The Companions

Cover art for “The Companions,” the 28th book in the Drizzt Do’Urden series.

The latest novel in the Drizzt Do’Urden series hit bookstores last week and was well received by critics.

R.A. Salvatore’s “The Companions” is the 28th full-length novel to focus on Drizzt and his friends. The lavender-eyed drow and his companions have captured the hearts and imaginations of fans since the first book was published in 1988. The original series wasn’t even focused on Drizzt, but after a massive response from fans Salvatore decided to run with the character.

The latest novel is the first in a series titled “The Sundering,” which ushers in a change to the Forgotten Realms, one of the shared worlds that Dungeons and Dragons players use in role-playing games owned by Wizards of the Coast.

The Sundering is a major event for the Forgotten Realms, and will feature six major hardcover novels, written by the most popular Forgotten Realms authors: R.A. Salvatore, Paul Kemp, Erin M. Evans, Richard Lee Byers, Troy Denning and Ed Greenwood.

They will be released every other month from August 2013 to June 2014. Each novel will tell a self-contained story featuring both new and well-loved characters, set against the background of the unfolding events that are reshaping the world of Faerun.

[SPOILER ALERT] At the end of the last book in the Drizzt series, “The Last Threshold,” it’s unclear whether Drizzt has been killed or not after a brutal encounter at Kelvin’s Cairn with his companion, the curious elf woman Dahlia.

In the opening pages of “The Companions” we revisit the broken and seemingly unconscious Drizzt who is grievously injured following a fight at the end of the last book. Readers are then taken to the magical forest of Iruladoon, the magical forest we know Catti-brie and Regis were taken following their deaths nearly a hundred years ago in the storyline.

The reader finds out that Wulfgar and Bruenor are in Iruladoon following their deaths as well. Catti-brie has become the Chosen of Mielikki, the nature goddess that her beloved Drizzt follows.

The book follows three newborn adventurers through the first 21 years of their lives, a human girl, a halfling boy and a most curious dwarf. Each one has to fight their way through to Kelvin’s Cairn, the same place that brought the Companions of the Hall together.

See my full review of “The Companions” here.

I was able to interview Salvatore about the new novel and the future of Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a project that will bring his world of Corona to the world of tabletop gaming with DemonWars: Reformation. He took time from his hectic schedule of promoting his new book and The Sundering and promoting his campaign to answer some questions.

R.A. Salvatore

New York Times Bestselling Author R.A. Salvatore

Andy Lyons: As Wizards has advanced editions of D&D source material, you and the other authors have had to advance storylines across hundreds of years. Did you have a plan that led up to “The Companions?” As a reader, when Catti-brie and Regis went with the spectral unicorn my heart was broken but I was happy Mielikki accepted them. I figured with Iruladoon something amazing was in the mix but I never expected something as grand-scale as the events of this book. What was the process like when you found out you had to jump years and evolve storylines?

R.A. Salvatore: I knew from the moment I left the meeting where Wizards told me about Fourth Edition and the changes to the Realms that we would, in the not-too-distant-future, be scrambling to revert the world to the freshness and feel of Ed Greenwood’s creation. I left that meeting plotting out how I was going to play my role in that rebirth of the Realms, and so did Ed. I didn’t realize it would happen so quickly!

AL: In the interview with Shawn Speakman you mention that Drizzt is like a long-time friend. As a reader, I’ve come to love the Companions, and characters with so much depth like Jarlaxle, Athrogate, and even Entreri in the later years. As the storyteller, you’ve killed and brought back multiple pillar characters. How hard are those decisions as you piece together the lives of so many characters that your fans hold dear to their hearts?

RAS: It’s always brutal to kill a character – they really do become like friends. And bringing them back, either through them never having really died, or some other “trick,” is always dangerous and delicate. The thing is, many of my readers have walked alongside me through this road of adventure for many years now, even decades. These characters aren’t just my friends, but have become important companions to the readers, maybe finding them in a dark place in high school, or in the deserts of Iraq. I don’t take that lightly.

AL: In “The Companions,” as the characters are reborn they go through very different yet very similar upbringings in their re-birthing. As a fan of the Realms I’m interested in seeing what happens across The Sundering. Are these the type of events that will piece together the next phase of the Realms? With “War of the Spider Queen” you had a role across all of the books. How much input do you have on the rest of The Sundering? Will the next Drizzt book follow those lines or is this a small piece of The Sundering and the next Drizzt book will simply follow this story arch?

RAS: I have no input into the specifics of the other Sundering books, nor would I want any. Each of the authors is telling a story about his or her characters and region of the Realms. I will take some credit for this grand event. A couple of years ago at GenCon, James Wyatt told me that they needed to get the Realms back on track, and since I had been plotting for several years, I sat him down and told him how I planned to hold up my end – and offered suggestions on how the other authors might follow along. The gods of the Realms knew of The Sundering, where the worlds slip apart, and so they prepared. In my case, Mielikki and Lolth have some tricks to play, but it’s up to all the authors to be clever here, to figure out how their characters past and present fit into the grand mix of it all, and in ways that make sense for whatever gods or situations in which they’re immersed.
AL: I’ve made it a habit to go back and read through all of the Drizzt books leading up to the next one. In the Speakman interview you mentioned there were reviews on “The Companions” from people who had never read a single Drizzt book before it. To know what led up to this point, isn’t it crucial to read “The Neverwinter Saga,” or is this the type of story that’s a stand-alone that can grab new readers and send them back to Menzoberranzan and the origins of Drizzt to read the entirety?

RAS: I’ve written the Drizzt books more akin to the structure of Sherlock Holmes or James Bond than, say, “The Wheel of Time.” A reader can pick up any Drizzt book and enjoy the story, and hopefully I’ll pique his or her interest enough to make him or her go back and start from the beginning. I’m pleasantly surprised to be seeing this new reader phenomenon with “The Companions.” This is what we were going for with the grand event, pulling people in. The last time I’ve seen this level of first-time Drizzt readers was probably with “The Thousand Orcs” (Todd Lockwood’s iconic cover probably had something to do with that!).

AL: What was it like being able to revisit the Companions after doing a series where they played roles in Drizzt’s struggle to find himself, but nothing as major as in previous books?

RAS: Like going home…in all the good ways and none of the bad.
AL: Any clues on the next book?

RAS: It comes out in March of next year. There are too many drow in it for me to say any more and escape with my life…

AL: Here’s one that’s plagued me for years and my fan question. At the end of “Servant of the Shard” you give some insight into Jarlaxle: “However, Jarlaxle Baenre, the third son of Matron Baenre, once sacrificed to Lady Lolth by his mother and his siblings, knew better than to trust his own brother.” We’ve had glimpses into this most interesting drow, but nothing of an origin type story. I started piecing it together at “One-Eyed Jax” and I am glad he is still around, but I’ve always been curious about him! I think clearly in “The Companions” the stage is set for him to return as a supporting character, but I’ve always wanted to know more. Was he a zin-carla like Zak? Can you divulge any details of the story of Jarlaxle?

RAS: Jarlaxle has a major role going forward – and it keeps getting larger as the story unfolds (I’m working on next summer’s book now). I love the guy, truly, and since he’s so hard to kill, he’ll probably be around for a while longer.

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