So it’s been a while since I’ve published a review. I sort of promised myself when I branched out on my own and started Strange Currencies that I’d never let myself get in the boat of needing to write one of these ‘where I’ve been’ updates, but here we are. It turns out, when you own a retail business, you get busy. And when you get precious downtime that you aren’t spending reading, writing reviews ends up not being the highest priority. Well I apologize, dear readers. I’ll do my best to try getting back into the swing of things. One thing this means is that I do have a rather tremendous backlog of books I’ve read but not reviewed, so in the interests of getting caught up, I plan to do a few little review medleys where I’ll review 2 or 3 books from my backlog in one piece. Generally these are going to be the books that, whether good or bad, didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to expound upon at length. That doesn’t mean they were bad, or boring, just that they didn’t particularly lend themselves to my usual verbosity. A few of these, interspersed with full-length reviews and hopefully I should find myself caught up sooner rather than later! So here’s what I’ve been reading.
Maestro and Hero by R.A Salvatore
Published: April and October 2016 respectively
It shouldn’t be so easy to combine reviews of two different books in a series into one, let alone one that is necessarily shorter than a normal review. Sadly, as we reach book number THIRTY in this series that I’ve been reading for over two decades, it becomes increasingly easy to do. This series could quite well be being written by a computer at this point and we’d never know. Things seem like they are going well, but not so fast heroes, you need to get pulled into yet another over-complicated and epic problem that only you can solve, even though your setting is literally 80% heroes and 20% normal people. Then in a fight that you probably should win easily, we’ll make sure we remember that there are stakes by having somebody get seriously hurt even though they just get healed again instantly, and then for the rest of the book, no enemy can even touch them.
There are Drow. And we all know they’re all evil except for Drizzt, and even the ones who seem like allies are probably just acting in their own self interest and will eventually turn on them. But wait, we can’t have a Drizzt novel without some kind of philosophical element for him to mull over in the between-chapters little essays. By this point we’ve left behind the ‘are evil races all evil even though I’m clearly an exception to that rule’ of the middle dozen novels, and moved onto men’s rights in the female-centric Drow society. Among the primary reasons that Gromph and Jarlaxle are on the side of ‘good’ at this stage of the saga, is that they are fighting for freedom for men in the extremely matriarchal Drow society where they’re basically treated as toys, slaves, or tools depending on the situation.
Definitely a noble cause to fight for their emancipation, except for the part that they also willingly and happily enslave all the ‘lesser’ races while they do it. Watching the put upon portion of an evil population fight for fair treatment while they themselves are gladly perpetuating the same and worse on other species of humanoid makes it ring about as false as you’d think it should. The Forgotten Realms is philosophically about 150 years behind the audience that is reading it. So we have evil drow, but maybe we shouldn’t think so horribly about them, like we already haven’t been for 30 books because Drizzt already embodies the goal they’re suddenly re-asking us to care about.
They fight a bunch, mostly in ways that bear absolutely no resemblance to how actual people would actually fight, but it is still awesome to read as always. Even if the combat is unrealistic and very ‘Hollywood’ in execution, the pacing and quality of the action writing has always and remains Salvatore’s strong suit. Then at the end of the fighting, the dust has cleared, the good guys win again with no appreciable losses even of somewhat-cared-about secondary characters, and so, stronger, with more powerful magic stuff at hand, and this week’s nasty foe defeated, the heroes settle in for some well-deserved getting to live a normal life. Until the next book in a few months, when the next horrible evil can only specifically be defeated by just these guys.
If you’ve been reading all along, and enjoying them, this is literally the same again, and then again. I’ll keep reading them, but I have long since stopped expecting to be surprised. This is Fantasy Soul Food, with static characters, repetitive set pieces, but fantastically epic combat. For people who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing those people will like.
Dan received Advance Review Copies of both of these books via NetGalley