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The Pirate King, by R. A. Salvatore
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Published: 2009
Review Posted: 5/3/2009
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10

The Pirate King, by R. A. Salvatore

Book Review by Alley

Have you read this book?

When I got this book, I thought: Wow! Salvatore! What an honor. That man can write! He can sling words onto a page, and we call it art. He churns out books, and we call it prolific.

However, it wasn't as easy nor as interesting a read as I had hoped.

Now, don't get me wrong --. Salvatore is no fledgling writer. He's published at least 89 books, and that's from counting the list on his website. By the time this review gets published, it could be 100. That's nothing to sneeze at for any writer. That's like having a magic book machine that plops out books as Salvatore cranks the lever.

The problem with cranking the lever is that after a few years, you get tired of cranking... of the unending slogging of words, and although I don't know the man I know by now he's gotta be tired of slinging words in universes not of his own making simply to meet the deadlines of demanding publishers. Unfortunately, I think this book reveals the cranking -- the verbal mechanics behind the curtain of illusion.

This latest book, released Oct. 7, 2008, is the second in a series published by Wizards of the Coast that celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the iconic character, Drizzt Do'Urden. This book boasts 352 pages or about 88,000 words at the standard 250 words per page. Why am I spouting inane facts about the book, you ask? The purpose will become clear little drow warrior, in a moment.

I bemoan the fact that it's only 88,000 words because:

1. fantasy is usually a much larger book and most fantasy readers want bigger, fuller, deeper worlds and characters, and:

2. the publisher made the font so small that I had to purchase reading glasses in triple my usual magnification just to read the words. It's not like there wasn't enough room on the page for a larger font, there was. And it's not like there were too many words which the publisher needed to scrunch down into an unreadable font to get them into a book of saleable size, there weren't. I'm not sure what the publishers had in mind when they formatted this book, but apparently large white borders and teeny tiny text was someone's idea of a good read. I'm here to tell ya, it ain't. For layout, I give Wizards a C-. (They get an A+ on artwork, and an A on paper.)

This is book 2, entitled "The Pirate King (Forgotten Realms: Transitions, Book 2)". The first book is "The Orc King: Transitions, Book 1", which was released July 1, 2008. The third and final book of this trilogy is titled "The Ghost King" and is set to be published in October, 2009. If you're holding your breath, breathe.

If you liked "The Orc King" and all the adventures of Drizzt Do'Urden since the paperback, "The Lone Drow", which was a New York Times Bestseller, then you'll probably enjoy "The Pirate King". However, I still advise you to breathe.

The editorial reviews proclaim, "Drizzt is back and the Realms will never be the same!" Well neither will my appetite for Forgotten Realmsr. This book left a bad taste in my mouth for the romping and rollicking adventuring drow and any further adventures he might have.

Don't get me wrong. I love drows. I played one in my first D&D game -- a half-drow named Indoline -- and this wasn't just any D&D game. This was in the late '70s and early '80s when Gygax's books were mere gray, softback manuals. I posted my moves online at 300 baud, via a Commordore Vic 20. The bulletin board hosted our D&D game on an Apple II and two 8 & inch floppy drives, and Indoline was a very good drow, which is to say she was very bad but in a very fun and devious manner. No, I don't digress.

In book 2, the Arcane Brotherhood holds the city of Luskan but corruption has infiltrated their ranks. Captain Deudermont comes to the rescue of the Sword Coast's safe haven for the most dangerous pirates. It's Drizzt's job to talk the Captain out of it, but he can't, so he's forced to help the good Captain. The whole purpose of this book seems to be a transition, not only from book 1 to book 3, but from the "old" Realms to the "new". (If you have not read "The Stowaway: Stone of Tymora, Book I" by R.A. and Geno Salvatore, you may want to do so before reading this book. One of the characters from that book plays a prominent role in this novel.)

This story is divided into three sections: The first with Captain Deudermont and his mission, the second with the journey Drizzt takes to discover the fate of one of his dear friends, and the third focuses on the consequences of Captain Deudermont's choices and the affect they have on him and the city of Luskan. It's plot driven, with lots of swashbuckling action that should appease the younger audiences or anyone who enjoys hack 'n slash just for the fun of it.

Don't expect much narration or introspection. This book has far less of Drizzt's introspection than previous books, and in my opinion that has made the book a much dryer read. It suffers greatly from "middle book syndrome" and also from too many characters.

Any genre fiction book should be able to be read from beginning to end without referencing a bibliography, a codex, or even the reader's own notes. Not so in "The Pirate King". After the first couple of chapters, I gave up trying to keep track of characters and places and who had what booty and why and who cares? I kept having to reread passages full of details that were packed into this story like verbal sardines squeezed and undifferentiated into their oil and tin.

What did Salvatore do right? His vivid description of Luskan really brought out the city full of pirates and cutpurses. He gives the book a gritty view, but he truly shines when he writes about Luskan with suffering and death in every visceral detail.

I enjoyed the middle of the book more than the beginning or the ending. Salvatore found his stride here, creating a nice story about Drizzt, almost as if it were a short story stuck amid other details. Although the middle didn't seem to flow with the rest of the novel, it was a pleasure to read.

I enjoyed its gritty details. I like books that don't end happily ever after and I really dig into books that give me loads of well-written detail. This is where Salvatore shines, in any book he writes. I liked the unexpected decisions and tough choices that the characters made. I applaud Salvatore for his inventiveness, and courage to explore and expand the characters through despairing situations. Forcing them to deal with moral dilemmas made the book seem more "adult" than most D&D books.

Overall, I didn't enjoy the book. From page one it stumbled into my head, and kept stumbling till the end, though I would recommend this book as it seems to be an essential "transitional" book -- both in story and character -- for the Realms series and games. The characters are strong and well developed, and series readers will quickly identify with them. Even though the story felt contrived and often times convoluted, I applaud Salvatore for attempting to pull a Schrodinger's cat from his hat to meet the demands of the Realms series. He certainly did it better than I ever could.

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