Review: Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (Forgotten Realms: Companions Codex)

There are nearly thirty books in the Legend of Drizzt and a number of side ventures. When you get this far into a series, spoilers are inevitable. So if you’re not familiar with the legend, much of the content of Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf will confound, and perhaps ruin you for everything that comes before.

For those who have journeyed this far, vengeance is sweet.

At the end of Rise of the King, the hundred year peace between the orcs and the dwarves had shattered. Nesme had fallen and the dwarves were besieged. The surface elves had yet to decide how the conflict affected them and the drow elves were so busy stabbing one another in the back, it was a wonder any of them survived until the end of the book. Toss in Jarlaxle’s fiddling and it was a very long wait for the next instalment in the Companion Codex.

In Vengeance Of The Iron Dwarf, party lines shift and align – as they have to. The orcs outnumber every other army combined, so breaking the siege isn’t simply a matter of killing the enemy. The dwarves have to fight smarter. They have to fight together. The elves and humans can bolster their efforts, but everyone has to stop thinking about what’s in it for them. Of course, the drow contingent thinks only of what’s in it for them and I spent a good portion of Vengeance wondering what was in it for Jarlaxle. His help is often the dubious sort, but over the last century or so (Toril-time), he’s become a little more predictable and he definitely has a soft spot for Drizzt.

I enjoyed reading about Team A – the Companions of the Hall – and Team B – the remnants of Drizzt’s new crew who work together here. Personality clashes were inevitable, but so were the spell combinations, to borrow an RPG term. Having everyone on the board also fostered the feeling that grew throughout this book, that the fate of the dwarves didn’t matter only to the dwarves. The shining moment, for me, came when Bruenor revealed his plan. He’s no longer the king of Mithral Hall and knows well he can’t wear that crown a third time. But he cannot watch all he strived for fall into confusion. I also delighted in reading Wulfgar and Regis working together. They are such an unlikely, yet compatible pair.

There are several side bets won and lost as the dwarves attempt to break the siege, providing a few story threads that will complicate future tales. But aside from a couple of interesting revelations, the plot here isn’t twisty. Vengeance Of The Iron Dwarf is a straightforward book of tactics, where Salvatore pits two forces against one another and crunches the numbers back and forth. Any trickery is reserved for combat and it’s all well fought.

Where to go from here? Bruenor has a throne to claim and hold, so it will be back to Gauntlgrym to kick some drow backside, once and for all. Hopefully!

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: The Herald (The Sundering, Book VI) by Ed Greenwood

The Herald: The Sundering, Book VI

This is it; we’re at the end of a long road. We are at ‘The Sundering’. Set during the Era of Upheaval, ‘The Sundering’ is a multi-author event chronicling the adventures of Faerûn’s heroes, from those just Chosen to some of the Realms most enduring characters. The Herald, by Ed Greenwood, rounds out the series with a battle to end all battles. Actually, make that battles to end all battle. Or something like that. There’s a lot of combat in this one.

Elminster and Storm Silverhand, Chosen of Mystra, are rebuilding the Weave. They are interrupted by agents of the Shadovar (of course) and choose a new, more important mission. The wards of Candlekeep and Myth Drannor must be preserved. The pair split into two teams, El heading off by himself, Storm in the company of Amarune Whitewave and Arclath Delcastle.

The gang’s not all here, yet.

At Candlekeep, everyone is in disguise. Moving from dusty tome to dusty tome, monks who might not be monks eye one another suspiciously. If it wasn’t so serious a moment, one might giggle. (I did, just quickly.) At Myth Drannor, it’s straight to battle. No disguise, lots of hack and slash.

As the battles progress, purposes change and become compromised. Rebuilding the Weave becomes secondary to keeping the Wards out of Shadovar hands. Elminsiter is sorely tested, facing betrayal, action against old allies and a possible alliance with an enemy. Storm and her magical hair has no time to catch her breath. It’s battle after battle outside Myth Drannor, which makes for fun reading if you like that kind of thing. I do.

It’s hard to summarise the rest of the book without giving away some of the most wrenching and startling moments, except to say that lots of folks meet their end, gruesomely. For a while, El’s every chapter ends with a roof tumbling down on top of him. Oh and I learned my new favourite spell: Bone Rend. I think Ed Greenwood made it up just for this book. It’s spectacularly gory; the bones are pulled from a body, while that body lives. The end result is, well, quite bloody. The bones hold a lot of organs and musculature in place.

I’m not going to say much about the ending of ‘The Herald’, neither, except to note that ‘The Sundering’ happens, ready or not. Hopefully, the event’s passing means a time of renewal for Toril. It could sure use it.

Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore were good choices to bookend this series. The Herald is about as different from R.A. Salvatore’s contribution, The Companions, as could be. The Companions is about birth. The Herald, overwhelmingly, is about the end or death. But, remember, in the Realms, death is rarely just death. More, it’s change.

I did find The Herald to be the least accessible of all the Sundering books. There are so many characters and points of view and little time is taken to fully introduce every player. If you have not read Ed Greenwood before and are unfamiliar with Elminster (as I was), it’s a little difficult to immerse. There is a lot to take on faith. This is somewhat understandable, really. It’s the final battle. There isn’t the time for leisurely introductions. I did warm to the main characters and I did come to care for their fates. They are written with great empathy. A solid familiarity with the world and the setting and the event itself does smooth many of the wrinkles. There were also other familiar characters in the mix, which made for a nice cross-over in my mind.

So, that’s it, ‘The Sundering’ is done. In my opinion, it was a wonderful enterprise. I got to meet many of Faerûn’s iconic characters and experience the writing style of several new authors. I added many new books to my shelf and plan to continue to dwell in the Realms for some time. Now I’ll be looking at the follow-up novels that tie into this series. I’ve already read one: ‘Night Of The Hunter’ by R.A. Salvatore. Really, the stories will never end, which is great news for fans and those just discovering this world.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

The Herald
Featured image is Elminster, for The Herald, by Tyler Jacobson

 

Review: The Adversary: The Sundering, Book III

theadversary The Adversary by Erin M. Evans.

‘The Adversary’ is the third book in the Forgotten Realms, multi-author event ‘The Sundering’. I have not read Erin Evans before, but a glance at the blurb and the chance to jump back into Faerûn had me hopping from foot to foot until the ARC hit my hands. Wrapped in a devilishly barbed tale of intrigue, ‘The Adversary’ furthers the adventures of the tiefling, Farideh and her companions.

Finding herself in a bind—one tighter than the pact she shares with the cambion, Lorcan—Fariden strikes a bargain with Lorcan’s sister. The deal quickly devolves into a mess of disastrous proportions and the only way out is for Farideh to follow the instructions of her new patroness. She winds up in a secure and secluded fortress in Netheril. That’s when things start to get really interesting.

The camp within the fortress houses prisoners of all races. Many appear to be quite ordinary, but it is the few who are not that catch her attention. These are Chosen and they are a part of the mystery Farideh is unwittingly involved in. As she figures out who they are and what their purpose is, she discovers who and what she is as well.

Erin M. Evans does a fantastic job of catching up the casual reader. Being familiar with her characters would make ‘The Adversary’ more compelling…maybe. Having being introduced at the beginning of this book, I found the journey of all the characters very satisfying. In particular, Dahl’s story. The fallen paladin quickly captured my imagination. He comes across as an atypical hero, which led me to expect great things, of course! I enjoyed his struggle as much as I did Farideh’s, which makes me sound rather sadistic. But, as readers, we’d rather see a character grow than go out for coffee, right? Strength usually comes from adversity and all that. The conclusion to his portion of the story alone is enticement enough for me to reach for the next novel.

The pace of ‘The Adversary’ is a little slow at times, but this does allow Evans to share the thoughts of all the players. I did not really mind the sometimes ambulatory pace; I understand an author’s desire to visit with each of her characters. For instance, the slow reveal of Clanless Mehen’s back story adds depth to all the characters and therefore the novel. The exploration of the romance between Havilar and Brin is sweet. The more complicated relationship between Farideh and Lorcan is another of those elements that will have me reading forward.

‘The Adversary’ is a satisfying entry in ‘The Sundering’ series. As a novel, it’s a good read. As part of its own series, I’m sure it will delight fans. What impresses me the most is the author’s confidence in shifting events on Toril, messing with the grand order, while advancing her own story arc. Well done!

Written for SFCrowsnest.

The Sundering:

The Companions by R. A. Salvatore (August 6, 2013)

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp (October 1, 2013)

The Adversary by Erin Evans (December 3, 2013)

The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers (February 4, 2014)

The Sentinel by Troy Denning (April 1, 2014)

The Herald by Ed Greenwood (2014)

Review: The Godborn: The Sundering, Book II

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

I haven’t read anything by Paul S. Kemp before. After finishing The Godborn, I have to wonder why. The man can write.

The Godborn is the second book in the Forgotten Realms event ‘The Sundering’. Wizards of the Coast plan to release six standalone novels from series authors that will show the events of The Sundering from the perspective of some of Faerûn’s best known heroes. For those unfamiliar with Kemp, his hero is Erevis Cale, shade and chosen of Mask. The Godborn begins with the birth of Erevis’ son.

Vasen Cale is named for his father and resembles him in many ways. Shadows leak from his skin—the descriptions of this phenomenon delighted me throughout the book. He’s not a full shade, though. He’s half human and this is an important part of the story. Vasen Cale’s personal journey is to reconcile his two halves, shadow and light. By accident (or design, this is Faerûn) he is born at the Abbey of the Rose, a sanctuary dedicated to Amaunator, the deity of order, the law, sun and time. He grows up to be First Blade of the Dawnguard; a priest of Amaunator, of the light. In the Dungeons and Dragons world, priests are some of the most talented warriors and Vasen Cale exemplifies the class.

Continue reading “Review: The Godborn: The Sundering, Book II”

Drizzt, Drizzt and a little more Drizzt

I met Drizzt by accident. A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, I read a book. The only details I remembered were a hero with dark skin and a castle. And that it was one of a series. I recalled being utterly captivated by the character and the story, however. I still don’t know the name of that book or character, but when I mentioned my search to a friend, he thought of Drizzt, the dark elf, and handed me a copy of The Crystal Shard (The Icewind Dale Trilogy, #1).

(As a side note, when I rolled a monk for our D&D campaign, the same guy handed me The Cleric Quintet. I think he hoped to influence the alignment and disposition of my monk. Didn’t work.)

The Crystal Shard, first published novel of R.A. Salvatore, introduced me to Drizzt and his companions. I got caught up in their story and read book after book after book.  Currently, there are twenty-four novels making up The Legend of Drizzt, and it is an amazing series. The books are well written, well plotted and the perfect size for an adventure. The characters endure, even as their world changes around them, but they don’t stagnate. The combat is gripping and the emotional ties between the Companions is compelling. I have a lot of love for these books.

With the upcoming release of The Companions: The Sundering, Book I I’ve devoted my blog to Drizzt and his companions this week, which has involved doing more research than I usually do when I read and review a book. I’ve read wikis, virtually stalked R.A. Salvatore and browsed fan art. One of the neat things about these particular books is that they are part of a much beloved world, The Forgotten Realms. There are wikis of the wikis, forums of forums, pages and pages of data gathered and sorted by fans, and so much art and fan art. It must be an awesome experience as a writer to have such a wealth of information on hand, and to appreciate the dedication of the fans.

In this post I’d like to share some of awesome stuff I found.

Continue reading “Drizzt, Drizzt and a little more Drizzt”