More Drizzt! More games! Just, more!

Hey everybody!
The last week or so has been filled with lots of awesome, predominantly from getting back to the amazing Legend of Drizzt series!

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Moving on to #Drizzt book 8! #D&D #novels

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I finally got back to this series, after a nearly two-year hiatus, back in March, when I read the end of book 6, and moved onto book 7, The Legacy. That was a really great read, you can see more on that here, but I didn’t move on to the next one until now. I don’t actually remember if there was a reason, but anyway. Spoilers incoming! Starless Night picks up the story of Drizzt and his friends in the wake of Wulfgar’s death, and begins as Drizzt decides to return to Menzoberranzan, to avoid any further drow incursions into Mithral Hall. Little does he know that Matron Baenre plots the destruction of the dwarven kingdom no matter what, of course, as we saw briefly in the last book. Catti-brie discovers Drizzt has gone and, determined not to see another of her friends needlessly die, heads off in pursuit. The two eventually meet up in the Underdark, and manage to escape the Baenre compound with the help of none other than Artemis Entreri, though their hearts are heavy with the knowledge that the drow are amassing for war against the dwarves.

While I enjoyed The Legacy, after all that time spent on the surface, I loved Starless Night. It is perhaps a little formulaic at parts, but as always with these Drizzt books, the execution is just amazing. Salvatore continues to develop the Underdark beyond what we have already seen from the Dark Elf trilogy, this time particularly as we get to see more inside House Baenre, the first house of Menzoberranzan. The Matron Mother is just as cruel and twisted as you’d expect, as are some of her children. Most interesting among them are Dantrag, the weapons master who wields a sentient sword. It was a shame that he didn’t make it through the book, but I suppose there’s little else you could do with a character like that. Triel Baenre, the mistress mother of Arach-Tinilith, is another intriguing character, and her scenes with the flamboyant mercenary Jarlaxle were always fun to read. Jarlaxle has a prominent role to play here as well, which serves to deepen his character.

The whole story was pretty great, with a terrific sense of foreboding, or “things are about to happen tonight”. Weirdly, I kept feeling a comparison with the finale to the third Harry Potter book, with that sense of wheels being in motion and whatnot. It was a great read, and I’ve since propelled myself into the ninth book, Siege of Darkness, which has been excellent so far – look out for that one to grace this blog very soon!

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The Beetroot Beefburgers, man they were good…

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Saturday was, of course, Independence Day, so to celebrate(?), I made burgers and watched American Dad. Not just any burgers, however! I came across a recipe somewhere for beetroot beefburgers and, being a lover of beetroot, had to give it a try! On reflection, I probably used too much, so they were a tad dry, but overall they were really good, and I will definitely be trying these again! Grating beetroot into the minced beef left my kitchen looking something like a crime scene, but even so! Very simple to make, just grate the beets into the beef (I used three with 200g of mince, one might be a better idea), mix in an egg, and away we go!

Marvellous!

Despite having multiple projects on the go already, this weekend also saw me make up some more Necron Immortals, along with Trazyn the Infinite. I’ve been slowly getting back into painting, as I’ve been trying to finish off the Canoptek Wraiths I started over a month ago. I’ve not gotten very far, unfortunately, but that seems to be the story of my life where big stuff is concerned – bigger than your average foot soldier, that is. I’ve had four Tomb Blades awaiting their finishing touches for ages now, as well. As I seem to be better at getting the smaller guys finished, I thought I’d make up some more, get them done, and then (hopefully!) get back into the swing of things that way. Miniatures painting is something that I really enjoy, after all, but has felt more akin to a drudgery of late.

Immortals

Trazyn the Infinite is perhaps the most hilarious of the special character models, with his backstory of wanting to preserve everything in the universe in his own collection. If I remember rightly, he has some weird ability that allows you to replace him with any other member of the unit he’s attached to when in combat, due to some kind of phase-shifting technology. He seems interesting, but more than that, I enjoy the special models for the fact that I can paint them with different colour schemes and such. That said, I’m considering doing something different with the Immortals this time, as well – the new golden paints coming out soon look very interesting, after all, so I think I might try something more special with these guys…

Immortals

This week has been pretty good for games, of course. Along with the announcements of new cycles for both Android Netrunner and Star Wars, we’ve had a new data pack for Netrunner as well as the inaugural pack in the Angmar Awakened cycle for Lord of the Rings! There’s an interesting day/night mechanic in this one, and I cannot wait to try it out, but feel like I need to first play through the Lost Realm box. I’ve got all the quests sleeved now, anyway, so I’m ready to go on that front. No doubt there’ll be some posts here where I bemoan my performance…

I actually got a few games of Netrunner in at the local store again last week, with my tried and trusted Shaper deck, and lost both. But they were fantastic losses, so I can’t complain! Very thematic, so definitely lots of fun. I feel like I want to try out new decks now, however, as I spent one night reorganising my entire Netrunner collection. I usually keep LCGs in their expansion boxes, as it’s convenient and I like the packaging, but now FFG has moved to this horrible plastic nonsense, I’ve decided to change that, and have instead gone for keeping the entire cardpool in both core set boxes (I’m one of these who bought two core sets). So far it works, but I foresee a time very soon where I’m going to run out of space there, as well! Hm. At any rate, going through that reorganisation, and seeing the entire card pool for each faction all at once, has really opened up my eyes to the deckbuilding possibilities in the game, so I’m keen to explore with that, rather than continually playing my one Shaper deck.

We’ll see just how splendidly that works out, anyway…

The Legacy

Ah, Drizzt. I’ve been loving this series for years now – you can read all about that here, of course! Last night saw me finish the seventh installment, The Legecy.

The Legacy

The book picks up right off following the last one – in fact, it starts as the last one is ending! HOWEVER! (Oh, ahem… here be spoilers!) We see Bruenor Battlehammer preparing for the wedding of Wulfgar and Cattie-Brie, when the report of goblin activity in the lower mines draws the dwarves out to investigate. A series of dungeon-delving adventures ensue, with Drizzt separated from the others. Why? Well, because we finally get to see what his family has been up to since he left Menzoberranzan in the Dark Elf trilogy!

Following the raid on the Do’Urden compound that left all but Dinin and Vierna dead, things have been pretty rough. Dinin has fallen in with the mercenary band of Braegan D’arthe, headed by the flamboyant Jarlaxle, while Vierna has become obsessed with recovering her former glory. Are the Do’Urdens really out of favour with Lolth? Vierna’s ability first to wield a snake-headed whip, then to turn Dinin into a dreaded Drider (remember the spoiler from the board game?!), to say nothing of her ability to summon a yochlol, seem to point to the fact that they are once again on the up. However, the behind-the-scenes machinations of House Baenre might point to a more convoluted theory. Following a long period of mine chases, Drizzt finally manages to defeat his sister in combat, but Wulfgar is killed by the yochlol, leading to an utter desolation in Mithral Hall.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

For me, this book turned out to be quite difficult to categorise. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the return to the Underdark, and seeing the evil drow once more. It was really good to catch up with the surviving members of Drizzt’s family, and to see what evil schemes were being hatched this time around. However, the repetitive nature of the book, with the bulk of it taking place in the twisting corridors beneath Mithral Hall, it felt, well, repetitive.

Artemis Entreri is back, in a completely unexpected manner, and I really enjoyed seeing him once again, though his obsession with battling Drizzt did begin to wear a little thin after a while. Just what all those shenanigans with the bat-wings were towards the end, that was just a little too goofy, as well. Not really sure about that at all.

Wulfgar was a real jerk for the majority of this book, as well. Seeing his character development, while it did kinda make sense, annoyed me so utterly that I was actually glad to see the yochlol eat him. A part of me, of course, hasn’t actually written him off yet. Until I see his mangled corpse, I’m not entirely convinced. As an aside, I got the impression that Salvatore, seeing how successful the character of Drizzt became in his trilogy about Wulfgar, decided to kill off the barbarian in order to concentrate on the elf. Of course, I don’t yet know if he’s really dead – along with the ‘no body rule’, I’m suspicious because of the fact they turned up Aegis-fang in that mound of rubble, but no sign of the big guy. Hm.

I am, however, trying to avoid reading anything on this subject, in case it proves or disproves my suspicions before I read the rest of the books!

So a strong beginning, but a bit of a mess the longer it went on. I’m actually going to take a break for a while, as I want to get reading some other stuff, so will likely move on to book eight after a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, though!

Tales of the Drow

Dungeons and Dragons week continues!

Following my look at the Legend of Drizzt boardgame on Tuesday, it’s only fair that I look at the books that inspired it all. As I mentioned in that blog, I came to Drizzt in early 2013, and was a bit hesitant at first, due to my prior commitments to the Star Wars universe. I suppose I felt like I didn’t have the room for something as big as this in my head. A similar argument was made in the early days for Warhammer, but that didn’t last, either. My friend and gaming buddy Tony has been a D&D fan for as long as I can remember, and had frequently tried to get me into the fantasy realm, though I’d always resisted. However, after playing and enjoying the offerings of the Adventure System boardgames, I thought I’d see what the fuss was all about, and bought the box set of the first three books in the Legend of Drizzt line. A line that, I hadn’t realised at the time, stretches to thirteen novels, with an anthology of short stories!

The Legend of Drizzt

So I embarked on Homeland, snowed up at home, and found myself utterly enraptured. From that first chapter, describing the drow raid against the backdrop of Drizzt Do’Urden’s birth, I was hooked. The intricacies of drow society sucked me in even further, and within a matter of days I’d finished it. Homeland is one of those books that took me along for a truly incredible ride, one that I needed to have a break after, to catch my breath and digest it all. While I find the trope of a misunderstood hero not fitting in with his society really quite hackneyed, the execution here is just fabulous.

I’d only previously encountered RA Salvatore through his Star Wars novels – Vector Prime, and the novel for Attack of the Clones. Both of these had been a bit wordy, and a bit heavy-going, so this only added to my suspicions about the series. However, Homeland threw all that out of the window, and proved to be an immensely enjoyable experience. Seriously, I cannot tell you just how much this book has pleased me – you just need to read it and see for yourself.

Real life intervened at this point, however, and I found myself moving house, so unable to move onto book two, Exile. When I finally made it to this book, I was ensconced in my new place, no snow on the ground, but had a similarly enjoyable experience. It’s set ten years after Homeland, so I suppose the break helped… We get to see even more of the Underdark, the land of eternal night. Dark Elf (drow) society is further expounded upon, and the characters of the previous book further developed. Even though Drizzt is now an outcast of his society, due to his conscience, we still see plenty of Matron Malice and her brood.

Drizzt’s mother is actually among the pantheon of amazing fantasy characters, for me. Literally every scene she was in had me engrossed utterly, so that when I’d put the book down to, say, get another coffee, I’d be surprised by the fact that I was in daylight! Yes, it really was that incredible. However, the whole story is just propelled along so well that it’s really easy to become so embroiled. Without the burden of exposition that Homeland has, Exile is consequently just an awesome adventure!

Book three, Sojourn, unfortunately started to let me down. At the end of Exile, we know Drizzt is now determined to live his life on the surface of the world, and of course this whole trilogy has been a prequel to the Icewind Dale trilogy, where we see Drizzt on the surface like he’s been there for years. Sojourn, therefore, has classic “bridge syndrome” of needing to get a character from A to B. The story is still good, of course, but it does feel a little ploddy at times.

All in all, however, the Dark Elf trilogy is bloody marvellous! You really need to go out there and get a copy of these books!

The Crystal Shard full cover

As I said, anyway, Drizzt first appeared in The Crystal Shard, where he was actually a supporting character to the tale of the young barbarian, Wulfgar. The popularity of the Dark Elf, however, led to the Legend being born, and it didn’t take long for the prequels and sequels to come, and the whole to be repackaged as the Legend of Drizzt. However, reading The Crystal Shard now, it feels a little uneven at times, as it’s being sold as a Drizzt novel, though there is a lot of focus placed on Wulfgar. At any rate, The Crystal Shard is a big difference from the previous stories, if you read them in this order as I did!

Inspired by traditional fantasy rather than the RPG, there is a lot of Tolkien in The Crystal Shard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. I’m not actually a fan of Tolkien’s prose, as I find him unnecessarily long-winded, but his inspiration is beyond question, and his influence tremendous. Here, we get a lot of Tolkienesque scenes and sequences that feel like they’re trying too hard to be Tolkienesque. If they had been more Salvatore-esque, perhaps they would have succeeded much better? Well, anyway, this was Salvatore’s first published novel.

All of this aside, it’s pretty epic in its scope, and features a handful of story kernels scattered throughout that would spin off later novels in a completely natural way. Awesome stuff. While the story is notable for just how human the main characters are, it’s particularly noteworthy for the issues of race it addresses. Drizzt is a Dark Elf, a species also called drow, which I have mentioned before of course, but in D&D, Dark Elves are literally dark, with black skin and white hair. That the drow are reviled on the surface of the world for their evil deeds is a really nice metaphor for addressing racism in the modern world. Of course, this was before the Dark Elf trilogy, when we discovered that the drow really are evil and heartless. But I was particularly impressed with how Salvatore worked this into the book, and it goes to show how fantasy writing isn’t all about escapism. Written in the late 1980s, though, this perhaps also helped legitimize D&D, at a time when it was being demonized for encouraging Satanism.

Moving on!

While knowing that the ideas from The Crystal Shard would be picked up in later novels, I was nevertheless surprised to discover the next book in the trilogy, Streams of Silver, went a completely different route. Bruenor Battlehammer takes centre stage as we follow him on his quest to find his ancestral homeland of Mithral Hall. This book introduces the assassin Artemis Entreri, sent to pursue the halfling Regis to regain a valuable gemstone. Essentially a road trip story, it is actually really enjoyable, with a lot of twists along the way as we explore more of the world. By the end, however, all appears lost, as Bruenor appears to have died in his battle with the dragon Shimmergloom, and Regis has been captured by Entreri.

The Halfling’s Gem concludes the trilogy, though I have yet to actually finish this installment! Shameful, I know. A huge chunk of the beginning of this novel takes place as a boat trip, and I have to admit, I felt a bit journey-ed out by this point. I tend not to like road-trip stories where the focus is on that journey, I have to say. They tend to have a rambling quality that I find unfocused, but that’s just me. I abandoned book three roughly in the middle, over the summer of 2013, and I’m not entirely sure what I moved onto in its place! However, I have now embarked upon my attempt to finish it.

There are, after all, so many more Drizzt books out there…

The Legend of Drizzt

Buy it from amazon:
The Legend of Drizzt, set I (out of print, I believe, but linked because it’s the box set I mention)
Homeland
Exile
Sojourn
The Legend of Drizzt, set II (also out of print, it appears)
The Crystal Shard
Streams of SIlver
The Halfling’s Gem

25th Anniversary Edition, book one (the Dark Elf trilogy)
25th Anniversary Edition, book two (the Icewind Dale trilogy)