I hit the first bump on my audiobook journey with the third tale of this collection, “The Third Level,” read by Greg Grunberg of Heroes and Alias.
The story focuses on one of Drizzt Do’Urden’s arch-enemies, the thief and assassin Artemis Entreri. “The Third Level” tells of Entreri’s early years in Calimport and his meteoric rise from a teenage street thug in a poor neighborhood to a lieutenant in Pasha Basadoni’s thieves guild.
The story establishes the cunning and commitment of the young Entreri, and gives us a few glimpses of both the life that led him down this path and the ruthless man that he will one day become.
I always liked Entreri, as his mind seemed just as sharp as his blades, and I looked forward to the times when he locked horns with Drizzt because they always made for some magnificent combat scenes – one of R.A. Salvatore’s greatest strengths.
I wasn’t, however, impressed with Grunberg’s take on the story. He read the tale in a very, very melodramatic style that made the story seem a little more stiff and stilted than it really was. In a way, his delivery accentuated some of the weaknesses in Salvatore’s writing, particularly the overuse of certain words and phrases in describing Entreri – “rogue” comes immediately to mind.
I also didn’t care that much for Grunberg’s voicing of the characters. The booming bass that he gave the adult characters sounded unnatural, and the smarmy, almost whiny tone he gave Entreri didn’t match with my picture of the assassin at all.
So, “The Third Level” didn’t really work for me in audio form, but I guess, as the great philosopher Meat Loaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad.