Salvatore offers insight into new Drizzt book

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Cover art to the latest novel in R.A. Salvatore's "Legend of Drizzt" series, titled "The Companions." Photo courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.
Cover art to the latest novel in R.A. Salvatore’s “Legend of Drizzt” series, titled “The Companions.” Photo courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

R.A. Salvatore
R.A. Salvatore

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — The latest novel in the Drizzt Do’Urden series hit bookstores last week and was well received by critics.
R.A. Salvatore’s “The Companions” is the 28th full-length novel to focus on Drizzt and his friends. Since the publishing of “The Crystal Shard” in 1988, fans of the fantasy genre have been in love with the lavender-eyed Drow elf and his companions.
The latest novel is the first of a series titled “The Sundering,” which ushers in a change to the Forgotten Realms, one of the shared worlds that Dungeons and Dragons players use in role-playing games owned by Wizards of the Coast.
During The Sundering, which is a major story event, there will be six major hardcover novels, written by the most popular Forgotten Realms authors. They will be released every other month from August 2013 to June 2014. Each novel will tell a self-contained story featuring both new and well-loved characters, set against the background of the unfolding events that are reshaping the world of Faerun.
One of the things Salvatore has had to deal with as he pens Drizzt novels and other content in the Forgotten Realms is time advances. As Wizards of the Coast releases new versions of its tabletop D&D games the timeline advances across decades or even hundreds of years. New versions include pushing the time frame forward sometimes hundreds of years. Although he does get warning, it isn’t always an easy task.
“I knew from the moment I left the meeting where Wizards told me about Fourth Edition and the changes to the Realms that we would, in the not-too-distant-future, be scrambling to revert the world to the freshness and feel of Ed Greenwood’s creation,” Salvatore said. “I left that meeting plotting out how I was going to play my role in that rebirth of the Realms, and so did Ed. I didn’t realize it would happen so quickly!”
As he handles the changes in the realms, he also has to handle rules. Among those rules is the duration of life among the characters. They come from a wide-range of races that included longer-lived races such as dwarves and elves as well as short-lived humans and halflings.
As the timeline progressed and the latest edition rolled out, two of the main members of the troupe known as the Companions of the Hall, Catti-brie and Regis, died somewhat suddenly. Salvatore noted that his readers have become attached to the characters and has to consider what happens to each character.
“It’s always brutal to kill a character,” Salvatore said. “They really do become like friends. And bringing them back, either through them never having really died or some other ‘trick,’ is always dangerous and delicate. The thing is, many of my readers have walked alongside me through this road of adventure for many years now, even decades. These characters aren’t just my friends, but have become important companions to the readers, maybe finding them in a dark place in high school, or in the deserts of Iraq. I don’t take that lightly.”
[SPOILER ALERT] At the end of the last book in the Drizzt series, “The Last Threshold,” it’s unclear whether Drizzt has been killed or not after a brutal encounter at Kelvin’s Cairn with his companion, the curious elf woman Dahlia.
The opening pages of “The Companion” revisit the broken and seemingly unconscious Drizzt and then head off to the magical forest of Iruladoon. This is the magical place that we know the Companions of the Hall, Catti-brie, Regis, Wulfgar and Bruenor, are located following their deaths in previous novels.
Catti-brie has become the Chosen of Mielikki, the nature goddess that her beloved Drizzt follows. Within the first few chapters, we learn that the Companions are given a choice to return to Drizzt.
The book follows three newborn adventurers through the first 21 years of their lives; a human girl, a halfling boy and a most curious dwarf. Each one has to fight their way through to a certain mountain in Icewind Dale, but will they make it to Drizzt in time?
The way Salvatore paints the picture is near perfect. The story centers on the three “new” characters and explores areas of Faerun uncommon in previous Salvatore titles.
The human girl is part of a mysterious desert tribe that’s being ruled by the Shade Enclave, which ties the book to a previous series.
The Halfling is born across the world from the Silver Marches, the northwestern area of Faerun and the setting for most of the Drizzt novels.
The dwarf is the only one in familiar territory, a newborn in Citadel Felbarr, ruled by King Emerus Warcrown, who has shown up in previous novels so we’re familiar with life in this dwarven stronghold.
Salvatore sets up the novel in typical fashion, leaving readers with cliffhangers chapter-by-chapter as he weaves the stories of the three main characters. Each chapter moves forward across a 21-year deadline that the woman has set to convene at the same place that brought the Companions together, Kelvin’s Cairn.
Salvatore said that this book, like many in the trilogies or other mutli-novel storylines, is able to stand on its own or provide the next step in the storyline that has become known as “The Legend of Drizzt.” The latest novel has attracted a lot of attention, including readers that have never picked up a part of the story before.
“I’m pleasantly surprised to be seeing this new reader phenomenon with ‘The Companions,’” Salvatore said. “This is what we were going for with the grand event (The Sundering), pulling people in. The last time I’ve seen this level of first-time Drizzt readers was probably with ‘The Thousand Orcs,’ and artist Todd Lockwood’s iconic cover probably had something to do with that!”
Salvatore wouldn’t dish too many details on what happens in the next book of the Drizzt storyline, but he did offer some clues and offer some insight into The Sundering.
“The gods of the Realms knew of The Sundering, where the worlds slip apart, and so they prepared,” he said. “In my case, Mielikki and Lolth have some tricks to play, but it’s up to all the authors to be clever here, to figure out how their characters past and present fit into the grand mix of it all, and in ways that make sense for whatever gods or situations in which they’re immersed… There are too many drow in it for me to say any more and escape with my life…”
I’d give “The Companions” 9/10 stars. The book is a solid read for both those new to the Drizzt series and those like me that have been reading the novels for decades.
View the interview with R.A. Salvatore in its entirety here.