Review of THE ORC KING by R. A. Salvatore
Wizards of the Coast, September 2007
The orc king Obould, has been slowed, but now he seems to have adopted other tactics. Is he waiting, hoping to lull the dwarves, humans and elves to complacency, or does he really envision a world where orcs can live as other sentient beings, existing in their own kingdom, ruled by members of their own race, and trading with, rather than raiding their traditional enemies? Of course, even if Obould does want peace, that doesn't mean he'll get it. Many within the elf, and especially dwarf kingdoms steam for revenge. And more and more orcs, emerging from dark caves where they've long hidden, want war no matter what their king may claim.
Dark Elf Drizzt Do'Urden sees the potential for peace, but he sees its costs as well. With both orc and dwarf crying for war, and with virtually nobody trusting a drow, it doesn't seem likely he'll have any say over the future--especially when his own wife is one of the loudest in calling for revenge.
Author R. A. Salvatore (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Salvatore) spins his continuing fantasy series in a direction that's been foreshadowed in the past few novels, but that nevertheless offers an exciting change in pace. Rather than seeing orcs as convenient fodder for more beautiful heroes, Salvatore conceives them as sapient entities, driven by the same motives that drive all other sapients. Obould represents a possible new direction, but Salvatore is careful to give us hints that there was a time before, in the forgotten past, where orcs and dwarves worked together. Was that time undone by treason, or could it come again? Those of us who have been calling for something a bit more thoughtful than the usual mindless killing will certainly welcome this direction.
Although THE ORC KING is about the potential for peace, Salvatore gives us plenty of violence and individual heroics to keep us turning the pages. Epic battles between Drizzt and fellow Drow Tos'un, between Drizzt and Jack the Gnome, between the dwarf-king and the orc chieftain, and many others are intricately choreographed and exciting.
Although Salvatore is writing epic fantasy, it's hard not to see how his story is influenced by the destructive forces of war in our own world. The hope for peace, not with those we love but those we itch to battle with, is the great challenge of the day. Salvatore suggests that easy answers may not exist, but that there is room to hope. I certainly hope he's right.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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