I know not-that has apparently become the litany of my existence, Dwahvel. I feel as if the foundation upon which I have built my beliefs and action is not a solid thing, but one as shifting as the sands of the desert. When I was younger, I knew all the answers to all the questions. I existed in a world of surety and certainty. Now that I am older, now that I have seen four decades of life, the only thing I know for certain is that I know nothing for certain.
-A moment of reflection for Artemis Entreri
It’s been a long time since Salvatore wrote his first novel, The Crystal Shard, featuring a young barbarian, a grizzled dwarf and his adopted human daughter, and a dark skinned drow elf. He brings the saga of the Shard to a close in this new offering, Servant of the Shard (although certainly not the end of Salvatore’s novels with his heroes-in fact, there is another one in the works). Amazingly enough, it involves none of the characters that the Shard’s saga began with. In fact, the major characters are the villains of previous books!
The story opens in the Arabian-like city of Calimport, with one of the Houses of the city having been quietly taken over by the drow, the dark elves. More specifically, it is taken over by Bregan D’aerthe, the mercenary band that operated out of the drow city of Menzoberranzan. Its leader is an eccentric dark elf named Jarlaxle, who operates in a constant state of whimsy…which is not to be confused with “nice” humor. Unfortunately for him, he also came into the possession of the crystal shard called Crenshinibon, an artifact of awesome power which has a habit of bending its owner’s will to its own. In Jarlaxle, it finds itself in the hands of the most capable host it has ever encountered.
Allied with Jarlaxle, although initially unaware of the shard’s influence, is Artemis Entreri. Readers of previous books will remember that Entreri is a cold-blooded assassin, and the fighting equal of Drizzt Do’Urden, the most popular character of Salvatore’s books. Here, though, he finds himself over his head; the drow are far more deadly, more manipulative, and they outnumber him. Entreri is looking for nothing more than a way to be free of the power they hold over him. He finds it early on, but achieving that goal is substantially harder. Entreri finds himself in the role of the manipulator as a result, with his life as stakes.
The book might be a little tricky to follow with all the backstory behind the crystal shard. On the other hand, I found that it can probably stand fine if a reader has only read the previous two Salvatore efforts, The Silent Blade and The Spine of the World. There are some disappointments, from my point of view…I would have liked to see a bit more insight on Entreri’s character-and make no mistake, while Jarlaxle is on the cover, this is Entreri’s book-and a bit more on the goals of the shard. But on the other hand, there’s a lot going on in this book: Entreri’s attempts to free himself from the tangled web of the drow, Jarlaxle’s fight against the influence of the shard, the manipulations of the drow and the assassin, and the final journey to deal with the shard once and for all.
This was not the book I anticipated when I first got word of it. I don’t consider that a bad thing, though, as it shows that Salvatore is branching out from his signature character and on with other characters. His last book featured the soul-weary barbarian, Wulfgar, whom he had unceremoniously disposed of for several books. Now he’s looking at the bad guys-and it shows up as an entertaining story. But don’t feel too much sympathy for these characters…while they show some sympathetic traits, neither Jarlaxle nor Entreri are going to win any Boy Scout awards. In spite of that, Servant of the Shard makes for a nice read for an evening or three.