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R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Novels are a Must Read for DMs

Ah, the Forgotten Realms. Even if you’re new to Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop roleplaying games, you may be surprised at how much you already know about the Forgotten Realms. It has been around for a very long time. Originally conceived by Ed Greenwood in the late 60’s as a setting for his childhood fantasy stories, it was adopted by TSR as the defacto setting for D&D in 1987. Since that time, it has been the living, breathing world of a treasure trove of novels, comics, and video games. There have been a great number of notable contributors to the Forgotten Realms, but none have been quite as instrumental in shaping the world as prolific author R.A. Salvatore.

R.A. Salvatore wrote his first Forgotten Realms novel for TSR in 1988, The Crystal Shard. This novel introduced the world to the beloved Drow Drizzt Do’urden, a curious dark elf who breaks from the vicious and violent traditions of his heritage. This introduction was the beginnings of the Legend of Drizzt series that spans 36 novels, telling the story of Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall. Salvatore is a master of his craft, weaving detailed and intricate plots that delve into the emotional states of the characters as often as detailing epic battles. The series does an excellent job tackling the tricky subject of racial prejudice, too, in a way that is notable for how deftly it is handled.

If you’ve ever found yourself getting lost in the lore of Dungeons & Dragons, poring over maps of the Sword Coast and wistfully wondering about the history of the region, and you haven’t read any of Salvatore’s books, I highly recommend that you give them a shot. Dungeon Masters of the world, in particular, should crack open these tomes and study them as though they were gospel — devoting the time to reading them can do wonders for your game. You’ll be spinning tales steeped in the deepest of lore in no time, populating your world with well-versed and well-known NPCs, with a wealth of other world-building information at your fingertips.

Humble Bundle currently has a R.A. Salvatore Showcase bundle, which contains digital copies of most of the novels in the Legend of Drizzt series, as well as the Cleric Quintet, a series of novels about the famed cleric Cadderly Bonaduce. Cadderly shows up more than a few times in the Legend of Drizzt series, so the novels about him are a great addition to the overall tale, providing valuable insight and history.

The offerings in this particular bundle range from book 7 to book 33. While this is technically missing the first 6 books, and the storyline in book 7 is a continuation from the previous novels, it shouldn’t be too hard to pick up and get into the story and characters. The first six books in the series are not hard to find — personally, I would recommend the audiobook versions narrated by Victor Bevine, which are available on Audible.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking out Humble, it is one of the best sites on the internet. Humble curates bundles of games, software, comics, or books, and offer them with a pay-what-you-want structure. They usually have a minimum amount you have to pay in order to get everything in the bundle, which is quite affordable. Each bundle is associated with a charity, and the user gets to select how much of their payment is allotted to the charity. It’s a fantastic and unique system that has generated a ton of revenue for deserving charities. I’ve been a regular at Humble for over a decade, which has led to me having a horde of cool things and a Steam library with more games than any one person could reasonably play in a single lifetime.

The R.A. Salvatore Showcase Bundle benefits Extra Life, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraising program that empowers the gaming community to make a difference in the lives of local sick and injured kids. Currently, as of writing this article, there are 16 days left to grab this bundle. An investment of $15 gets you everything in it, which includes over $250 worth of books. Here’s everything that they are offering in the R.A. Salvatore Showcase Bundle, along with my own mini-review of each selection:

Legacy of the Drow Series

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The Legacy — Legend of Drizzt #7 — Greg’s Rating: A

A great novel that introduces battlerager Thibbledorf Pwent and builds upon the rivalry between Drizzt and skilled assassin Artemis Entreri.

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Starless Night — Legend of Drizzt #8 — Greg’s Rating: B

Drizzt goes back to the Underdark to prevent an attack on Mithril Hall. Personally, I find the brutal culture of the Drow to be the least interesting aspect of this series, but this novel has some excellent moments, including more Entreri, which is always golden.

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Siege of Darkness — Legend of Drizzt #9 — Greg’s Rating: C

The Time of Troubles comes to Faerun, and Mithril Hall is under siege. Drizzt and the Companions fight a desperate battle against terrible odds in an action-packed and suspenseful story.

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Passage to Dawn — Legend of Drizzt #10 — Greg’s Rating: A+

One of my personal favorites of the series, this book sees Drizzt and Cattie-brie on the high seas, sailing with the Sea Sprite when they encounter an old friend. There are so many good things about this book.

Paths of Darkness Series

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The Silent Blade — Legend of Drizzt #11 — Greg’s Rating: B

This novel tells several stories at once, moving all of the pieces and laying the groundwork for the rest of the novels in this particular series.

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The Spine of the World — Legend of Drizzt #12 — Greg’s Rating: A

This book focuses on Wulfgar and deal heavily with his depression, alcoholism, and PTSD after being imprisoned by a demon. Not your usual fantasy fare, for sure, but by the end you’ll be rooting for the big barbarian softie.

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Sea of Swords — Legend of Drizzt #13 — Greg’s Rating: B

Drizzt and the crew of the Sea Sprite search for Wulfgar’s hammer. This novel presents several mysteries for our heroes and delves into Drizzt’s early history.

Sellswords Series

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Servant of the Shard — Legend of Drizzt #14 — Greg’s Rating: A+

A novel focusing on the enigmatic fan-favorite dark elf Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri. Any time Jarlaxle shows up, you’re bound for a grand and twisty time. Also introduces Athrogate, the rhyming foil to Artemis’ serious nature.

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Promise of the Witch-King — Legend of Drizzt #15 — Greg’s Rating: B

Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle travel the world having wacky adventures. The overall story drags a little through this novel but pairing these two together is worth the read.

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Road of the Patriarch — Legend of Drizzt #16 — Greg’s Rating: C

Everything goes topsy-turvy in this strange novel that comes together in pretty bizarre way, but it works.

The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy

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The Thousand Orcs — Legend of Drizzt #17 — Greg’s Rating: A

A rousing tale that introduces King Obould Many-Arrows, a formidable foe. A nice change to a larger scope after the previous trilogy.

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The Lone Drow — Legend of Drizzt #18 — Greg’s Rating: C

Ready for whiney Drizzt? Because that’s what you get here. Not the best, and a bit repetitive, this novel is still a worthwhile read.

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The Two Swords — Legend of Drizzt #19 — Greg’s Rating: B

This novel ties up a lot of threads from the previous novels, while putting all of the characters in place for the follow-up continuation of the war with Obould.

Transitions Series

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The Orc King — Legend of Drizzt #20 — Greg’s Rating: A+

This novel introduces a great many new characters and is a shining example of what makes Salvatore’s storytelling shine. A great number of things happen that affect everything that comes after it.

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The Pirate King — Legend of Drizzt #21 — Greg’s Rating: B

A sad tale of the battle for control of Luskan with a considerable amount of intrigue and action.

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The Ghost King — Legend of Drizzt #22 — Greg’s Rating: A+

I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shut up, just read it.

Neverwinter Series

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Gauntlgrym — Legend of Drizzt #23 — Greg’s Rating: A+

So many things happen in this novel that it is hard to summarize or even talk about a single one of them. Things are getting intense, and this novel hops around several different time periods to weave a tale of loss, discovery, and betrayal.

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Neverwinter — Legend of Drizzt #24 — Greg’s Rating: B

We’re at the point where the events of these novels are dense and jam-packed with important world-changing events. This novel in particular weaves together more political intrigue, new romances, and a whole new world for Drizzt.

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Charon’s Claw — Legend of Drizzt #25 — Greg’s Rating: A

The lifelong rivalry between Artemis Entreri and Drizzt is finally resolved — kind of. Another action-packed entry, and well worth it for the payoff.

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The Last Threshold — Legend of Drizzt #26 — Greg’s Rating: B

Drizzt isn’t the best judge of character here, but it is still a great read.

The Sundering Series

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The Companions — Legend of Drizzt #27 — Greg’s Rating: A+

A triumphant return to form for both Salvatore and Drizzt in this dizzying and monumental story.

Companion’s Codex Series

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Night of the Hunter — Legend of Drizzt #28 — Greg’s Rating: A

Following the precedent of the previous novel, this novel marks a return to many of the formulas that made the series great to begin with, focusing on Drizzt and his friends on a dangerous journey to rescue one of their own.

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Rise of the King — Legend of Drizzt #29 — Greg’s Rating: B

Drizzt and company try to calm a region bent on war between Orcs and pretty much everyone else.

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Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf — Legend of Drizzt #30 — Greg’s Rating: B

It’s all out bloody war! The orcs don’t stand a chance — or do they?

Homecoming Series

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Archmage — Legend of Drizzt #31 — Greg’s Rating: B

The dwarves have enough of the meddling of dark elves and set out to take back a stolen underground city. Overall, an action-packed page-turner.

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Maestro — Legend of Drizzt #32 — Greg’s Rating: B

Drizzt is heading home, but the not the home he wants to be in.

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Hero — Legend of Drizzt #33 — Greg’s Rating: A

The companions are scattered to the wind in dangerous places as this novel ties up the events of the Homecoming Series and opens doors for the next series of novels.

The Cleric Quintet

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It’s been a while since I’ve read these, so I’ll refrain from summarizing or rating them, but we’ll leave them listed here because they are part of the bundle!

Canticle — The Cleric Quintet #1

In Sylvan Shadows — The Cleric Quintet #2

Night Masks — The Cleric Quintet #3

The Fallen Fortress — The Cleric Quintet #4

The Chaos Curse — The Cleric Quintet #5

Conclusion

I rated each book based on my personal preference, but it should be noted that, like any long-running fantasy series, the epic tale of Drizzt Do'urden has its highs and lows. When you put it all together, though, is when it shines. I would give the entire series as a combined effort a gigantic A+, and applaud the gargantuan efforts that Mr. Salvatore has taken to tell the tale. For any fan of fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons, or just plain ol' good writing, It is well worth the time to read every word of this series.