Friday, September 25, 2009

The Pirate King

Lockwood's cover for Salvatore's latest Drizzt book

Following up the first book of the Transitions trilogy is the latest "king" titled installment, the Pirate King. Drizzt and company are back at it again, romping to and from, scimitars flashing away. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I don't want to disparage the book, it was actually pretty good, but it is very familiar territory, only the foes change.

The Pirate King felt like it was simplified somewhat, and it also felt it had set out with a very real goal to tie up certain loose ends that had been cropping up over the last few books. It does well, to Salvatore's credit, and by the end of the book, all those little nagging details you've been wondering about for a while are cleaned up.

I was surprised by the amount of time the book lets go by, almost a year, and I was even more surprised by the amount of glossed over space in many of the scenes. Entire books could've been written about some of the side quests mentioned half-heartedly and quickly moved past. For one, and this is no spoiler, Cattie-Brie continues her magical training with the archmage of Silverymoon. A journey to take them "halfway around the world" learning along the way. Literally that was all that's said of it, see ya later Cattie-Brie.

In the beginning of the book, you see most of the hero characters, but soon after the story becomes all about two, and just two; Drizzt and the halfling Regis. This was quite refreshing because there weren't too many characters taking up screen time, and you get a lot more insight and development to the halfling that usual, since he's always dwarfed by the other larger-than-life characters he keeps company with.

The story really only involves the duo because they happen to wander into it, they are heroes, but not the main characters. That role falls on the stalwart Captain Deudormont, who has made appearances in many of the past books. It is a tale of the Captain leading the forces of good to retake the City of Sails, Luskan, from corrupt forces that have exploited their positions of power for too long. The primary adversaries are the wizards belonging to the Arcane Brotherhood led by their Lich master, but there is also complex intrigue as the five pirate high captains who control parts of the city also become involved, manipulating the events along the way. Drizzt and Regis assist Deudormont, but the book really is about him.

I looked up Luskan in my 4e Forgotten Realms Player's Guide, and wow, it's quite the cesspit. I think the book literally said it was "the most miserable place in all of FĂ„erun". Undead roam the streets, acid rain unleashes mutants on the populace from a floating island. Crime and vice, murder and extortion are the way of life in the streets. A far cry from what Deudormont is trying to achieve. Salvatore does a good job in setting all of this up, these "transitions" from old DnD3.5, to a hundred years later with 4e. You can see the cracks appear, and know ahead of time (thanks to the sourcebook) that Luskan is swirling the drain.

The book isn't out of place, but it feels like it rushed things a tad to squeeze them all in succinctly into a rapidly degrading timeline. 4e's been out for a while, the Spell Plague has ravaged the Realms for sometime, and it feels like these books need to hurry up a catch up with the current fluff. It can't be overly rushed, but some semblance of pace needs to be kept. I feel like that balance isn't quite obtained in this one.

Having said all that, it's not a bad read. There are some very surprising revelations near the end, and the beginning of the books takes care to bring the reader to speed on what's been going on during the downtime. In the middle of the book, Regis and Drizzt take off to attempt to find an old friend lost to the group as well as pay a visit to the place where they first met. I was not a fan of the glaring gaps in the action, and events seemed to be handled too quickly for my taste. I was pleased with all of the characters, both old and new, and their interactions with the surroundings. Drizzt's typical, heavy-handed philosophizing is present, but you get used to it after so many books I guess. Well, there you have it, enjoy!

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