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Promise of the WitchKing, by R. A. Salvatore
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 12/6/2006
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10

Promise of the WitchKing, by R. A. Salvatore

Book Review by Howard von Darkmoor

Have you read this book?

I have enjoyed reading many of Salvatore's novels and had very eagerly anticipated 2005's Promise of the Witch-King. Thousands of us Salvatore, Jarlaxle and Entreri fans were drooling at the chance to finally get the book we'd requested since 2001's Servant of the Shard and I snagged this one up in hardcover at its release. Boy, was I hoodwinked and hornswoggled!

Many readers panned Salvatore's "The Highway Man" and "Spine of the World," but not I. The latter is commonly referred to as the weakest and most boring of the Lone Drow books. It's Wulfgar's story and it is the weakest one in the series, but it isn't a bad book. It's just not the book a series is built upon. Thank the writing gods it wasn't published first. The former was an attempt by Salvatore to step outside the confines of his popular writing and explore themes he hadn't had a chance to. Most readers scoffed and we probably won't see a continuation of that character. It wasn't a great book, but it more than adequately lived up to its billing. Unlike this one. This was classic bait-and-switch.

In writing Promise, Salvatore failed to deliver on his own. His own promise to write something worth reading; his promise to continue the memorable characters he'd created; his promise not to abuse fan loyalty.

Don't misunderstand me. I still like R.A. Salvatore's writing and I will still recommend his other books. He offers great advice to writers (buy a copy of Pitch-Black's "Sages & Swords" to see for yourself), and he is generally considered the current author best at describing one-on-one combat. His fight scenes are the models anyone writing in this genre should study. But that's about the sum of his delivery in Promise.

The book brings back two of Salvatore's greatest characters, the drow Jarlaxle and the human assassin Artemis Entreri, in a sequel for which readers have long clamored. In fact, without fan instigation there would be no second book staring the two nefarious characters. Jarlaxle, being drow and not being Drizzt, is evil. Or else he's just the personification of self-gratification. Expert at controlling circumstances, he gets what he wants and even manages to turn chaotic events to his gain. Artemis is the world's greatest assassin. His personal road of self-recognition and determination of what is truly valuable in his life has been a thrilling story through several of Salvatore's Lone Drow books. Artemis Entreri is a complete and fabulous character, one every author should dream to create (If you haven't read any of the books containing these two characters, I highly suggest you do. If you don't know what a drow is, you owe it to yourself to head to the nearest bookstore or library, grab a copy of "Homeland," and start in on the twenty-book series. Right now!).

These two characters are the reason fans begged for this book. Why I looked forward to reading it so much it went straight to the top of my "To-Be-Read" pile. Why it went straight to my "do-not-recommend" list once I finished it.

There isn't a single advancement in the development of either of these characters in the whole book. None. Neither Jarlaxle nor Artemis is one iota different at the end of the story than he was at the beginning. Their locations and situations change numerous times; their place in life becomes more tenable on the one hand, more tenuous on the other. But on a personal level there is a lot of treading water, running in place, standing still, watching grass grow - are you as bored with that as I was? Artemis still questions his lot in life and Jarlaxle still calculates his. Bitterly disappointing when that has been one of the greatest draws of Salvatore's drow series for awhile. Sure, Drizzt is a great character. As originally conceived, he's one of the classic characters of fantasy fiction. But he's a bit whining now-a-days, and he has noticeably faltered in his old age. He needn't have, for there's still much ahead of him, but that's the way he's recently been written.

The life of the series has steadily shifted to Jarlaxle and Artemis. Instead of reinvigorating things, this book put them on life-support. I sincerely pray the magic restarts with the next one, but I definitely won't be buying it - not until checking it out at the library first. I cannot recommend Promise of the Witch-King. While anyone would enjoy Salvatore's still-terrific fight scenes, only die-hard enthusiasts of Jarlaxle and Artemis could enjoy their role-playing, by-the-number challenges faced with textbook sidekicks. Truly die-hard fans of the duo will be disappointed in their lack of personal progress. I can't even give the book five stars since even an average book could be recommended to someone. Only Salvatore's still-evident skill with personal combat scenes saves this book from anything lower.
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Comments on Promise of the Witch-King, by R. A. Salvatore
Posted by jessica  on 2/18/2008
it was very related and misterious for me.........I hope you can make more than this!!!!
Posted by Dave on 12/28/2006
Hi Howard, thanks for your understanding. Sometimes it's a pain trying to keep this place clean!

As far as Salvatore is concerned, I have yet to manage to finish a book by him, and not for lack of trying. For this one in particular, I think I got about 40 pages in and lost interest. I have four or five of his books sitting around where the same thing happened. I admit I never read his dark elf stuff though. fter my experiences with his more recent books, I'm not particularly inclined to try. I cam see how they might appeal you a younger, less experienced, more rpg oriented demographic, however. Unfortunately (fortunately?) those days are many years in the past.
Posted by Howard von Darkmoor on 12/22/2006
OK, no prob. You're right, I can only imagine how many spammers you get hitting this place. I appreciate your work keeping things clean and running smooth.
All I had asked was for those readers who were rating this book a 10/10 to please leave comments as to why they consider this Salvatore's best work. I am truly interested in reading their reasons.
Posted by Dave on 12/22/2006
it probably wasn't. I do deletions manully and yours probably got selected by accident. You wouldn't believe how many people try posting spam to the book comments sections; it's easy to accidently wack some legit ones when I'm selecting dozens of rows for deletion....
Posted by Howard von Darkmoor on 12/21/2006
To whomever deleted my question (Pete? Dave?): How was my request inappropriate?