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.

 

Promise of the Witch King by R.A. Salvatore

This book has a lot of battles and fighting, which if you’re a big fan of reading Salvatore’s battle scenes, is a major plus.

2/5 stars.
Hardcover, 244 pages.
Read from May 9, 2019 to May 15, 2019.

This is the second book in The Sellswords’ Trilogy featuring the adventures of Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle as they search for artefacts from the notorious and terrible Witch-King Zhengyi, seemingly under the request of their alluring dragon patrons. New characters are introduced and new partnerships (friendships?) are made within a new and dark landscape. All the while the pair work to meet their own gains, usually from one of Jarlaxle’s elaborate schemes, that he doesn’t fully reveal to Artemis until the end.

I am heavily disappointed in this trilogy so far. The characters of Artemis and Jarlaxle seem much more developed and intriguing within the stories of Drizzt than in this trilogy of their own adventures. Jarlaxle and Artemis are the supposed bad guys and their characters are meant to be a refreshing change from the goodness of Drizzt. Somehow the adventures of these two should have lent itself to a more enticing story but instead, it’s falling flat. The formula for this book is that same as the first book in the trilogy, in which the two of them partake in some crazy scheme that Jarlaxle has come up with, that puts them, and others in great peril, for their own gains. Well, mostly Jarlaxle’s actually. Artemis starts to explore his own motives within this most book, making for the most interesting part of the story that’s isn’t touched on enough. Despite all that, it’s obvious that Artemis and Jarlaxle have a friendship or at least an amicable partnership, that they’re reluctant to part from and have some sense of messed up loyalty to each other that works with their morals and life choices.

This book has a lot of battles and fighting, which if you’re a big fan of reading Salvatore’s battle scenes, is a major plus. However, if you’ve fallen in love with Salvatore’s books for his character work, this book, or trilogy may not be for you. I will continue with the last book in this trilogy and hope that the final instalment turns the trilogy around for me.

The Way Through the Woods by Long Litt Woon

“We live in a society that regards death as a defeat for medical science rather than a part of life. In a culture that allows little place for death in the public area, grief becomes a private affair, viewed as a luxury we cannot afford.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 182 pages.
Read from June 16, 2019 to June 20, 2019.

When I spotted this book off Netgalley I was interested in reading it due to its themes on grief, yet I found myself very intrigued with the information provided on mushrooms and enjoying these aspects much more than I thought I would. Woon’s journey through mushrooms is intertwined with the grief of her husband; her passion for mushrooms and the intimate details of her mourning make a unique relationship that intertwines and reads well.

“We are all amateurs at grief, although sooner or later every one of us will lose someone close to us.”

Woon discusses her grieving journey intimately and just how uncomfortable we are with death as a society despite it being a part of literally everyone’s life at one point or another. It’s so uncomfortable that many of those grieving feel utterly alone and abandoned in their mourning as no one knows what to do to provide support or relief.  In social interactions the death and memory of the person are often just avoided altogether, leaving the bereaved to heal on their own. It’s a tragedy in its own right, however, the grieved are still the ones that ultimately have to decide how to move on.

“Grief grinds slowly; it devours all the time it needs.”

This is when mushrooms became paramount in Woon’s grieving process. Woon and her husband had once discussed taking a mushroom course together before he died, something that they never got to do together. Woon found herself drawn to sign up for the class alone and quickly learned to lose herself in the world of mushrooms and the journey that comes in learning about them, picking them, and cooking with them. Woon provides some great facts on the different types of mushrooms in Norway and the mushroom culture. Did you know that not every country can agree on which mushrooms are considered toxic? They deadly ones are consistent but the what one country labels as toxic another considers harmless. The book is complete with drawn images of distinct mushrooms in Norway and even a few really yummy-sounding ways to prepare and cook mushrooms, a great addition to the book that I was not expecting.

Mushrooms are something that I have very little experience in eating and tasting having only really come to enjoy them in my adult years. I have, however, always found them interesting and have been in awe of people who are knowledgable on them. Woon discusses how people usually perceive mushrooming as a dangerous ordeal as the little knowledge that people have when it comes to wild mushrooms is only on how poisonous some can be. Woon details the education process it takes to become an expert in mushrooming and explains that errors rarely happen. The wild mushrooms gathered in Norway are inspected by certified experts before they’re allowed to be taken home. With the right knowledge and by double checking each other’s haul, wild mushrooming is a perfectly safe hobby to have but it’s still hard to convince the general public of it.

Through mushrooms, Woon managed to crawl out of the pit that grief had put her in and slowly put together a new life without her beloved husband. Loss, as Woon explains, means so much more than just the loss of that loved one’s life, it’s the loss of the life that will never be had again. Those that are left behind after someone dies will never be the same. Their lives as they know it, or knew it, will never be the same. The unwanted task then falls the mourning to find their way again and start anew with the perceived insurmountable task of doing it without the person they lost.

This book is a comforting and validating read for anyone grieving and while the glimpse into the mushroom culture and its accompanying facts are extremely interesting, most of the information is only valid only in Norway. Even with that, Woon’s writing is highly engaging, enjoyable and interesting, even if you’re only mildly interested in mushrooms.