This book had a lot more of the same
as in previous books,
as expected, from one-sided battles that suddenly change direction, with
our heroes winning against incredible odds. However, it had a lot of
politics in it as well, and considerable amount of very exciting action.
Definitely the best of the three books.
Once again, the author stacks the decks against the friends no matter
where they go. Whether it's five-to-one odds, or fifty-to-one odds, it
follows the same formula. The friends brace against an overwhelming
attack, ready to die fighting. However, even as their spirits are
drained and they are getting very tired, one of them spurs them into
renewed action, allowing them to not only escape, but to win the fight
to a man, as well.
Everything they do is way too easy. The color of Drizzt's skin
is a menace to their mission, so they need a magical mask. Easy, because
a wizard knows where to find one. They easily convince the villagers
that they don't want to hurt the banshee, so they are pointed the way.
Want to avoid the killing scream of the banshee? Earplugs are the usual
method, but better is to know that it is coming and to brace yourself!
So why doesn't everybody know this trick? Brace yourself against the
killing scream, and survive with only minor headaches! The call of the
banshee is what kills, not its effect on the mind. The author wants
to do everything in his story; show the incredible danger, but he's not willing to
risk his characters for it.
He also falls into several traps which are easy to see through. We know
by now that he will not kill any of these characters off. He will simply
tease us with their apparent death, but have them wake up from a near
death state and fight like they've had months of rest. Wulfgar barely
noticed the hydra bite, even though it was supposed to be venomous.
Cattie-brie, of course, didn't die when she leaped off the bridge to
retrieve the scepter in the other realm, though that was neat, because
the whole world was endlessly circular in its vertical dimension!
Bruenor, of course, was revived in this book. I liked the fact that he
could survive the flames because he had Drizzt's magical scimitar, which
has proven before that it can protect its owner, but how did he ever survive
the fall into the canyon? A dragon is not a pillow, and from that
height, they both would have been squashed. That fall killed the Bok in
the previous book, and though the magical avatar was injured before, so
Bruenor's romp through Mithril Hall was standard fighting, against more
overwhelming odds, but I like his escape through the chimney of the
forge, where Alustriel rescues him and brings him back to the Harpell's
estate in her chariot of fire. He and Cattie-brie manage to convince her
to allow them to take the chariot south in search of their friends, so
that they could help rescue Regis.
This is where the book got really interesting, and very exciting.
Although there were more enemies than even the author could properly
count, I found the sequence of the pirate attack on their ship to be
amazingly written. It was so fun to read, especially Bruenor driving the
fire chariot through one of the boats. What I love most about it,
however, was the way the crew accepted Drizzt, when the mask slipped and
he was revealed to be a drow elf. By the way he helped them, and fought
for them, they judged him by his character, not by his race.
At the end of the fight, however, the author makes a curious observation.
Drizzt watches the storytelling on the ship, and thinks that, except for
the missing Regis, it is "just like old times". What old times is he
thinking of? Wulfgar only knew Drizzt when he was being trained, and
that was interrupted by the invasion of the giants and goblins. A single
winter after that was over, when they were unlikely to have had
excitement to talk about, they left on this "adventure", and Cattie-brie
wasn't with them until they reached Mithril Hall. I think the author is
trying to create long-term camaraderie where there was none.
Some of the best moments come from the bad guys. I liked most of the
rivalry between Entreri, the wizard Lavalle, and the rat-man Rassiter,
all in the employ of Pasha Pook. It was a lot of fun to see these people
jockeying for positions within the organizations. As is required from
bad guys, they had many double-crosses waiting, for when they were
double-crossed by others.
Once in Calimport, Wulfgar seems to have learned patience. At the
beginning of the book, he was extremely irritated at having to stop one
night at the wizard's tower, for fear that Regis would be executed in
the time they wasted. However, once they found the Thieves' Guild, after
a funny excursion with camels and a dishonorable merchant, he was
content to check into a hotel just down the street and wait a full day
longer. If they knew that Regis was in Calimport by then, they had to
assume he would be killed within hours of his arrival. Since Entreri
knew they were following, it stands to reason that he knew they had
arrived, and might hasten Regis' final hours.
When they discovered the informant halfling, and Drizzt knew they were
walking into a trap in the sewers, why did he not plan a counter-strike?
Usually, knowing that a trap exists is the first step to foiling it, but
not in this case. Here, it did nothing to help them whatsoever. Knowing
this, and with Regis' time running out, they should have gone in the
front door. With their abilities, it would have been easy.
The action, however, was totally engrossing for the last third of the
book, or so. The narrative was truly enjoyable, well written, with all
of the politics and rivalries coming to a head. That part helped to tone
down all the fighting against hordes of enemies, which itself wasn't too
bad because it was so exciting and well written.
Drizzt obviously didn't take Cattie-brie's words to heart as much as he
thought he had. He seemed to have come to terms with who he was, no
longer caring that Entreri tried to mock him by accusing him of hiding
behind the mask.
He did it for the right reasons, as Cattie-brie pointed out. But when
the fight is almost done, and Drizzt and Entreri get back on the
streets, the assassin once again uses the mask to his advantage, gaining
a few precious seconds to escape. Since he is still roaming the city at
the end of the book, the author obviously still wants to use the
character in potential sequels. I have no problems with this, as long as
he is used at some point in the future, and used well.
As much as I enjoyed a lot of the action in this book, especially the
pirate attack and the battles in the sewers and the Thieves' Guild,
there were several instances of plot convenience here. Cattie-brie and
Drizzt, especially, could fight under any circumstances at any other
time in this trilogy, even when an enemy was located very close to their
friends. However, when the plot requires that Drizzt push through dozens
of demons to get through the inter-dimensional portal, he doesn't want
to use the bow and arrow in case he missed. I don't think there is an
example in the entire trilogy of either of these two missing. In the
sewers, Drizzt decides that he can't get through a small pack of rat-men
without one stabbing him in the back, so he is pushed forward. But in
the demon realm, he does exactly that, with an injured Cattie-brie on
As I expected, the ending of this book was rushed, with no time at all
devoted to the reclaiming of Mithril Hall. I don't mind, really, because
it would have been more fighting of hoards against hoards. Although
Alustriel said in the last book that only three generations of dwarves
lived in Mithril Hall, it seems that Bruenor had a lot of relatives who
ruled there, in the way he slaughtered the evil dwarves in somebody's
The book ends with the promise of more adventure for these friends, who
have quickly recovered from their ordeals in the south. I can't
understand why Wulfgar's barbarians would come south to Mithril Hall,
when they've lived all their lives in the north. How could they give up
their culture so easily? Will this pave the way for Wulfgar to take up
his promise of making the barbarians of the plains pay for their
dishonorable act of turning a warrior into a Pegasus back in the
Drizzt has come back from all of the adventuring with a new sense of
self, not desiring to hide from who he is. Regis had a brief reign as
head of the Thieves' Guild, but by the end is staying at Mithril Hall
because he apparently made more enemies, and is on the run again.
Finally, Wulfgar and Cattie-brie are about to get married. There might
be future stories where Drizzt has a crisis because of the newfound love
of that young woman, after the revelation that she might have loved him
if Wulfgar hadn't come around.
Once again, I have to wonder why this book is part of a trilogy called
The Icewind Dale Trilogy, because no part of it takes place in that
region. Only one of the characters was born into that region, and all of
them have left it by the end. There are also more Tolkien references in
this book, the most noticeable being a halfling who loses a finger (and
then another one later on). That didn't seem to affect Regis at all,
except at the time when the fingers were appropriated.
If this is typical of the world as a whole, as I am led to understand
from others, I don't think I will be
returning to the Forgotten Realms. Apparently, the whole setup is for
characters to battle overwhelming odds and win, which is not something
that I find interesting. The writing in this trilogy, however, was
terrific, which made the series better than it might have been under a
less skilled author.