The Last Threshold by R.A. Salvatore

The Last Threshold is book four in the Neverwinter Saga by R. A. Salvatore and chronicles the continuing adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden and his new group of rather unusual companions.  Dhalia, the elven warrior with whom Drizzt has been running around with for the last couple of novels is back as well as Artemis Entreri who has consented to stay with Drizzt and Dahlia  at least for the present.  Afafrenfere the human monk and Ambergris the dwarven cleric are more recent additions but are in many ways the most interesting characters within the book.  Both are former members of Cavus Dun, a Shadowfell based group of mercenaries, who are now trying to walk a more noble path.  The book follows the group through a number of cities along the Sword Coast as well as other interesting locations and manages to have almost nothing to do with Neverwinter at all.  This doesn’t necessarily detract from the story, but if you were reading the Neverwinter Saga in hopes of reading about things happening in Neverwinter then this particular book might be a disappointment.

The Good

Fans of Salvatore’s patented fight scenes will find quite a few although fewer perhaps than in any other Drizzt book I have read.  Plenty of beloved characters from the Drizzt pantheon get involved in the story at some point as well as well as a little of the Drow intrigue one expects to find in these books.  There is also some halfway decent character development for the previously mentioned Ambergris and Afafrenfere.  When the book ends I found myself genuinely curious about what these two might get into next and what types of adventures are awaiting them.

The Bad

The relationships.  The interpersonal relationships within the book, including the strange love triangle between Drizzt, Dahlia and Entreri introduced in the last book continues to get more bizarre and unbelievable within the Last Threshold.  Many of the scenes would have felt more at home in a teen vampire show than within a Drizzt novel.  What makes it worse is that there is a point within the book where Dahlia starts to become three-dimensional and comes very close to being an interesting character, only to toss it all aside towards the end of the book and go right back to being the crazy black widow she is introduced as in the very first book of this series.

The Ugly

The Story itself.  There really is nothing driving the story forward throughout the book and as a result it begins to read more like a travel log than a novel.  Interesting things do happen but they seem disjointed with no real purpose, no true antagonist and no quest or adventure to speak of through the whole book.  It almost seems as though the emotional and moral fog that Drizzt has experienced throughout the whole series culminates in this book and causes the story to slow and falter.  The story moves along in fits and jerks until it finally fizzles out.

Conclusion

Obviously any die-hard Drizzt fan is going to read this book, but I feel that with very few exceptions they will be disappointed.  This is the first time I’ve ever been glad to finish on of these books just to be done with it and not because I was interested to see what happened next and how the story ended.  If you have been following the Neverwinter Saga from the beginning then you might as well pick this book up, although it might be worth it to wait and see if there will be any more books after this one.  If not I would consider simply skipping this one and coming up with your own ending.  If another book does come out though and you want to continue the adventure then you will have little choice but to power through this book first.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

The Dark Elf Trilogy Revisited

Listening to the R. A. Salvatore interview on this site compelled me to read all of the Drizzt books. At that time, The Dark Elf Trilogy was the only set of Drizzt books I had ever read. I found very quickly that I had forgotten just how good these books really are. Chronologically, this marks the very beginning of the famous ranger’s life, literally introducing Drizzt’s pregnant mother in the very first chapter. But let’s not fool ourselves, “mother” is not really a term suited for Matron Malice, an evil drow high priestess constantly seeking the favor of Lloth, a spider goddess who demands the sacrifice of each family’s third born son (in this case, Drizzt). I’ll not say anything about how Drizzt survives this cruel tradition; although I’ll give it away that he isn’t born with Twinkle and Icingdeath attached to his hands ready to defend himself. No mother deserves that, not even Malice.
Throughout these books, Salvatore describes the environment and events without too much straight exposition, allowing the reader to see the action on his/her own terms. The end result is a very real and personal connection to the Underdark and all of its characters no matter their alignment. The lines between good and evil are rarely blurred. We are left with no question as to the sheer evil of drow culture and its stark contrast to Drizzt’s principles of good. I realize that the current trend in fantasy is toward moral ambiguity, and I suspect you see more of that in later Drizzt books, but it can be very refreshing as a reader to know exactly where your hero stands. Salvatore reinforces the colossal magnitude of Drizzt’s raw talent and superior training through his interactions with Zaknafein. Re-living events like Zaknafein’s coin flipping test and Drizzt’s signature double thrust low are primarily what makes re-reading these books so damn fun.
By the second book, Drizzt escapes into the Underdark with no one but his faithful beast companion Guenhwyvar for company. Drizzt’s staying power as an exciting figure is quickly revealed as the pages continue to turn even as the protagonist is the only humanoid character. Through engaging internal monologue, Salvatore conveys Drizzt’s struggle to hold fast to his principles as his bestial side emerges in the face of total solitude and constant danger. Our favorite hero is not alone for long though. In order to salvage his sanity, he makes a desperate decision resulting in the formation of an unlikely and treasured friendship. Drizzt and his new companion flee a powerful entity whose success Matron Malice is counting on.
To me, the most unexpected and awesomely suspenseful thing about the trilogy is the delay in Drizzt’s decision to seek the surface. I kept wondering, when and how will he decide because after all, it’s common knowledge that the surface is where he ends up. Every step of the way toward making this decision, Drizzt shrugs off overwhelming odds against dangerous and exotic creatures. Salvatore maintains believability through some of the best detailed fight scene writing in all of fantasy literature. Finally, we do get to see Drizzt’s first interactions with the surface world. After initial problems stemming from the assumptions of local farmers along with the presence of a truly evil force from another plane, Drizzt finds a new mentor who sets the young drow on the course toward Ranger-hood.
This was one of the most pleasurable re-reads I’ve ever had and can’t wait to finish my first reading of The Icewind Dale Trilogy. There is one more thing I took away from The Dark Elf Trilogy. Although it is common now in fantasy to see characters that reject their innate racial alignment, at the time Salvatore introduced Drizzt it wasn’t as common. For this type of misaligned character to have genuine depth, there must be substantial and believable backstory for discerning readers to buy-in, and Salvatore proves to be a master at creating such plausibility amidst such contradiction with this trilogy.

Game Review: The Legend of Drizzt

The Legend of Drizzt

The concept behind this game is actually quite good.  You get to explore dungeons as Drizzt or his companions, OR you can choose to spice things up and play as one of the villains from the books.  First-time players will find the pace to be slow and confusing, but once you get down the concept, it goes much faster.

When choosing a character you get to select from several abilities (determined by each individual character), and can change them up from game to game.  The object of the game is to explore the dungeon and successfully win your encounters while keeping all party members alive.  Should a party member drop to 0 hit points, and not be able to heal themselves or be healed by the party for 1 full turn, the game ends, and the encounter is failed.  The dungeons are completely random, and utilize a tile-based system to determine the layout.  Tiles are placed one at a time as the party explores, until the final objective is reached.  (It is important to note that tiles can still be placed after this point, but there is rarely a reason to do so.)

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