Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.
When I read a Forgotten Realms novel, I tend to analyze it on many levels: as a reader, a writer, and as a gamer. That's one of the disadvantage (or advantage, depending on how you look at it) of being a fan of the RPG. Anyway, many RPG fans got a glimpse of the prologue of the novel, reflecting one of the new changes that's going to happen in the RPG. Let me clear things up: this book isn't about Dungeons & Dragons 4E. I don't know why Salvatore included that prologue (and epilogue) in there--whether he was ordered to do so by editorial or by marketing--but for the most part, he managed to make it work. The prologue was easily a foreshadowing of the things to come (decades after the current timeline) and the rest of the book begins where the last Drizzt novel left off. Admittedly, there was some trepidation on my part when I first began to read it. Rather than standard D&D fare morality, Salvatore tries something new (in the setting, not in the genre in general) and attempts to redeem the orcs instead of you know, wantonly slaughtering them. In fact, one of the themes of the book is redemption and interestingly enough, Salvatore successfully manages to tie all of it together on many levels. Existing Salvatore fans who are looking for action won't find much of them here but there are vital combat scenes where it matters. Most of the narrative is spent on characterization and development. Was I bored reading it? No. In fact, it kept me hooked for quite some time. As usual, Salvatore's strength is the ease of reading, descriptive battle scenes, and Drizzt's monologue/essays that mark the start of each section. I was sorely disappointed with Salvatore's last novel, The Road of the Patriarch, but The Orc King redeems the author. Since this is the first book in a series, it's a good gateway book to learning more about Drizzt although I recommend the earlier novels. Existing fans will want to read this novel--or if you're on a budget, wait for the paperback release while those looking for something deeper and more "literary" should probably skip this as it's your standard D&D fare (albeit good D&D fare).