Review by Art Schmidt
One of the latest of fantasy pulp novels from Wizards of the Coast, owners of the Dungeons & Dragons brand of games and fiction, the Stone of Tymora is the latest offering from internationally famous best-selling fantasy author R. A. Salvatore and his son, Geno Salvatore. Or rather, it was written by Geno and ‘overseen’ by his father, according to press releases and interviews with the authors. The Stone of Tymora compilation was released October 2, 2012.
Originally published as three separate novellas (The Stowaway, October 2008; The Shadowmask, July 2009; and The Sentinels, October 2010), the compilation entitled Stone of Tymora follows the adventures of a tween orphan who has a powerful artifact tied to him while still in swaddling clothes and spends his youth alternately fleeing the artifact’s curse and then struggling to find a way to rid himself of it.
The protagonist is a classic archetype, the ‘Kid with No Name’, if you will, out to avenge his dead parents if only he knew who had taken them from him. Sometimes calling himself Maimun (twice lucky, at once an apt moniker and also a twisted joke given what befalls him), the hero spends most of his time as a refugee, a pirate, or a prisoner of refugees and pirates. And his exploits are often-times decidedly un-heroic, but then again he is only a boy. The novellas were written for teens, and the writing is geared toward those struggling with their own angst. Described as a coming-of-age story, the tale is brimming with misplaced anger, rash decision-making and sometimes confusing, irrational acts. Just like the average teenager’s life.
The young orphan is rescued from his parents’ fate and then subsequently raised by a series of mysterious figures; the stoic, unlawful wanderer, the reclusive hermit, the pirate captain with a heart of gold. Told in a series of flashbacks, themselves not always in chronological order (ug!), the story unravels in parallel with a much more famous story from R. A. Salvatore, the Icewind Dale Trilogy. Those novels, published in the early 1990s, introduced one of the most famous characters in all of D&D fiction, Drizzt Do’Urden, the drow elf renegade who forsook the evil ways of his lineage and ventured out into the world in an attempt to become a force for good. Along the way, he met a brave company of stalwart heroes and Bob Salvatore sold over ten million copies of Drizzt’s adventures and other tales.
The presence of the Dungeons and Dragons game mechanics is never far from view; spells, adversaries and magical trinkets familiar to those who have played the game abound, and the Forgotten Realms, one of the mainstay fantasy settings of the D&D game, comes into clear focus as the setting for the story. The main character and his come-and-go companions travel from Baldur’s Gate to Memnon to Calimport and eventually to the storied super-city of Waterdeep and beyond.
Son Geno has his father’s knack for fantastic storylines and interesting characters, and the adventures undertaken throughout the novel are apropos for the Realms. However, the younger Salvatore’s writing is rough and bumpy, like a country road, and the reader will feel their wheels jostle up and down and occasionally skid along as the prose unravels. And the characters, while interesting and driven, are contradictory and unreasonable a bit too often to be forgiven.
Having said that, the road itself is scenic and while not a joy ride, certainly provides a satisfying drive through the Realms. One hopes that given Geno’s access to tutelage from one of pulp fantasy’s masters of the art, future novels will be much improved and provide readers with smoother reading and more enjoyable road trips.
In short, anyone in the target Young Adult audience who hasn’t already read the trilogy will almost certainly enjoy the swashbuckling, action-packed story, full of fantastic creatures, powerful magic, pirates and adventure, with a dragon thrown in for good measure. More mature readers, unfortunately, will likely be left wanting.