Neverwinter by RA Salvatore

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Rating 6.3/10
Neverwinter is ultimately disappointing.

Unlike Gauntlgrym - which spanned nearly a hundred years of Drizzt's life - Salvatore's follow-up, Neverwinter, picks up the story a mere handful of weeks after Gauntlgrym's conclusion and will span only a few weeks to months as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, where Gauntlgrym's century passed too quickly for my taste, being a thrilling tale worthy of classic Drizzt, the months that surround the events of Neverwinter drag on like you could not believe. Though not nearly as bad as The Ghost King (few stories could match the unmitigated disaster of that novel), Neverwinter is not free of its own problems, problems which seem to ominously hint that Salvatore has simply run out of steam for Drizzt, rather like Michael Jordan when he attempted to come back to basketball after retiring. I won't pretend that this fear hasn't occurred to me before. With the end of the Companions of the Hall in Gauntlgrym and the passing of that age of Drizzt's life, it seemed the natural stopping place for the series, which has been fizzling for a string of books.

The specifics of Neverwinter's problems are difficult to express and one could construct quite a lengthy list, but the problems with the story are not merely the sum of the parts. I can only ascribe the full sense to a sort of story fatigue and a certain amount of listlessness and uncertainty as to where to take Drizzt now. In the first fifteen or so books in the series, there was a clear direction and moral growth within Drizzt's character, but ever since The Hunter's Blades trilogy (no matter how much I enjoyed it) Drizzt has been threatening to revert to a listless morass of character stagnation, a stagnation which I think Neverwinter has reached. Part of the reason for this might be the discrepancy between the book description and the book contents, something I noticed with Gauntlgrym as well.

The inside cover marks Neverwinter to be a story of broiling internal conflict for Drizzt: “Forced to see the dark deeds that the common man may be driven to by circumstance, Drizzt begins to find himself on the wrong side of the law in an effort to protect those the law has failed.” This is quite the narrative! A story rife with moral conflict as the Hero of the North must take to the wrong side of the law in order to protect the innocent when the law fails them. The only trouble is that this story never actually turns up in the novel. Drizzt gets into some minor skirmishes with the Ships of Luskan, has to fight outlaws from Neverwinter desperate for food and supplies, and has to fight both of the religious factions involved in the conflict over Neverwinter, but not once does he come up against the law. The moral conflict within Drizzt as to his new role in this emerging landscape around Neverwinter promised by the cover flap is non-existent. Drizzt never actually wrestles with this decision, and never actually makes the decision anyway - his decision to accompany Dalia on her quest for vengeance is not because Drizzt wants vengeance but because he wants to rid the North of the threat of Sylora Salm. The cover art, which depicts a duel between Drizzt and Barrabus the Grey, while beautiful, has no connection to the novel itself, in which Drizzt is forced to ally himself with Barrabus. It was the same with Gauntlgrym, which featured a gorgeous cover of Drizzt and Dalia locked in mortal combat while the lost city of the dwarves collapsed around them - and which also depicts the opposite of the events in the novel itself.

The chief difficulty with the book, however, is the lack of a coherent narrative. It follows Drizzt and Dalia's quest to find and kill Sylora Salm, but the story itself does little to bear this out. Drizzt and Sylora are so far apart from each other for the first ninety percent of the book as to be in different time zones from one another. Almost the whole book is used up following Drizzt and Dalia getting distracted from finding Sylora for various petty reasons, such as Dalia trying to steal a diamond from one of the Ships of Luskan, or portraying the machinations of Sylora and Alegni trying to manipulate and cajole the people of Neverwinter into various plots. While the various threads of the different stories are not all tied together, the last hundred pages of the book were infused with such a relentless energy that it (almost) made up for the lacklustre beginning and draggy middle to the book. This was no doubt because of the return of another classic Drizzt character last seen long ago, one who is easily my favourite character from the whole series of Drizzt books.

Neverwinter is, therefore, ultimately disappointing, but nearly managed to pull around a complete coup of this lacklustre sheen in the final stretches of the book. One cannot help thinking that the quality of the books would improve if Salvatore took more than six months to go from concept and outline to finished work.

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Neverwinter reader reviews

from England

10-stars

Begin after Gauntlgrym, I was struggled with effect of spellplague world. After read twenty books, my image of North West Faerun complete changed. Much like Black Death in long ago Europe really. Neverwinter was fast paced book. Honestly, I love storyline as Drizzt struggled with world, his belief often scoff off by Dahlia, met his bitterest enemy once again.

8.2/10 from 2 reviews

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