It’s been a few books, but R. A. Salvatore has returned to his most well-known character. Sea of Swords is the fourth book in the “Paths of Darkness” series, the other books being The Silent Blade, The Spine of the World, and Servant of the Shard. Although the book centers strongly on the dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, it is as much a story about the barbarian Wulfgar as it is Drizzt.
The book opens in Icewind Dale, where Drizzt, Cattie-Brie, Bruenor and Regis have once more settled. Settled, however, doesn’t mean they’ve retired-in the process of dealing with bandits, they discover that their leader has a rather odd brand-one that matches a unique symbol inscribed on the magical war hammer known as Aegis-fang. The companions decide to find out just how the hammer ended up in bandit hands, and at the same time, discover the fate of the man who had owned it.
That man-Wulfgar-is also looking for his hammer. Having lost it a some time ago (to put it kindly), he’s joined Captain Deudermont on the high seas to find the pirate queen who has it-a woman by the name of Sheila Kree. However, Wulfgar’s also having a bit of a moral crisis; unlike his previous problems, attempting to recover from the torture of the demon lord Errtu, he’s now having a problem determining just who he is-a barbarian warrior, or devoted husband and father. That makes him a little dangerous to have around, according the ship’s mage.
Even as all this is going on, though, an elf named Le’lorinel is hunting for a hated enemy-an enemy named Drizzt!
All three trails are destined to come together….
For a long time, I was rather put off by Salvatore. I enjoyed his books, but I found that the way he “killed” Wulfgar way back in The Legacy to be rather offensive-it was obvious to me he was trying to clear the way for a romance between Drizzt and Cattie-Brie, who at the time was going to be marrying Wulfgar. I thought Salvatore was taking the easy way out. I was gratified to see the barbarian return, though, which I felt righted that wrong. What Salvatore did with Wulfgar afterwards made perfect sense-a strong warrior being tortured for years physically and mentally wouldn’t return to normal life without scars-and those scars made up most of the first two books in the “Paths of Darkness” books. Now I’m really happy to see that he’s making more profound changes in this book.
As for Drizzt, it seems that some of the darkness of previous books has begun to lift; the inside cover of this book, which has one of the popular “Drizzt journal entries”, made it clear to me that the character is beginning to enjoy life again, fighting the good fight. For those who enjoy his staunch morality, take note that there are some things that have not changed one bit!
One of the things that kept me intrigued throughout the book was the reasons behind Le’lorinel’s hatred for Drizzt. I’m sure some readers will hit on it almost instantly, but I was kept uncertain due to certain minor details until the very end. As for the pirate Sheila Kree, she has an organization in place that makes it very believable that she’s eluded capture or worse for so long. She has a number of interesting allies, from wizards to ogres.
Readers of the continuing saga of Drizzt and company will be sure to find that Sea of Swords continues his run of good books in this setting. In many ways, it feels like things have come full circle (which is reinforced by the last few pages), and it will be interesting to see if the next Salvatore books is a new chapter of “Paths of Darkness”; especially since it seems that the darkest times have past. (Heh. Not likely!)