Archmage - The Return Book I, review: don't fear the reaper

Archmage - The Return Book I, review: don't fear the reaper

Archmage - The Return Book I, review

The Forgotten Realms and Drizzt Do’Urden cross the enviable milestone of the thirty-first novel with Archmage - The Return Book I, first chapter, as easily understood from the title, with which the great R.A. Salvatore inaugurates a new trilogy dedicated to the drow and adventurers of Mithral Hall trying again to shuffle the cards into tables for the readers and thus offering new narrative ideas while always keeping an eye on the source material or Dungeons & Dragons (the game of role).

Archmage - The Return Book I, after the battle

RA Salvatore had closed the Companions Codex Trilogy with The Revenge of the Iron Dwarf (recovered our review) and with an epic battle that had sanctioned the defeat of the alliance between drow and orcs, thus preventing the destruction of human, elven and dwarven populations . The plan of Matron Mother Quenthel, which provided for the darkening of the celestial vault and even the intervention of dragons, was therefore vanished and the evil goddess Lolth once again remained in the abyss impatient to conquer the surface world.

From the consequences of the last devastating battle, which had also effectively broken the treaty of Garumn, the narrative of Archmage - The Return Book I restarts. In Menzoberranzan chaos reigns, a dangerous and potentially lethal one: in fact, creatures roam freely in the city demonic while families and their matrons are as usual the struggle for power. The Matron Mother Quenthel must in fact defend herself from the attacks of the other Matron Mothers who accuse her not only of having led to the failure of the plan to conquer the world above but also of having definitively lost the favor of the Spider Queen, the goddess Lolth.

But the strategy of Matron Mother Quenthel is lucid and merciless: to keep chaos in Menzoberranzan while an agent on the surface, Jarlaxle, reports to her the movements of elves, dwarves and men. The Matron Mother also knows that Tiago Baenre is not really dead and that after the defeat he suffered, even riding a dragon, now more than ever her only goal is to track down and kill Drizzt. Matron Mother Quenthel, however, seems not to have come to terms with the archmage of Sorcere, Gromph who most of all, in silence, is working to overthrow her not only by increasing her powers but also by forging an unholy alliance with extremely powerful creatures of the abyss and who would do anything to free themselves and satisfy their bloodlust.

Even on the surface it is time to regroup and for the adventurers of Mithral Hall it is time to say goodbye. Regis and Wulfgar in fact leave Drizzt, Catti-Brie and the Dwarves. For the rest of the company, however, a new epic undertaking is expected: to penetrate and regain possession of Gauntlgrym and the ancient Throne of the Dwarves. The feat is difficult but Bruenor Battlehammer manages to gather the dwarven populations around him and start a march towards the city gate.

If the march is exhausting, what awaits Drizzt and his friends in the corridors of the city. it is potentially even more dangerous. As the dwarves enter the city in fact there are not only drow waiting for them but also demons and creatures of all kinds including an extremely dangerous one who is awakened and locked up not without difficulty. The battles are brutal and insidious and the reconquest of Gauntlgrym is resolved in a completely unexpected way and the price of which is paid in a possibly lethal way by Drizzt himself.

Archmage - The Return Book I, don ' t fear the reaper

It is not absolutely easy to get into the reading of Archmage - The Return Book I also because RA Salvatore chooses the most difficult path or that of the most direct continuity with the previous trilogy, ideally cutting out any new readers who will have to look elsewhere for an easier starting point (such as in The Companions or even in the first historical book Il Buio Profondo).

Net of a "relative" problem for a saga consisting of 30 books, it should be emphasized that the first part of this Archmage - The Return Book I sees the author putting the reader to the test with a writing that once again wanders into less classical territories for the adventures of Drizzt as well as experimenting stylistically. In fact, Salvatore tries to play the socio-political narrative card by describing in detail, with a mild rhythm and with a series of important implications, the riots inside and outside the buildings of Menzoberranzan. A courageous and at times interesting choice which, however, is merely plot driven and does not find the right foothold in characters who, although they recite the plot of "court intrigues" very well, do not offer big surprises in terms of motivations or characterizations.

Salvatore therefore alternates chapters set in the Deep Darkness with others set on the surface similar in setting but certainly more dynamic and satisfying if only because the consequences of the battle that had closed the previous book are liquidated quite quickly, giving way to the promoted company from Bruenor which is at first purely political, with balances and motivations more easily understood by any type of reader, and then decidedly more devoted to action.

The change of pace between the first and second half of Archmage - The Return Book I. Salvatore is much more comfortable describing the long fight sequences at Gauntlgrym (in which or the Tolkenian echoes of Moria are evident) in which evocative digressions on environments, characters and situations take on more dynamic contours, giving a greater sense of closure to some clues scattered especially in the first part and building the unexpected final twist very well. some verses it may seem anti-climatic makes sense in the overall balance of the narrative.

However it is not the aforementioned ending that constitutes the hook for the second book of this trilogy but the fate of Drizzt. The drow is characterized very melancholy throughout the book, an outside observer of a familiar yet different world who prefers to put his wisdom over his swords (at least until the final chapters) at the service of his friends and wife. In the course of reading, in fact, Archmage - The Return Book I puts more and more the dwarves and in part the demons at the center of the narrative, who seem more and more forces that the drow families of Menzoberranzan do not seem to bea> able to control.

Net of a somewhat cumbersome first part Archmage - The Return Book I is a good opening chapter for a trilogy that already from the title suggests interesting future developments in more than one situation as well as for the protagonist Drizzt . And if you are particularly attached to the dwarven race, the second part of the book will be a very welcome read.

The Volume

Armenia publishes Archmage - The Return Book I in a paperback volume with flaps. The edition is very similar to those of the Companions Codex Trilogy but changes the cover graphics, to be honest, not particularly inspired either as a composition or as a chosen image. The volume does not present maps or illustrations accompanying the story or extras (except for the chronology of the novels starring Drizzt) or short summaries that can help the reader (re) orient himself after the latest events. Of note are some typos (in the central chapters more than one name is spelled several times) and above all some very woody passage during the translation phase.

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