The Paths of Darkness compendium includes R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms novels published from 1998 to 2001. The principle storyline for this series is the return of Wulfgar from imprisonment by the demon Erttu, and his stuggle to come to grips with his new life. Three of the books included in this one make up the final part of the 'Legend of Drizzt'. One book, Servant of the Shard, seems to have been included in this volume only because of publication order. It is actually the first book of the separate 'Sellswords' trilogy and doesn't really have anything to do with Drizzt and Co.
In The Silent Blade (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, Book 1), a fresh new adventure for the Companions of the Hall is began. As Drizzt and Co. head out to Spirit Soaring to have Cadderly destroy the (same old) Crystal Shard, monsters hound them at every turn. Wulfgar struggles with inner demons until he finds a place as a bouncer for a rough tavern in Luskan, where he has a great time bashing heads and drinking booze. Artemis Entreri travels back to his roots in Calimport to begin reestablishing his name and fortune. Jarlaxle has ventured out of Menzoberanzan in the search for power and wealth and coaxes Entreri to join his plans. Character development is the primary thing that stands out in this book. Wulfgar, Entreri, and Jarlaxle especially grow as characters. [4-star rating].
The Spine of the World (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, Book 2) is completely devoted to the continuing struggle of Wulfgar, who cannot seem to overcome his inner demons and allows himself to fall into a rather shameful existence. The story consists of two separate plot-lines that briefly come together near the end of the book. Wulfgar and Morik (who develops nicely here) fight, are framed, get beat, leave Luskan, fight, are framed, get beat, and so on. The other story was actually the more intriguing to me. It involves characters that we've never met before and their emotional wrangling. A hi-bred lord courts a lowly peasant (Meralda), who goes along with it for her family's sake but makes a big mistake in getting knocked up by another man. The two stories come together in an unpredictable way that results in a hugely surprising and satisfying ending. [3-star rating]
The third book in the Paths of Darkness, Servant of the Shard (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness, Book 3), probably shouldn't have been included in this collection. It is really somewhat of a duplicate book, released two different times with different looking covers, the second time as book one of The Sellswords. It is also one of the most enjoyable Salvatore books to date. The Sellswords series follows the adventures of Artemis Enreri and Jarlaxle. This perfect couple is extremely well-developed and are fun to read about. In book 1, the Crystal Shard occupies center stage as the story began in The Silent Blade is continued. The annoyingly pious Cadderly plays a part in the latter parts of the book, but doesn't do too much harm to the story. Excellent fighting scenes and plenty of action make for a fun and exciting read. [5-star rating].
In Sea of Swords (Forgotten Realms: Paths of Darkness), the story of Wulfgar is rejoined for the final book of the Legend of Drizzt. As the Companions of the Hall set out to retrieve Aegis-Fang from the pirate Sheila Kree, it seems nothing could stand in their way. Wulfgar finally comes to terms with his new place in life, and is reunited with his old friends before the final battle. A mysterious elf from Drizzt's past has plotted to slay Drizzt for years and the two meet in an epic clash. Overall, this was a bit disappointing for a Drizzt novel, particularly because of its being the last in the series. [3-star rating].
Overall, these books really start to lose interest as the reader becomes inundated with Drizzt and his friends. The heroes (except Wulfgar ironically) become practically invincible and the stories become predictable. I'm just glad that I'm finally through the Legend of Drizzt (although I probably will read The Hunter's Blades trilogy).