Novel Review: Wizards of the Coast – Rise of the King

Rise of the King
Rise of the King is an epic fantasy novel, written by R.A. Salvatore and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Cape Rust

Learn more about Rise of the King here
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The drow are on the march and they have brought orcs, frost giants, ogre/goblins and even a couple of dragons. This looks like it will be their chance to finally crush the Silver Marches once and for all. The dwarves are besieged in their cities and by going to assist the rest of the cities in the Silver Marches they risk leaving their cities improperly defended. The rest of the besieged cites have grown angry at the dwarves for their perceived inaction, to uphold the agreements and treaties set forth so long ago. As the Companions of Mithral Hall finish up their “housekeeping” duties which include banishing the soul of one of their dearest allies. The Companions learn of the extent of the peril that the Silver Marches faces and throw in their very considerable talents to defend the town of Nesm’e.

While all of this is happening the ever clever Jaraxle is plotting and scheming and finally has figured out a way to once again turn the tide of any situation in his favor. His machinations mirror the rest of the drow machinations, but not on the same grand scale. The drow continue to create just enough strife between their allies to ensure their continued leadership, however if intra-drow scheming escalates it could cause trouble for their continued success. The future of the Silver Marches hangs in the balance, will the Companions be able to save the day or is even their combined power not enough to stop the sea of enemies that they face?

If this sounds like a Drizzt book that you’ve already read, then you’re right. Sure a few dragons have been thrown into the mix and frost giants as well, but this really is the same old story and the premise is actually beneath Salvatore. I really enjoyed this plot the first time, but at this point we all need to move on. The only thing that really saves this book is Salvatore. His writing skills have not diminished.

Rise of the King is the Empire Strikes Back of this series. Things are taking a turn for the worse and they don’t really get much better by the end of the book. This is not the type of book you want to read if you want to see good things happening for the good guys. Even in the midst of all of the setbacks, there are some wonderful fights that had me on the edge of my seat. There were several descriptions from the battle for Nesm’e that reminded me of descriptions from veterans of Korea and Vietnam. They describe the piles of dead enemies outside their perimeters and how it seemed like even in the face of overwhelming firepower, they just kept coming and that the supply of them never ended.

The intrigue during the course of this story is typical drow, but it appears if the Spider Queen has a greater interest in the tom-foolery this time. The full depth of the plots and plans of the drow won’t be revealed until the end and I have a feeling that even if they are defeated, they will still be able to count the entire enterprise as a victory. They have long lives and an even longer views of situations, so their approach would make the prince himself proud.

The storied history of the Companions actually works against them during the course of this novel. I have questioned their reincarnations from the start and this novel proved that bringing these folks back was the wrong idea. People have become so accustomed to seeing this crew work together, wielding the same iconic weapons and wearing the same iconic armor with the same iconic mounts, that there is no way to separate any of those things without ruining the formula. Here is a great example: first of all, Wulfgar has still not learned how to fight, he simply goes in and kills things until they almost kill him, then he gets healed and makes the same fighting mistakes all over again. I get that he is a barbarian, but rage doesn’t have to equal stupid, unless it is Wulfgar. Salvatore tries to make him out to be a person who is reflecting on life and its meaning, but that all seems to go out the door when it comes to fighting. Then we get to the gear, Wulfgar has a really cool war hammer, so cool it has a name. At one point he is separated from his hammer. Stuff like that happens, but low and behold while escaping, he just happens to encounter the orc that found his hammer and gets it back, how convenient.

If you just can’t get enough of the Companions then keep reading this series. If you pine for the good old days with the old gang riding around their old haunts killing the same types of enemies, Rise of the King is just what you need to serve as comfort food reading. If you want a new and original storyline from acclaimed author R.A. Salvatore, run away, far away, and don’t look back; skip this series; wait until he is done with this repackaging of the same ole’ same ole’. Rise of the King was more interesting in the first book in this series and even with a retelling of an expected story, it was good enough that I finished it and will read the next one, but that doesn’t mean I’ll love it.

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