The Pirate King by R.A. Salvatore is the second book in the Transitions Trilogy set in the Forgotten Realms. The first book in the trilogy is titled The Orc King: Transitions, Book I (Transitions) with the third book being titled The Ghost King (scheduled for release in October, 2009). 2008 marks the 20th Anniversary of the iconic character, Drizzt Do'Urden, on top of that the title of the latest trilogy - Transitions - is just that. A transition from the current rule set of the Forgotten Realms to the new 4th Edition. There are many differences in the new 4th Edition, some positive and some I will wait to make a definite opinion on. As an aside, if you have not read The Stowaway: Stone of Tymora, Book I (Stone of Tymora) by R.A. and Geno Salvatore you may want to do so before reading this book. One of the characters from that book plays a prominent role in this novel. This trilogy appears to be a way to get Drizzt to the `new' Realms and tell how he came to where he is. Here are my thoughts on the novel.
The plot of this book is, for all intended purposes, dived up into three distinct sections. The first focusing on Captain Deudermont and a mission he agrees to be apart of. This mission is unlike anything he has ever done before and will certainly tax him to his limits. As always, he surrounds himself with powerful friends, but there are equally as powerful (if not more powerful) enemies as well. The second section of the novel focuses on a journey Drizzt undertakes to finally, after four years, find out the fate of one of his dear friends. The third section focuses on the consequences of the choices that Captain Deudermont made previously and how that affects not only him but the city of Luskan as well. This book is a little different from past Drizzt novels, in that it focuses on other characters than just the Companions of the Hall. Also, the reader is able to get a really good sense of the conditions of Luskan. I really feel that Mr. Salvatore really shined in this book in his ability to allow the reader to see Luskan. Drizzt is not as introspective in this book as in previous books, but that does not diminish the plot in anyway. It is a gritty novel with much suffering and death. The overall feel of the book is one that I would anticipate fourth edition novels to be like.
Many of the characters in this novel and old hat for many readers. Characters such as Drizzt, Regis, Deudermont, and Robillard. However, there is the addition of several new characters as well such as; the five Luskan captains, the Crow, and Arklem Greeth to name a few. While there are certainly a lot of characters in this book, it never feels like there are too many. Each characters seems to serve a purpose, and none are written in merely as fluff. One thing I lightly complained about in The Orc King was that there is only so much that can be written about certain characters before they become stagnant. I would be remiss if I did not say that the characterization in this novel is very well done. We get to see new sides of several characters. Some characters make choices that I would not have guessed they would have made, but the circumstances they are under force those decisions. The character development is also some of the best of the recent novels as well. I would love to say more about it, but I do not want to spoil anything for anyone. I will say that I was able to connect with each and every character and rarely can I say that about any novel.
A couple minor criticisms about this novel:
1 - It seems pretty evident, that Mr. Salvatore is being forced to do some things with the story that he otherwise would not have done. This appears to be coming from the push to the 4th edition and making everything congruent. While I think Mr. Salvatore did the best he could, it does, at times, create moments of the story feeling forced.
2 - The, for lack of a better way to describe it, middle `section' of the book didn't seem to flow with the rest of the story. It seemed really out of context and almost as though it was a short story put into the middle of a novel. With how the rest of the novel felt, and flowed, the middle just seemed out of place.
Some things I liked about this novel:
1 - The overall grittiness of the novel. It felt much like some of Mr. Salvatore's Demon Wars work. It didn't have that happy-go-lucky, everything will be okay in the end, type feel. I rather enjoyed not knowing until the end how each character would fare.
2 - As I mentioned above, the characterization and character development was really done well. None of the characters followed the traditional lines that we would expect them to follow. When characters begin to make decisions that are unexpected, it creates a sense of newness and makes you want to keep reading. That is how I felt with this novel.
Overall I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. The middle section seemed to bog down a little bit, but once everything worked itself out and the story was back in Luskan it really picked up and flowed smoothly. The ending leaves me clamoring for the next book to see how things play out. Fans of Salvatore and the Forgotten Realms will certainly want to pick this book up and see the changes that are happening. Some of those changes surprised me quite a bit, so I can really only guess what will happen in the next book. Transitions is an apt title to call this trilogy, I can not think of a more appropriate word. This is a book that I whole-heartedly recommend to those who are this far along in the series. Only time will tell what is in store for Drizzt and the Forgotten Realms.