The Companions

the-companions

The Companions is the first book in The Sundering series. While not a true series where each book leads to the next, they are connected by a common event, the Sundering. In this book, R.A. Salvatore tells a tale of rebirth and second chances. Drizzt’s companions: Wulfgar, Bruenor, Catti-brie and Regis get a second chance on life in order to save their friend. Yet the paths before them are no easy affairs. Their adventures fill this story.

Now in reading this book, I have a rather unique viewpoint. This is the first R.A. Salvatore Forgotten Realms novel I’ve ever read. That also makes it my introduction to Drizzt Do’Urden and his companions. This is also a handicap as there are a lot of larger events going on and references to the past that I know nothing about. My opinions of the characters are based solely on how they are portrayed in this book.

The core of this story was kind of interesting. Drizzt’s four friends start the book out dead. They meet up in some spiritual plane where they are offered the chance to live again. This offer comes with one pro and one con. By living again, they will be able to help Drizzt in his greatest moment of need. However, they have earned their rights to paradise in the afterlife and all the rewards that entails. Essentially they must walk away from heaven to help a friend.

On accepting that offer, the journey begins. Each is reborn to new parents and in new bodies. They retain their memories and knowledge, but are trapped in the bodies of newborn babies. Furthermore, they are not fated to meet up and save Drizzt until they are twenty-one. Thus they have a long road ahead of them and many adventures. Those adventures fill out the bulk of the book. Bruenor trains amongst other dwarflings in the ways of combat. Yet he has nothing to learn. The years of rebirth do not weight kindly upon him. This in turn leads to resentment. He goes through a phase that’s very hard to sympathize with or enjoy. He becomes the worst petulant teen you can imagine. Thankfully there is a turnaround for his character, and he does become enjoyable again.

Catti-brie, on the other hand, was a character that floundered for me. Initially she was very interesting and intriguing. As a small child, she had some potent magic. There was also a veil of mystery. But as she grew older, her character failed to mature. She remained very naive. Because of that, I lost interest in her character. I found her arc and characterization to be the weakest of the three main characters. It didn’t help that the villains she went up against fell completely flat for me. There were two primary antagonists, both members of Shade Enclave. Yet they felt like half-hearted badguys. They made threats, but also went out of their way to help. They didn’t inspire any fear and they didn’t present any significant threat. It was like a couple of cartoon villains in a kiddie show.

As disappointed as I was in how Catti-brie’s story turned out, I was glad that Regis’ adventure was quite the opposite. I really enjoyed his parts of the story. His character was portrayed excellently. I cared about him. When he encountered threats, they were believable. Plus the adventures he went on were very entertaining. I loved reading about his troubled childhood, his determination to be a hero in this life, and his generally positive attitude. Of all the characters, I bonded with him the most. Bruenor’s disrespect toward others and his fits of anger turned me off (though I was eventually won back). Catti-brie just felt too airy, carefree and thoughtless. But Regis didn’t have any character flaws that threw me out of the story. He struggled, he fell in love, he battled dopplegangers, thieves and even an evil lich, and all the way I was ensnared.

Then there’s Drizzt. This being my first Drizzt novel, I was looking forward to finding out just who this beloved character was. Long story short, I was disappointed. It was not because Drizzt fell flat for me. The problem was that Drizzt is hardly in this book. He has a brief passage in the beginning, two monologues in the middle, and then shows up at the end. At 98% through the book, he finally shows up and has a couple of lines. That’s it. So fair warning to readers, this is not a book with much Drizzt in it at all. Ninety-nine percent of this book is his companions.

As a self-contained story for a reader completely new to the larger story, The Companions was a mixed bag. I liked the majority of Bruenor’s tale, not much of Catti-brie’s and loved every bit of Regis. The larger storythreads that are hinted at, the Spider Queen, the battle between the goddesses, are not resolved in this book. The climax is a reunion, not a battle. Plus the villains presented in the individual character arcs aren’t dealt with. Bruenor didn’t stop the Orcs plaguing his people, Regis didn’t stop the lich and Catti-brie didn’t stop the Shades that are “interested” in her (note: they didn’t even bother to pursue her when she escaped their clutches, hince half-hearted villains). The other major factor is the Sundering. This is suppose to be a huge event, big enough to do a five book series. Sadly the event just sort of happens and gets passed by. It didn’t feel very important. Supposedly the way everyone uses magic changes, but it just seems like a very small hiccup for the world. The wizards take note and simply go read some old books to touch up on their ancient spellcraft. That, and Catti-brie falls out of the sky. Again. That certainly didn’t help the feeling of airy thoughtlessness.

Aside from the disappointment of the Sundering event, some mediocre villains, and Catti-brie’s less than interesting characterization, I did enjoy the book. There were parts I didn’t like, but there were plenty of parts that I did like. Overall, though, it didn’t achieve its full potential in my opinion. As a standalone book, I give The Companions a three out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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