The Ghost King is the third book in the “Transitions” series by R.A. Salvatore that is suppose to show the characters moving from D&D 3.5 to D&D 4th edition. As with most of The Forgotten Realms books showing the change, there are a lot of deaths in this book.
The story happened as the Spellplague raged across Faerûn and Drizzt with his wife Catt-brie were caught in the worldwide chaos. With Catt-brie badly damaged by the Spellplague, Drizzt and Bruenor Battlehammer decided to seek the help of the priest Cadderly who like most magic-users during the Spellplague has some problems of his own to deal with.
However the Spellplague also return/broke Crenshinibon, the crystal shard (don’t ask how, it made no sense at all). Teaming up with the undead dragon Hephaestus and Yharaskrik the illithid, Crenshinibon transformed into the Ghost King (again don’t ask how, it made no sense) and attacked Spirit Soaring, home of Cadderly Bonaduce and his family.
Now there are some readers out there who like to read reviews of books without spoilers. If you are one of those guys, turn away now because that’s not how I review things.
First off, I like the fact that Drizzt has a much smaller role in this book. Much like The Pirate King, book II of the “Transitions” series, this allow more space for other characters to shine.
I especially like the scenes when Athrogate and Thibbledorf Pwent were together. Very funny and very destructive, unfortunately their time together on paper was too short and I am left with only the hope that we can see more of duo together in the future.
I also like the surprises in the book. The death of Catt-brie at the end was a shock. I thought the reason Salvatore turn her into a mage was to prolong her life, not shorten it. However with her gone maybe we can finally see Drizzt back into “Hunter” mode where frankly he works best in.
Despite these good points, I found some parts of the book to be very poor. The pacing in the book was off because everything felt very rushed. The scenes with Jarlaxle spring to mind because the rogue turned into a pure hero in this book. I don’t get it. Since when does Jaraxle do anything good without some returns for himself? Did something get canned in the editing process?
I also question the need to re-introduce Cadderly Bonaduce’s family. His wife Danica and their kids hardly had anything to do outside taking up space in the book better suited to other characters. Ivan and Pikel Bouldershoulder were fun but again they didn’t have much to do. Ivan especially spent much of his time in the book injured in one capacity or another and by the end of the book I still don’t quite get what the Bonaduce children were in the book for.
Some of the magical changes that occur in the book also make no sense. I understand that Salvatore was trying to put it across that the characters have no idea how magic had changed but that’s no excuse for leaving readers clueless! I also can’t help but feel that the reason Salvatore didn’t explain the Spellplague properly was because he didn’t quite understand the changes himself. Just a feeling but did WotC explain the 4th edition to their writers?
However from a story perspective, this book is a winner. There were major changes for the characters and the Companions of the Halls was truly destroyed at the end as both Catt-brie and Regis were laid to rest. In my view, the ending was what saved this book. Despite the rush job, Salvatore handled the ending beautifully and changes were eloquently installed for the time jump.
For Drizzt or Forgotten Realms fans, this book is a must.