A review of an anthology rather than a novel this time. Rather than focus on the individual stories contained within, I’ve reviewed and scored this as a single volume…
R.A. Salvatore, The Collected Stories – The Chronicles of Drizzt Anthology
It’s been a while since I read any Salvatore, but Drizzt has long been one of my favourite characters and I’ve really enjoyed following the adventures of the drow and his companions. When I saw this collection of short stories then, I was quite eager to jump back into Icewind Dale and its environs and reacquaint myself with Drizzt, Cattie-Brie, Wulfgar, Bruenor and Gwenhwyvar. Having now finished the book, I can’t help but feel I’ve been the victim of false advertising.
The collection is subtitled “The Legend of Drizzt Anthology” and obviously features the drow on the cover, attacking some beastie with Gwenhwyvar’s assistance as usual. Inside, there are twelve short stories, ranging from around 18 to 50 pages in length and each preceded by an author’s foreword. Only three of these twelve stories involve Drizzt however, and this is where my disappointment began. We start with a tale of Bruenor, followed by a Drizzt and Gwenhwyvar adventure, which all seems well. In order, we then have the origins of Artemis Entreri; the origins of Gwenhwyvar; Artemis and Jarlaxle; Artemis and Jarlaxle again; Drizzt, Cattie-Brie and Gwenhwyvar; Tos’un Armgo, Drizzt and Innovindil; Zhengyi the Witch King, dragons and knights (a bunch I’ve not come across in my reading, though I’ve not read Promise of the Witch King); Thibbledorf Pwent and an Orc; another bunch of randoms I’ve never come across, and rounding out the end of the collection, a Wulfgar story.
Although I haven’t read all of the Drizzt stories, I think it’s only the Witch King that I was really missing out on before reading one of these stories connected to it, and I therefore can’t say I felt confused by any of the events in the anthology. Even with this in mind, too much of the book felt like a chore to read my way through. I did enjoy a couple of the stories but, typically, I felt it was some of the longer ones that I didn’t much enjoy, making them a real slog to get through. Personal favourites were “The Dowery” which at least featured some of my favourite characters (this was the only one to properly involve Cattie-Brie); “To Legend He Goes” which fills in some gaps in the story of Wulfgar, and “Dark Mirror” which, although not the most thrilling story all told, did at least give us a Drizzt and Gwenhwyvar fight scene.
Too many of the other stories just lacked a bit of energy, even if they did include the trademark Salvatore action sequences. I don’t mind the characters of Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle, but perhaps because I was under the impression I was reading a collection of stories about Drizzt, I found myself sighing tiredly when I turned the final page on a story involving this duo and then found the next story to be about them as well. In fact, when you consider that of the first six tales in this collection, half were about Entreri, I think it’s forgiveable to think you’re reading the collected stories of the human assassin, rather than that of his drow nemesis. Considering also that one of the hallmarks of a Drizzt story is the twirling of the drow’s blades, Twinkle and Icingdeath, it’s a shame that of Drizzt’s three stories here, one relies on another drow (Tos’un Armgo) to provide the action sequences.
Another thing I didn’t like so much about this anthology is perhaps a problem with the format, rather than the actual content itself. There’s twelve short stories, covering a variety of different characters in different situations and even different times, and it just feels a bit repetitive and unimaginative to me. It seems every other character has a magical weapon or two, or is a dragon who can take humanoid form, or is a wizard of some description. Other than the smaller side characters in the stories, it’s a rarity to find someone who’s just “normal” in this anthology. Of course, we’re talking a Dungeons & Dragons / Forgotten Realms book here, so perhaps this sort of thing is more prevalent because of the very nature of that world, but it seems like Salvatore’s just taking the easy way at every fork in the road. If a couple of those “duller” stories featured “duller” characters, perhaps it would have enriched my reading experience a little, odd as that perhaps sounds. I’m not really that familiar with the D&D world to be honest, but my impression of it just from reading this anthology is that every other blade in the world must be magical to some degree, with half of those being sentient. It just doesn’t work for me.
Overall it’s a nice enough anthology to round off a Drizzt collection, but personally I’d read the stories one at a time rather than read the book cover to cover in one go. I feel a little mean giving this anthology a score using the same method I would use for a novel, but in the interests of completion, I have done so…
Overall: The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. For me, there’s too many minuses and not enough pluses here to outweigh them.
Dominish rating: 53%