Monday, September 28, 2009
The Pirate King by R. A. Salvatore, a Review
The Pirate King is the Second novel of the Transitions series by R.A. Salvatore. The hardcover edition was released in the US on July 2009 (reprint edition).
“Captain Deudermont has sailed to the pirate city of Luskan on a mission--a mission to once and for all defeat the true power behind the corrupt city: a wicked lich and his cabal of evil wizards from the Host Tower of the Arcane. But the Host Tower has some tricks up its sleeve, as do the pirate captains who would like to see both sides fail.”
As many know, the Forgotten Realms is changing. With the advent of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition the FR timeline is being advanced approximately 100 years. The various "Drizzt Novels" so far have been set earlier in the timeline (corresponding with 2nd Edition AD&D and D&D 3rd Edition/ 3.5). The "Transitions Series" is an attempt to reconcile the two converging timelines, bridging the gap between the setting we all know (and love) and the new setting which has MANY stark differences.
"When we last left off" Drizzt and Regis were heading to Luskan on the way North to Icewind Dale to visit Wulfgar, who had left some months prior.
Arriving in Luskan they find strange plots afoot. Captain Deudermont was in Luskan with a small army to topple the Host Tower of the Arcane.
Ironically when I started reading this I had just started running a Luskan-centric campaign so I was anxious to get the nitty-gritty on the Who's Who of Luskan. This book as absolutely essential for this. It breaks down how the city really works: alliances, attitudes, who controls what amongst the Five High Captains as well as all the major players in the Host Tower as well as Mirabar etc. You can easily see which Captains are stronger/ weaker which ones are allied, which ones are back-stabbing the others. Overall it’s a complicated web of deceit, but the novel breaks it all down. If you were even considering running a campaign set in Luskan prior to the Spellplague, this novel is absolutely essential.
The Pirate King is an interesting story in a number of ways. Aside from really illustrating how an important city in Faerun is changed it is good because you see major characters get in to trouble that they cannot get out of.
Now, you may be asking whether I hate the Forgotten Realms or its characters since I like to see them in helpless situations. I would answer no. I actually love the setting as well as the characters, but I do like drama and when I read a book, I want to have my heart-strings pulled by the author. To that, often I believe the author needs to respect his characters enough to give them depth and sometimes to hurt (or even kill) them if the story requires it.
R.A. Salvatore usually does a good job of this with tertiary characters: build them up, get you to like them…then do horrible things to them. With the primary characters...not as much. They get depth on occasion, and with every story the author has done a wonderful job in really giving Drizzt, Regis, Enteri, Jarlaxle etc. additional bits of depth. However I have to admit that they rarely seem in REAL danger. Occasionally they are, but in most cases the protagonists tend to far outclass the antagonists; whether by skill, luck, the will of the gods or magical trinkets.
In the last several novels R. A. Salvatore has produced though the stakes have gotten higher in many ways. This novel: The Pirate King is an excellent example of that. I would recommend The Sellswords Series as well.
Without giving away the whole story, the author weaves a fine tale about how Luskan is changed. The protagonists are faced with a very complicated situation and in my opinion they handle it in the expected manner yet that method is insufficient. The result is a very good tale of how good intentions can go very wrong.
There were only a couple sections that I found implausible or didn't understand what happened and had to re-read it. I was greatly amused at how easily Greeth, the Lich deals with Drizzt. Absolutely priceless.
Some parts of the overall plot are drawn out in a manner to make it a surprise in the end. Regular readers should easily see the end coming but it was still done very well. It was good to see characters like Morik the Rogue make a return. God I feel bad for that poor fool: he is a tool of powers far greater than him and he'll likely never escape.
Overall, I think this "Drizzt Story" does a very find job of putting every character in peril. Protagonists and Antagonists alike, making judgmental mistakes occasionally being easily turned out or defeated due to poor planning, error and bad luck.
I like my "heroes" fallible. I like them to learn from mistakes and have to dust them off after taking a fall. I think in many cases Drizzt and his band of super-heroes haven't done this but have Forrest Gump'd their way through adversity to success. I also think that the author is getting better and better with each novel in delivering deeper characters and stories and allowing the prize characters to get a little dirty...which I applaud!
I'm now really looking forward to The Ghost King: Transitions Book III!