Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: Charon's Claw

I finally finished reading R.A. Salvatore's latest novel, Charon's Claw, the third and final of the Forgotten Realms' Neverwinter trilogy.

Charon's Claw by R.A. Salvatore.
The Neverwinter trilogy is Salvatore's contribution to the Forgotten Realms, post-Spellplague.  Salvatore has been around for awhile.  Drizzt, the hero of this particular series, is a renegade dark elf Ranger and one of the foundational characters of the modern Forgotten Realms.  Moreover, Salvatore in general is one of the architects of the story behind what Dungeons and Dragons has become since the early 1990's, and it's his work that has defined the smaller, more party-based approach to fiction that the company has pursued with its novels since his first novels came out way back in the day.  I personally discovered Salvatore's work at West Point when, as a Cow (Junior) squad leader, I borrowed Starless Night from one of my Yearlings (Sophomores).  I really, really liked Starless Night, and in the years since then, I've read all of Salvatore's D&D novels.  At this point, they're my favorite vice.

The thing I like about this book is that it, like a lot of Salvatore's novels, is mostly about characters.  In this one in particular, Assassin Artemis Entreri is bound to the evil Netherese sword Charon's Claw, and in order to win his freedom, he and his companions, Drizzt and Dahlia, an elf Fighter, must hurl the sword into the maw of a chained Fire God, thus destroying the sword... and presumably Entreri along with it.  And yes, I know what you're thinking, and you're right.  That is a plot that's borrowed from Tolkien.  Obviously.  That said, considering how much of the rest of the stuff in the Forgotten Realms is also borrowed from Tolkien, I think we can all this particular occurrence more of an homage to its source material rather than a simple re-purposing of an extant idea.

The other thing that I liked about this book--and about the series as a whole and Salvatore's writing in general--is that the book itself is a stand-alone story.  I mean, I don't know if I necessarily think that Charon's Claw is the logical end to the Neverwinter trilogy, considering that Salvatore uses the book to introduce a raft of new characters, several new plot threads, and even an entirely new house of drow , but really...  Who cares?  In many ways, Salvatore's writing has become similar to what we see from writers in comic books and/or sequential fiction in that he's always working to set up the next story arc, but that's not a bad thing.  Salvatore is already under contract with Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to write more books about these characters, so yeah, what we have here is as much a bridge to the future as it is a close to the current chapter, but then again, it ends with a Hell of a bang, and it left me hungry for more, so I'm good with it.

With all of that said, a couple of things annoyed me here.  First and foremost is that Salvatore's particular writing style--his voice--has become more pronounced over the years, and that's not a good thing.  All the damned adverbs and verbosity of style in the middle of the action sequences, that stuff I could easily live without.  And then, too, this book opens well, and it closes very, very nicely, but I thought the middle kind of lagged.  Neither of these things is a killer, especially I would imagine for Salvatore's fans, but if this is your first Drizzt book, I can well imagine you wondering what the fuss was about.

Drizzt and Artemis Entreri fight on the cover of Starless Night.  This was my
first Drizzt book, and it remains one of my favorites.
Or maybe not.  Good FR books are hard to find, after all.

Anyway, I've enjoyed the Neverwinter trilogy in general, and I liked Charon's Claw in particular.  I don't know that it's quite as sharp as Gauntlgrym, the first book in this series, was, but it's a load of fun, and that's great.  I will recommend this book highly to fans of Salvatore, especially lapsed fans who got frustrated back during The Paths of Darkness.  If you're new to the Forgotten Realms and curious, I'll recommend the work of R.A. Salvatore, but don't start with Charon's Claw or even Gauntlgrym.  Start with either The Crystal Shard or The Legacy.  And get ready to read.

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