Sunday, December 02, 2001

Review: "Sea of Swords" by R.A. Salvatore

After two books that focused on other characters, R.A. Salvatore puts his popular dark elf hero Drizzt Do'Urden back in the spotlight in his latest.

"Sea of Swords" (Wizards of the Coast), the fourth book in the "Paths of Darkness" series and the 14th installment of Salvatore's tales of the drow and his companions, marks the return of the scimitar-wielding hero with a new enemy and a new mission.

Since Wulfgar's breakdown and disappearance, the remaining Companions of the Hall have continued to uphold the peace in Icewind Dale. Then they capture a bandit with a strange brand on her shoulder - a one-of-a-kind design that could only have come from the head of Wulfgar's war hammer, Aegis-Fang. The discovery sets the companions on their friend's trail - to either find him or discover what became of him.

While his former friends are searching for clues in Luskan, Wulfgar himself has found a home with Captain Deudermont's pirate-hunting ship, Sea Sprite. He, Delly and their adopted child have settled in Waterdeep, but it's an unstable home. Wulfgar remains haunted by his past and intent on recovering Aegis-Fang from the pirate Sheila Kree. That path eventually leads to a reunion with his friends and a showdown between the companions and the pirate band that forces the barbarian to face some of his inner demons.

First, I've got something to get off my chest. I really find the inconsistencies in these stories annoying. They're mostly little things, but as someone who has followed Drizzt's story since the beginning, they seem glaring to me. As an example, a few books ago Bruenor's ancestral home "Mithril Hall" suddenly became "Mithral Hall." Likewise the spider goddess "Lloth" became "Lolth." They're little things, but every time I run into one of those words in the book, I think, "that's not right" - and it knocks me out of the story.

Aside from those nit-picks, "Sea of Swords" is another solid installment in Salvatore's series. It's a rollicking adventure tale in the spirit of the early books in the series.

I was surprised at how pleased I was to see Drizzt spinning his scimitars while his mysterious panther Guenhwyvar pounced on unsuspecting enemies. I enjoyed the last book of the series, "Servant of the Shard," more than any of the other recent stories - and it hardly featured Drizzt at all. But from the first flash of the dark elf's blades in this book, I realized that I had, in fact, missed his presence.

Salvatore does send mixed signals in "Sea of Swords," though. In a lot of ways, this book seems like a finale. A lot of loose ends are tied up, and there's almost a feeling of farewell. But at the same time, he sets up other intriguing paths for the story to take - like the growing courage of the halfling Regis. And, of course, Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle are still out there with Crenshinibon, the crystal shard.

If it is a farewell, then Drizzt has had a good run, and he goes out on a high note. If not, I'll be looking forward to the next installment.

No comments: