The primary draw of this book is the final set of Black Widowers mysteries written by Asimov before his death which had not yet otherwise been publish...moreThe primary draw of this book is the final set of Black Widowers mysteries written by Asimov before his death which had not yet otherwise been published in a collection. The book also contains additional "best of" stories and a pair of stories written by other authors in honor of Asimov's Black Widowers stories (one actually being a Black Widowers story).
For those who've never read them, the basic concept is that a small group of men meet for dinner at the same restaurant once a month, served by their faithful waiter Henry, who is also part of the club (see below). One person invites a guest who invariably has some mystery in their life which needs to be solved. The club members discuss possible solutions, with the final solution always to be provided, in the end, by Henry.
The mysteries are fairly typical of those found in the earlier books. The Black Widowers stories were written by Asimov over 20 years; although they supposedly take place at the time they are written (some of the last few stories reference the first Gulf War), they never seemed to me to actually take place in modern times. The characters have a very old fashioned feel, and while I enjoy the mysteries, I never found the relationships among the characters to work very well, particularly the rather odd relationship between the club members and the waiter, Henry. Although Henry is often referred to as "part of the club" he's still not treated by the other characters are more than a servant, and these stories seem to stress that dichotomy even more. In fact, in one of the stories, Henry becomes the "guest" and one of the other characters seems horrified by the idea that Henry might actually sit down and have dinner with them. I've always found this relationship bothersome and this book just made it more irritating.(less)
This book just felt off to me. I've generally been a fairly big fan of Salvatore over the years, dating all the way back to the original publication o...moreThis book just felt off to me. I've generally been a fairly big fan of Salvatore over the years, dating all the way back to the original publication of The Crystal Shard, but I'm gradually finding his books less appealing. While my tastes have changed somewhat, I think it has more to do with some aspect of the writing.
This book is darker than many of his others, but that is not the problem. This subseries trilogy is rightfully called "Transitions" and certainly appears to represent some major changes in the broader structure of the universe in which the characters inhabit; I also do not believe this is the problem since I find the transition to be reasonably interesting.
There was just something flat about the writing; despite the broad changes, perhaps the small scale stuff is too static...too much of the same. Maybe he's just beaten these same characters to death over the years. I don't know. I no longer look forward to his next book with the eagerness I used to hold.(less)
The best of the Legends of the Riftwar books, it tells the story of what happens to Jimmy the Hand after he helps rescue Prince Arutha and Princess An...moreThe best of the Legends of the Riftwar books, it tells the story of what happens to Jimmy the Hand after he helps rescue Prince Arutha and Princess Anita toward the tale end of Magician Apprentice. It's a reasonable solid story, helped out by the fact that Jimmy is a personal favorite character, although some of the writing/editing is a bit sloppy. For example, in the first chapter Jimmy is described as "He was a boy of unknown age - perhaps fourteen, perhaps sixteen, no one knew..." A page or so later he is described as "His age was uncertain, perhaps thirteen years of age, perhaps fifteen..." Ignoring the discrepancy (we get it...his age is unknown), why describe it twice on consecutive pages?
I do wonder a little bit about consistency with some of the other books (since this was written retrospectively after many of Jimmy's future events were already written); nothing big, that I am aware of, but there are is a minor issue or two in this book which might contradict later events, although they're subtleties that I may be misremembering.(less)