Posted on December 4, 2008 by teampreston
The Orc King is the first novel of the Transitions series by R.A. Salvatore. The hardcover edition was released in the US on September 25, 2007.
“An uneasy peace between the dwarves of Mithral Hall and the orcs of the newly established Kingdom of Many-Arrows can’t last long. The orc tribes united under Obould begin to fight each other, and Bruenor is determined to finish the war that nearly killed him and almost destroyed everything he’s worked to build. But it will take more than swords and axes to bring a lasting peace to the Spine of the World. Powerful individuals on both sides may have to change the way they see each other. They may have to start to talk. But it won’t be easy.”
The Drizzt books are a guilty pleasure for me, and this one was akin to the previous few. Enjoyable reads, but a bit cookie-cutter and the characters are just way too “uber” to relate to. Is this a new thing? No.
I appreciate that there is some character depth as far as seeing the internal struggles of the protagonists. That’s a good thing. That said, it seems that there was no real challenges besides those. Physically the protagonists FAR outclass any of the antagonists: they are veritable combat monsters. It seems that the only challenges left for these characters are emotional.
The setting is just a bit after the Hunter’s Blades Trilogy (not a hundred years afterward as one reviewer has posted). Some NPCs…”Secondary Characters” are dead and die in the story. There ARE some touching moments. R.A. Salvatore does a good job at connecting you to some of the secondary characters, building them up and killing them for dramatic effect.
The development of the marriage between Drizzt and Cattie-brie is cool. There is some interesting depth there and I’m glad for it. Wulfgar seems to have finally come out of his massively emo funk and come full circle, on his own two feet again. Bruenor is still a petulant child/ dwarf king and Regis…well…Regis is pure window dressing. Like one of those cardboard stand-up guys.
There are a couple other big names in the story as well, and they are interesting: Obould Many-Arrows and Lady Alustriel. I enjoyed their bits greatly.
The core of the story is that Obould Many-Arrows and his armies, after the previous war (detailed in the Hunter’s Blades Trilogy) have halted their assaults on the Silver Marches and started developing their own little kingdom: building walls and towers and looking like they are digging in to stay. This is actually what Obould intends, though there are forces within his kingdom that don’t agree. Of course, Obould isn’t really running much of a democracy, but he’s an orc with a plan, and the muscle to back it up. There are those (largely *Grummish fanatics) who see this halt of aggression as cowardice. So you can see how that side of the stage is set.
*Grummish One-Eye is the main god of the Orcs and is largely all about raiding, pillaging, and slaughter…and that’s about it.
On the other side of the stage is Clan Battlehammer and their angry infant-king Bruenor. Bruenor has reached the pinnacle, a Dwarf King in charge of Mithral Hall. Problem is, and this is a good bit of the plot, Bruenor is bored, so he’s looking for adventure! He’s coming up with anything to get him off the throne and in to armor and swinging an axe again. This drives a big chunk of the story.
The third part of this is Drizzt, how he deals with troubleshooting issues in the area, like a rogue drow in the area that may be “stirring the pot”. Mixed in are some bits with Cattie-brie and her “new direction” and Wulfgar and dealing with the situation of Delly and Colson.
The heart of the story is regarding change, and people’s fear of it. Having hope for the future and fear of making fools of themselves and causing untold hardship on others if they are wrong. The plot of the story is in many ways similar to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Neither side is trustful of the other… and both are almost content in their “comfortable” hatred of the other.
So with all this cookie-cutter flat fiction, what was the part that made it enjoyable?
I enjoy game fiction, and like the characters. That’s really what gets me by.
The book itself isn’t great, or to be honest…even “GOOD”, but it’s another Drizzt story and that alone makes it tolerable and ultimately “fun”.
Review by Jeff Preston