work together, Elminster and Manshoon, both now bodiless entities, fight a shadowy war across Cormyr as they try to pursue their own goals of protection and conquest.

The Elminster Series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Boring Invincible Hero: The main criticism of the series. Coupled with the fact that Ed Greenwood seems to have difficulty keeping power levels consistent across books due to power creep, Elminster (and to a slightly lesser degree, the Simbul), seem to suddenly come to the revelation of "The book is almost over, guess I'd better just destroy the supposed threat." Word of God is that this was partly due to Executive Meddling. Due to fear of Moral Guardians, the writers weren't allowed to have villains achieve even minor victories.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: A mild example, but in Elminster: The Making of a Mage, Braer gently lectures Elminster (when he's become a female version of himself named Elmara) on how elves live in tune with nature, while humans destroy everything which they can't control.
  • The Casanova: One of Elminster's defining traits is that he'll flirt and/or sleep with virtually anything that is female and not related to him. Even ghosts, liches and dragons in human form. If we account for the disparity in series entries, the number of his conquests probably rivals James Bond. Even outside of his saga it's pretty much a Running Gag.
    • Seriously. The first thing he does after emerging from the Can in Temptation is find some random village that has been taken over by bandits and liberate it. The second thing he does is sleep with one of its women.
    • The series also doesn't shy away from the results of all that sex. Daughter is centered on one of Elminster's several illegitimate children, who meets some near the end. Technically, fertility of the Chosen is under Mystra's complete control, but she rarely has good reasons to veto a magically strong bloodline.
  • Cast from Hit Points: At the end of Myth Drannor the creator of the city's mythal sacrifices his life to complete it.
  • Deus ex Machina: The literal version-it's hard to face Mystra's top-rank servants with overwhelming power or control them, but doing this tend to attract her personal (and rather annoyed) attention. In Myth Drannor several elven High Mages were quite disconcerted to have a goddess manifest and wag her finger at them. During The Very Definitely Final Battle of Elminster in Hell. The Red Wizards are invading Aglarond, blasting everything in sight, Elminster and the Simbul are exhausted, and then an avatar of Mystra rejuvenates them and the battle ends very quickly.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Elminster is made one of the Chosen at the end of Making of a Mage by having sex with an avatar of Mystra. In midair. And they get seen by a merchant on the road, which becomes one of the most hilarious moments in the book.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Simbul rescues Elminster from the grip of an archdevil at the climax of Elminster in Hell. And blows said archdevil to smithereens. He starts to worry only when she blasts a pit fiend out of her way without even slowing down. Hell hath no fury like Alassra when she gets really mad.
  • Divine Date: Elminster and the first Mystra have a romantic, sometimes sexual, relationship that started when he knew her as Myrjala Darkeyes. Said relationship does not continue after Midnight ascends following the first Mystra's death during the Time of Troubles.
  • Doomed Hometown:
    • Elminster's village is burned to the ground by a dragon-riding wizard at the beginning of Making of a Mage with the intent of assassinating Elminster's father, a Prince Incognito. Elminster survives because he was herding sheep in the hills.
    • Hastarl falls to an orc horde about a century after Making of a Mage. The current-day town of Secomber is built on its ruins.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The first three books, since the initial version of the Forgotten Realms was set in the mid-14th century DR and Elminster was already an established character in the continuity.
  • Gender Bender: * The middle part of Elminster: The Making of a Mage is basically "The Making of a Priestess". When Elminster agreed to serve the goddess of magic, he finds himself teleported without any warning to an unknown location and turned into a lass-"to see the world through the eyes of a woman" (and to hide him from Magelords out for his blood), having nothing on her save half of a broken ancestral sword, and no magic abilities save innate magic vision. Later he learned the spell himself. In the next book, Mystra pushes a silent sex-inverting spell into his mind, to give him a way to circumvent controls built into his body. Which he used while embraced... er... restrained by his current Love Interest, no less. "Well met. Call me Elmara, please!"
  • God in Human Form: In Making of a Mage, Myrjala Darkeyes is an avatar of Mystra, which Greenwood manages to keep unclear until the very end of Making of a Mage. She teaches Elminster magic, takes his virginity, then is incinerated by a dragon during the final battle, only to have her body reform to admonish him after he screams that he'll never work magic again. Later some of her other avatars also enjoyed his company.
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Elminster's titles include Chosen of Mystra and Sage of Shadowdale, among others.
    • Alassra Silverhand, another Chosen and Elminster's lover by the time of Elminster in Hell, is better known as the Simbul and/or the Witch-Queen of Aglarond.
    • Mystra herself has various titles as befitting a deity.
  • Healing Factor: Elminster and the other Chosen.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: The novels provide a justification for this happening. Apparently one of Elminster's jobs as a Chosen is stocking dungeons with magic items.
  • Interspecies Romance: Elminster manages to romance elves, a song dragon, and the goddess of magic, among others.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: By 3.5 edition, the strongest of the Chosen of Mystra (including Elminster, naturally) have enough power to obliterate armies by themselves without half-trying.
  • Luke Nounverber: Myrjala Darkeyes. The Silverhand family (a.k.a. the Seven Sisters). The Wyvernspurs. Et cetera. It's a pretty common trope in the Forgotten Realms.
  • Mentor Ship: Elminster and Myrjala.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • In Myth Drannor:
    Brigand: (stopping a lone rider) Get down or die.
    Elminster: (knocking down three men with a spell) I believe a more traditional greeting consists of the words "well met."
    • This is how Narnra Shalace meets Elminster in Daughter. He easily fends her off.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Elminster dives into one of his own (accidental) creation immediately prior to Elminster in Hell. (The details are in The Siege by Troy Denning.) He succeeds in closing it, but is trapped in the Nine Hells.
  • People Puppets: In Myth Drannor he received a resurrection with some strings attached.
  • Questionable Consent: In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, while he's a thief Elminster and his partner Farl hide a prostitute (unconscious at the time) in the bedroom of a cross-dressing baker from the wrath of her clients (whom they just robbed), stroking both of them so they'll have sex after waking up-just for laughs, apparently. The pair end up happily married, yes, but what the hell hero?
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Elminster and Myrjala go on one in Hastarl during the climax of Making of a Mage, killing every magelord in the city.
  • Sealed Good in a Can:
    • Elminster blunders into a stasis trap while dungeon-crawling for lost magic about a century prior to Temptation. He's rescued at the start of the book by an adventuring party.
    • Vangerdahast's subplot in Daughter consists of his attempts to seal dragons in a can to replace Cormyr's previous Sealed Good, unsealed and destroyed in the Devil Dragon war. He eventually shapeshifts into a dragon and seals himself and a volunteer song dragon in the can.
  • Status Quo Is God: You probably should have seen this coming, but, by the ending of Elminster Enraged, Eliminster's not only come back to life, he's regained his Chosen-level powers and wisdom, and it's strongly hinted he's going to bring Mystra back to life again next.
  • Touched by Vorlons:
    • Averted, oddly enough. Elminster and most of the other Chosen of Mystra were deadly spellslingers in their own right before officially being made Chosen. They did gain a great deal of power afterwards, however.
    • Elminster was born with "Mystra's gift" — a minor magic ability. In his case, spellsight.
  • Vapor Wear: The cover art of Temptation makes it pretty clear that the Lady of Shadows doesn't wear underwear.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Elminster uses an archaic form of Common that involves 'ye's, 'thy's, and 'thou's.
  • You Killed My Father: Elminster gets his revenge in Making of a Mage.