Fantasy was a big thing in the 80's. A myriad of films featuring musclebound men and scantily clad women being toasted by or riding dragons into glory were commonplace. Add to this the huge popularity of Dungeons & Dragons style board games and the already massive and long running legacy of Tolkien's seminal works and it seems we just couldn't get enough of those worlds of mystery and magic.
In 1988 American author R.A. Salvatore released the first in his Forgotten Realms series of novels and part one of The Icewind Dale trilogy. Parts 2 and 3 followed in 1989 ad 1990 respectively and together they completed the trio -
Part 1 - The Crystal Shard
Part 2 - Streams of Silver
Part 3 - The Halfling's Gem
Salvatore's trilogy is a hugely enjoyable one with colourful characters and locations with wondrous names abound. The books are real page turners and the stories flow extremely well in to each other. Exaggerated albeit slightly obvious focus on themes like racism are commonplace as we follow Drizzt who endures persecution for his jet black skin, a sad parallel to what unfortunately happens in real life. Friendship, honour, loss and wonder are other common themes which the books share with other genre counterparts.
Make no mistake though, there is next to nothing else that is original in these books. The style, the setting, the plots have pretty much all been done before with even some characters being brazen copies of even Tolkien's most famous works with 'halfling' very obviously standing in for 'hobbit' (although the author is not the first nor the last to make use of the word).
What Salvatore excels at is his articulation. His writing style is extremely accessible, far more than others of the genre who tend to bloat and/or over complicate their work but there is a refreshing airiness to the simplicity of Salvatore's style that almost makes the pages turn by themselves. This more simplistic way of writing makes the trilogy ideal for children and literary idiots such as yours truly as there is almost nothing boring or overly draggy happening from page to page. The trade off being the lack of originality or any ambitious notion of depth at any given point but this keeps the reader skimming like a stone over a lush pond of wonder, battle and enchantment.
I first picked up 'The Icewind Dale Trilogy' around 2003 in an edition which saw all three books in one. I am admittedly not much of a reader as I prefer the medium of film to tell a story but I simply could not put this book down. The light and often humorous style was perfect to induce addictive flow and before I knew it I was on the last page.
Highly recommended, especially with a comfy chair beside a roaring fire on a winter's night.
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.