ThornholdThornhold, like the three Songs & Swords books before it, was originally part of the Harper series. It was intended to be the final book of the series–not an ending but a “pivot” that would lead into a new shared-author story line. This plan changed before the book was published, which left a lot of loose threads and more than a few puzzled readers.

Fortunately, I had an opportunity to tie up a few of these loose ends with “The Knights of Samular,” the new tale that kicks of the short story collection The Best of the Realms Book III: The Stories of Elaine Cunningham. And a couple of years after the Harper line ended, Thornhold was folded into the Songs & Swords series, even though Danilo is only a secondary character and Elaith and Arilyn play minor roles.

Thornhold is an ancient keep, a stronghold of the paladin order the Knights of Samular. But this is not a story about paladins. It’s the story of the children of a paladin, which is quite a different thing. Captured by their father’s enemies, one was raised to be a priest of an evil god, the other sold into slavery. The story begins when Bronwyn, her slave days far behind her and her past all but forgotten, is enjoying a thriving career as a dealer in antiquities and moonlighting as a Harper agent.  She comes face to face with her past when Khelben Arunsun, the archmage of Waterdeep and Harper leader, sends her on a mission to Thornhold–and into a battle that will change everything she knows about her life.

Magic, adventure, dark secrets, betrayal, politics, an adventure-loving dwarf and his rowdy clan, and, for those whose reading tastes run toward Oprah-recommended books, a deeply dysfunctional family. Fun for all!


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Audio book: Available at
Paperback: Currently out of print. See this page on for used copies

More info:

Go to the info page for Elfshadow to see a list of novels and short stories featuring Danilo, Elaith, and Arilyn.

Brom painted the cover art for Thornhold, which is among my favorite Forgotten Realms covers and the only one that depicts the protagonist exactly as I imagined her.  To see more of his art, visit his website.

4 thoughts on “Thornhold

  1. I just finished this today! I adore Cara. My favorite part is when she tricks Algorind in to saying the ravens name and teleports him into Blackstaff Tower. Danilo’s laugh at the Paladin’s expense is priceless 🙂 beaten by a little 9 year old half elf !

  2. I have always been a huge fan of Elaine Cunningham’s books. Every single one has had me turning page after page, eager to learn what happens next. That being said, this book had potential to be something so much greater, but it falls short in a variety of places.

    The character development was jarring, disturbing, and lacking depth at best. I felt as if the story was written by multiple authors who all had different ideas for where it should be going and who the characters should be. So many times, I felt like I knew a character only to be shocked and appalled by reasoning or actions that seemed completely counter to logic, reason, and previous reasoning or actions by the same character. Even poor, sweet Cara fell victim to this. At times, she showed an astonishing capacity for learning, understanding, and logic, but all of a sudden, she would change and insist on things that a child of her intelligence would have abandoned. I can understand emotions overpowering reasonable thought, but this was done to an extent beyond all possibility.

    Additionally, I am all for subtle undertones in stories that convey a message or even let us get to the know the author, but as I read this book, I felt as if I was being subjected to a lecture on why certain types of people are bad. There was no real logic or reasoning behind many of the negative things said, and even if there was, it was automatically applied to entire groups of people without so much as the tiniest consideration for different perspectives or differences in people who belong to the same group.

    I wish that I did not feel this way, and I even waited for my wife to read it so that I could make sure it wasn’t just me. This is the first “bad” book that I have ever read from a great author, and it is an unsettling experience. Had this been my first Elaine Cunningham book, I would never pick up another. As it was not my first, I will not let it dissuade me from enjoying her other works that, I’m sure, will be much more enjoyable. I can only hope that she did not let this book and its jarring writing style influence her subsequent works.

    1. Thornhold is fiction. It is not a statement of my personal philosophy.

      There is one theme in the book, however, that very closely reflects my belief system: Families are difficult, but they are important.

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