Review by C.J. Bunce
Steeped in the Dungeons & Dragons foundations of R.A. Salvatore′s new novel, the adventure becomes so much a journey of a thousand skirmishes inside the stories of Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms that the biggest surprise is no D&D branding graces the cover. Although it’s accessible for anyone without reference to Timeless (last year’s first book in the series), Boundless is the next chapter in Salvatore’s trilogy of novels following his well-known hero of the genre Drizzt Do’Urden. Boundless has everything you’d expect from the character and his world, from demogorgons to psionics, armored dwarves to unicorns–and humans. It’s now available for pre-order here at Amazon and arriving in bookstores September 10.
Boundless′s breakneck pace is why fans of Salvatore will find themselves jumping in and holding on tight for the entire novel. The only time it comes up for air is in a series of diary-like entries by Drizzt that begin the novel’s four sections. As it turns out, the leads of the story aren’t really Drizzt himself but his father, the resurrected weapon master Zaknafein, and the wise mercenary Jarlaxle, both swashbuckling schemers with skills and political connections–characters that make you want to skip over the subplots to see what they do next. Despite a few subordinate heroes, like Arathis Hune, the giant Wulfgar, the psionicist Kimmuriel, and the dwarf Thibbledorf Pwent, shifting the stakes from the shadows are the story’s female characters, with the priestess Dab-nay and the elf Dahlia as key players.
All the good fantasy tropes are here, a very Tolkien journey that may have readers plugging actors from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies into key roles, with the kind of twisty but grounded machinations you’d find in The Godfather, Part II and Amadeus, and dramatic evil queen-types as in The Huntsman. Readers will find as much of the more comical-aside conversations of The Princess Bride school here as dead-serious high fantasy despite plenty of darkness. The novel provides a favorable dice role for its heroes more often than not, but despite seemingly endless triumphs and last-second getaways by a half a dozen heroes, Salvatore leaves room for some real jeopardy for its characters, including serious carnage before book’s end.
Boundless has the kind of plot fans of Stranger Things were probably looking for with that series’ new tie-in novels–characters, places, and backstory that will be even more meaningful the greater D&D history the reader brings along. The challenge may be arriving at who is more fun, the mentoring Jarlaxle and his brand of foresight and planning, or the younger-appearing, fiery, and seemingly unbeatable Zaknafein. Salvatore’s dialogue has all that archaic phrasing to provide the feel of Robin Hood, and the author’s myriad settings flip back and forth from Captain Blood to The Two Towers, his more mundane happenings at a tavern are among his most intriguing.
A foreword with descriptions of the cast of characters was an invaluable addition, as many of the character names overlap, and the book is filled with hundreds of characters to keep track of (I found Salvatore has an apparent affinity for character names that begin with the letter “D”). Some names and places have that very George Lucas quality of unlikely consonant pairings that make them seemingly unpronounceable, so, for some readers, the book could have benefited from a pronunciation guide.
And for ongoing fans of one of the lesser known (and one of our favorite) genre sub-tropes, you may even encounter one or more creepy little girls along the way.
Non-stop action from beginning to end. A must for D&D enthusiasts. Fans of fantasy old and new, whether Tolkien or Mouse Guard, will have fun with this story. R.A. Salvatore′s Boundless arrives in a hardcover edition from Harper Voyager September 10, 2019. Order your copy with a pre-order discount now here at Amazon. (Thanks to Harper Voyager for the advance review copy).