The Companions by R.A. Salvatore

“How long lived our memory of you when you are gone? Because in the end, that is the only measure. In the end, when life’s last flickers fade, all that remains is memory. Richness, in the final measure, is not weighed in gold coins, but in the number of people you have touched, the tears of those who mourn your passing, and the fond remembrances of those who continue to celebrate your life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from July 6, 2019 to July 11, 2019.

I have been looking forward to this book for a long time. While I have enjoyed the new journey that Drizzt took with some new and old characters, I really missed the Companions of the Hall. This is book 24 (I think? According to Goodreads anyway) of The Legend of Drizzt series that is now 30+ books in length. I actually never imagined I get this far when I picked up the series more than ten years ago.

Cattibrie, Bruenor, Regis, and Wulfgar have been reunited in death and have been given a choice, a gift from the goddess Melikki, to help their friend Drizzt in his time of need. They are to be reincarnated and will meet on a set date and location in which their assistance to their friend will be needed and revealed. The story follows their rebirth from children, who still retain their previous memories and adult mind, through their growth and struggle in being reborn. Wulfgar is uncertain he wants to be reincarnated, even for the sake of Drizzt, while Bruenor gets to see the follow-through of some his most important decisions as King in his past life and struggles to come to terms with the person that he is now. Regis is determined to be more valuable to his friends in this life by becoming stronger and more courageous. Cattibrie knows her path and is determined to learn as much magic as she can in order to be reunited with her beloved Drizzt. There are, however, no guarantees in this rebirth. The Companions have one chance and if they die in this life there is no coming back.

What an adventure this book was! It is unlike any of the other books in the Legend of Drizzt series. For one, it’s one of the few books in the series that requires knowledge and context from other books in the existing series.  Most of the books in the series can be picked up without having read many of the books in the series but I feel like this one is an exception and without the background knowledge of the characters and their previous lives this plot would be very confusing. Secondly, Drizzt is barely heard from in this book as the narrative switches between his companions only.

Kudos to Salvatore for finding a clever and innovative way to bring back his much-loved characters. I’m not sure if this was his plan all along, regardless, it worked out well and this book is very well-executed. Looking forward to the remainder of the series now that Drizzt has his companions at his side again.

 

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

“There is no such thing as a true tale. Truth has many faces and the truth is like to the old road to Avalon; it depends on your own will, and your own thoughts, whither the road will take you.”

4/5 stars.
Library binding, 884 pages.
Read from May 23, 2019 to June 11, 2019.

This iconic fantasy novel has been on my TBR list for years and after I friend of mine raved about how much she was enjoying reading it I decided to finally pick it up for myself. Little did I know that the Portuguese versions of this book, that my friend was reading, is broken down into four separate books which is what I was expecting, whereas the English version, the version I read, has all four of the books put into one gigantic tome! Nearly 900 bloody pages. It’s a good thing I enjoyed it.

Written in 1984, Bradley takes the classic story of King Arthur and gives us the version of the story from the perspective of all the female characters. Especially the perspectives of Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar. This feminist re-telling takes the generally male-centric story of Arthur and relays another perspective of how it all came to be with him and his legendary sword. The female characters are far less conniving in this story and instead, show what their real motives were and generally how hard it would have been to be a woman during King Arthur’s time.

Christianity is on the rise and the ways of the Goddess and of the old ways of magic are falling aside to make way for this new religion. Each character makes choices based on their own beliefs on how best to navigate this new world, whether that’s to preserve the old, embrace the new, or take a more neutral stance in which both can exist.

“All gods are one god.”

A lot of people slammed this book for its religious undertones, for, well, its occasionally very blatant remarks against Christianity, and many felt that the whole book was a platform to discuss issues with Christianity. I strongly disagree, especially having actually read the whole book. While yes, the story does make a lot of remarks against Christianity, it also does the same for the pagan Goddess that many of the women in the story follow. I think one of the main driving features of the novel was about how religion takes such a major hold in people’s lives, for better and for worse. Following the Goddess lead to some horrible and tragic circumstances for Morgaine and many of her kin. I feel that the book focused more on the distress that comes in trying to do the right thing by your religion as well as by your self and trying to be as faithful as you can. This internal conflict between wants, needs, and desires versus what is dictated by a character’s religion creates unending turmoil for every single character in the book, both male and female.

Spoilers ahead… Think of how much misery would have been spared if Gwenhwyfar and Lancelot had just run off together but because Gwen was so pious the two of them lived a life of misery and shame, always thinking themselves horrendously sinful. Morgaine, what would have her life had been like if the will of the Goddess had not forced her to lay with her half brother and bear her child? She lived her whole life trying to escape the confusion of that moment and what the Goddess meant to her in her own life…end of spoilers.

The beautiful part of the book is that it also shows how wonderful faith can be too as each of the characters does eventually find peace in the end with their choices, faiths, and fates.

The character work in this book is its true focal point and driving feature. Despite the length of the book and the occasional tediousness of the plot, especially towards the end, you fall in love with all the rich and dynamic characters. I think I had a love/relationship with the majority of the female-led characters in this book because you grow with them. I loathed Gwen for a long time and even though she is still my least favourite character her character development gives me an immense appreciation for her. Morgaine, the best character in this story, especially since she is normally portrayed as a conniving and incestuous whore in the traditional version of Arthur, is a phenomenal woman and character, with deep faults and strong ambitions. The characters aren’t perfect either as sometimes they make terrible choices or occasionally give the impression of the stereotype they were thought to be in the original story but with the back story and character development provided by Bradley you get the whole picture and can decide for yourself. It’s like the traditional story of Arthur is only one piece to the whole picture and Bradley wrote the rest and filled in the much-needed gaps so that the women finally got to have their own voices and perspectives heard.

Bradley was so far ahead of her time with this book so it’s no wonder that it is still considered a fantasy classic to this day. If you love fantasy and have not read this book yet, you’ve got to. Bradley recreated the whole realm of Camelot, Avalon, and Arthur with this book and I don’t think I could ever go back to the original version since I like this one so much!

The Road to the Patriarch by R.A Salvatore

“Those who rely on certainties are certain to be disappointed.”

2/5 stars.
ebook, 267 pages.
Read from May 15, 2019 to May 21, 2019.

This is the final instalment in the Sellsword’s Trilogy that follows the two “bad guys”, Jaraxle and Artemis. Jaraxle’s plan starts to become clear as the two of them make some very ambitious decisions and dare to challenge a king as well as two ancient dragons. Jarlaxle’s ambitions and outrageous schemes are always almost enough to get them killed, almost.

I wish I were into the premise of this story more but it just didn’t do it for me, as was most of this trilogy, unfortunately. The series lacked the character work that I loved so much with the Drizzt series. Both Jarlaxle and Artemis are at constant battle with themselves in terms of their partnership, or rather, friendship. Their experience tells them that they shouldn’t be friends yet this also seems to be a challenge for them despite the two of them being generally cold-hearted. Artemis becomes especially vulnerable in this book as well which is puzzling for the reader as his tough exterior seems to break. He starts to question the meaning and purpose of his life as well as his relationships with other people. What will this new cracked exterior mean for the assassin? Of course, all is revealed in the end… Spoilers ahead.

Jarlaxle’s motives don’t seem as clearly defined in this book, or at least they’re not as robust as Artemis’ and for that, Artemis has the more interesting narrative of the two. I do appreciate that at least Jarlaxle is still mostly true to his conniving and manipulative ways, even to those closest to him but then I found myself disappointed in Artemis for not being able to catch on to what Jarlaxle was doing. I appreciate that Artemis’ newfound vulnerability in this book was not necessarily of his own doing and I know that will eventually make him a very dynamic character but he just didn’t seem as badass in this book.

Salvatore could have had a whole offshoot of stories with Jarlaxle and Artemis but it felt as if he wasn’t as heavily involved or invested in the stories as much as he has been with Drizzt and his companions. Considering their shallow development within this trilogy, perhaps it’s best that they remain secondary characters for the time being. I know that they appear later within Drizzt’s storyline (Neverwinter Series) and it does help to know their stories from this trilogy going into those books, so I hope that they continue to present themselves within the Drizzt storyline.