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The Ghost King Fiction Review

Posted on October 9, 2009 by teampreston


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    The Ghost King: Transitions Book III, By R.A. Salvatore
    (Advance Reader Copy)
    Hardcover: 352 pages
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (October 6, 2009)

    When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly–the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet–Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.

    I think one of the coolest parts of writing reviews is not only getting to read a lot of material, but to really get in to the nuts and bolts of how that material is “assembled”. In this case I have been fortunate to read a LOT of Forgotten Realms novel by R.A. Salvatore as well as others such as Paul Kemp. Having read all the “Drizzt Novels” to date, I can say with certainty that the author has improved his craft greatly over the years.

    R.A. Salvatore, like any writer clearly has a deep relationship with many of his characters. While some writers are able to outline and crank out material in a mechanical fashion more often then not they go through a sort of adventure of their own; discovering the world and characters as they write. It’s like a journey for the characters as well as the writer. In doing so the author learns to love and hate characters and tries to share it with us…the readers.

    I think it is a measure of success when the author is able to manipulate the heart-strings of the reader, and R.A. Salvatore has done a masterful job at this over the years. Some times more than others, I admit it. I don’t expect a baseball player to hit a home run every time at the plate. I don’t expect a writer to write “the perfect novel” every time either. Stephen King is a good example of this.

    R.A. Salvatore has been building up steam throughout this whole series. Transitions. In the Transitions series we are seeing the tale of how Faerun is going through some massive changes. Much of the face of The Forgotten Realms will be different afterward. At the heart of this are changes in direction and flavor of D&D 4th Edition and the 4e Forgotten Realms setting.

    Like it or not, love it or hate it, Wizards of the Coast owns D&D and the setting that these novels reside in, and they have mandated change.

    Our intrepid author is responsible for writing novels explaining how we get from the Forgotten Realms we have all known for the past 25 years…to this new setting.

    What does that mean for the author? It means that in the jump in time that occurs the vast majority of humans and short-lived races will have died and left some sort of legacy (or not). Many of the characters which have been so lovingly crafted will die. That means core protagonists (and antagonists) will be no more.

    R.A. Salvatore in this series has been building this up, and I have to say, he has most certainly delivered.

    Without spoiling the story for you, I’ll say that all the protagonists and antagonists have a rough ride through the story. The Spellplague is up-close and personal in this novel. Actually, previous to this novel I thought the Spellplague to be a little trite. A game designer’s tool to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Salvatore put a “human” face on it, made it personal. Now I get it. Now I understand it and accept it and in the process understand how we can leave the previous edition’s Faerun for the new future.

    I can’t help to feel sorry for the author in this. You can certainly feel the pain. You know something is coming. It’s like watching a train wreck…you just can’t look away. This is a book of heroism in the face of impossible odds. Acceptance of fate as well as stoic denial of it. It’s about loss…and hope.

    There is only so much I can say about it. Usually I can drone on and on about this or that in a novel. Not this time. You have to read it for yourself. It’s good. Seriously. Probably R.A. Salvatore’s best work. I cried like a baby. It took several tries to get through the last dozen pages.

    Review by Jeff Preston

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    80 Responses to “The Ghost King Fiction Review”

    1. HunterX57 says:

      I don’t think I’ve read every book Salvatore’s put out, but I’ve certaintly tried to. And I stuck to this trilogy since the first one came out, only not finished reading Ghost King as I got it as a christmas present, and had lots of things to do this week. However I’ve almost fully read it in the last 2 days, and judging from the reviews it seems the last couple dozen pages will be major, but from what I’ve read so far it’s a great peice of work.

      As for the people asking why Bruenor’s dialogue is so repetitive, or why everyones eyes are always widening, consider the guys daughters just gone braindead and he’s got nowhere to turn to fix it. Not much to say after you hit a point like that in your life.

      And the repetitive responses to monsters popping out, well, the book could be less repetitive if they all started saying random things every time a new black fleshy thing pops out, but then it just wouldn’t seem realistic, people don’t do “something different” every time some unexpected figure appears suddenly, infact if you watch people, you’ll notice they usual do the exact same thing, whether it’s punch it reflexively, or jump and say “oh!”, it’s not usually a roll of the dice to which reaction they’ll have.

      Looking forward to your future works Salvatore.

      Reply

    2. Jack says:

      Having never played D&D in my life, or read any other Forgotten Realms books other than Salvatore’s, the whole Spellplague plot line sort of went completely over my head, I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t care about it, which made it sort of tough to follow.

      The Ghost King plot, however, was very entertaining, especially the return of Hephaustus.

      My main issue with the book was mentioned already, but the send-off for the now-departed characters was incredibly weak, especially since one of them was entirely absent from the Pirate King as well. I don’t think either of the two main ones even had single line of dialogue in this book. The problem is, with a year plus going by since I read the last book, I had no reason to really miss either character.

      Hopefully the next book focuses more on the Obould-Bruenor dynamic and brings in some of the political intrigue that made his DemonWars series so phenomenal. Not to mention that Obould is probably the single greatest new character in the series since Jarlaxle.

      Reply

    3. Jesse says:

      I have to say, this has probably been my favorite work of Salvatore’s. The ending made me cry like I haven’t since the end of Harry Potter 7. I’ve been a huge fan of all things Salvatore for the last 10ish years, when I discovered the Icewind Dale books.

      To all those who complain about the “repetitive nature” of the dialogue, it’s called consistency. Why would it make sense to have the characters shuffle their dialects every book?

      Reply

    4. Tim says:

      I would just like to add that I have enjoyed all of the R.A. Salvatore book I have read. Being in the military and deployed they have really made the time go by quickly. Ending of Ghost King really hits you. Hopefully there will a Transitions IV.

      Reply

    5. Malice says:

      I liked the story. A lot. I seemed to adequatly tie up a lot of dangly bits for me.

      I didn’t really find the main characters much different than I’d imagine them during such a crisis.
      Sure J had changed and has also undergone a lot of personal growth since this parting with Atremis.

      I sincerly hope that ‘anything at touches’ the glen destroys it. Kind of incentive not to do so as pehaps it’s Drizzt’s and Jarlaxle’s goal now to learn this and to cope with the fallout.

      I have to put it in writing that I will be passionatlly pissed! if this is just another ‘dead person gstting resurected in some smarmy manner to take away the importance and consequences of their death.

      Reply

    6. Salvatore Fan says:

      Really enjoyed the book. Reading some of these, and other comments from other sites, concerning whether or not Catti-brie and Regis are truly dead is really interesting. Some have commented that the way things were left was so that the characters could somehow return, and the commentors view this as a bad thing. For me, and I think many others, I think such an outcome would be preferred. Frankly, I don’t read these books for the realism. It is a world unlike ours in which our parents, siblings, significant others, and children don’t have to die. I find it nice to escape to such a world. It is nice to sometimes have the heart strings pulled and to realize that everything will be alright in the end and that the characters who we have spent so much time with will, in a way, always be there.

      I hope those in charge of Forgotten Realms don’t damage what is good about these characters just in order to advance the Forgotten Realms world and sell new versions of the D&D franchise.

      Reply

    7. Big Fan says:

      Love the book! Very emotional book compared to the past books, seemed more real to me. The book really let the fans realize that the characters in this series are not invincable. Although i do not like when an author kills off characters, i do realize that it is sometimes required. I have loved all of Salvatore’s books, not just the Drizzt series. It really amazes me that there are people out there like “jafis” that have the balls to critisize a VERY successful author like Savatore, its just so sad. When he write a series of books and makes the NEW York Times Best Seller List, then you are allowed to critisize. Thank you RA Salvatore for many years of great reading!

      Reply

    8. Brian says:

      Is this supposed to be the last book about the Companions of the Hall? The way it ended seemed open ended to me but at the same time it felt as though I was say goodbye to them, that I wont be seeing them again for a while. While I realize that focusing on just one character can be unwise for Salvatore, and that he needs to work on other characters as well I really hope that more books about The Companions of the Hall will be published.

      Reply

    9. Joshua says:

      Absolutely start with the Demon War series. There are 7 books starting with the Demon Awakens and ends with Mortalis. As much as I love the Drittz novels for there warm and fuzzy feeling they give me, like family at Christmas, the Demon War books are technically superior in writing style, depth, and meaning. I believe they are his flagship, and also possibly the best fantasy ever written since J.R.R Tolkien

      Reply

      ryan Reply:

      try dragonlances”legend of huma”,chronicles,lost chronicles,legends,dragons of summer flame,war of souls,n the dark diciples trilogy!wiess n hickman!

      Reply

    10. Joshua says:

      I know how you feel RJ. I was alone and in a deep pit of depression when I first discovered Bob’s books. Within a year a read everything he published to date. I can say with 100% certainty that his stories lifted me out of that dark era. His books provided me with a safe place to go and recover. God bless you Bob.

      Reply

    11. Joshua says:

      I just finished the Ghost King. I could barely get through the last few pages because of the tears…

      It was a real treat to watch Athrogate and Pwent teaming up to “murder ’em to death”. And what a team Jaraxle and Dritzz make! Very cool!. In fact I would love to see an adventure with the above four plus Artemis. That would be a doozy.

      Bob, if you read this, I just want you to know I feel for you man! This must have been a hard book to write. I almost sensed that you were pressured to write the spell plague into your novels, and were not real happy about it. But you did a fabulous job anyway. And as hard as it was for me to have to watch beloved characters die, I need my emotional fix again! 🙂 I’m going to re-read the entire Demon War again.

      Thank you Bob, you are a true gift to the world.

      Reply

    12. Alex says:

      It felt almost as if the last 30 novels were a buildup to this last one and the message you get. After all of the resurrections and close calls that we’ve seen, the feeling that the protagonists are immortal sort of rubs off on you. And I think that, whether or not it was his intention, this last book does a complete spin and you get a strong reminder of the truth of mortality.

      Reply

    13. Alex says:

      Just have to say that the events of this last book are a great start to a perfect ending for the series. If you keep it going after maybe one more book I think it’s going to dry up very quickly.

      Reply

    14. James says:

      Admittedly I haven’t read all the Drizzt books. I don’t have a particular emotional connection with any of the characters in this book. But I did notice a few things.

      Salvatore continues his tradition of making enemies seem like no real threat at all. Caderly’s kids smite down hundreds of zombies with no apparent effort, despite having never been in combat before that day. Sure, Salvatore makes an effort to say that the sheer numbers make the situation hopeless. But it doesn’t feel hopeless.

      The same can be said about the battles with the Ghost King himself. All Salvatore talks about is how the heroes are tearing into him and how he fails to hit any of them with any real effect. And yet their struggle is hopeless. I have to hand it to Salvatore. It takes real talent to make a dracolich seem like no real threat.

      I’m disapointed that Obould, who like someone said earlier is the best new character in the series, recieved only a mention. I’m disapointed that Bruenor and Athrogate’s dialogue was confined to “eh?” “whaddya know, elf?” and “Bhwahaha!” respectively.

      And Cadderly. Dear god. How many times did he have to exlaim, both internally and externally, what a “strange journey” it had been through age? He got old really fast building the church and started getting younger afterwards. That is it. Granted, that isn’t exactly normal. But it did not require four or five repeating dialogues saying how strange it was with virtualy know variation.

      The ending seemed fairly rushed getting them to that little field. And it generally didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Drizzt’s goddess rewards him by sending his wife and his best friend to what might as well be a living hell with pleasent decorations?

      It wasn’t a terrible book. I’ve read much worse. But it was not great. And I didn’t cry.

      Reply

    15. Justin says:

      Enjoyed the book. My favorite in Transitions had to be The Pirate King. That doesn’t seem like the popular choice here but Robillard kicking the crap out of that lich was pure awesomeness. I have believed for sometime now that the Companions of the Hall needed a little shaking up — you always felt like they would be safe and for a long time that’s exactly what you wanted, them to be secure. But years and years later, even though of course you won’t miss a book, they kind of left you (well, me) with a kind of dull feeling. Now, I’m ready and waiting for the next book – eagerly. I want to know how the companions cope. I admit, I cried

      Two questions:
      Did anyone else feel kind of robbed with the utter lack of dialouge for our two beloved characters? I almost felt cheated that they had absolutely no dialogue until the devastating end.

      Is it me or is this whole Spellplague thing confusing to the reader? I found it’s use to be jarring in a way where Catti and Regis were concerned and I still have no idea how Cadderly became The Ghost King. I thought the dragon was called that because he posessed the shard.

      Reply

    16. Brandon Cantrell says:

      I’ve read so many many of his his books that I’ve began to have a sort of connection with his characters. The beginning of the book was an edge of your seat thrill ride like all the rest full of close call battles and the like.The end unfortunately left far too many questions and far too many unneeded tragedies.I kept thinking as I was getting closer to the stories climax that he would pull it all back together and all would be well again but alas not the case. Characters that have been built up as warriors deserve a warriors end. I am a fan of your work Mr Salvatore but why did you rip my heart out and leave me feeling sick and crushed. I know in fiction as in life sometimes you lose those closest to your heart ,it happens, but at least let a hero go out like a hero. For a warrior to simply waste away to nothingness without a single fight is a tragic waste.I love Salvatore’s work but I may never pick up his books again.At least not the new ones.I’m sorry I just felt robbed and cheated at the end.

      Reply

    17. Abe e says:

      I have been a devoted reader of Drizzt since the very beginning of his creation. I have read all of R.A’s books at least 4 or 5 times and feel like i am connected to the characters. The first 2 books of this series were boring for me and i will admit i skipped many of the long pirate discussions; however i have just completed The Ghost King (5 minutes ago now i am taking a crap and writing this reveiw)I MUST say that the book was very well written BUT – that is not why im writing this. The end of the book did not make me cry as i have done at the end of some stories but rather for the first time it tugged at my heart and made me smile when i read of cattie brie singing and dancing and regis doing what he loves best. i ALMOST cried when i realized that cattie brie and regis werent thinking of drizzt in the final pages but rather were eternally happy.I now am hoping, praying even, that drizzt dies and joines cattie brie so he can be truly happy. I also hope cadderly dies so he can join danica and his children when their times come. i love the way he writes (boring sometimes but usually beautiful) and i hope that drizzt bruenor and the gang have but one more foe, one more book (yes just one i want them to be happy in my heart!) and that they join their loves and live happily ever after =)

      Reply

    18. Abe e says:

      Wait a second… OMG is this the last book he’s writing?!? WHY!?!

      Reply

    19. tristen says:

      no he is writing a new series of drizzt novels

      Reply

      Michael Reply:

      I totally disagree with the review. I thought it was one of his worst novels to date. Someone falls down a thousand foot drop off the side of a mountain and survives by pushing off the rocks to slow their decent? A log swings into a huge monster followed by another log acting as a shotgun shell, filled with impact oil, moments later and luckily the first log is in the exact right place while hanging from the side of a huge monster to be connected perfectly by the log filled with impact oil. The entire novel seemed like a slap in the face to a reader who started reading his novels when they first went on the shelf right as I was graduating from school.
      It wasn’t all bad there were several parts I liked but it seemed very rushed, like he just wanted to get it over with. To tell the truth….. so did I.

      Reply

      Mboo Reply:

      Michael, I personally think you need to re-read the scenes in the novels, and familiarize yourself with the world of Faerun and Dungeons and Dragons a bit more.

      First of all, since second edition (AD&D), Monks have been able to climb and slow their descent from great heights. High level monks, like Danica, have been known to fall off the backs of flying dragons and survive–its part of being a Monk. Having a wall there to slow her descent is actually not even required in 4th edition as it was required in earlier editions. In 4th, monks can actually fly for short periods of time using their psionic powers (See Monk Utility, level 22, Wind Walker).

      As for the scene with the “huge monster” with the “shotgun” like effect, if you read closely, you will see that the first log pinned him into place (as was the plan) and the second forces the log through him further. It’s still in the same location because the beast has a tree sticking him into the wall.

      Overall, I enjoyed the novel, but I do agree with the rushed feeling. The loss of characters we have loved for over 20 years simply didn’t have the conclusions that I would have wanted… the Companions of the Hall didn’t even all get to say their goodbyes. I look forward to what the future brings, but with trepidation. I definitely DON’T want to see another Weis and Hickman tragedy where you just throw their children in as their replacements.

      Reply

      ryan Reply:

      i dont totally agree with that.i thought in”dragons of summer flame”the kids played a great roll in the book!especially palin n steel!

    20. Relacor says:

      Mboo,
      I agree completely. I read through the story from beginning to end, couldn’t put it down except to stomp and rave about the unfairness of how our characters were being treated. My wife was forced to stay awake as I regaled her with the rapid punctuation of lives.
      I have a strong belief that since the characters that “died” didn’t really disappear into some unknown afterlife, then there will be a time where the Companions will be able to say goodbye, but only after they have learned some greater truth and reconciled themselves to this new world, started new lives, and Drizzt and Bruenor are just occasional companions. Remember, after all of Drizzt’s heartache over his god, and his continuing self-destructive faith, he saw Mielikki(unicorn) in Mooshie’s grove. Salvatore will have Drizzt soul-searching for a while, possibly as a hero fighting with Athrogate and Jarlaxle in some faraway land and then Jarlaxle will learn about the forest grove and then completion. End of Drizzt’s plight throught the uncertainty and then he will regain his faith in Mielikki, return to Ten Towns, and teach Wulfgar’s son how to fight. Remember, Wulfgar was supposed to be Salvatore’s main character and this way he’ll be able to actually write about all of those Barbarian sagas he’s already lived in his imagination. This, ladies and gentleman, is what I’m waiting for. I can’t wait to read what Salvatore actually wanted to write about.-Fin

      Reply

      ryan Reply:

      well said!

      Reply

    21. Derrick says:

      The last sentence in the book, guests who never came? This sentence, along with the last paragraph of Cadderly, left me feeling a little empty. Does this mean that Drizzt will never be able to see his beloved in the after life? Never see Regis in the heaven mekliki gave to them? Is Drizzt’s god, and everyones god.. gone forever with the change of the weave? This seems more like a cliffhanger to me… one that wouldn’t be answered for another 20 years of Drizzt Books. Would have been an awesome conclusion to an end of that era, and R.A. Salvatore ended it with, “With guests that never came.” I either choose to ignore that, or try to predict what that actually means, either way, its awfully troubling.

      Reply

      Ev Reply:

      Exactly why I have come online searching for reviews. I must say I felt hallow inside when I read that last sentence, which indicated that they would not rejoice and that Regis and Catti were not in a real heaven but still on Toril but just in a pocket-paradise plane.

      Reply

    22. Rich R. says:

      I have a few questions about the ending which I’m not sure if anybody else has addressed…

      1.This pocket plane of existence seems to be some kind of “personal heaven” set up by Mielikki. Regis, in this case, gets to fish and carve scrimshaw, two things he loved in life. He also gets to EAT? Why would a spirit need to eat? But the bigger question is Catti-brie’s version of heaven. She never sang or danced in real life. So why the hell would she want to spend an eternity doing those two things? That makes not one ounce of sense to me that these two disparate characters would be placed in the same “heaven” and be given conflicting versions of that “heaven”.

      2.Why would Mielikki even place those two in the same setting? Apart from the points from above, there is also other considerations. If I were Regis and I was allowed to eat in that place, well then considering it was just myself and the beautiful Catti-brie there I could think of some other things to do with her than just sit around fishing. Halfling to have the need to procreate after all (even if it would just be for the fun of it in this setting). From Catti-Brie’s point of view, she would want to spend eternal bliss with Drizzt, not Regis. And the final line is “for guests that never came” which implies to me it’s supposed to be just those two forever.

      I apologize to anybody who may find the second point a little “base” but if Entreri can go to Calimport to be with Dwhavel then I can’t see why those two couldn’t enter into a physical relationship since they’re “stuck” with just each other for eternity. For all of Mr. Salvatore’s incredible genius and his ability to paint wonderful stories with his words, I too feel that this ending was rushed. That’s my two cents.

      Reply

    23. steven s. says:

      Wow I love the drizzt series all of them, i know people talk about the writing styles and the phrases that are repeated but over all ive yet to read a better series the discription of the lands and the towns and everything are great the ending to this book was sad but knowing that there will be more books brings comfort. Thank you R.A.Salvatore your books are amazing even though some think diffrently i would read them if every word was spelled wrong lol awesome.

      Reply

    24. jack says:

      With all due respect to Mr. Salvatore of whom I have been a dedicated fan for lo these many years I cannot accept the 4th edition D&D rules and 4th edition Forgotten Realms setting. I will not buy any of the books and I will not play that system ever. It has taken a system rationally and historically grounded in classical and medieval mythology and turned it into a comic book system thrown together purely out of whole cloth all for the enrichment of the corporate greed of WotC.

      Whatever it’s literary merits The Ghost-King is a sellout to WotC which has bastardized and destroyed everything that was good about the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying gaming system and Mr. Salvatore should just have said no when it came to writing it. The whole concept of the “Spellplague” is ridiculous. Unless I have missed something it has yet to be explained how a deity, a divine, immortal being gets “murdered”. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

      Salvatore should have just refused to promote the abomination that is the 4th ed. He has gone to the well one too many times. Perhaps too literally the tale is too “deus ex machina” and that is a departure from everything that Salvatore has written thus far in the Legend of Drizz’t. Sadly art has taken a backseat to the inevitable press of the almighty dollar. Transitions fails despite Mr. Salvatore’s talents as a writer.

      Reply

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