Tome of Geek: The Companions by RA Salvatore

IThe Companions Cover HATED The Last Threshold.

I love Drizzt books but I HATED The Last Threshold.

It wasn’t that it was a bad book, far from it, but it was a book that nothing happened.  Drizzt tried to take his new friends and make them into his old, he tried teaching Entreri to be good, he tried teaching Dahlia to love him like Cattie-Brie did and he tried to help the world in the meantime.  Then he fell asleep for twenty years, had the two major threats, Tiago and Errtu – threats RA had been building up since Neverwinter and The Crystal Shard – show up and fight each other.  Then he breaks up with Dahlia and she kills him.

Drizzt died.

I HATED The Last Threshold.

If your level 15(ish) your biggest threat in an adventure book can’t be a CR 8 at most.

Truth be told the story was more a character study than anything else but after the build up and superior storytelling we’d gotten from RA since The Ghost King and how he was building to something that seemed EPIC – this book was a letdown.

But I knew the death wouldn’t last, they were already advertising The Companions as I finished the book so more was to come.

Enter The Companions.

Drizzt Pic 1Book one of The Sundering series, WoTC series to bring DND into 5th ed, is RA. Salvatore’s second Drizzt book that doesn’t focus on Drizzt.  This book opens right before Drizzt falls asleep for twenty years.  We’re in the heavens and Mielkki gives the four deceased Companions, Bruenor, Cattie-Brie, Regis and Wulfgar a chance to help Drizzt as his most dire moment.  They would return to earth and save their friend.

The Catch:

They would be reborn in new bodies, to new parents and would have to grow up all over again, fully aware of who they were and what their past lives were but in new bodies to new parents and with new names.

They would be reincarnated.

Three say yes but Wulfgar cannot, he says no.

The book follows the three returners, Bruenor, Cattie-Brie, and Regis, as they are born into a new body, with a full conscious adult mind, and watches them grow old until the day they can travel to Ten-Towns to help their dearest of friends.

At first we see minds literally trapped in bodies they have no control over, how they have to wait years before they can do the easiest of task and stand-up.

This is where the book really get interesting.

Regis is now Spider Topolino – a halfling with genasi blood flowing through him born to a drunkard who hates Regis after his wife, Regis’ new mother, died in child-birth.

Bruenor is little Arr Arr – a shield dwarf born to a widow.

Cattie-Brie is Ruqiah – a human born to the Shade Enclave

Each of the three returners takes their time back on Toril in a different manner.  Cattie-Brie is willing to sacrifice everybody and everyone to make it back to Ten-Towns, taking whatever magical training she can along the way.  Regis is training to fight, no longer wanting to be the tag-along or the little one in need of rescuing, and Bruenor is growing old cursing his decisions.  He was seated beside Moradin only to have that ripped from him.  He now curses the gods, curses his decisions past and present, and desperately want his name back.

The three stories were fascinating.  My favourite was Regis’.  Seeing this child grow up in poverty, growing up with nothing and scraping by to simply exist each day, is a strong story.  We see him become adopted by a criminal organization, to train the boy and make his a warrior-thief unlike any other, only to see the boy challenge his adopted family in order to save his new father.  Regis even falls in love and questions whether he should leave his new home, leave the woman he loves, in order to keep his promise.

Regis is born knowing that this name, that this family, are little more than placeholders until the day of his twenty-first birthday when he will be reunited with Drizzt and the companions.

Bruenor takes the opposite approach.  He doesn’t care for his new name, for his new life or his new lineage.  He was once King Breunor and he will do whatever it takes to become that once-more; to lead an army against the orc kingdoms and undo the mistakes of his past life.  He even lies to, and abandons, his new-mother, a woman who literally has nobody else in her life but little Arr Arr.

Cattie-Brie’s story is the most important and, ironically, the one thread I cared the least about.  Through Ruqiah’s life we learn, and begin to see, that the Spellplague’s curse is lifting and Mystra and the Weave is returning.  We only see glimpses of the Sundering’s effect, we will see more as the rest of the Sundering series continues.

The book ends with all of them reuniting, including a special guest or two, and saving the dying drow’s life.  Everybody is together and everybody is now ready for whatever threat comes.  The threat is never mentioned, on guessed at, but the most common guess is – in the book and out – is that Lady Lloth is coming to claim her chosen one, her greatest agent of chaos – Drizzt Do’Urden.

The book was brilliantly written by I’m left wondering of the implications.  It well known that RA Salvatore didn’t enjoy the Post-Spellplague world of Faerûn – he has said so in many interview and publically at Hal-Con – but his writing since the 4th edition release of DND has been amazing.  We’ve seen Drizzt loose everybody and have to learn to live in a world without his friend and how he deals by trying to make new ones.

Then his characters started coming back.  I hope RA isn’t just trying to relive the ‘golden days’ of 3.X cause if he is I dare say it’s time to pack it in – and it pains me to say that.  Your writing has gotten amazing.  Drizzt has grown with you and your stories have become things of legend amongst fans but we need you to keep moving forward.  We loved the past but things were getting tired.

Richard Lee Byers, in an interview with me, commented on bringing back character from the 3.x worlds

As you know, the Realms moved forward a hundred years after the events of the trilogy. That makes it problematic to write about any characters who, even if they survived the chaos of the Spellplague, would logically have grown old and died before the current batch of novels started. Sure, in a fantasy world, one can come up with magical cheats to keep characters young. But it would make the new Realms look stupid if every single writer found excuses to bring all his pet characters forward across the time jump. So, while I did it with Aoth and Bareris to make The Haunted Lands work, I’m reluctant to make a habit of that.
– Richard Lee Byers

Artemis and Drizzt - Todd LockwoodNobody seems to mind bringing back one or two characters that would have died.  We have Artemis and Drizzt - Todd LockwoodDrizzt and Jarlaxle – two long living drow – and RA gave us Thibbledorf Pwent – a Gutbuster now a vampire – and even brought back Artemis Entreri – an assassin cursed with long life by Charon’s Claw-.  I actually enjoyed Artemis’ return.  I hated his ending and love that the only familiar face in Drizzt life is now his once arch-enemy.  Out of RA massive cast list between Drizzt books and the Cleric Quintet, have four surviving was fine by me.

But now EVERYBODY is back.  Drizzt Do’Urden, Bruenor Battlehammer, Catti-brie, Regis, Artemis, and even (spoiler) Wulfgar (/spoiler).  Their deaths are losing their meaning.  I mean Bruenor died an Avatar of Moridin and now it’s undone.

The next book, according to RA’s FB page, is Night of the Hunter and comes out March 2014.  That book is going to be monumental for me.  Much like Man of Steel my final opinion of The Companions will be based off the next installments.  If everybody survives the next book/trilogy then I’m going to be really pissed.  If it becomes a blood bath, if the threat of Lloth is so grave that Drizzt really did need his companions, then I’ll be fine with this.

I guess what I am saying is your brought back your original cast.  Make it worthwhile.  Give me something worthy of a Goddess’ intervention.  And if its that dangerous make sure not everybody comes out of it alive.

Conclusion

My trepidation and concerns of the series’ future aside, I need to look at this book for what it is, it was an amazing read.  It’s nice to see how well RA can write his characters when he doesn’t always need to focus on Drizzt, he proved that in The Spine of the World with Wulfgar recovering from being tortured and killed.

The evolution of his characters is amazing, Regis’ in particular, and I am always glad to see Wulfgar back in any form.  I’ve missed the barbarian.  It’s books like these that makes me wonder why RA doesn’t make a new series like he did with the Cleric Quintet years before.

The Companions is a thrilling read and an amazing book that tugs at my every vulnerable nostalgia-strings.

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