Monday, January 5, 2009

Road of the Patriarch- Review

Road of the Patriarch is the third novel of the Sellswords series by R.A. Salvatore. The hardcover edition was released in the US on October 24, 2006.

“To her, to her dying breath, you were the untouchable one, the one whose flesh her dagger could not penetrate.”


A cold and emotionless killer for whom every soul has a price, even his own, embarks on a path to find out just how high that price can be.


A dark elf of limitless guile dares to challenge a king, and carve for himself a place in the inhospitable World Above.

ILNEZHARA and TAZMIKELLA are ancient dragons of great power, accustomed to easily manipulating the humans around them. But not all humans are so easily led. When they pushed Enteri and Jarlaxle into the heart of the Bloodstone Lands, not even they could have imagined the strength of the human assassin’s resolve, or the limitless expanse of the drow mercenary’s ambition.

Previously when I reviewed the earlier books in this series I said the following:

“Here's what I wish to see from R.A. Salvatore:
I'd like to see his protagonists actually get in over their head sometimes. I'd like to see Jarlaxle not have a magical item for very occasion for a change.”

Well, I got what I asked for...for the most part.

The protagonists in this tale are the drow mercenary Jarlaxle and the assassin Artemis Enteri; characters whom were originally a part of the tales of the drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden and Company. These characters were apparently popular enough to have a spinoff series starting with Servant of the Shard.

This spinoff series The Sellswords started with Jarlaxle and Enteri and their attempt to establish themselves in the surface world using The Crystal Shard: Crenshinibon, an intelligent artifact that plays upon it’s bearer’s own desires for power. I say “their” attempt but really it’s about Jarlaxle; Artemis Enteri is largely a pawn, caught in a delicate but deadly web of deception amongst the drow of Bregan D’aerthe. Artemis Enteri was already well established in Calimport and all along The Sword Coast, and the opportunist drow intended to use that for all it was worth.

Servant of the Shard ended with Jarlaxle and Enteri leaving their lives on The Sword Coast behind after several misadventures.

Promise of the Witch King picked up where the previous book left off: two Sellswords seeking adventure in a far away land: Vaasa and Damara. Lands that were until recently under the sway of the Witch King Zhengyi. In the employ of a couple Dragon-Sisters they started collecting items left behind by the great lich and in doing so made a great name for themselves.

Road of the Patriarch begins with another of Jarlaxle’s brilliant and entirely self-serving plans: to establish for themselves (himself) a domain on the surface. Enteri and Jarlaxle are caught in a web between The Citadel of Assassins and King Gareth Dragonslayer, Paladin of Ilmater. Of course, Jarlaxle wants to find the best way to manipulate the situation to his benefit, working both sides towards each other.

This doesn’t go so well as Artemis is tired of being manipulated. His mind and heart opened through the repeated use of a magical flute he was gifted (yet another manipulation by Jarlaxle). Without giving too much away, it’s awful nice to see Jarlaxle’s plans foiled, especially by Enteri.

Both of the protagonists get in well over their heads…and in ways the reader doesn’t really see coming as clearly in previous books. For once, the super-heroic team-up of Jarlaxle and Enteri are outclassed…mostly.

The very best part of this is that from the very start we get to see the origins of Artemis Enteri. Through the manipulation of Jarlaxle, who really is simply interested in seeing how people tick, Artemis Enteri has begun questioning himself, his past and considering for the first time…a future.

Readers who read about Enteri from the beginning knew him as a passionless killer, who never thinks of the past or the future, simply the next job, and being the absolute perfectionist when it comes to his “art”.

Not so in this series. Artemis Enteri is cracked open like an egg.

Enteri, with Jarlaxle and Athrogate the Dwarf in tow, return to the home place of the assassin: Memmon, a coastal city between Calimshan and Tethyr. Memmon is a nest of vipers and of stark contrasts between those with gold and those without it.

It really is well written…again resulting in a long night of reading. This is easily Salvatore’s strongest book in this series. I’d say it’s stronger than several of the Drizzt books. Largely because of the reasons I hoped for in the previous review: surprise! Fandom of a series will only get you so far. This book really does come through strong: good solid story, surprises, character depth. It has it all.

In summary, Road of the Patriarch is a helluva fun ride!

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