Sunday, February 15, 2004

Review: "The Lone Drow" by R.A. Salvatore

If my count is correct, "The Lone Drow" is R.A. Salvatore's 17th book about the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, and it brings the unlikely hero full circle, to where his journey began.

For the first time in a long time, Drizzt is well and truly alone. He thinks his friends have been lost in a battle with a group of orcs that someone has somehow forged into a formidable army. The only thing that's left to him is vengeance.

Gone is the friend, mentor and confidante that Drizzt has become over the years. He's been replaced by the hunter - a cold, unfeeling and methodical side of the dark elf that we've rarely seen since he stalked the Underdark in Salvatore's "Dark Elf" trilogy.

As Drizzt wreaks havoc among the orc armies, his friends Cattie-Brie and Wulfgar are very much alive. (These books are a bit like a comic in that Salvatore does seem to have a problem killing his heroes, and even when it happens, they find a way to come back.)

While Bruenor lays grievously wounded, they attempt to hold Mithral Hall against the bulk of the orc army. Unlike Drizzt, Catti-Brie and Wulfgar are confident their friend is still alive, but they have bigger problems at hand.

After losing his way somewhere in the middle of this series, Salvatore has rebounded with the last few installments. He's made an attempt to take the series back to its roots, and for the most part, it's been pretty successful. The reunion of the original group in "Sea of Swords" and the rousing adventure of "The Thousand Orcs," definitely rekindled my waning interest in Drizzt's story.

I've got mixed feelings on "The Lone Drow." While I enjoyed seeing the hunter emerge again, it lacks the story depth and emotion that was present the last time we saw him, in the "Dark Elf" trilogy. This book is pretty much a "smash 'em and bash 'em" adventure tale. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. It's still quite enjoyable, particularly for fans of Salvatore's past work.

I still think Salvatore needs to shake up the world of his drow hero a little more to bring some excitement back into the storyline, and I do think he needs another well-developed and credible arch-enemy, a la Artemis Entreri, instead of the creep-of-the-week approach.

But "The Lone Drow" does reaffirm Salvatore's knack for breathless adventure and leaves me with high hopes for the conclusion of the storyline in "The Two Swords," due out this fall. Just a few years ago, I said Salvatore should retire Drizzt, but now I think there just may be some life left in the dark elf after all.

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