Review by C.J. Bunce
Come, let us be quick. The crumbling world will not wait for heroes who pause.
Returning with a story at the very foundations of Dungeons & Dragons today is fantasy author R.A. Salvatore with the final novel in his latest Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy and his 34th Drizzt novel overall, Relentless. In this third act everything is at stake for the friends of the dark elf ranger, especially for his mother, his father, and his wife, as Salvatore takes readers back to the very circumstances of Drizzt’s birth–and reaches far into his future. The plot switches from skirmishes and battles to the careful ministrations of dark influences in the matriarchal society of Menzoberranzan and the reactions and responses of everyone to them. Available here at Amazon today, the release is also nicely timed to the forthcoming 5th edition of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden–Salvatore first presented Drizzt in the Ten Towns of that realm three decades ago.
Plus, bugbears, yochlolk, and glabrezu–oh, my!
I am sometimes hesitant to jump into the third act of any trilogy because they are so often disappointing–not all authors are great at endings. But in Relentless, Salvatore’s wind-up of several plot threads are far cleaner than, say, the two third acts of the famous J.R.R. Tolkien series and the third acts of all three of George Lucas’s fantasy worlds. The book will be accessible for anyone without reference to Timeless (the 2018 first book in the series) and Boundless (reviewed here and quoted on the cover of this new novel). And Salvatore saves a nice surprise for the very end.
Strong drow and human heroines and female villains include the matron mothers Malice and Yvonnel, priestess Vierna and Dab-nay, Drizzt’s human wife Catti-brie, the elf Dahlia, and Bonnie Charlee and Penelope Harpell. Other characters both returning and familiar to D&D fans are Drizzt’s father Zaknafein the weapon master (seen in two gallant ages of his life), the incredible schemer and friend Jarlaxle, friend Regis, the barbarian Wulfgar, King Bruenor Battlehammer, the dwarves Athrogate and poor Thibbledorf Pwent, former adversary Artemis Entreri, the human monk Afafrenfere, Bregan D’aerthe scout Braelin Janquay, and last but not least, the psionicist Kimmuriel returns even better than in the last book. What is Drizzt’s role and how does he fare? You’ll need to read the novel to find out.
The first hundred pages of Relentless is a refreshingly unique take on an origin story. Familiar to fans of Salvatore’s prior stories and D&D players, the circumstances of Drizzt’s birth are layered and fascinating. The last hundred pages reflect the right way to take a few dozen characters and bring them together into a cohesive, compelling finale. The fate of Dinin, Malice’s vision for her favored son (and who that really is), Drizzt’s killing of an innocent, Dab-nay’s coercion, Jarlaxle’s plotting to protect his oldest friend–lots of good subplots make this a must-read for fantasy readers.
Relentless is more The Return of the King than The Two Towers I found in Boundless, and the first three of four sections of this novel conjured the rich, dark, villainy of The Huntsman: Winter’s War even more so than I found in my read of Boundless. It’s also less political, despite the eight often opposing houses to keep track of, than many fantasy books I’ve tried–a good thing for my own preferences. Note: The book includes two D&D maps and a foreword with descriptions of the cast of characters.
More great characters, adventures, and fantasy settings. R.A. Salvatore′s Relentless arrives in a hardcover edition from Harper Voyager at bookstores everywhere today. Order your copy now here at Amazon. (Thanks to Harper Voyager for the advance review copy).