A/N: Originally written for my Critical Writing class.
The aim of this essay is to compare two novels set in the same universe, namely Forgotten Realms. I shall focus not on the similarities derived from this fact, but rather the differences. Both novels serve as a collection of myths of the universe. However, they are set in varying geographical places and show varying cultures.
The first thing I shall compare is the time period covered by the book. In „Cormyr: A Novel”, the action takes place from the year –400 DR to 1369 DR. Every one of the chapters is dated, with the past chapters (that is, anywhere from –400 DR to 1352 DR) separating the present chapters, set in 1369 DR. In contrast, “Evermeet: Island of Elves” can be broken into three parts: the first is the legendary one and it deals with the deities; the second is distant past – therefore, no dates are given; the third is set in present times, ranging from 1341 DR to 1371 DR. Each one of the sections begins with a modern chapter, but all the subsequent chapters are set in the time period of the section. Contrary to “Cormyr: A Novel”, many yearly dates are omitted entirely.
Now that we know the time period, we can examine the lands presented in each of the novels. The titles of the books themselves reveal the geographical locations – that is, Evermeet and Cormyr respectively. Evermeet, as we learn from the very first chapter, is an island protected by powerful magic of its inhabitants. In contrast, Cormyr is called the Forest Kingdom at the beginning – and the description inside proves that it is just a stretch of forested land, with some mountains here or there. Therefore, Cormyr does not enjoy the isolation and protection that Evermeet has.
The geographical location, examined earlier, influences one more aspect of the realm’s culture. Evermeet is rightly called the Island of Elves – the only non-elf we see in the entire novel (dragons notwithstanding) is Maura, a daughter of an immensely powerful human sorceress who is a friend of Queen Amlauril. On the other hand, Cormyr’s history is presented first from an elf’s viewpoint – Iliphar Nelnueve and Alea Dahast’s, respectively – and then the perspective shifts to that of a human settler, Ondeth Obarskyr, and his son, Faerlthann the First King… and then the novel follows his descendants through some 1300 years.
Both Evermeet and present-day Cormyr might be monoracial and monocultural, however, this was not the case in the past of the latter. In “Cormyr: A Novel” (chapter 4) a human archmage Baerauble has to persuade the elves that he is not an animal when he first encounters the Fair Folk. Later on, we see him as the elves’ messenger to the humans – probably due to his knowing both cultures very well – and a trusted friend and advisor to the elven ruler, Iliphar Nelnueve… and a lover of the very same elfwoman who had almost killed him the first time they met. When the mantle of rulership is passed to Faerlthann, Alea and Baerauble are separated forever – and the scene is probably the most memorable one in the entire novel.
As seen from the above example, however uniform the society of the realm presented might be in terms of race, the issue of interracial friendships and relationships exists. In “Evermeet: Island of Elves”, the Fair Folk do not think Maura an animal (bear in mind that Baerauble encountered Alea in –75 DR and Maura’s story takes place in 1341 DR). However, they still look down on her. Maura’s mother being a friend of Queen Amlauril is probably the only reason the girl is allowed to remain on the island. The girl, unfortunately, makes an even greater mistake than Baerauble had made – she falls in love with Prince Lamruil, the sole surviving child of the Queen. Her love might be reciprocated, but the nobles of the land do not take kindly to this situation. The reader expects their love to be doomed by the machinations of an exiled noble, however, this is not the fact – in the final chapter, Lamruil and Maura leave the island to start their own elven realm on the continent.
In both novels, dragons are mentioned. In “Cormyr: A Novel”, a powerful black dragon named Thauglor is introduced in the very first chapter and shows several times more until it is killed in 1018 DR, aptly named the Year of Dracorage. In addition, a pair of dragons accompanies him to the Feint of Honor in –205 RD, where the dragon’s might is overpowered by an elf’s intelligence and cunning – and the very same reasoning Iliphar Nelnueve used against Thauglor the Black Doom is later used against Iliphar himself by Faerlthann Obarskyr. On the other hand, the very first dragon we see in “Evermeet: Island of Elves”, an elf’s steed and valuable companion, is hastening to warn the island of the danger. Such is the case with most of the dragons seen in the novel, for example, Haklashara and her rider (described in chapters 16 and 17). The sole exception is a malignant red dragon Mahatnartorian, seen in two chapters dealing with the very distant past.
Elves and dragons both are frequently associated with magic, which is the next thing worth mentioning. In “Cormyr: A Novel”, the elven lord Iliphar Nelnueve is nicknamed the Lord of Scepters (the scepters being magical items and not merely insignias of rulership) and is a powerful battle mage. The descendants of Alea Dahast and Baerauble, whose relationship I mentioned earlier, are all powerful mages in their own right in spite of being humans – and they serve the Kings of Cormyr generation after generation. Similarly, the very first elf we see in “Evermeet: Island of Elves” is a mage. Many more wizards of the Fair Folk are present in the novel – chief among them are Ka’Narlist (chapters 7 to 9); Vhoori Durothil (chapters 12 to 14); and, of course, the elven queen Amlauril herself (from chapter 16 onwards). Clearly, practically every chapter has a powerful wizard present. They are not related in any way, however, unlike the Royal Wizards of Cormyr.
The ultimate proof that the two books are set in the same universe are the mentions of Myth Drannor and/or Cormanthor (“Cormyr: A Novel”, chapters 2 and 10; “Evermeet: Island of Elves”, chapter 16). Also, it is conceivable that the “dragon flight” mentioned in chapter 14 of Evermeet and the one described in chapter 22 of Cormyr (dated 1018 DR, the Year of Dracorage) is the very same one – the mention of a star in the heavens seems to be the clue. However, the theory is not completely unshakable.
The novels are also similar in that they both use mood-setting devices extraneous to the story itself. Even before the first chapter of “Cormyr: A Novel”, we read an excerpt from a bard’s song which glorifies the king(s) and the inhabitants of Cormyr. On the other hand, “Evermeet: Island of Elves” uses letters to achieve the same goal. There are five of them in total, scattered across the book, every one placed before the next part of the story begins (note that there are five parts, but only three time periods, as I outlined them in the very first paragraph). They are sometimes written to or from a character that is also present in the novel, but not always – Danilo Thann is not present physically in the book, although it is implied in the first letter that the very novel itself is written by him as a wedding gift to his bride.
In conclusion, while it is noticeable that the books are organized similarly and that they take place in the same universe, there are more differences than similarities. It is clear that the fantasy genre is not as limited as it is thought to be. While the topics covered or the situations presented might be similar, the exact details vary greatly.
 DR meaning ‘Dalereckoning’, the name given to the in-universe calendar