The Drizzt Novels: The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore
The Crystal Shard is the first book by R.A. Salvatore in the Icewind Dale trilogy and the Drizzt novel that started it all. Originally published in 1988 by TSR in paperback and rereleased by Wizards of the Coast in the hardcover Legend of Drizzt editions in 2005. This was the first Drizzt novel published and the Icewind Dale trilogy set the characters that are central to all the stories. The Dark Elf Trilogy was published after the Icewind Dale Trilogy but written as a prequel. An interview with the author tells that the original pivotal or central character was to be Wulfgar and the coming of age story line that he occupies in The Crystal Shard. Interest very quickly shifted to the displaced dark elf named Drizzt. The Crystal Shard was the second Forgotten Realms book written shortly after the creation of the campaign setting by the same name designed by Ed Greenwood. The first book published set in the Forgotten Realms is Dark Walker on Moonshea by Douglas Niles. Since its inception in 1988 over 200 books have been published set in the Forgotten Realms fantasy realm making it one of the most prolific fantasy fiction settings in print.
The Crystal Shard is the cornerstone to the empire that is the Drizzt novels. The book starts with an introduction from Bob Salvatore’s publisher, Mary Kirchoff. It’s an excellent description of the historical context that Bob grew up in. This being said, the Forgotten Realms takes place in a standard feudal society, it’s the emotional heart strings that are pulled. It is said that the best fiction is not about the world itself, it is just a backdrop, but the human condition itself. The incredible monsters, sorcerers, and magical weapons are not the story here; it’s the characters and our immediate care for them and their relationships that truly drive The Crystal Shard.
Spoiler Alert – Skip to the END OF SPOILER marker if you don’t want to know what happens in this book.
Fig #1 The original cover art.
Fig #2 The new Art by Todd Lockwood
First we meet Errtu, a powerful demon from the abyss and he is looking for the crystal shard. Then we meet the crystal shard itself, named Crenshinibon, an ancient, sentient and extremely powerful artifact from a lost time. They are powerful enemies for our yet unassembled cast of heroes. Meanwhile Regis the Halfling sits peacefully of the banks of a lake near Ten Towns in Icewind dale. It is this image that is the base line for the Regis character that we all hold dear. He is half asleep with an un-baited fishing line in the water. This is life as he prefers it, simple and stress free. This is about to change as Drizzt becomes aware that a barbarian hoard is massing with intentions to attack Ten Towns. Regis uses his necklace gem to unite the feuding peoples of Ten Towns into a common defense and they are able to repulse the hoard's attack. The alliance that brought the towns together quickly crumbles after the threat of the barbarians has passed and everyone goes back to business as usual.
On the battlefield Bruenor is hit the head by the standard bearer of the barbarian king and promptly cuts him down. After the battle Bruenor retrieves the young man that hit him and takes him to the mines as a prisoner. He begins to think of young Wulfgar as a son, and after five years on the forge under Bruenor’s tutelage the sentiment begins to get returned. Bruenor tells Wulfgar his time on the forge, which has turned him into an incredibly powerful specimen of a man, is over and he introduces him to Drizzt to learn the ways of combat. Wulfgar learns not to judge an elf by the color of his skin and takes a lot of lumps learning the finer points of skilled hand to hand combat. This leads Drizzt and Wulfgar to take on a whole cave full of various giants in a battle that forever cements their friendship and we get the first whiffs of a larger problem that may be brewing in the north. Catti-brie and Wulfgar strike up a romance and Regis is enjoying his role as a hero of the barbarian war.
One of the most magical and memorable moments in all of the books is when Bruenor takes to a forge to create the weapon he was born to make. He does it on the side of the mountain in a small forge that he created for just that purpose. He spends all night forging and imbuing with magic a war hammer named Aegis Fang. It symbolizes the pinnacle of his career as a smith and he gives it to Wulfgar without any pomp and ceremony solidifying their relationship. Meanwhile Akar Kessel, the wielder of Crenshinibon, is raising any army from the bowels of the spine of the world with the intent of overrunning Ten Towns. Errtu joins Kessel’s army as its general and they start moving on Ten-Towns. The lessons from the barbarian attack go unheeded and the politics of Ten-Towns stops them from uniting. Bruenor, relizing that they will all be defeated by the stubbornness of ten towns council collapses his tunnels and seals himself and his clan in their under mountain home.
Wulfgar leaves the group with the idea of uniting the barbarian tribes and bringing them as allies against the armies of Akar Kessel in defense of Ten Towns, but he needs a great deed to make his challenge. Drizzt suspects his friend his heading into danger and follows along. They go into an ice cave to face Icingdeath, a nasty and terrible white dragon. Together, they are successful with Wulfgar delivering the killing blow. Drizzt finds the first of his magical scimitars in the dragons hoard and gives it the same name as the dragon they slew, Icingdeath. Wulfgar takes the head of the dragon and challenges Heafstaag the barbarian king to combat. Wulfgar wins his challenge and leads his people to war against the armies of kessel.
Drizzt defeats Errtu with his new sword and Regis finds himself instrumental in bringing down Akar Kessel and Crenshinibon. Kessel’s army scatters to the mountains but the war was hard on Ten towns with several of them being destroyed and thousands dead. Bruenor, having thrown open his tunnels to fight beside the peoples of Ten Towns, gets wounded in battle. Drizzt hearing that his favorite red bearded dwarf is on his death bed rushes to his side. With his dying breath Bruenor extracts a promis out of Drizzt to accompany him on an adventure to find his lost homeland of Mithril Hall. Drizzt wanting to bring comfort to his dying friend makes the promise and Bruenor hops up and holds him to it. Drizzt realizing he’s been duped just smiles.
END OF SPOILER
A stated before, the best science fiction is not about the authors world but about the human condition that the authors characters experience within that world. In The crystal Shard we have the best of both. Ten Towns and Icewind dale is all Salvatore’s, though he does go on to become the primary author of all things in the northern reaches of the forgotten realms as well as the pioneer of the Underdark. Drizzt, Wulfgar, Catti-brie, Bruenor and Regis form a bond of friendship and family that are both inspiring and compelling. Drizzt does stand out as the most interesting and conflicted characture in the book. His dark past and curious internal motivations overshadow the change of Wulfgars characture. Change is an important story arc for a character to experience and Wulfgar surely fills this role, but Drizzt is misplaced and shunned yet still champions the cause of people who reject him. Regis is the reluctant hero and Catti-brie is the self assured young champion of honesty and Bruenor is the rock that anchors them all together. It is these people and these relationships that carry through all the books and keep the story fresh and keeps me waiting with baited breath for the next installment. Yes, this is the one that started it all and it is as good a read as anything ever written in the genre.
The next book is Streams of Silver, for the review click the link below: