Review of R. A. Salvatore’s Companions Series

Companions Series Review Cover Image

Welcome to another installment of Ogre’s Book Club. This time I’ve got a review of R. A. Salvatore’s Companions Series for you. The First book in the series is The Companions, The Sundering, Book I which is the also the first book in the six book The Sundering series. The remaining three books in R.A. Salvatore’s storyline are oddly subtitled The Companions Codex I, II, and III. The books I’m reviewing in this article are:

R. A. Salvatore’s Companions Series Clarification

Wizards of the Coast, publishers of the current, 5th Edition, of Dungeons & Dragons created The Sundering event timeline to explain changes in the game world/universe. This series consists of six books by six authors. The first book, by R. A. Salvatore begins the series and then spins off into The Companions Codex books.

Discovering R. A. Salvatore

I haven’t read any of Salvatore’s work in some years. I originally discovered his work in the late eighties when I found a copy of The Crystal Shard on my local bookstore’s shelves. This first discovery of Bruenor Battlehammer, Regis, Cattie-Brie, Wulfgar, and the now legendary Drizzt Do’Urden sucked me in right away. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it! Over the years, I drifted away from from Salvatore’s writing as my tastes changed and my interest in Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games flagged.

My recent discovery of the Critical Role Podcast and the resurgence (and unprecedented) popularity of D&D piqued my interest in the state of the game and the game world, in this case Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms. I’ve not kept up with the happenings in the game and the changing of editions and publishers and owners. So, I decided to read the The Sundering series to get caught up. At the end of the first book, I realized the storyline doesn’t continue in the second book of The Sundering series, instead spinning off into other books. So, I followed the storyline through Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf.

I should note that I’ve already bought the second book in The Sundering series, The Godborn, The Sundering Book II, by Paul S. Kemp. However, I haven’t read it yet because I got sidetracked with Salvatore’s novels (and a handful of other books). I previously enjoyed reading Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale books (years ago) and hope this book lives up to those. I’ll publish a review in the future.

A Note About Spoilers

In this review of R. A. Salvatore’s Companions series, I’ll do my best to avoid serious spoilers, but some detail will inevitably leak out when writing a review of a four book series. I will do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum an if in doubt, I’ll make it obvious so you can skip it.

The Companions, Sundering Book I Cover Image
Cover. Artwork subject to copyright.

The Companions, The Sundering, Book I

The Companions, The Sundering Book I is a refreshing dive back into R.A. Salvatore’s work. I hadn’t read any of his work in a while and enjoyed this book. This book takes place during the time where magic in the Forgotten Realms has gone haywire and after the death of Drizzt’s companions. For those folks that read earlier books where Bruenor Battlehammer makes peace with Obould Many Arrows orc tribes, this book takes place a century later.

I think what I liked best about this book is that it has little to do with Drizzt Do’Urden. Sure, he’s a very central character, but he’s not a big player in this book. Instead, his companions take center stage (for once) and their new lives are interesting and entertaining reading.

I can’t really spoil the book, so this will sound vague, but this book is about Drizzt’s companions, an offer from a god to be reborn and to return to aid their friend, Drizzt, in a time of need.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Nigh of the Hunter, Companions Codex I Cover

Night of the Hunter, Companions Codex I

Night of the Hunter picks up immediately after The Companions. For long-time fans of Drizzt Do’Urden, the fact that the Drow goddess Llolth is constantly plotting his demise and rules her domain by fostering chaos and intrigue won’t be any surprise. For new readers, this book will take you deep into the drow underworld and the plotting and scheming of arch wizards and and matron mothers.

Meanwhile, on the surface old companions reunited find new adventures and a few old enemies. This is a stage setting novel for the following two books.

Rise of the King, Companions Codex II Cover Image

Rise of the King, Companions Codex II

There is no interruption or gap between Night of the Hunter and Rise of the King. The story continues as skies darken and the plotting and scheming of drow, frost giants, orks, ogres and gods begins to take shape on the surface. The action picks up here and the drow intrigue is thick.

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf, Companions Codex III Cover

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf, Companions Codex III

Vengeance begins exactly where Rise of the King left off. The companions are separated and struggling. War and destruction are thick. Dwarves and other surface races are in disagreement and the evil armies are everywhere. This book is great fun and fans of Salvatore’s style of describing fighting won’t be disappointed. Without spoiling anything, this book wraps up this portion fo the story arc, but it doesn’t end the story. Salvatore has been writing Drizzt Do’Urden stories for 30 years, why stop now?

Conclusion: Review of R. A. Salvatore’s Companions Series

Final thoughts on R. A. Salvatore’s Companions series. I’m glad I read these four books. It was nice to read about characters that I loved when I was much younger. I know that most folks that read Salvatore’s stuff really like his Drizzt Do’Urden character, but he’s never been my favorite–I’m at the point where I skip the short ‘journal entry’ chapters in Drizzt’s voice. I always appreciated Drizzt’s supporting cast much more. Regis, Wulfgar, Cattie-brie and Bruenor were fun to read about again. And in many ways, they’re the star of these recent books. That was a treat. Of course, you wouldn’t know it–all the covers feature Drizzt.

I am not a big fan of the Drow underworld in the Forgotten Realms. I think Salvatore has become the de facto expert in D&D Forgotten Realms Drow world building, but for me it’s just not that entertaining. For that reason, I’m skipping the next three books in the series. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick them up down the road, but right now it’s not on my list of things to do. If you’re curious what comes next, The Homecoming Series picks up where the Companions Codex Books leave off. The books in the series are:

What’s next?

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels for the first time. After reading books based on a game world that are required to comply with game rules so fans can emulate the stories, it’s refreshing to read something unhampered by any of those concerns. Frankly, I’m not sure what’s taken me so long to pick up a Discworld novel, but I’m hooked. Pratchett is hilarious and inventive. I’ll post my impressions fo Pratchett’s richly imaginative and often hilarious stories in another blog post.

Oh, and I also read other things. When I’m not reading science fiction or fantasy, I do read other books. Here’s a short list of what I’ve ingested in the past couple of months:

Thanks for hanging in this far and reading this long review of R. A. Salvatore’s Companions Series. I hope you enjoyed it. See you next time.

Bloody Rose Book Review – Ogre’s Book Club

Kings of the Wyld Book Review Cover Image

Welcome back to the second installment of Ogre’s Book Club. This time I’m doing the Bloody Rose book review I promised when I published the review of Kings of the Wyld.

Here’s the note about spoilers: I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible in these reviews. I don’t want to ruin suspense or surprises for the readers. However, a bit of a plot summary is necessary and I’ll be honest, there are some spoilers in this review. I will start those paragraphs with a spoiler warning.

Bloody Rose is OK

I’ll get right to it. Bloody Rose is okay. Kings of the Wyld was much better. As with the previous book, it’s about 500 pages and an easy read. I finished it in a couple of days.

Richard Anderson’s Cover Art is Fantastic

Richard Anderson illustrated the covers for both Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. As I mentioned in my previous article, his cover of Bloody Rose is what caught my eye at my local book store and the reason I wound up buying both books. Since this is an art focused blog, I would be remiss not to point you to his excellent portfolio.

Discovering Eames

If you haven’t read my review of Kings of the Wyld, you should read that post now. Kings of the Wyld is amazing and fun and precedes Bloody Rose.

What I liked about Bloody Rose

Here’s what I liked. Bloody Rose has the same fun, rollicking, non-standard fantasy thing going for it that Kings of the Wyld had. Mercenary and adventuring bands are patterned after rock stars. They “tour” when they go out and adventure. They “perform” in arenas, and they have groupies that follow them from venue to venue. The old “bands” are better than the new “bands” and old people and young people argue about it. There are lots of parties and other shenanigans that you might find backstage or at a music festival. It’s a very refreshing take on the fantasy novel.

What I didn’t like about Bloody Rose

I finished Bloody Rose a week ago and I’ve been sitting on this review for a few days now. I had to let it marinate because I want to be fair about the parts of the book that I didn’t like, or at least that didn’t live up to it’s predecessor, Kings of the Wyld. So, take this with a grain of salt. It’s just one person’s opinion, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t publish the bad as well as the good in a series of book reviews.

It felt hurried.

I didn’t find that any of Bloody Rose was as well developed as Kings of the Wyld was. It felt rushed and I had the impression that there might have been pressure to put out a sequel after the success that Kings had.

A lot of things take place in the first 200 pages of Bloody Rose, but nothing happens. Overall, I think this book should have been two books. The story has enough material for two books. There’s even a place where I felt the book should end and the remainder saved for another book. If you read it, I’m sure you’ll know exactly where that spot is. It would have allowed a similar level of development and depth as Kings of the Wyld. For me, Bloody Rose just skims the wavetops from start to finish and all the character development and world building and tension is missing. I might not notice it as much had the previous book not been so much better.

Everyone has daddy issues.

All of the characters in Bloody Rose’s band, Fable, have daddy issues. Each and every one of them is built on a series of cliches and tropes and none (except maybe Rose herself) have them addressed well enough in the story telling to make you feel for the characters.

Definitely not Wonder Women

Cura, the “ink witch” is perhaps the worst example of a character that could have been great, but isn’t. The concept of the character is absolutely bad ass. A summoner that breathes life into her tattoos and through them fights battles alongside her mates. Wow.

However, after reading the book you find that Eames has balled this great concept into a crumpled mess and basically thrown it away in favor of this cliche: Goth girl dresses in all black and hurts herself (tattoos) and is very sexually promiscuous because mommy didn’t pay enough attention to her and daddy sexually abused her. Really? What a missed opportunity.

I’m sure any female reader that might have been attracted to the book because the cover makes it look like it’s about powerful female characters with starring roles will be sorely disappointed. All of the female characters are written poorly and are paper thin caricatures of women. His character development in Bloody Rose is shockingly different from the predominantly male characters in Kings of the Wyld.

Spoiler: At the end of the book Cura suddenly lets go of her pain and fears and all her tattoos vanish, but you never learn why and nothing in the story builds to it. What a completely wasted opportunity.

Bloody Rose Book Review – In Conclusion

Well, that’s probably enough. I’m sure its obvious that I’m disappointed in Bloody Rose. It doesn’t live up to Kings of the Wyld at all. Should Eames write another book in the series, I will probably buy it and see if he can recapture that which made Kings of the Wyld special.

Thanks for reading my Bloody Rose book review. I’m churning my way through RA Salvatore’s Companion’s Codex and I’m also going to post the art book review of Frazetta: Icon soon.

Kings of the Wyld Book Review – Ogre’s Book Club

Kings of the Wyld Book Review Cover Image

This article may contain affiliate links.

I’ve decided to start Ogre’s Book Club, a series of book reviews of books I’m reading and would like to recommend (or tell you to avoid). I’m kicking this segment off with the Kings of the Wyld book review–and it’s definitely a recommendation.

First, a note about spoilers: I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible. I don’t want to ruin the suspense or the surprises for readers. However, a brief summary of some events, plot, or premise is necessary. I’ll do my best to make it less revealing than a modern movie trailer.

Kings of the Wyld is Pretty Great

I’ll get right to it. Kings of the Wyld is fantastic. I read it in a day and a half, including the epilogue and author interview at the back.

Discovering Kings of the Wyld

A week ago, I meandered through my local book store and a book cover, featuring a twin-sword-wielding red-head, caught my attention. I picked up Bloody Rose, by Nicholas Eames, read the back cover and some of the first few pages, and decided to buy it. However, just to make sure it wasn’t a sequel, I looked for other books by Eames and sure enough, his first book, Kings of the Wyld, was also on the shelf. I bought both.

Cover Art by Richard Anderson is Striking

Book covers are important. They are the single largest factor that converts people browsing books to people that buy a particular book. In this case, Richard Anderson did a great job capturing my attention with the cover art of both books. I particularly like the style of both illustrations. Richard Anderson has a sort of blotchy, or sloppy, style with broad brushstrokes and very little fine detail. However, the details he chooses to draw or paint in are well placed. I can say with certainty that the only reason I stopped to look at Bloody Rose on the shelf is because Anderson’s cover art caught my eye. Since this is an art blog, and I imagine you might be an artist interested in art processes and such, you can check out Anderson’s work at flaptrapsart.artstation.com

Kings of the Wyld – Medieval Rock Stars

Nicholas Eames takes a huge departure from the typical fantasy novel. There are thousands of fantasy novels featuring adventurers and mercenaries and monsters, but after a while, many get very formulaic. That’s definitely not the case with Kings of the Wyld. First, Eames patterns mercenary bands after rock stars. The ‘bands’ act like bands. They ‘tour’ when out seeking glory or riches or both. Old ‘bands’ are better than new ‘bands’ and young people and old people argue which is better. It’s refreshing and hilarious.

This book is both serious and funny at the same time. The characters are serious, deep, and well developed. I found myself liking all of them, even the villains. In parts of the book, you’re really not sure who to root for. Would it be so terrible if the ‘bad guy’ won? For me, that’s the sign of a well done villain or antagonist.

And it’s funny. You will laugh out loud. Some of the shenanigans are exceptionally amusing, as is the dialogue.

The Wyld World

The world is also well realized. Eames paints a picture of a world dominated by human civilization but surrounded by a very wild Wyld. The beasts, monsters, and other characters the protagonists face throughout the story are also very well done. Nature itself is the adversary in many ways and as the characters traverse their many challenges, you feel the tension of the environment. You get a little on edge when the characters are plunged into an unpredictable wilderness. There were several ‘wild things’ that I wanted to read more about because I thought they were so cool, like the troll witch doctor.

Not everything is completely new. There are plenty of fantasy staples both in environments and monsters, but these are treated with a refreshing approach. I won’t spill any details here, but I promise you’ll really enjoy reading about Gregor and Dane.

I’m Looking Forward to Bloody Rose

I enjoyed reading Kings of the Wyld so much that I’m really excited to read Bloody Rose and I’m glad I bought both at the same time. If Bloody Rose lives up to its predecessor, I’m in for a treat. I will post another review when I finish the book.

Kings of the Wyld Book Review – In Closing

Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you enjoyed this Kings of the Wyld book review, take a look at some of my other book reviews. And if you think you might buy the books, please consider doing so through my Amazon links. It makes this site possible. Thanks!