Thursday, 8 January 2009

‘The Ancient’ – R.A. Salvatore (Tor UK)


A few years ago, I started to hear lots of good things about R.A. Salvatore so I thought I’d give one of his books a go (not having read anything by him at the time). I can’t remember the name of the book, it was one of the ones with Drizzt in it, but I do remember that I put the book down (in fits of laughter) after coming across a dwarf named ‘Tred McKnuckles’. I didn’t pick the book up again, assuming that if all the character names were as bad as this then I wouldn’t be able to finish the book through the tears of laughter (and horror) running down my face.
It’s been a few years now since my last R.A. Salvatore ‘experiment’ and when I received a copy of ‘The Ancient’ I thought it was about time I gave him another go. I’m glad to say that ‘The Ancient’ shows an improvement in character names but there was one piece of dialogue, this time, which had me cringing. At least I finished the book this time round...

The events of ‘The Ancient’ take place in Salvatore’s world of Corona, a world where magic is found within certain gemstones and the established religion (a death cult) finds itself being pushed to the sidelines by a newer, gentler creed. This doesn’t sit well with the aforementioned death cult (the Samhaists) whose leader plots something truly awful in his palace of ice. Into this power struggle comes one Bransen Garibond; a highly skilled warrior who relies on gemstones to stop him falling prey to the affliction of ‘the Stork’. Bransen is tricked into fighting at the front lines of the Samhaist incursion but all he wants to do is return to his wife and continue his quest to free himself from his affliction. When the line is finally drawn, what will he do?

If you are really unlucky with a book you will come across things in the writing that do their level best to break the connection that you are trying to build with the story and, unfortunately, ‘The Ancient’ was one of these books for me. Salvatore’s insistence on describing Bransen’s sword as “fabulous”, at what felt like every opportunity, got boring very quickly and had me dreading coming across scenes where he featured. Come to think of it, there was something about Bransen that left me not looking forward to any of his scenes at all. As a character, he’s either too perfect or in the depths of a crippling illness so profound that we can’t see past it. These two polar opposites give us no idea if there’s any middle ground and what could be there.
Some of his dialogue also annoyed me, for this reason, but none more so then when he described himself (to a pirate captain) as an ‘independent rogue’... There isn’t enough time to go into all the reasons why I think this is an appalling piece of dialogue, suffice it to say that the world of Corona must be unique in it’s need to distinguish between ‘independent rogues’ and, erm... ‘retained rogues’? I don’t even know what the opposite of an ‘independent rogue’ is...

The story itself is a ‘stop/start’ affair which seems to involve a lot of getting characters all together before they can proceed with the finale. While some of the characters are fun to get to know (Cormack and the Powrie dwarves for example), the large distance that Bransen, and his family, has to travel really slows things down and left me with my attention wandering. There was enough there to keep me reading, and the promise of a climatic finale was delivered in some style, but I was left feeling that it had been too much of an effort to get there...

I’m glad I gave ‘The Ancient’ a go but only so I can say that I feel I’ve read enough Salvatore to know not to pick him up again (leave a comment if you think there’s a book of his that I would enjoy more...) This is one that’s maybe for fans only...

Five out of Ten

8 comments:

dragonb said...

I've found Salvatore to be hit or miss. I was much more critical of the Ancient. I thought it was one of his worst books. but, the book before it, the Highwayman I enjoyed quite a bit.

I've never been that excited about the Drizzt books.

I really enjoyed the Demon Wars books, and would recommend you try them.

Brian

Aidan Moher said...

Don't judge your opinion of Salvatore on The Ancient, it's one of his weakest non-Drizzt books in years.

If you want to give him a serious shot, pick up The Demon Awakens or The Highwayman (which introduces the characters in The Ancient.

~Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

Anonymous said...

The Dark Elf Trilogy by Salvatore is the book that single handedly got me into reading. I read it when I was maybe 16 or so, probably about 6 years ago so my opinion may have changed but my dad read the book after I did and liked it enough to read 2 more trilogies from the Drizzt series. I read 9 of the Drizzt books myself. So I'd say if you can read the first book in the Dark Elf Trilogy and still be turned off by him than you're never going to be a fan.

Michael said...

I agree on the Dark Elk Trilogy books...one of the best AND most entertaining fantasy books I have read (to give you and idea, I like Martin, Kay, Gene Wolfe...). It's really nice to have an insider view of the Dark Elves' world, knowing they are the most vicious creatures imaginable...The Icewind dale trilogy is good, and then the other Drizzt books, though entertaining, tend to get repetitive...

Anonymous said...

yeah, I had the same experience as Michael. Dark Elf Trilogy was great, Icewind Dale was good, than the next trilogy was amusing but my interest kind of tapered off after that.

Graeme Flory said...

I haven't got a lot of time to pick up (more) new books but I might give Salvatore one more chance and pick up 'The Highwayman'. We'll see...

James said...

I would have to go with Aidan. Don't let The Ancient set your opinion. It is one of the weakest books Salvatore has written, not just the weakest non-Drizzt.

The Highwayman, which is the prequel to The Ancient, is better. Salvatore also wasn't yet seeking to destroy the likability of Bransen in that novel either, which is at least one point in its favor.

The Dark Elf trilogy is what I'd recommend. The best Drizzt books you will find and, as a plus, the funky oft-hilarious names are absent for the most part.

Anonymous said...

well well well i like R.A Sa,vatore alot i think for the most part i feel like you really get to know his charecters but if you wanna read a non drizzt book thats a good read and leaves the boring repetativness at the door id reccomend "the crimson shadow" i enjoyed it alot .......but thats a twenty six year olds oppinion and thats all