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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hey, Forgotten Realms books aren't that bad!, 13 April 2009
This review is from: The Orc King (Forgotten Realms: Transitions Trilogy) (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Orc King" is an excellent first novel in the "Transitions" series of Forgotten Realms books by R.A. Salvatore.

Salvatore examines how a people can set aside their racial prejudices for the greater good. I have to admit that the way Salvatore goes about it is a bit cliched. Bruenor has the deep-seated hatred of all things Orc that stems from way back, and he's very reluctant to trust Obould at all. He's firmly convinced that Obould's orcs that are camped a short march from Mithral Hall are there for a lot more than farming. So isn't it convenient that there is a force of orcs who are dead-set against Obould's plan to peacefully coexist with the Dwarves, thus illustrating to Bruenor that these are Obould's true intentions. That being said, Salvatore's handling of the whole situation is quite mature. It's nice that there is still plenty of distrust there, even though Bruenor is willing to finally accept the peace that Obould's offering. It's something that could be shattered at any moment, and it threatens to fall apart very easily.

Salvatore takes the "Transitions" name of this series to heart, making changes in all of the major characters that have been with us since the beginning. Wulfgar, the barbarian who has loved Catti-brie for many years, finally has some decisions to make as he has come to accept that she loves Drizzt. Events of previous novels (I'm assuming, anyway) have shown him that he must do what is right for his adopted daughter and then make his own way in the world. Catti-brie, the human woman who is also Bruenor's adopted daughter, was injured in the previous novel, which brings about changes in her life and her profession that she never saw coming. Regis, the halfling, doesn't change as much, but he's much more mature than I remember, and events from past novels are weighing on him. Drizzt himself doesn't change much, but he brings a sense of stability that helps anchor the book.

Salvatore writes the action scenes just as well as I remember, though occasionally they are a bit too detailed. The reader gets a feel for the flow of the action, but sometimes it gets so detailed that it's almost like he's choreographing it for the reader rather than letting the reader just get a sense of what's going on. It did help me see the action step by step in my mind, but it also felt very mechanical at times. It's a question of style, though, and obviously this style has a lot of fans. I like it, but it begins to grate on me after a while.

Just a couple of minor notes before I close. The type in my copy of this book is almost microscopic, supposedly to keep a reasonable page count despite the huge number of words. Don't try to read this in bad light. Secondly, the "map" at the beginning of the book is almost totally useless for following any events in the story. You see where Mithral Hall is in relation to the Orc kingdoms, but other than that, you're on your own. I couldn't even follow our heroes' expedition to the lost Dwarven city on this map, which really annoyed me.

"The Orc King" is a great first book in the Transitions series, though it probably would mean even more if I was familiar with the last 6-9 novels. There is a lot of backstory, though Salvatore rarely loses the reader in the retelling of it. It does feel like you've missed a lot, but you won't be at a loss to follow the events in this book. What more can you ask of an author who has written so many books previously in the series? It's worth checking out if you like this sort of thing. Don't let the Forgotten Realms tag turn you off.

David Roy
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