The latest book in the long running and popular books about Drizzt Do’Urden set in the Forgotten Realms finds Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall in the midst of a gigantic war between the Dwarven citadels of the Silver Marches and the Orcish Kingdom of Many-Arrows. Resurrected and twice as dangerous, Bruenor, Catti-Brie, Wulfgar and Regis have rejoined their old friend Drizzt to wage war against an invading nation of orcs, dragons and dark elves that have ran rampant across the Marches both above and under ground. This book is the last in a trilogy and it is almost all duels, fighting and epic confrontations between powerful and dangerous foes on the battlefields. Like many of Salvatore’s books, Iron Dwarf is a pretty classic fantasy adventure of good vs. evil full with characters fans know and love.
I don’t know if people who haven’t read all or at least most of the Drizzt books should even bother reading this book. The Companions Codex, of which this book is the third and final chapter, is the latest series to revolve around Drizzt and the greater Silver Marches area. Salvatore has written at least thirty books about the live and times of the world’s most famous dark elf, and starting here seems like a weird place to start. So before I get into the book much more, I’m going to make a quick pitch to those unfamiliar with Drizzt to go back and start from the beginning.
I first started reading these books in high school and I think that’s the perfect time to start. The adventures and challenges that Drizzt face are for the most part a lot of fun and have a very classic vibe to them. I don’t know how accurate this is, but the foundations of the Forgotten Realms and R.A. Salvatore in particular seem to be some of the first titles and authors to be heavily influenced by Tolkien. The world and rules of the Forgotten Realms, but the archetypes and stories are strongly influenced by the adventures of Bilbo, Aragon and the other various heroes of Middle-Earth. So while the writing is not on Tolkien’s level, the story telling and characters all have that general vibe and if you like that, you should definitely gives these books a try. Drizzt himself is a well-established character, a man who has forged his own destiny and never hesitated to protect the goodly folk of his world. I know a lot of D&D fans have problems with him, but I’ve always enjoyed him quite a bit. He’s a classic hero who rushed into battle and remains loyal to himself and his friends no matter the cost. Some of the books get repetitive, to be sure, but I always find them to be entertaining and fun to read. Over the years, both his, and ours Drizzt has developed a large and diverse cast of friends, enemies and sometimes allies that come and go in the stories as needed. Some of the best moments don’t even revolve around him. Salvatore has by this time developed all his characters so well that every time I read one of these books it’s like returning to see what your old friends have been up to.
Unfortunately, this book might be one of the more so-so books. The size and scope of this most recent series has been quite large; Drizzt’s old companions have been resurrected from the dead to aid him once again and their first great adventure is to help the dwarves deal with a massive invasion and their coordinated counterattack begins in earnest during this book; in fact, that’s almost all this book is. Thirty books in, characters often don’t get a chance to change and evolve and that is no different here. Drizzt and all his friends are who they are and we can’t really expect much of a character arc from anybody in this book. Overall though, Salvatore manages to give them new abilities and new tweaks to their characters now that they have been given a second chance at life. Wulfgar and Regis have gotten some of the more interesting tweaks and they have some of the best moments early on in the book when they are isolated from the rest of the group. Regis’s newfound competency and ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with his friends in a battle adds a new and fun dimension to fights while Wulfgar’s oddly happy and positive form of fatalism is rather charming and engaging.
What we can expect is a lot of fighting and battles, which is what we get in spades. The Dwarves break out early in the book and the fighting doesn’t let up until the very end of the book. The action is well thought out throughout and well written but the bad guys never feel quite up to snuff; they never feel even remotely like a threat to the armies of the dwarves. As pure set pieces, the strategy and battles are definitely epic, but Salvatore has spent decades building up the three specific nations of dwarves in this region, and they are so formidable by this time that a large army of orcs simply does not feel like a proper threat to them. Salvatore seems to realize this and gives the orcs some extremely powerful allies, but then he gives the dwarves equally potent allies to instantly cancel them out so it all feels a bit to easy. Once the victories for our heroes start, they pretty much don’t stop and while that’s fun to read to some extent, that doesn’t mean it’s the most compelling read either. The final victory is rather anti-climatic in fact; they just kind of win.
That being said, if you enjoy high fantasy you really can’t go wrong with the Drizzt Do’Urden books. Salvatore has spent decades building a diverse and interesting world full with fun and interesting characters. Taken as a whole, Drizzt has lived quite the life of danger, adventure and romance and if you give him a chance, I’m sure he will charm you just as much as he as me over the years.