That was the first thought I had upon completing R.A. Salvatore's latest entry into The Legend of Drizzt, and the first book in the Realms-wide event, The Sundering. Throughout my initial reading, I was constantly going back and forth as to whether or not I could accept the revival of The Companions of the Hall, and indeed, there was a period of time where I didn't think I was going to be able to. But the reason I love Salvatore so much is because he is such a master storyteller. As much as it is a shame that he was forced into a position where he had to revive these characters, he earns it in this book, one of the best he's written. Salvatore takes the hand that he was dealt with the arrival of 4th Edition, and weaves for all of us readers a truly touching novel that reminds me of why I fell in love with his books in the first place. This is a love-letter to us fans, and as divided as I was, Bob, with this book, has assured me that it's going to be okay.
We are almost immediately introduced to the conceit that the titular companions are indeed those of The Hall. The prologue, after briefly touching base with Drizzt as we left him at the end of The Last Threshold, cuts back a number of years to a small girl in Netheril being hunted by Shadovar. Within just a few pages, she reveals herself to be none other than a reborn Catti-Brie, as she magically fends off her would-be kidnappers. From there we are taken back to Iruladoon where we finally learn Iruladoon's purpose, and just how the Companions will be reunited on the Prime Material Plane. In a masterful storytelling move, Salvatore does not simply eject them all back into the world, all in their prime and ready to take to the road again. Instead, they find out that they must be literally reborn into the world, where they will grow again into adults while waiting to meet together at an appointed date.
And, of course, Salvatore has found a way to make this all worthwhile. We spend the book tracing the brand-new origins of our favorite characters as they must grow and prepare for their appointed meeting, which is hinted to be only a prelude to a much larger conflict in which they must aid their beloved friend. Each chapter, for the greater majority of the book, is devoted to a single one of the companions, who are spread all across Faerun as they are reborn. It is a wonderful joy to watch each of them as they struggle to balance the demands of their new life with the knowledge of their old one and each of the stories has it's own unique and distinct feel.
Regis, here, is the blowout star of the book, with his newfound determination to be able to stand beside the more martially skilled Companions in battle when the time comes. Catti-Brie's story is easily the most plot-driven of the three, full of set-up for The Sundering and future Drizzt books, whereas Bruenor's is a more exisistential look at the psychological ramifications of revivification. Catti-Brie's thread suffers, especially once she seperates from her new parents (which provide rich emotional grounding for the former orphan), as she is privy to more of the mystery surrounding their rebirth and is in turn more focused on the ultimate goal. It makes sense, but it doesn't really allow for as much nuance as the others. Bruenor's angst may also grate at times, but it's a good stroke of characterization. For Wulfgar, well, let me just say that while I may have been initially unconvinced, Salvatore brought me round in the end. Trust him, he knows what he's doing. Clues to what The Sundering will entail are few, but undeniably tantalizing. It's shaping up to be a truly epic event.
It is Salvatore's obvious and infectious love and respect for these characters that make this book such a joy to read. Any concerns I developed early in the book about the integrity of this move, were all deftly and expertly handled by the end of it. He takes what could have been a simple retcon, and instead turns it into a fantastic character study of characters that we had long thought we knew completely, revitalizing all of them, and allowing us a chance to see them truly grow. There may be some readers who are unable to swallow this revival, and that is understandable. But it is important to remember, before you dismiss this book, that he wasn't given a chance to finish the stories that he wanted to tell with these characters before the arrival of 4th edition. I strongly recommend giving The Companions a chance, because Salvatore isn't cheapening what has come until now, he's merely giving us a chance at the full, untruncated story that we deserve, and not one that has been artificially limited by editorial mandate.
If you found my review helpful, please click through to it on Quazen: