“History is a poem where all lines rhyme.”
It was eighteen years ago when I read my first forgotten realms novel. Another college student saw me playing Baldur’s Gate 2 and noticed I had Taulmaril on my person. He asked how I could have acquired it. I told him that I managed to kill another group of adventurers and this was carried by one of them. That was a lie, I never killed them. I merely used a character editor and dropped it in my characters passion. When asked if I knew who they were, I told him the truth that I did not. He left and returned with the first book of the Cleric Quintet and told me it was by the author who created those characters. That night I decided to pick it up and check it out. I read the entirety of it overnight and asked my friend if he had the second book.
Thus began my love affair with the writings of R.A. Salvatore. It is doubtful any author has added to Faerun more than this man and even DnD lore in general (with all respects to Ed Greenwood, and Paul S. Kemp). I own every book that Salvatore has written and most of his short stories. The majority of those are of course based around his titular character Drizzt Du’Urden.
Up until the birth of my son, if there was a new Drizzt novel out, I would pick it up and read it over a weekend. While I could try to use the birth of my son as a reason why I didn’t rush to pick up the latest book about the Drow Ranger of Icewind Dale, the truth would be that he began to feel a bit stale for me. I would still buy the books, but I was slow to reading them. I almost gave up on Drizzt.
Good thing I didn’t, because I would have been robbed of this book. Timeless is a return to form by Salvatore. It is akin to DC Comics Rebirth, even. It brings back what made you fall in love with the heretic of Menzoberranzan.
Warning Spoilers Lie Ahead.
"For all the potential tragedy and darkness, though, I must remind myself that the wheel does inevitably move forward. The world was a darker, harsher, crueler place a hundred years ago, and much more so a thousand years ago."
Drizzt has been through allot, but it seems that the world is slowly bending toward justice. After the resurrection of all the “Companions of the Hall” by Mielikki, Drizzt has seen the world change due to The Sundering. Gauntlgrym has a primordial powering the forge of King Bruenor, Regis is married to the ruler of the halfling city called “Bleeding Vines,” Wulgar seems to be okay with Drizzt and Catti-brie being married again, and Catti-brie is expecting a child sired by Drizzt. Plus, Drizzt is multiclassing as a Monk!
Meanwhile: Mithral Hall is flourishing, Luskin’s Hosttower is being run by Bregan D’aerthe which is currently allied with King Bruenor, and the Harpels of Longsaddle help keep the alliances in check. The only problem seems to be coming from Neverwinter and it’s ruler Lord Neverember, who seems to be making allot of money through the sale of old lands. Complicating matters, the resurrection of all of Drizzt’s friends were not the only deaths thaThe t had been reverse. Drizzt’s father Zaknafein has been resurrected as well. But why and by whom we don’t know.
Timeless is not a book you can jump into. To fully appreciate it, you will have had to have read most of Salvatore’s early books on Drizzt and maybe even the entirety of The War of the Spider Queen for proper context. It is difficult cast of characters to wrap your head around if you are unfamiliar. Seeing names like Horoodissomth Xorlarrin or Daungelina Tr’arach can be enough to turn some people off.
Exasperating the difficulty to understanding what is happening in the book is the fact that in makes time-jumps. There are flashbacks throughout the work, which account for about half of the overall material. This all revolves around Zaknafein (Drizzt’s father) and Jarlaxle (leader of Bregan D’aerthe and current ally of Drizzt). Salvatore expertly fills in gaps of history, adding subtle insights and even changes to lore that brought us the most famous hero of the Sword Coast. These flashbacks help showcase the long reaching machinations of Lloth… or at least give rise to their possibility.
What is truly magnificent is the journals by Drizzt. I am glad that Drizzt has managed to shake the “emo” stage of his life and bring himself back into a more positive outlook. Salvatore has always used these journals as a means to bring into question some metaphysical truth. Drizzt’s writings are self-reflexive, but offer real life insights into life that the reader can recognize in their own. This has always been my favorite part of Salvatore’s storytelling.
There are a couple of problems I do have with the story; one of which I think will be resolved in the next book, and the other which... well... might also be resolved in the next book.
The first problem I had is knowing "the stakes." There are several different questions we are confronted with, most of which we only get slight answers to. Why is a demon army being raised to confront Bruenor's growing realm? Are the Waterdavian Lords involved? Who resurrected Zaknafein? To that last one we do get a real answer in the epilogue, but it raises as many questions as answers.
The second problem I have is how the book just simply ends. Drizzt, Jarlaxle, and Zaknafein fail in their rescue attempt and almost don't survive their escape. It ends with an army on it's way. It feels as if Tolkien had decided to end Two Towers with an orc army outside Orthanc. It may be a plot device, but it didn't sit well with me.
In the end, Timeless does what most Drizzt Do'Urden fans wanted: a return of the "Companions of the Hall" with a dash of Menzoberranzan intrigue. While Drizzt may not be the focus of this book, it still ends up being all about the Dark Elf Ranger.