Streams of Silver: Not great, but good enough

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsStreams of Silver by R.A. Salvatore fantasy book reviewsStreams of Silver by R.A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver, the sequel to The Crystal Shard, breaks no new ground for THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT, and to be honest I’m finding it difficult to review because there is so very little to say about it (having already reviewed the preceding works). Like The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver has issues with wooden dialogue and cluttered prose but almost makes up for it on the basis of swift-moving action and a general sense of enthusiastic fun. It’s, again, a popcorn novel, and neither the best nor the worst of that category. While it feels a bit less vibrant and imaginative than its predecessor, it does manage to introduce at least one interesting new character and works out as a pretty decent little quest narrative (so long as the reader is kind enough to focus on the quest’s journey and not its destination). So… not great, not bad. Not much else to say, but here we go anyway.

Picking up from where we left them in the last book, our intrepid heroes are setting out for Mithral Hall, the lost homeland of walking self-parody Bruenor Battlehammer. He’s convinced Drizzt to accompany him on the quest by shamelessly abusing their friendship and coerced the barbarian Wulfgar into it because… well, what young king wouldn’t drop the kingdom he’s just won to go rushing off into the blue? What’s governmental stability next to the call of adventure, eh? Regis the selfish Halfling was decidedly not accompanying them, until the appearance of a mysterious assassin prompted the pint-sized (anti?)hero to make a break for it with his old buddies.

The book is ostensibly about the hunt for Mithral Hall but ends up playing out a lot more like The Hunt for Regis. Artemis Entreri, the assassin on the Halfling’s trail, makes for a far more interesting plot element than Bruenor’s rather by-the-numbers quest, and Salvatore seems to more or less lose interest in Mithral Hall itself by the finale in favor of the long-awaited Drizzt/Entreri fight. This is fortunate, as even when he’s focusing on Mithral Hall, the premise feels more than a little thin. Apparently the Hall was taken from the dwarves of yore after they did the thing of which all dwarves must be wary, delving too greedily and too deep. Bruenor is the only living dwarf who survived the incident. He is thus also the only person who knows where Mithral Hall is, somehow. Yes, in the blip of time that was the thousand years or so the Hall was in operation, apparently the dwarves never got around to having any visitors, so nobody has it on a map and nobody even seems to recall its general vicinity. Bruenor doesn’t really know the Hall’s location either, because his memory is getting a bit faulty, so the questing band is going to go find a… library or something…

Yeah, for the larger part of the novel I’m pretty sure not even Salvatore cared where they were going or why. The quest’s denouement comes blundering in haphazardly somewhere near the end with little build-up, and the rest of it looks like it could have been equally at home in an elven scrapbook titled Drizzt’s Crazy Summer Abroad, as the heroes topple headfirst through a Greatest Hits Tour of Faerun’s major danger zones and prominent supporting characters. I almost wonder if Salvatore was under a bit of pressure to put more “shared universe” material in this novel, as it certainly looks as though he was trying to namedrop as many locations as possible. It’s fun, goofy stuff, of course: our heroes go through trolls, racism, thieves’ guilds, crackpot wizards, and secret towers of the arcane in quick succession, ensuring the novel is never boring or short of something to do, but it’s nonetheless pretty obvious that the so-called goal is in service of these adventures, not the other way around.

Right on our heroes’ heels all the way is the villainous Artemis Entreri, dragging Bruenor’s adopted daughter Catti-Brie along with him because… feminism, I guess, though if Catti-Brie needed to be given a bigger role in the story, couldn’t she have been having wacky adventures with the others? She certainly would have been more useful than the whiny, increasingly unsympathetic Regis. Anyway, Entreri and Catti-Brie are the second storyline of the novel as they close in on our heroes. There are other villains with them too, but they’re fairly forgettable fodder.

Streams of Silver is an exciting enough little book, and it’s certainly fast-moving, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Crystal Shard or even the earlier DARK ELF books. There’s a lot here that feels contrived, thin, or just a bit wrongheaded. The most egregious example is an extremely uncomfortable moment where Regis attempts to date-rape a prostitute in a tavern by magical mind control, and it’s never brought up again. It’s hard to say what the point of this was, or if there even was a point. We could be speaking to Regis’s depression at being on the run again, but if so he never explains it and it doesn’t seem to be part of an ongoing character arc. We’re just left to assume that Regis is probably not a very good person. In fact, he may be even more morally bankrupt than our ostensible villain: Entreri drags a famously beautiful young woman across the world with him and never once so much as makes a pass at her. Yes, Entreri is a killer, but within that scope he’s portrayed as a kind of gun-for-hire with a rigid code. Given fewer angry outbursts and more squint-eyed philosophizing, he could easily morph into a quasi-admirable figure, especially in a story for young boys. Regis, whose own hands are hardly clean, comes across much more as a cringing opportunist whose immoral behavior is limited more by his lack of ability and resolve than by a sense of decency. This is especially problematic given that the only point of contention between the heroes and villains is Regis himself. Entreri wants him, our heroes don’t want to give him up. As a reader, however, I really couldn’t have cared less. Regis is a manipulative cad, is rarely helpful, constantly needs rescuing, and generally plays out like an attempt at “lovable rogue” gone badly awry.

Drizzt’s story is a bit more compelling, as he discovers that yes, the world still hates dark elves and probably always will no matter how many dragons he slays or cities he saves. Wulfgar goes through a similar arc, as both characters recognize that the respected positions they have built for themselves within the confines of Icewind Dale mean relatively little on the outside. It’s more thoughtful material that at least partially balances out Regis’s misfire of an arc.

But who are we kidding? This is early Drizzt. It isn’t about the characters, it’s about fulfilling every teenager’s fantasy dreams: there are monsters to be slain, last stands to be made, epic duels to be fought, and mysterious relics of forgotten ages to be uncovered. Entreri lurks in the shadows, Catti-Brie gains a level, Bruenor gets a crowning moment of heroism. Streams of Silver is a flashy, brass-band battle-march of a novel. It’s like a street juggler who’s clearly having trouble holding it all together, and you get the sense that if he stopped or slowed down he’d lose control entirely, but he’s got just enough momentum to keep the balls in the air until he staggers through the finish line. It may not be what we, the audience, could have hoped for, but at least Salvatore managed to pull it off in the end.

Good enough.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Tim, I haven’t read these, but I sure am enjoying your reviews!

  2. I haven’t read these either, but Salvatore gets points for lovely titles. (God review, Tim!)

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