Matko's Reviews > The Halfling's Gem

The Halfling's Gem by R.A. Salvatore
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's review
Oct 16, 2011

it was ok
Read from October 16 to December 21, 2011

I spent much of my youthood with Drizzt Do'Urden and Forgotten Realms, playing Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. Forgotten Realms campaign setting was one of my sanctuaries, place of wonder and magic with familiar topographies and characters. There were other fantasy worlds out there (there still are), but these needed different type of person, one willing to learn about the new world over and over again. FR was generic as it always was, but that was precisely what made it so secure. Ages ago one could easily wish that he had been born there. This was all role-playing of course, and main problem with roleplaying (main plus if you like) is that you make up your own rules as you go. Something within the core books felt stupid? You changed it and kept everyone satisfied.

As always, time passes, and one begins to have other interests. People change and people grow and sooner or later role-playing group dissolves and instead the world without the boundaries (except for limits of one's own imagination) one is suddenly left with the world confined within the book. World with clear beginnings and clear endings, with defined characters and carefully plotted adventures. Problems with reading about Forgotten Realms, instead of "actually" being there, were obvious even then - there were great writers out there but for some reason they didn't work for TSR.

I am far from D&D world now and rarely do I look in that direction. Waves of nostalgia come and go, and I try to satisfy these weird deities that are sending them over and over again by reading through Salvatore's books every now and then, trying to see if something has changed within the Forgotten Realms. I'm a sucker for narrative continuity though, and I can't help but to start from the beginning of Drizzt's adventures, even though I know that late eighties/early nineties Salvatore was unreadable to anyone with some literary taste. Don't get me wrong, it still is unreadable, nostalgia can't help with that. It can help with book getting two instead of a one star rating. That much I can be bothered to overlook. "The Halfling's gem" takes me once again to journey through Calimport, Baldur's Gate, and Sword Coast, and I can overlook Salvatore's inability to evoke the feel of these places with words. Names alone are enough for me. I don't need a guide. You might. But, whenever I snap out of this fluffed up sentiment, when I actually lay my eyes on sentences, structure and language used to write this story, I can hardly believe it.

I must give credit where it's due. Salvatore obviously has iron discipline. The sheer amount of willpower needed to write around 1000 pages of utter garbage in a year or two is something to be envious of. As is the fact that he is living in US where he can actually cash in on this sort of thing. Everything else about his writing isn't really worth mentioning. I am fully aware that "The Halfling's gem" is advertised as a Young Adult book, but, as I have stated elsewhere, this doesn't really mean anything. Writers did wonders within the boundaries of Young Adult "genre" - Salvatore didn't. "The Halfling's gem" is generic as it gets, without a single memorable sentence, single memorable event, without any kind of drama and/or character progression - it plays by the rules and there isn't anything more boring than D&D game session that blindly follows the rules. I honestly doubt that people who read this in late eighties/early nineties were much different form people today. Even as kids we knew a bad story when we saw one. Superman was over the top but at least it was colorful and imaginative. Drizzt, unfortunately, is neither. Salvatore tried to differentiate him from thousands of heroes out there by incorporating some psychological insecurities and existentialist musings, but sadly he didn't have the skill to do this properly.

Considering the vast amount of fantasy related material out there I can't possibly imagine why someone would choose this one instead of, let's say Zelazny, Mieville or Wolfe. Even nostalgia has its limits.

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12/20/2011 page 242
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