Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Elminster Series

Go To
"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 campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons, written by setting creator Ed Greenwood. Its starring character is the archmage 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 Mystra 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:

  • The Archmage: The Magister, the "Mad Mage", and eventually Elminster himself.
  • Ascended Extra: The "magelords" that Elminster fights in the first book are made into a playable Prestige Class in the 3.5E supplement Lost Empires of Faerûn.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In Making of a Mage, the head magelord calls up the Magister, Mystra's chosen, the most powerful archmage around. He tries to control him as proof of his power. This does not end well for him.
  • 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 children with various lovers, who meets some more near the end of it. 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.
  • Cast from Sanity: Elminster after the Spellplague.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Elminster's Daughter notes that Elminster has left a trail of children across western Faerûn over the years (including the dowager queen of Cormyr), but in the case of Narnra Shalace, it was because he was attacked by the evil goddess Shar (a rival of Mystra) through her mother and had to leave them for his own safety.
  • Deus ex Machina: The literal version. Trying to kill or control Mystra's Chosen tends to attract her personal attention. In Myth Drannor, several elves 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 were invading Aglarond and blasting everything in sight, Elminster and the Simbul were exhausted, and then an avatar of Mystra rejuvenated them and the battle ended 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.
  • 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.
  • Disappeared Dad: Elminster fathers lots of children by his different women, but is mostly absent in their lives. Some, like Nastra, he had to leave for their own safety, but they later meet and team up. Since he's constantly off on various adventures however there is little chance of much relationship.
  • 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, and wasn't recognized by the wizard, who interrogated him to find out what his father looked like.
    • 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.
  • Dragon Ancestry: The protagonist of Elminster's Daughter, Narnra Shalace, turns out to be the love-child of the archmage Elminster of Shadowdale and a shapeshifted song dragon.
  • Forced Transformation: In Making of a Mage, Eliminster turns three magelords into stones whom he then puts in an ocean, saying he hopes they have large and strong lungs to swim ashore when the spell wears off.
  • 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 the book. She teaches Elminster magic, takes his virginity, then is slain 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.
  • God Was My Copilot: Elminster is tutored in magic by a female wizard, Myrjala Darkeyes, with whom he eventually develops a romantic relationship. After she's seemingly incinerated in battle with the Big Bad, he angrily swears he'll never work magic again because it only leads to sorrow. Cue Myrjala's body reforming from ashes and revealing herself as an avatar of Mystra, goddess of magic, and acting all hurt because of what he just said.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: One epigraph invokes this in a typical Realmslore fashion. It's a quote from a book named "Tyrant's Throne to the Arms of a Goddess: My Road To Mystra".
  • Heroic Bastard:
    • Farl, Elminster's fellow thief and friend in the first book, was born to the evil mage Hawklyn by a lady of the court. He's a good, loyal person (stealing mostly from the rich, and driven into this by poverty).
    • Elminister's daughter Narnra Shalace (born to one of his lovers), though a thief, is otherwise a nice young woman who's heroic. It also applies to his other children who she later meets.
  • 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.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: While probably not before the Spellplague, the novels afterward reveals that as part of the Simbul's insanity, she's developed a propensity to use her magic to brutally murder and then eat people who intrude upon her prison, which is part of the reason Elminster has locked her up.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: The novels provide a justification for this happening. Apparently one of Elminster's jobs as a Chosen is stocking dungeons with magical items.
  • Interspecies Romance: Elminster manages to romance elves, a song dragon, and the goddess of magic, among others.
  • Invincible Hero: 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.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: By the 3.5 edition, the strongest of the Chosen of Mystra (including Elminster, naturally) have enough power to obliterate armies by themselves without half-trying.
  • Logical Weakness: Casting spells requires making hand gestures. Elminster having his fingers cut off by a rival mage thus renders him unable to do so, and temporarily helpless.
  • 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.
  • The Magocracy: Elminister's native country becomes one after his uncle hires a number of mages to secure the throne, who then take over with him being essentially a puppet monarch. Another country was also taken over by a cruel archmage. He's known as "the Mad Mage" because torturing people is his pastime. Elminster tries to defeat him, but almost gets killed and has to be rescued by Mystra. Later he overthrows the mage lords of his country with her help. Finally one of Elminster's lovers, Alassra "The Simbul" Silverhand, is an ambiguous version: she's a very powerful mage and also queen of her country. Though not evil, she's feared by her subjects due to being reckless and unstable.
  • Medieval Stasis: Hundreds of years pass in the books, but still nothing seems to change much aside from some kingdoms falling. We see wizards with vehicles they enable to fly with magic, but none does anything with this besides use them as a personal transport. Not to mention all those other applications that magic would have (this is explained by what amounts to A Wizard Did It in other material: the gods, Gond in particular, have decreed strict limits on technological advancement on Toril).
  • 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.
  • Offing the Offspring: In Making of a Mage Farl's father, the head magelord, tried to do this after learning about him (he also killed Farl's mother). The reason isn't revealed, though he presumably thought Farl was a threat somehow.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Elminster's parents are both killed in the first book early on when his hometown gets destroyed.
    • Farl's mother was killed by his father shortly after giving birth, who then tried to kill him too. He later gets killed by someone else, while Farl grows up a street urchin.
  • People Puppets: In Myth Drannor he received a resurrection with some strings attached.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Elminster almost falls prey to this in the first book, when a mage who's taken control of his mind compels him to run over the edge of a cliff. He manages to save himself with magic.
  • Puppet King: Belaur, the oldest prince of Athalantar, hires many mages to help him secure the throne. However, they're the ones truly in charge afterward, though he doesn't seem to care, being far more interested in drinking and bedding beautiful women.
  • 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 they couldn't know that would happen.
  • Rash Promise: In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, after his mentor/lover Myrjala Darkeyes is incinerated by a dragon, Elminster swears he'll never work magic again because all it's brought him is misery. Myrjala's body then reforms, and since she's really an avatar of the goddess of magic Mystra, she gently chides him for hurting her feelings. Elminster goes on to become one of the greatest wizards in the history of magic.
  • Really Gets Around: Elminister is cheerfully promiscuous even into old age, and has fathered dozens of children over the years.
  • 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. He doesn't seem perturbed in the least by this, even though the city he'd saved in the last book has been overrun by demons, and every human he'd known has likely died by then.
    • 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.
  • Sex Slave: King Belaur's men kidnap a woman whose looks he notices. She's next seen after being forced to serve as his concubine in the palace, but is rescued when Elminster enters to overthrow Belaur.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Elminster loves to smoke a pipe. His in-game version even specifies it as Elminster's ever-smoking pipe, a unique magical item which apparently never runs out of tobacco.
  • Sorcerous Overlord:
    • In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, a country was taken over by a cruel archmage. He's known as "the Mad Mage" because torturing people is his pastime. Elminster tries to defeat him, but almost gets killed and has to be rescued by Mystra.
    • Elminster himself consciously averts this at the end of the same novel: after overthrowing the Magelords, he could legitimately claim the throne for himself by right of descent (and having the witnesses to confirm that he really is who he says, too), but decides that he's not really rulership material and that the kingdom likely has had its fill of being governed by wizards for a good long while.
    • One of Elminster's friends is a more ambiguous version: she's a very powerful mage and also queen of her country. Though not cruel, she's feared by her subjects due to being reckless and unstable.
  • Squishy Wizard: Mages are repeatedly shown as dependent on their magic only, while helpless generally without it (some exceptions exist though). In many cases, they neglect to protect themselves against normal weapons, thus they can be felled through ambush, surprise or being attacked from the rear even when they still have their magic as well. Elminster himself is an exception at least early on, having learned to use swords, knives and crossbows before practicing magic, which skills he retains afterward.
  • 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.
  • Stock Medieval Meal: Elminster In Myth Drannor has Elminster, while traveling to the elven city of Cormanthor, stop at the Herald's Horn Inn and gets bread, cheese, and soup.
  • Succession Crisis: After King Uthgrael Aumar of Athalantar died, his sons began fighting over who would reign after him. The eldest, Belaur, won by hiring foreign mages to help him (they end up the true rulers in all but name, with him as a puppet). It's unclear if he was the lawful heir, or how the succession is supposed to work though, oddly enough.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: In the first book, Myrjala Darkeyes mentors Elmara, who then learns how to turn herself back into Elminster. They then become romantically involved after she rescues him when he challenges the Mad Mage in battle and bites off more than he can chew. This is before she's revealed to be an avatar of Mystra.
  • 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.
  • Truth Serum: The wizard who accosts Elminster outside his village in the hills herding sheep places him under a mind control spell, and uses it to make him answer questions truthfully. Thankfully he doesn't realize that Elminster is the son of the man he's looking for (a hidden prince who's being targeted over his claim to the throne) or he'd have been killed as well. As it is, he still orders Elminster to run off a cliff. Fortunately Elminister has a latent magical ability he uses to save himself. Later he uses it himself on another mage to compel the truth from him.
  • Vapor Wear: The cover art of Temptation makes it pretty clear that the Lady of Shadows doesn't wear underwear.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The prostitutes at the Velvet Slipper are mentioned putting their coins in a pouch inside the bodices they wear.
  • 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.