You know, for someone who’s just 25, Drizzt Do’Urden has certainly lived a lot. He’s even survived the Spellplague and managed to remain a legend. Not bad going for someone who was cast out from his homeland for not being evil. Who would have thought!
Drizzt has become one of those icons in the Dungeons & Dragon’s world and his creator and author R.A. Salvatore probably the most loved author in the D&D range of novels. With over 50 novels under his belt, there is no questioning his skills have been proven beyond any doubt.
You could be cynical and think that, after so many novels, how can a character remain fresh and be able to surprise you. Read this novel and you’ll find out.
Charon’s Claw is the third book in the tetralogy of NeverWinter (it was going to be a trilogy, but they changed their mind because there is so much stuff going on that another book makes sense. If you don’t believe me, listen to the podcast with R.A. Salvatore). In this book, Dritzz and Dhalia go in search of Herzgo Alegni, the evil tiefling who owns Charon’s Claw, an extremely powerful sentient sword that will make things very, very complicated for our heroic couple.
Of course it’s not as simple as that. There is also a Drow expedition into the ruins of Glaunltgrym and Artemis Entreri comes back, turning the whole scenario into a very, very tense situation. Oh, and there are the Aboleths. Let’s not forget them. Or that Succubus; she’s quite something.
As usual, I am being deliberately vague about the plot as I don’t want to give any spoilers, but let me assure you, there is *a lot* going on in this book. And if you read somewhere this is the end of the trilogy, sorry, but that is not correct.
Salvatore doesn’t spend too long introducing the whole plot. The start of the book describes the Drow expedition in search of a lost city in gorgeous detail. Personalities and intrigue are interwoven in a spiderlike manner very appropriate and fitting to the spider goddess worshipping evil elves. Something that doesn’t cease to amaze me is how Salvatore keeps making the Draw truly despicable. The insight into their motivations and reasons to behave the way they do, how much they hate each other but how they hate even more anyone else, their hate relation with the formidable driders, the cunning ability to enslave others… Everything is meticulously portrayed to great effect.
And of course we have Dritzz going through some serious thinking. In this book we find a Dritzz full of doubt and questioning his believes and relationship with Dhalia. He is shown under a more vulnerable light and Salvatore doesn’t shy away from dwelling into his doubts, his fears and the complex relationship with Dhalia and Artemis Entreri. This is a more “human” Dritzz, very easy to relate to and empathise with, one that you’ll want to keep reading just to find out how he resolves his own turmoil.
Locations are beautifully detailed in their descriptions. The sense of location and atmosphere of the many places contained in this novel is ever-present. From the dark forest and cold nights, to the dank and dirty tunnels leading to Glauntlgrym and the ruins of the city of Neverwinter, the idiosyncrasies that make every location unique and different are reflected without being too obvious or overused.
And there are battles and fights. Yes, both. And both are absolutely terrific.
I have a thing for fights and battles. I, simply put, get lost in them very, very easily. And I mean that I truly get lost. I just, suddenly, have no idea what’s going on, what’s happened, who’s done what, who’s alive and who’s injured. Describing battles is indeed not easy.
And yet these are a joy to read. Salvatore’s visual language allows the reader to get an ideal sense of, not just the actions and fighting techniques of anyone/anything involved in a fight, but also the way the fight is aided or hindered by the surroundings. For Salvatore, trees, walls, columns, slippery surfaces and a whole selection of environmental features are just another way to create rich and exciting fighting scenes throughout the book.
One of the pivotal elements of the book, the relationship between the many characters, is handled masterfully. Motivations, desires, frustrations, fears, confessions, conversations, alliances, allegiances… they all are congruent and consequential to the events that are going on around the characters that experience them. You will often wonder why do characters behave like that, why do they put up with certain type of behaviour or suffer the humiliation. It all is revealed in due time with an “Oh!” being uttered every single time.
Although inspiration is something Salvatore has never been short of, it feels like the author is actually enjoying writing about the characters. There is a sense of a Dritzz Do’Urden that’s being discovered, rather than evolved. If I had to bet on it, I’d say Salvatore is as intrigued about how Dritzz feels as we are, and he’s just as keen to keep writing to find out as we are to keep reading to be surprised.
And the end of the book is perfect example of all this. Although the following book is set in an all-to-obvious way, Salvatore leaves no doubt that there is a lot more to come, and that what’s to come is not just the consequence of what’s going on, but also the right consequence, leaving a feeling that you’ll be missing a lot if you don’t pick up this coming book.
Needless to say I loved this book. Very well worth every second spent reading it and very highly recommended. If you run D&D games, you’ll find endless inspiration in this book. If you play any other game, the ideas and locations will indeed be of use. If you just like fantasy, this is a rich but easy to read book that will keep you very entertained and make you want to get more.
A lot more.