Review of THE PIRATE KING by R. A. Salvatore (see his website)
TRANSITIONS VOL. TWO
Wizards of the Coast, October 2008
Dark Elf Drizzt Do'Urden and his halfling friend Regis leave the dwarf kingdom and its evolving, uncomfortable, alliance with the new Orc kingdom behind them to visit friends in the north. First, they come across a family of wizards who are using magic to convert troublemakers to rabbits. The morality of this harsh judgment bothers both Regis and Drizzt. Yet, the new bunnies were real troublemakers. Would the world be better off if Drizzt fought the wizards and freed them?
In the trade city of Luskan, the Arcane Brotherhood, led by the undead wizard Arklem Greeth, has taken unofficial control, sanctioning pirates, and taxing the captains in official control of that city. Drizzt's pirate-hunter friend Captain Deudermont, decides to confront piracy it it's head rather than simply hunt individiual pirates. He invades, gathering the citizens of Luskan as well as Drizzt and Regis to help him. Still, with the result a bloodbath, hundreds killed, and hunder stalking the 'freed' city, Drizzt again has to wonder about the ethics of his involvement. Do actions to right a wrong always lead to a better world? The facts don't seem to support that theory.
In the far north, Regis and Drizzt attempt to track down Wulfgar--their friend and also the who loved Drizzt's wife, Catti-brie. Wulfgar returned to his homeland in the north, but seems to have vanished.
Author R. A. Salvatore (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Salvatore) often plays with fantasy conventions. His decision to make an Orc a major protagonist and create a situation where an alliance between Orcs and dwarves is essential represents a thoughtful and intriguing turn in a genre where Orcs seem designed to be killed without any moral qualms because they aren't fully human. In THE PIRATE KING, Salvatore continues his moral/ethical quest, putting Drizzt, his central character in a number of his fantasies, into situations where no clear path to victory can be seen.
Salvatore combines intriguing ethical considerations with wonderful descriptions of battles and individual combat, drawing the reader into the story.
I would have liked to spend more time in the character of Kensidad, the Luskan captain who seeks to turn the disruption to his own advantage. Certainly he is the change agent in this story, always one step ahead of the others, both creating events and responding to them. Like Obould, Kensidad is far from noble, but he is interesting. Unlike Obould, however, Kensidad doesn't seem especially concerned about anyone besides himself (and maybe his father). Also unlike Obould, Kensidad doesn't seem to be his own man.
THE PIRATE KING is engaging and offers some interesting ethical issues that are relevant to today's world situation as well as to the world of Dark Elves, Dwarves and wizards. I would have preferred that Salvatore be a bit more subtle in his approach, but THE PIRATE KING still is an enjoyable read.
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