The Ghost King: Transitions Book Three, R. A. Salvatore (Wizard’s of the Coast, 2009) {Random House Audio, 2009; Narrator: Mark Bramhall}

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Grade: Δ — Good book within the genre.  Solid story, good characters, if you like this genre, read this book. 

Categories: Series, World, Chronicle, Trilogy, Saga and Cycle.

In brief: The final installment of the Transitions trilogy The Ghost King is a High Fantasy novel by R.A. Salvatore that ties into the most recent incarnation of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. It ties together and closes many of the storylines that Salvatore has written for the Forgotten Realms, both for the drow elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, and many of his other characters, while setting up new possibilities for adventure (both literary and gaming). It suffers from some of the same weaknesses as the previous two volumes in this series, but also builds up to an exciting climax that does not shy away from sad endings.  A solid read for High Fantasy fans and a must read for fans of the Forgotten Realms.

Setting:

The Forgotten Realms, a High Fantasy world of Orcs, Elves, Dwarves and the like based upon the Dungeons and Dragons game.

In Depth:

The Ghost King is the last installment in the Transitions Trilogy, and serves as a bridge to the new system of magical mechanics being introduced into the world of the Forgotten Realms by the Wizard’s of the Coast. As that the Forgotten Realms is a game-tie-in World, it will come as no surprise to anyone that this is directly tied to the latest version (2007-2008) of Dungeons & Dragons, the epic High Fantasy gaming system first created by David Arneson and further developed and turned into a marketing empire by Gary Gygax and the once mighty TSR Games.  To that end, it covers the change in that world’s magic, closes out many storylines and introduces new ones that can be built upon.  It does this with a solid story line that one need not be a gamer to enjoy, and by telling human (well demi-human) stories based around well developed characters.[1]

The Ghost King ties together and closes many if not all of the storylines that Salvatore has written for the Forgotten Realms, including (but not limited to) the many Drizzt Do’Urdon tales, the Heroes of the Hall series, the Cleric Quintet, the Sellswords series, etc. To this end, Salvatore does not shy away from killing some well loved characters[2], and giving sad endings to others.  At the same time, he uses the change in magic that was discussed in passing earlier in the Transitions series to set up new characters and adventures to take place in the brave new world being created by the change in the gaming franchise. 

Having said that, at no time does the story come across as a simple marketing tool, and the transition in magic is key to the story, rather than seeming like some silly add on.  At times, in fact, the storyline being told seems like a nostalgic trip of a middle aged narrator (Drizzt-cum-Salvatore himself) down a life lived.  It has some rather poor bits of philosophical first-person meanderings about what it is to be a hero (which come across as a fantasy-role-players definition, as opposed to anyone who has actually been shot-at’s viewpoint), but the bulk of the text is quite good and at times touchingly sad.  As ever, Salvatore shows his enviable skill at writing action sequences, and crafts a superior combination of story development with combat.

I will admit to being slightly disappointed as to what the character the Ghost King is (I won’t spoil, though it is revealed in the first couple of paragraphs), but it does nicely tie together disparate elements of the large number of storylines that find a conclusion in this book.  Furthermore, while I found the very nature of the Ghost King to be very interesting, I don’t feel Salvatore quite managed to explore this concept to its fullest.  Still, it was a very interesting idea.

As a whole, this does bring a good conclusion to the Transitions series.  While it does give set up for future novels, it in no way left me feeling hanging.  Indeed, it did a very good job of giving me a sense of closure while still keeping me interested in reading any new books that come along.  This is a very difficult skill for any writer to develop, for if you get it wrong your readers will have no desire to keep reading your works. 

In closing, I feel that Transitions as a trilogy and The Ghost King in particular was a very good read for anyone who likes Epic High Fantasy and a must read for anyone who is a fan of either Salvatore or the Forgotten Realms

Notes about the Audio Edition:

As with the other books in this series Mark Bramhall did an excellent job narrating this story. He played to the tone of the text without letting the heavy emphasis on description draw him into overacting.  This is a trap that many narrators fall into, and Bramhall neatly avoided it, walking a fine line.  

His narration was very good, and his telling managed to reduce the mauve hue of some of the purple prose that existed in the text (no, it wasn’t purple, but like most High Fantasy, Salvatore seems to fall into the camp of “Why use one adjective when you can use five?”), but I continue to dislike his Dwarvish-pseudo-Celtic-accent.  Even so, his talent for good narration significantly added to my enjoyment of this book.


[1] After twenty-some odd books, one would hope they would be well developed.

[2] Well, as dead as anyone can be in High Fantasy Epics where magic can resurrect and turn mortals into gods, etc.

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Chronicle, Cycle, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Identity, Post Modern, Ripping Yarn, Saga, Serial, Series, Strong Characters, Trilogy, World, Zombies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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