by R.A. Salvatore
Review by Abby Goldsmith, March 2003
Okay...I feel as though I have betrayed my kin by giving this horrible review to such a respected author in the field of fantasy fiction. But this book was the literary equivalent of a Saturday morning cartoon. There were big dumb giants who spoke like monsters in Monty Python skits, He-Man-like barbarians, a panther who served the same function as Battlecat, mean gargoylish demons, a stupid and thoroughly one-dimensional evil sorcerer who is exactly like all the other evil incompetent sorcerers in cartoon history, a halfling who looks, acts, and thinks like Bilbo Baggins, and a huge unnecessary mix of unimaginative fantasy cliches that have been around since 1960 or so.
This book is a perfect example of why the Show, Don't Tell rule exists. Every tiny little aspect of every plot development is painstakingly explained by the author, erasing all sense of mystery, intrigue, and interest. Instead of showing how Wulfgar (the strapping young barbarian who looks like He-Man with a better haircut, maybe) became integrated into dwarf society, befriending Bruenor (the dwarf who is an unimaginative replica of Gimli), it is told. In about a paragraph. About 95% of this book is devoted to boring descriptions of cartoon-like battle. The heroes are undefeatable, with their magical weapons. They exchange light banter while fighting. Death is treated as lightly as though they are playing a video game, except most video games are more engaging. There might have been some potential for character development, with the dark elf Drizzt and his disciple, Wulfgar, but the author killed it. Their friendship is explained, sort of like "And then they became friends." The rest is all (yawn) battle banter.
To fans of R.A. Salvatore: I apologize. I have some strange tastes in books and films...I liked Jim Carrey's The Mask, but I am not very entertained by Mr. Bean ...so let's go ahead and write this off as a matter of personal taste. R.A. Salvatore is good at what he does. I just don't like what he does.