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The Thousand Orcs

February 13, 2005

It’s been quite a while since I read an R.A. Salvatore tome. I was in my mid-teens when I first picked up The Crystal Shard, and read about Drizzt, Breunor, et al. That trilogy in some ways was my first exposure to The Forgotten Realms, hands down my favorite fantasy setting of all time. The world originally crafted by Ed Greenwood was brought to life in Salvatore’s novels about the dark elf who finds his path in the world above, far from the rest of his wicked, evil race.

I don’t know if Salvatore has bought into the Drow press releases, or whatever, but The Thousand Orcs is something of a mediocre offering. His previous books have focused on a small band of adventurers, telling the stories of their travels and exploits. The same formulae that worked for Tolkien, Wise and Hickman, and countless less well known authors has continued to be used for a reason. In the start to Salvatore’s most recent trilogy he pulls back to examine a larger setting, where a small band of Drow manipulate the non-human hordes into banding together against the good-aligned settlements of the Silver Marches area. Now, I know a good deal about the Silver Marches (I own the book ^_^) so on the one hand I found it interesting to get a bird’s eye view of a regional era conflict. On the other, I found it frustrating to constantly have my point of view yanked around from group to group. The conflict in the book, the orcish hordes and their giant allies, gets pushed aside by sidestories involving a pair of odd dwarves and the iron fist ruling style of the city of Mirabar. These sidethreads eventually join up with the main plot thread involving the main characters, but most of the book is spent splitting your attention. Many fantasy books pull off the multiple plot thread technique well, but for some reason I found it extremely distracting here.

Overall I enjoyed the book as a throwback to my time mentally roaming the hills in Cormyr and stalking the swamps of the south. Salvatore’s writing is very evocative of adventure gaming, and having just finished a Realms campaign gave me a good perspective on the world. Besides my complaints about the book’s flow, it was nice to read a book again where the biggest concern was how to stab an orc. I’m not sure I’m going to read any more of the books in the trilogy, but it was a nice distraction while it lasted.

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