Sunday, February 9, 2014

Night of the Hunter by R. A. Salvatore

In The Companions R. A. Salvatore brought Drizzt’s old friends The Companions of the Hall back to life. He did this in an amazing original way. Our heroes were not simply resurrected, instead they were given the chance to come back as newborn children. When they were born they had all of their memories of their past life and were fully conscious of this from the moment of birth. The book followed the first twenty-one years of the new lives of Cattie-Brie, Bruennor, and Regis as they grow and develop in their new personas. Each of them faces challenges and each of them grows in understanding as they prepare to meet again in Icewind Dale to stand beside their friend Drizzt.

Night of the Hunter picks up where both The Companions and The Last Threshold end. Readers of Salvatore’s Drizzt books know that he likes keeping a lot of different plot strands going at once. In Night of the Hunter this tendency is taken to the limit. There are at least four main plot lines going throughout the book. There are several other minor ones as well and they all touch, move on, bump in to another, and ricochet off that I felt at times like I needed to keep a score card to keep up with every character and plot happening around me. We follow more intrigues of Menzoberranzan as the Baenre family seeks to increase it’s powerful hold on the city. These intrigues include the new Drow city of Q’Xorlarrin that is being constructed in the ancient dwarven city of Gauntlgrym. Add to that the continuing story of Drizzt and his new friends, and the more recent companions of Drizzt and you have quite the story.

The primary story line follows Drizzt and the Companions as they work their way back to Gauntlygrim. Their mission their is to find their old friend Thibbledorf Pwent who has been turned into a vampire. They want to find a way to put him to rest. It is great to watch the old companions adventure together once again. At the end of The Companions we see that Wulfgar chose to join them as well. For the first time we get a happy Wulfgar. The barbarian lived a life torn by conflicting duties in his first life. Now he is back for the adventure. He plans to live life to the fullest. Regis has also changed and is anxious this time around to be a full member of the companionship, not just a tag along. Cattie-Brie is now the wisest of the team. Her communion with the godess Mielikki has imparted a lot of knowledge and understanding. Bruennor is driven as never before to bring his people together. Drizzt seems a bit overwhelmed, first at the return of his companions from beyond the grave, then with the new dynamics that this team represents. Along the way he will have to face some uncomfortable truths.

If I have one complaint about this book it is that it is too short. I see that Salvatore has a lot that he wants to do with this new story. In many ways Night of the Hunter feels incomplete. It feels like there is a lot of setup for the next book or two. In that sense the book feels incomplete. That doesn’t diminish this volume at all. It is a great new chapter in the Drizzt saga. 

Over the years Salvatore has stood out in the fantasy genre with his abilities to grow and mature his characters. I’ve often been amazed at the emotional depth found in these stories that are on the surface simple sword and sorcery adventure novels. As he embarks on a strange and wonderful new adventure this skill is still there. Night of the Hunter is first and foremost a fun book. Salvatore manages the multiple plot lines with his usual skill. The fight scenes, one of Salvatore’s hallmarks are brilliant as always. His ability to include plot lines that contain everything from great political intrigues that may well change the world, to the emotional trauma of a single character caught up in that change keeps the story fresh and intriguing. Salvatore’s books are rarely ever slow and this volume keeps the pace moving. You find yourself flying through the book and at the end you are amazed that he is able to pack so much story into less than four hundred pages.

I received a free e-book copy of this volume for reviewing purposes. One way that I know I love a book is that immediately upon finishing the free e-book I pre-order the hardcover edition. I have limited space for books on my shelves so I only buy physical versions of books that I want to keep and read over and over again. This book lans in that category. Let me encourage every reader of the Drizzt saga to buy this book. If you have never read Salvatore’s Drizzt books then let me encourage you to start. This is some of the best fantasy writing out there.

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