The beginning of a new fantasy trilogy by Salvatore (Child of a Mad God, 2018, etc.), set in the Forgotten Realms and starring Drizzt Do’Urden, the renowned dark elf whose first name sounds like a comic-book electrical short circuit.
Created half a century ago as one of the settings for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the Realms owe much of their popularity to Salvatore, who, over three decades, has set many of his novels therein, most of them featuring the said Drizzt. This time, in the present, Drizzt’s late father, Zaknafein, has been revivified. By whom? And why? The contending female rulers (males are subordinate—even the wizards) of the aristocratic houses of the Underdark city Menzoberranzan suspect the machinations of Lolth, the ambitious Demon Queen of Spiders. At first Drizzt doubts that Zaknafein is really who he says, and clearly believes, he is. Another problem is that the Menzoberranzan families loathe and despise Drizzt for siding with inferior races—dwarves and elves—against them, prejudices that his unenlightened father shares. Meanwhile, nearly five centuries in the past, Matron Malice Do’Urden commissions roguish mercenary Jarlaxle to capture and deliver brilliant and handsome young weapons master Zaknafein to warm her bed and sire the child who will become Drizzt. Jarlaxle, of course, will become friends with both Zaknafein and Drizzt and features in both threads. Despite all those decades of experience, much remains indestructibly, maybe even endearingly, ham-fisted about Salvatore’s work, from the clunky prose, clanking exposition, and abrupt switches in point of view to the barrage of names and facts that feels less like being informed and more like being clubbed over the head. Or perhaps the secret’s in knowing that the audience is fanatically loyal, expectant, well-informed, and highly forgiving—and that he really does deliver the thrills and spills, the battles and swordplay, the jolly banter amid dreadful danger, and the hissing, clawing, chortling, tooth-grinding malice of the villains.
Salvatore fans will rejoice.