I was on vacation in mid-February (Jamaica). Every time that I go somewhere south I read up on Drizzt Do’Urden. The first two times it was just a coincidence. I was looking for a new character to read up on and Drizzt was highly recommended. The second time, I just happened to stumble on the fact that he had a couple more books out. After that, I just made it a tradition of sorts. I would look around to see if there are any new books out and if I find them, great.
When last I read Drizzt, he may or may not have died. I got the feeling that he wasn’t killed off, but rather set aside and maybe R. A. Salvatore was taking a break from him. I thought maybe he’d focus on Drizzt’s companions – Dahlia, Entreri, Ambergris, Effron and Afafrenfere. And that was fine with me, as they were cool characters and a strong band even without Drizzt.
I quickly discovered that he wasn’t taking a break at all, but rather had a unique idea in mind. I scooped up the two books and got to work. I finished the current Star Wars novel I was reading on the flight, and then got started pretty much the first day I was in Jamaica.
The Companion’s Codex: The Night of the Hunter
The story takes place several days after Drizzt had disappeared. And he’s suddenly with Wulfgar, Cattie-Brie, Regis and Bruenor. When I got to that part, I started to question if I got the right book. Maybe there was another book that I missed? But no, this was the right one. It’s just that, rather than describe the meeting between Drizzt and his old, long-dead companions, Salvatore filled in the blanks over time, piece-wise. The four had been reborn 20 years earlier (and suddenly, the reason for Drizzt’s 18-year magical slumber is explained). And they were reborn with their memories of their first life intact. They look the same (but younger) and they have all of their legendary items back. In fact, they’ve even improved. Because they can draw on their older experiences. Wulfgar has beaten his inner demons and is a new man. Regis has found courage and determination – and rather than take the easy way out of things, he grew up determined to face challenges head on. He trained hard to fight, and even found a couple of cool magical tools. Now, rather than being a useful thief, Regis is probably the best damn thief and spy in all of Forgotten Realms.
The story fascinated me. Both stories. The one story revolved around the Companions of the Hall and their quest to find the vampire Pwent. The other story revolved around the drow elves gaining power and favor among their god Lolth, and their preparation for world domination. Both stories were interesting, with no shortage of battles (though a couple of battles were pointless, clearly put in place to break up the lull). One shortcoming to the novel was the Old Testament-like description of drow family trees and the ladder of power within the Underdark. This person, son of that person, daughter of that person, weapons master of this house, etc, etc. Pretty easy to get lost in that. But I definitely recommend the book and it’s the best book since the earlier Companions stuff.
The Companion’s Codex: Rise of the King
This one far exceeded the first one and I would go so far as to say this was a Top 5 Drizzt book of all time. If you’ve read any of my thoughts on the Star Wars series, you’d know my love for bringing back older characters, or ‘surprise’ meetings with old friends. And Rise of the King has this in spades. All the old companions, all the new companions, plus Jarlaxle and Athrogate? Yes, please. There was even a cameo by Ivan Bouldershoulder (from the Cadderly books) as well as the spirit of the monk Grandmaster Kane.
Salvatore brought back the old “epic war” formula for this one, which was another thing that benefited from Drizzt’s 18-year sleep. You can’t have an epic war every couple of decades, so just fast-forward 18 years and pad the gap between wars a little more. The books are starting to play out like an AD&D game in that the key characters are all elite fighters with lots of cool magical items. Now you can add a magical horn to that list – Bruenor blows in it and the spirit of Pwent appears, complete with his powers as a vampire. So, for those keeping track, Drizzt can summon a unicorn and a panther (Guen), Athrogate can summon a hellboar, Jarlaxle can summon a nightmare and a battle-bird-thingy, Artemis can summon a nightmare, Cattie-Brie can summon or create a steed, and Bruenor can summon Pwent to fight by his side. A World of Warcraft game indeed. Bruenor also imbued his shield with magic and when he reaches behind it he pulls out a flagon of ale! I’d love that shield.
Calling the book AD&D-like is not an insult here. Not when we’re talking about beloved characters and these two novels are building towards a huge finale next month when the final installment of Companion’s Codex comes out. An excellent and entertaining read and I found myself pretty disappointed that I have to set this world aside for a few weeks.
Oh well. Back to Star Wars