To be a Hero

R.A. Salvatore’s latest Drizzt novel, Hero. Where to start? Let’s go back a bit.

I came somewhat later into the game, so to speak, in that I read my first Salvatore novel, The Crystal Shard, 10 years after it was published. So I’ve been reading The Companions of the Hall for 20 years instead of the 30 years he’s been writing them.

It’s been a long ride. It’s been a thrilling ride. It’s been an amazing, heartfelt, lighthearted, heavyhearted, adrenaline-pumping ride, one adventure after the next. It’s a continuous story not only of a group of fantastic characters, but also of an author who has achieved the feat of writing their stories for 3 decades and still keeping it fresh, exciting, compelling, and just plain fun.

This post is only partially about the book. The reason for this is because it is the latest in over 30 novels. If you haven’t read any of the books, you wouldn’t start with this one, and if you’ve read them this far, you don’t need me to sell you its virtues. You’ve either read it or are planning to. Instead, I’m going to talk a little about the book, and more about the characters and experience itself.

The Companions of the Hall couldn’t be a more unlikely group. A Delzoun Dwarf destined to be king, battling an invading barbarian tribe. A young barbarian in his first battle, defeated and later adopted by a merciful and kind-hearted dwarf. A human girl also adopted by the same dwarf. A lazy halfling with a large belly and an even larger heart. And a dark elf. A drow from the darkest place in all of Faerun. Drizzt Do’Urden, born in the drow city of Menzoberanzan in the Underdark finds that he cannot live amongst his people, a race of evil elves in a city where subterfuge, betrayal, and murder are simply a means to an end. After years of training to have eventually become the greatest weapons master in all of Menzoberanzan, Drizzt leaves and finds his way to the surface, to a place named Kelvin’s Cairn, and his fateful meeting with a great red-bearded, kind-hearted, tough-as-nails dwarf destined to be king. Bruenor Battlehammer.

And thus the beginning of the Companions of the Hall.

Bruenor Battlehammer
Cattie-brie
Wulfgar
Regis
Drizzt Do’Urden

The story of these characters is truly something to be experienced for more than just how good the books are. Yes, there is magic aplenty in these books, for they take place in the Realms, after all. (Forgotten Realms, for those unfamiliar) But the magic I’m talking about here is different.

After traveling beside the Companions of the Hall for so long, they’ve become far more than just words on a page, created by an fantastic author. (yes, I’m a fanboy. I admit it) These characters have become real. Their adventures, triumphs and failures, gains and losses. I’ve felt it all with them. Across countless miles traveled, miles of dead monsters in their wake, many a town still standing due to their influence, the companions are legendary not only in their own world, but in the genre of fantasy as a whole.

I remember the first time I heard about Drizzt. While I was in University, a dear friend of mine was telling me about these books about this race of evil elves that lived underground. Their fighting prowess was the stuff of legend, and that everyone feared them. One of them was actually good, and came to the surface. My friend showed me his well-loved paperback copy of The Crystal Shard, and I was instantly intrigued. I went to the bookstore and bought the hardcover omnibus. And here I am, 20 years later, just as captivated after finishing this latest entry as I was with the first.

And I’ve forgotten to mention someone. Artemis Entreri

Entreri. This was a character I HATED from the minute he appeared. I continued to loathe him many books hence. A character without conscience, without remorse, without a moral compass and who simply enjoyed killing because he could. Irredeemable. Or was he?

I like Artemis Entreri now. A lot. Years into these stories we gain insight into Entreri’s past and what made him into the man he’d become. Over the course of many books we seem him experience a character arc that he experienced throughout all of the books saw his gradual change from coldblooded killer, to something else not quite good, but not the heartless thing he’d been. And then his unlikely partnering with a drow elf named Jarlaxle.

Jarlaxle. Probably my favorite character…..ever. Possessed of an unpredictable wit, cleverness I could only dream of having, and an endless array of resources he’s accumulated, Jarlaxle is not one easily caught off his guard. An invaluable friend to have, an enemy not to want.

And so we have 30 years building up to what was simply an amazing book. After so many adventures, so many ups and downs. Death, life, swords, arrows, magic, camaraderie, and undying friendship, we come to a book that left me very emotional at the end. An elf born of one of the most evil races in all of Faerun, becomes a hero known throughout the land. His exploits, moral code of ethics, and constant questioning of himself and his motivations, and striving to do the right thing, has a lasting effect on all he encounters. Perhaps his personal moral code could attract the attention of the Gods Themselves. Perhaps…even…a God one would wish never to encounter? Drizzt’s influence, the residual effect he’s had on the world has created heroes. The title of this book is for Drizzt….or is it?

Though I’ve loved every book, Hero sits as one of my favorites. These characters, the Companions of the Hall, and the friends they’ve accumulated over the years, are not just words on a page. Not for me, and I suspect the same for many others. For me, there is a very ‘realness’ there. Indeed they are in so many ways, real. And that…THAT, is proof enough that magic exists. And what a marvelous thing that is.

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20 Comments

  1. My husband and I loved the series so much that we had named our youngest son after your beloved charater Drizzt. His name is Drizzt Zac’na’fien and he is now 23 yrs old.
    Thank you so much for the journeys of such wonderful characters.
    Thanks again,

  2. Right in the feels, and I couldn’t agree more. I got my first book (Homeland) in 1997, and have been a fanboy as well ever since. These characters have been more real to me than I can explain here. They’re friends. Loved ones. I cannot even begin to explain the emotions I encountered reading this book. Simply amazing.

    • Yes indeed. This book had me twisted in a knot the whole time. But what a finish! I hope someday to have continued adventures, but if not, this was a fitting end.

  3. I wish I had the eloquence to say this like you have. thank you for posting this, I have experienced these wonderful stories but could never explain the magnificence of the tale as you have.

  4. Truer words have never before been written my friend.

  5. Wow, I could not have said that any better. I am in the same boat as Ramon, read the Crystal Shard many years after it came out and was instantly hooked! I have not read Hero yet, as am finishing up with Maestro right now, but I am really looking forward to Hero now. One of the things I love about Drizzt is the continual moral pondering he does throughout the series,and have sometimes related to them through some form of moral dilemma I have been a part of or have witnessed. I would love to see some more back stories about his father,Zaknafein or even a feature film about Drizzt,as long as Salvatore is involved in it. Keep up the great storytelling or I’ll turn into a bearded gnome.

  6. Beautiful review. I deeply appreciate it, fantastic read

  7. I love reading this series, it feels like the campanions are my close friends. I’ve laughed with them, cried with them, feared for them and even yelled at them. I will always cherish my Forgotten Realm books, I may even re-read them again in the near future. Thank you R. A. Salvatore for writing an incredible series!

    • Thank you for reading my post. The end of this latest book had me pretty emotional. Can’t believe how long a ride it’s been.

  8. It’s so true, These books have become something so much more than just words on a page. I feel every cut and near miss, every heart break and swell of joy. Even after reading the entire series and transitions more than a couple times I still find the excitement there as if it was the first time. I loath the day when the story of the companions of the hall comes to an end. My life has been invariably entwined with each and every character, it’s given me answers to personal questions and helped guide my life in a most positive and unique way. I have one dear friend to thank for introducing me to the world of Drizzt Do’Urden, my invisible mentor whose guided my hand over the past 15 years.

    • Thank you for reading my entry. R.A. Salvatore has been an inspiration to me for many years, and I’m lucky enough to be able to call him friend. Hopefully one day the stories will continue, but if not, this was a fitting end for such amazing characters. 🙂

  9. A friend lent me homeland yes back around 97′ 98′ same as many of you. Having just finished Hero today, I will admit to the emotion at the end (emotion=tears of joy). I like the suggestion of the paradox of faith, and the suggestion that our actions and beliefs can have a infinitely possible consequences.

    • It was indeed a very loaded end with limitless possibilities. It left me wondering if the adventures will continue, even if not with Drizzt, with he and Cattibrie’s child.

  10. I first started reading salvatore as a freshman in highschool way back in 1994, i could relate to drizzt in so many ways as i was an outcast always on the outer edges of what was considered the in crowd in school ridiculed shamed, made fun of etc.. books were my only escape and well drizzt was my bestfriend. His views on the world also greatly shaped my views on the world and how i relate to it. now 23 years later and listening on audible to catch up on drizzt’s life since i work graveyards at a gasstation and can’t haul a book around.I find it comforting that he’s still there and going strong. i’ve got just a few to go and am sad to hear that potentially HERO will be the last. though you can’t state a more profound word for the character that is drizzt. NO MATTER what happens he’ll always have a place in my heart and soul. Thank you R.A. Salvatore. it’ll be hard to find another series of books that move me the same. (here’s to hoping Patrick Rothfus will finish his masterpiece sometime this century I don’t have the lifespan of drizzt.)

    • Hi Justin,

      This isn’t R.A. Salvatore’s website, but I am a friend of his who posted the review. I will pass your words along if you’d like me to. I’ve been through much of what you yourself have, and understand what you’ve been through, although I hadn’t discovered the joys of reading when I was in school as you had. If you haven’t, check out his Corona novels. They’re amazing. 😉

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