The Legacy: Distilled Action. Nothing Else. Seriously, nothing.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Legacy by R.A. SalvatoreThe Legacy by R.A. Salvatore

As I’ve been doing these reviews, I’ve tried to point out a few things about THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT series. First, these books are fun, diverting, and lively. Second, they’re… uh… not very good. Now when I say “good,” I am of course referring to the Literary definition of good (that’s Literature with the capital L, Literature the genre, that I’m discussing now). It’s problematic in a number of ways that one genre has set the standard for what constitutes “good” writing, but that’s just where things are right now, and like it or not it’s about the closest thing to an objective measuring stick that we have. There are things Literature likes: deep characterization, subtle nuance, lush prose. THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT has none of those things. The series’ virtues are swift-moving action, camaraderie, breathless fun, and occasionally some decent plotting. Unfortunately, Literature would prefer its action slow and contemplative, its camaraderie safely tempered by intrapersonal philosophizing, and its plotting vague and meandering (if it exists at all). As for fun… well. If your primary goal in reading Literature is fun, you’re doing it wrong. Art is to be appreciated first, enjoyed second.

So why am I giving these books such (relatively) high ratings? For the most part it’s because I don’t agree with the literati on an all-encompassing definition of good, and I am writing this for the speculative fiction audience — and within that audience, the members who would potentially enjoy a D&D tie-in novel. I’m writing, in short, for the audience that could conceivably get some use out of a review of this series. The next question the reader will have, I suppose, is why I’m going into all this just now. Surely it’s a given? Well, it is… but out of the entire LEGEND OF DRIZZT series, The Legacy is the one book above all others that drove home to me the discrepancy between “good” in the wine-and-cheese, artistic-appreciation sense; and “good” in the I-could-use-some-goofy-fun sense. Never before has the series been so damn near perfect as frenetic entertainment, and at the same time so profoundly lacking in artistic merit. The Legacy will delight most of its audience. And it would make your dear old English professor contemplate stabbing herself with her brie knife.

We pick up in book seven with Drizzt returning to Mithral Hall after some time doing his own thing. After its offscreen resettlement in the last book, Mithral Hall has magically morphed back into a thriving dwarven city in record time. Wulfgar’s barbarian clansmen were surprisingly amenable to making the shift from nomadic tundra warriors to southern merchants, Bruenor’s dwarves have slapped a new coat of paint on the Hall, and Wulfgar is going to marry Catti-Brie. Drizzt returns for the happy event in full best man mode, but soon learns to his dismay that all is not well between the lovebirds. Catti-Brie is a strong-willed, independent woman, while Wulfgar has regressed into his barbarian roots and evidently now wants a demure wench to stay in the kitchen and make him sandwiches. Clinging tearfully to his muscular calf while he stands on a hill of fallen enemies would be nice, but is probably optional. Bruenor is either in denial or simply unclear on the situation (neither would be a particularly unusual occurrence), but Catti-Brie can always confide in sweet, understanding, handsome Drizzt, and…

Yeah, you see where this is going.

Meanwhile, the drow of Menzoberranzan are plotting Drizzt’s downfall for about the umpteen-bajillionth time, and once again divine intervention is to blame. Lolth the spider goddess seems to have made Drizzt’s horrible demise into her pet project, and this time she’s trying to coerce Drizzt’s sister Vierna Do’Urden into doing the deed. Vierna is only too happy to rid the world of her disappointing sibling. Dinin, the other surviving Do’Urden, is not too sure about this idea. He’s a slightly more genre-savvy elf, and after watching the extravagant failures of all previous attempts at taking down his little brother, he’s starting to see the writing on the wall. But Vierna is certain that this time they’ll get that wascawwy wabbit, and she starts making preparations to attack Mithral Hall. And somehow or other this involves joining forces with the wicked assassin Artemis Entreri, who’s back and looking for a rematch, following his humiliating defeat at Drizzt’s hands in the last book.

There are obvious problems with the storyline right off the bat. It’s never exactly clear what Vierna’s trying to accomplish in the long-term or why Entreri is being indulged to this extent, particularly given the storied drow racism from the DARK ELF trilogy. Foreshadowing about Vierna’s destiny is slathered on pretty thick but the subplot ends up going nowhere. Also, it could not be more obvious that Salvatore has run out of ideas for Wulfgar, and so our barbarian hero regresses in development to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Wulfgar’s half-baked characterization affects the rest of the characters’ arcs as well, as the reader is asked to believe that Bruenor forgets entirely about his overprotective dad schtick and Drizzt decides to ignore attempted murder rather than make things awkward. In short, the plot is paper-thin, an excuse to get various elements bouncing off each other more than anything that feels organic to the characters or setting.

And yes, as per usual, the dialogue is a bit overblown and clunky, though I think it is improving minutely.

However, The Legacy succeeds in one very crucial area: the action. If everything else is given short shrift, it’s so Salvatore can get into the swordfights as quickly and as completely as possible. Once he does, the book is free to pursue what is generally Salvatore’s pièce de resistance, the thrill ride, almost entirely without interruption. Drizzt and Entreri fight separately, against each other, and as a team. The flashing swords and dire glares are probably series-best: this is Entreri’s last outing in which he feels fully relevant and compelling as a rival for Drizzt, and Salvatore makes good use of it. Drizzt is fully settled as series protagonist at this point (partially explaining why the rest of the Companions of the Hall got such quick write-offs here) and spends the novel emphasizing over and over again how undefeatable he seems to have become. I admit I found myself yearning for the Drizzt of The Crystal Shard a bit, but in fairness, that Drizzt would have slowed down the action just like all the other elements Salvatore tossed off the boat this time around. A story like this one needs a fully realized sword-and-sorcery hero unfettered by doubts or hesitation, and that’s pretty much what we get.

Anyway, not much else to say about The Legacy. It’s thin, it never makes a lot of sense, and the characterization takes a few steps backwards. On the upside, though, we have LEGEND OF DRIZZT distilled essentially down to its core, action-packed essence, a pure shot of adventure uncut with anything that might get in the way.

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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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One comment

  1. “Catti-Brie is a strong-willed, independent woman, while Wulfgar has regressed into his barbarian roots and evidently now wants a demure wench to stay in the kitchen and make him sandwiches. Clinging tearfully to his muscular calf while he stands on a hill of fallen enemies would be nice, but is probably optional.”

    Tim, that’s hilarious.

    I’m glad to see that the spirit of Robert E Howard is still in full force in the sword-and-sorcery realm.

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