Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Pirate King by RA Salvatore

After a poor performance in “The Orc King”, R.A. Salvatore is at it again. “The Pirate King” is the second book in the Transitions trilogy and as usual features Salvatore’s and Wotc’s cash cow Drizzt Do'Urden and company. Picking up a few years after “The Orc King”, an uneasy peace has settled in the North and taking advantage of the situation, King Breunor Battlehammer sends Drizzt and Regis off to find Wulfgar, who left Mithral Hall for Icewind Dale in the middle of the last war.

However with a title like “The Pirate King”, you would expect a lot of pirates to show up right? You will not be disappointed. In their journey to Icewind Dale, Drizzt and Regis pass through the port city of Luskan. There they met up with Captain Deudermont who has teamed up with a Waterdeep noble to try and save Luskan from the Hosttower of the Arcane. Naturally the Archmage Arcane, Arklem Greeth, does not take kindly to the whole venture. However Drizzt has sailed with Deudermont before as a pirate hunter and agreed to join him, and his right hand wizard Robillard, to liberate the city.

After a very impressive battle, Drizzt and Deudermont freed Luskan from Greeth’s rule but the devil is in the details. While Drizzt and Regis continue on their way to find Wulfgar, Captain Deudermont now becomes Governor Deudermont and discovered how ill-suited he is to the job. His noble aim to put together a government that will benefit everyone just can’t work in Luskan. In the past Greeth ruled the city by using five pirate ship captains to maintain order. While Greeth was evil, he was a necessary evil that kept the city from falling into chaos. Without Greeth to keep them in check, the five pirate captains rebelled against the rule of Deudermont and caused Deudermont’s quest to free Luskan to end in tragedy.

Although this is supposed to be the 18th book to feature Drizzt, it is not actually a Drizzt book. “The Pirate King” is a book that spilt between Drizzt and Deudermont, with Deudermont playing the more important part. Drizzt did some fighting here and there but doesn’t play a full role till the end of the book. Even then he was relegated to fighting the dwarf Athrogate, with the main battle all but decided already. The main story is on Deudermont. His quest to free his beloved Luskan from the Hosttower, and his rule of the city after.

Salvatore made some smart decisions in this book. After 18 books, the cast of Drizzt is great and Salvatore wisely cut out some waste here. Catti-brie and Bruenor Battlehammer are but footnotes in this book. They (along with Obould Many-Arrows) have a few lines in the early chapters and then disappeared from the book. Wulfgar show up late in the book but didn’t hang around after 1-2 chapters and Artemis didn’t show up at all. This allows the story to concentrate on Deudermont, Drizzt, Greeth, the five pirate captains, even Robillard (who was much more interesting than I though he would be).

However with good decisions, Salvatore also made some bad ones. The journey of Drizzt and Regis was a drag at times. There was an unnecessary visit to the Harpells, another unnecessary visit to Ten Towns, and finally Drizzt and Regis sudden urge to talk morals. I say it’s sudden because this has never happened before. A drow born in the Underdark talking morals with a rogue? What happened to these characters?

I was never a fan of Deudermont but Salvatore managed to flesh out the character very well in this book. He was a noble man caught in a place, in a situation where nobility is a minus and not a plus. He was a hero but a flawed one. Too proud and noble to bend, in the end the city broke against him. In short, Salvatore made Captain Deudermont believable. That more than anything is why “The Pirate King” is in my humble view much better book than “The Orc King”.

Not great by anyone’s imagination, “The Pirate King” is still a book worth reading. Pick this one up for a fun time.

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