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Not the ending we wanted...SPOILERS, obviously.
on March 15, 2013
I bought this as soon as I saw it had been released. That said instead of having Amazon alert me like I normally would I spotted it while looking for a book for my wife. I was so thoroughly disappointed by book 3 that I stopped caring about the series. Old habits die hard however and I started reading it on my iPad that night. I didn't remember a lot of the details from the 3rd book but they came back soon enough - Salvatore does a fine job of explaining backstory as he goes. I had the chew through the first half of the book before it really hooked me, but once it did I finished the 2nd half in one day. You can pretty much skip everything before Part III: Into Shadow and thank me for the time you just saved.
Here's a breakdown of what you missed:
* Drizzt: I miss my old friends. I'm going to convert this totally evil party into good guys by doing nice things for people but I'm still going to complain that they aren't as cool as my old friends. I miss my cat. I'm super bad with women. Dahlia is a hot mess.
* Entreri: I'm surly. I kind of like Drizzt but I'm too grouchy to show it. Dahlia is a hot mess.
* Dahlia: I'm a hot mess.
* Effron: I hate my mom and dad! Now I hate my dad but my mom is okay. Now I love my mom. Now I'm a good guy!
* Ambergris: I'm a great character but I'm written like a horny college girl on spring break. Yay beer!
* Afafrenfere: I'm pretty much awesome but I only get in a couple fights and the guy writing this book totally forgot that classic monks are immune to poison.
You're welcome. Use the time I just saved you to plant a tree or adopt a pet or rob a bank or something.
The 2nd half of the book cooked right along and that only made the ending more frustrating and more puzzling because by then I was really invested in how it was going to end. I hated, hated, hated how the book ended. The start of the book was okay but kind of boring because there was a lot more of "Drizzt being emotional and trying to redeem people" than there was ass-kicking but the second half started off so well! Jarlaxle raids a Netherese lord's castle to free his buddies in truly fabulous style - it was gripping and exciting and full of the interplay that made R.A Salvatore such a beloved writer. It felt a little "dragged by the nose" when the team finally got back together and headed to Icewind Dale but I was okay with that because I knew a Balor and a drow hunting party were hot on their trail. All the same, I kept checking the progress bar on the Kindle, wondering how on earth he was going to close out such giant plot lines like Errtu the Balor, Tiago Baenre and his team of hunters, the clairvoyance the succubus put on Artemis, if Guen would recover, if Pwent actually destroyed himself, what Kimmuriel learned from the Mind Flayers, and how all that played into Drizzt returning to Icewind Dale.
Because the wounds this book inflicted on my soul are still fresh from how it ended I'm going to bullet out the worst offenses below:
* The first few chapters are spent talking up the vampire/battlerager that was so obviously pointed out at the end of book 3. When they finally find him, they talk for 5 minutes and then Pwent suicides? Wait, what? Why bring him back at all if the plan is to kill him off (again) without any resolution?
* Valindra Shadowmantle, the insane and powerful lich from the other books, is mentioned a couple times and then ignored (same as in book 3). This is a lich for god's sake. Use her to destroy things or raise an undead army to ravage the towns or something. So much time was spent in books one and two to bring her mind back online that it seems like a total waste to just ignore her now. What about the obvious twist where she bends Pwent to her evil will and forces Drizzt to kill him? C'mon man! That's an easy win and it would've been sooooo cool to read about!
* How come Guen didn't die during the year she spent in that cage while Drizzt was held captive by Draygo? She was withering away after just a couple months so another year should've killed her. And astral creature or not, doesn't she need to eat and drink while on the Prime Material Plane?
* They only fought one group while crossing the Shadowfell. Sure, it was a super tough group, but why? How come there was the hints that Effron would use this cool new staff to whoop some ass only to never have it be mentioned again?
* How was Drizzt a captive for an entire year? Are we to believe he spent an entire 12 months sitting in a small room in a tower doing nothing but talking and eating all day? How was he not overweight and out of practice with his swords when he was rescued? And what was Effron doing the whole time?
* How do Tiago and his team all speak Common? Drizzt had to learn it when he left the Underdark so unless it is now a normal class taught in Menzoberanzan they wouldn't know it. And why again are they being friendly to the people of Ten Towns when the normal drow reaction to humans is murder and chaos? Trying to buy goodwill or not, these are nobles of arrogant and wealthy drow houses - they would just as soon destroy the rest of Bryn Shander because human life means nothing to them. Instead we see them chumming around with the locals and drinking beer. Whatever.
* They disappeared for 18 years for no good reason! I was fine with them going missing while Tiago's hunting party was looking for them because I knew they had found the forest and I totally expected an epilogue where the entire party was accepted into the magical woods where Catti-Brie, Bruenor, Regis, and Wulfgar live. Drizzt would reunite with his old friends and fade into legend, Dahlia and Artemis would decide to leave and set out into the world together, and the monk and the cleric would hang out for a while before setting out on their own. I would've been completely okay with the series ending right there giving the message that all the machinations of mankind fall away in the face of true love and fate or whatever. Instead it seems like a very heavy handed way to make everyone forget the enemies they had collected before coming back into the world. What about Guen? 18 years with no summoning? And why 18 years? The magical forest was something like 60 or 70 years old at that point - why would it fade away at all and why would they be asleep the whole time? If it was supposed to be a message from Catti-brie that she was okay with Drizzt moving on, then she should've appeared to him and told him that.
* Did Drizzt die at the end? I'd be okay with that, hoenstly. He went out like a bitch, but he's had an amazing run. If he didn't die, I'd accept the story that he was snatched up by a deity and that he's sent back as a Chosen. Otherwise that ending was just plain stupid. Sure he was taken off guard and sure he didn't think she'd actually try and kill him but this is Dahlia we're talking about.
The book ended abruptly and I cursed so furiously that it startled my dog. I think she may have even pee'd a little. I honestly questioned if my Kindle dropped a few pages. There wasn't even a back cover...it just freaking ended. I was annoyed by Charon's Claw because a ton of plots were opened and not resolved so I had to wait until the next book to finish those stories in my mind. This is the last book in the Neverwinter series so anything left open is technically done and closed or if not closed, to remain unanswered indefinitely. The few plots he did close (Errtu and Tiago for example) were closed in a rushed and sloppy fashion. The drow hunting party runs into Errtu and they kick his ass and then the drow hang out for a while and then they leave? That's it? And no further mention of Neverwinter or any of its characters? And no further mention of Jarlaxle or anyone else - just a quick reference that they got bored of searching after 20 years and called it? And after the fight with Dahlia, Artemis takes the group and heads out - as far as they know Drizzt is dead or missing so they leave Icewind Dale and that's it? They don't bother with Ambergris casting a few spells to find him or heading back to Ten Towns? Where's the loyalty? And how come they don't turn on Dahlia for potentially murdering Drizzt? She loved him and he didn't feel the same way, I get it, but damn woman! Get over it! She reconnected with her son and killed the dude that ruined her life so move past the "I kill all my lovers" shtick and try and be normal for a damn minute.
If I had to offer an opinion, I think R.A. Salvatore had a ton of idea for where he wanted the legend of Drizzt to go and instead of picking the best few story lines and writing a book, he crammed them all haphazardly into the last two books of the series and hoped that we'd just choke it all down. Maybe he's too busy with other projects or maybe he's having trouble closing the book on one of the most influential characters in the entire Forgotten Realms mythos, but Charon's Claw and The Last Threshold were massive disappointments. If he wanted to tell all these stories and set the stage for the next series, he should've released a second book of short stories instead of trying to fit it all into a novel or two. I won't even bother with the tree analogy because book 4 is a yard full of grass compared to a tree. There's no central story, just a bunch of stuff that never gets explored beyond a glance.