It has come to my attention that I missed the Ancient Tales of the Dwemer when I reviewed the titles beginning with A. For some reason, in the Dovahkiin Gutenberg they are listed under T for Tales instead of A for Ancient.
There are seven volumes of Ancient Tales of the Dwemer that you can find in Skyrim, although gaps in the numbering imply that more exist.
Although they differ widely in storytelling style and quality of writing, one thing they all have in common is that they are purported to have been recorded by Marobar Sul, and each of them includes a publisher's note analyzing Marobar Sul's scholarship, or rather lack thereof, and whether or not the tale presented was actually Dwemer in origin. The majority of them are determined to have been from other cultures, and that Marobar Sul slapped some Dwemer-sounding names on the characters.
This scholarly analysis of each text makes the set so much more interesting than each volume might have been individually. If you read all seven books together, the unnamed editor's seven notes together tell their own kind of story about Marobar Sul's shenanigans. Because these publisher's notes provide a unifying thread for these seven otherwise loosely-related books, the set as a whole merits it's own rating.
Four stars for the "complete" set (seven volumes, numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 10). Ratings for individual volumes follow.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part I: The Ransom of Zarek, by Marobar Sul
This is an interesting tale told indirectly, as a son relates his escape to his mother. Of course, there can be no suspense in a story told this way, because the reader already knows the son is home safe. However, curiosity about how he managed to get away from his captors keeps the reader's interest.
The jarring use of thy and thou as one might see in formal, archaic language, when the rest of the dialogue was modern and somewhat variable in formality, grated on my nerves. However, the boy's method of escape was reasonably clever.
Two and a half stars.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part II, by Marobar Sul
This is the only book in the set that lacks a unique title. If I were to give it one, it might be The Woodsman and the Hist, or perhaps, The Argonan's Revenge. The publisher's note refers to the source tale as "The Seed." Despite its inclusion in the Dwemer series, this story prominently features Argonian lore and culture. An old Argonian woman wins the friendship of a young Dwemer (probably actually Dunmer) girl, and gives her a seed to plant. The story is engaging and well-written. It flows smoothly and reaches a satisfying conclusion, which I shan't spoil for you.
Four and a half stars.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part III: The Importance of Where, by Marobar Sul
While each of the Ancient Tales is told in a distinctive voice, this one has perhaps the most unique flavor. It is the tale of a warrior who must contend with a priest and a healer who attempt to steal the credit for his deeds. The writing has a particular cadence, which makes it seem very much like an ancient epic handed down through an oral tradition, and the story is clever, involving a delightful play on words.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part V: The Song of the Alchemists, by Marobar Sul
This story is told in a painful, sing-song rhyme. The meter is inconsistent, and many of the rhymes are contorted. The tale is of a contest between two alchemists to brew an invisibility potion, and the conclusion did not strike me as nearly so clever as it tried to present itself. The saving grace is the publisher's commentary, which slams the poem hard.
Two and a half stars.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part VI: Chimarvamidium, by Marobar Sul
This is the first of the Ancient Tales that might actually represent Dwemer culture accurately. It also prominently features the Chimer, who were the ancestors of the Dunmer. The plot is a variation on the story of the Trojan Horse, and thus familiar and predictable. The writer was inconsistent with tenses, a clumsy error that could have been fixed with better proofreading. Nonetheless, this was overall an enjoyable story.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part IX: Azura and the Box, by Marobar Sul
Another actual Dwemer tale, this one also featuring a Chimer and a Daedra. This is a tale of how a mortal tricked a goddess, with consequences implied but unshown. It presents science and skepticism in opposition to faith. The writing is decent, but unmemorable. This is another story made better by the publisher's commentary at the end, where the Dunmer and Aldmeri versions of the story.
Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part X: The Dowry, by Marobar Sul
This is the story of a wealthy father who establishes stringent conditions to be met by any suitors who might pursue his daughter, and the clever suitor who bests those challenges through trickery. The writing is solid, if unremarkable. It's not the most original story, but it is an enjoyable read.
Note: I am not connected to Bethesda in any way, and no one asked me to do these reviews. I am doing this purely for my own fun, as time allows. I don't have an agenda, other than the joy of reading and writing. If I panned your favorite Skyrim book, sorry. If I gave five stars to one you thought was awful, also sorry. These are my opinions and mine alone. You're entitled to your own.
Read these books within the game Skyrim, on The Elder Scrolls Wiki or on the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, or download the Dovahkiin Gutenberg.