Author: R.A. Salvatore
Published: August 1996
I never thought I would see this day. It’s finally happened: I have run out of R.A. Salvatore books. This is the fifteenth and final novel of his published by TSR, and I’m sorry to see him go. His novels were sometimes good and sometimes bad, but he never failed to give me plenty to write about afterwards, and Passage to Dawn is no exception — in fact, I think this is the longest post I’ve written yet.
But first, a question: Is there such a thing as too much success? For an author, probably not. Being able to support yourself by writing novels is a rare and precious opportunity, and one can hardly fault a successful author for doing their best to make a good living out of their craft. But there’s definitely such a thing as too much success for a story, and for the Drizzt books, Passage to Dawn is the point where it becomes obvious how runaway success damages a narrative. But before we talk about this novel, let’s talk about a different medium.
When you stop and really think about how comic books tell stories, it boggles the mind. For decades , it’s been common for comics to tell stories one issue at a time over a period of months or years, often with little of the story plotted out before it’s underway. New issues only appear once per month, and each issue has only 22 to 24 pages of usable space, so the effect is not unlike a season of a TV show where each episode is very, very short and the writers are making it up as they go along. And all of these separate, often unrelated story arcs tie into an overarching continuity for the world. This goes on and on for year after year, piling up more and more story arcs in the shared universe.
The problem is that comics are almost exclusively character-based. A title is often oriented around a single character, like Superman or Spider-Man, and tells serial adventures about that one person. If that character becomes popular, you can sell stories (and more importantly, merchandise) starring them for decades. But this puts authors in a bind, because now you can’t tell any stories which seriously disrupt the setting or change the character. The readers are invested in the character as an archetype, so if you alter the character too much you risk alienating the readers who keep giving you money. Furthermore, any series that doesn’t sell well on a monthly basis gets truncated or cancelled, so you need to keep it constantly exciting and can’t afford too much downtime. Thus, the trick for a comic book author is to tell stories that are as superficially interesting as possible, with plenty of fights and explosions and whatnot, but which don’t introduce any long-term change for the setting or character. Any consequences are generally temporary, inexplicably forgotten about, or undone in later issues via some improbable means — and the more severe the consequences, the more unsatisfying the undoing feels.
To say that this results in bad storytelling is an understatement of horrific proportions. Under these conditions, it’s unthinkable to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end — if you permanently wrap up a character’s story, you kill off a cash-cow franchise, and the publisher isn’t going to stand for that. From their perspective, when the status quo is profitable, only a fool would shake things up. There are exceptions, good comic stories which don’t run endlessly and have solid beginnings, middles, and conclusions, but that usually only happens when you have a new franchise with new characters so the publisher has no financial investment in things remaining static. (For instance, The Sandman or Watchmen.) But for the A-list characters that people think of when they think of comics (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc.), their contractual immortality has given us decades of reboots, retcons, reset buttons, and implausible resurrections which destroy the potential for drama. In this medium, the demands of a good story are fundamentally at odds with the commercial reality of publishing those stories.
So why am I talking about this?
R.A. Salvatore’s “Legend of Drizzt” books ended up becoming an endless — and endlessly profitable — saga, currently comprising 35 novels published over the course of 34 years. He’s sold more than 15 million books over the past three decades and become a household name among fantasy aficionados. But by this point in the series he’s already fallen into the same trap. These novels are heavily character-focused — you couldn’t kill off Drizzt and keep writing them, after all. So if he wants to keep the books flowing, he needs to generate lots of action that involves as little long-term change to the characters and setting as possible.
In The Legacy, Salvatore killed off Wulfgar, one of the core secondary characters who rounded out Drizzt’s party. It was a good death, fitting for the character: he fell in battle defending his friends from a great evil. The next two and a half books were full of character development for the surviving companions as they all came to terms with his death in their individual ways, but now they’re reaching the “acceptance” phase of grief and starting to move on with their lives. It’s good material, and I appreciate the way Salvatore spent plenty of time on the aftermath of Wulfgar’s death to confront the survivors with a problem that can’t be solved by violence and force them to grow as characters. In short, Wulfgar’s death had meaning.
Except, surprise! It turns out Wulfgar isn’t dead after all. He was just pulled into another plane and taken prisoner by demons. So all of his friends’ grief over his death? Turns out it was pointless. That “meaning” I just talked about? Never mind.
And this isn’t an isolated occurrence. From this point on, I believe that not one single named hero or anti-hero introduced in the “Legend of Drizzt” books to date (including the characters from the Cleric Quintet, who have recurring guest spots) permanently dies. There are dozens of books and maybe there’s an exception I’m not aware of, but the general rule is that every single character we’ve already met will keep coming back, and back, and back, and back for decades. (This became especially hilarious during the 100-year time skip between the 3rd and 4th editions of the Forgotten Realms tabletop setting, where he had to come up with extraordinarily contrived explanations for why the characters with normal human lifespans could still be around.) As a reader, once you notice this, you realize that nothing which happens to a character is going to have any long-term consequences and the possibility for drama dies a miserable death.
To be fair to Salvatore, it seems as if not letting Wulfgar stay dead wasn’t his idea. There were rumours that TSR’s management wasn’t happy about letting a popular character stay dead, and were pressuring him to bring Wulfgar back almost immediately after his death in The Legacy. Salvatore gives his side of the story in an interview from around 2001:
There are two reasons why I brought him back. One, I felt bad that he had become a shallow character, because the book was supposed to have been about him. This dark elf kind of nudged in and pushed everybody out of the way. I really wanted to explore him more deeply, which I think I have done since I brought him back. The other reason that I brought him back, quite honestly… I knew that if I didn’t bring him back, someone [from TSR] was going to, and I didn’t want them to do it. So I did it before they could.
In the same interview, Salvatore also makes clear that he’s well aware of the narrative problems with long-running heroes:
I contributed to this [disgruntlement about resurrections with] Wulfgar, so I admit to it. I am also contributing to it with Drizzt with the ongoing sagas where he should have been dead a hundred times. But here he is, still kicking along. This is something that bothers me about fantasy. I think it is dumbing down fantasy, this idea that the heroes are immortal. It’s like, hands-off with the main character. If you deviate from that the readers get angry. Heroes die… and they should. Would anyone in our time know who Joan of Arc was, if she had not been burned at the stake? Probably not. The truth of it is, as a culture we don’t talk about death. As a culture we don’t understand death. As a culture, because of a crisis of faith, we don’t ask enough questions about it. I think that is changing. Fantasy should deal with the themes of heroism and sacrifice, including the ultimate sacrifice.
But being aware of it is one thing, and being willing to stop a juggernaut franchise for artistic reasons is another. Mind you, this isn’t me criticizing Salvatore personally for being successful or “selling out.” If you’re one of the tiny fraction of aspiring writers who can actually make decent money by selling books, you should milk it for all you can get. Well-crafted narratives are great, but a good story alone won’t pay your mortgage or feed your family the way that selling reams of books will. It’s just that, as a book critic, I can’t talk about the quality of the series without also bringing up the real-world reasons why it ended up this way.
I can’t believe I wrote so many words before getting around to talking about the…
Passage to Dawn is basically The Crystal Shard Part II — same themes, same foes, same setting. But what makes the plot work is that instead of unimaginatively retreading the previous novel’s conflicts, it picks up several plot threads left over from The Crystal Shard and stitches them together into a new narrative. I enjoy seeing all these old plots come to life again. Instead of just inventing some new horrible problem for the protagonists to fix, the author is able to show the long-term consequences of the characters’ past actions and give some weight to their previous decisions. Many authors of serials are leery of tying back into previous stories because they don’t want to alienate new readers who don’t know all the history, but I think that doesn’t give readers enough credit. If you write a great book, people will be motivated to go back and read your old work after they finish it, but there’s only so many times you can say “Oh no! Yet another big bad thing appeared!” before readers get tired of it.
Errtu the balor was a mid-level antagonist from the earlier book whom Drizzt banished to the Abyss back in 1356 DR. Now, eight years later, the defeated demon has a plan to enact his revenge — kind of a dumb plan, mind you, but at least it gets things started. Turns out that Wulfgar didn’t die back in The Legacy; rather, he was dragged into the Abyss by the yochlol he was fighting, captured by Lloth, and traded to Errtu in exchange for a favour at the end of Siege of Darkness. Errtu plans to use Wulfgar as bait to get Drizzt to sacrifice himself, or… something like that.
Let’s see if you can make heads or tails of the plan he’s spent eight years working on, because I’m still baffled. Drizzt and Catti-brie have spent the last six years pirate-hunting on the high seas because she’s seeking adventure and he gets bored when he doesn’t have things to kill. Errtu sends the world’s least competent doppleganger after them to give them a cryptic hint about some mythical island that nobody believes really exists. What would he have done if they’d killed the doppleganger before it could deliver the message? What if the characters had ignored the cryptic hints and gone back to hunting pirates? What if they hadn’t been able to find a map to the island? What if they had died or been shipwrecked in the dangerous seas around the island?
Errtu wants them to go there because there’s some witch with prophetic powers living on the island and he’s instructed her to give the protagonists a message. The message is in the form of rhyming doggerel, both incredibly vague and incredibly badly written. (For all our sakes, let us hope that Salvatore remains content with his success as a writer of novels and never branches out into verse.) The characters spend a long time puzzling it over, draw the wrong conclusions from it, and start heading in the exact opposite direction that Errtu wanted. If some random side character hadn’t gotten a random magic revelation that they made a mistake, they would have completely ignored Errtu and gone back to the Underdark. If they’d said “Why should we trust you, creepy old hag?” and been suspicious about the message, they would also have completely ignored Errtu.
Anyways, they end up meeting Cadderly from the Cleric Quintet, and he breaks the banishment that was keeping Errtu out of the Prime Material Plane. When asked why, his answer is basically “Meh, it doesn’t matter. If I hadn’t, someone else might have.” But… what? Seriously? Has being a conduit for all that divine energy given him brain damage?
It’s a nonsense plan that could fall apart with the slightest push, and it only succeeds due to authorial contrivance. It all feels like padding to me, as if the author realized that he didn’t have enough material in the Icewind Dale portions to make a complete novel and grafted a lot of runaround onto the beginning to stretch it out. If Errtu had just sent Drizzt a telegram that said “Hey, I’ve got your friend. Meet me in Icewind Dale for a fight,” this book would be half as long. Could be worse, though. At least the motivations are solid and the conflict is rooted in the characters’ backstories, even if the actual plot mechanics are wonky. Thankfully, the plot gets much tighter and more sensible in the second half of the book once the characters finally figure out what they’re supposed to be doing.
While all this is going on, there’s also a subplot about some barbarians and dwarves returning to Icewind Dale from Mithril Hall. Once again, the barbarians are having a leadership conflict where a complete dick seizes control of the tribe and starts trouble with their neighbours, and they haven’t forgotten their recent feud with the dwarves over Aegis-Fang. And once again, some hapless schmuck stumbles upon Crenshinibon, the crystal shard, a mind-warping evil artifact of incredible power. (Perhaps some day I will stop reading that word as “Cinnabon,” but it’s not today.) It’s not obvious where this is all going at first, but it ties together neatly with the A-plot once all the characters reunite.
The barbarian parts in particular are fantastic: a meaningful conflict between well-thought-out characters whose fundamental disagreements tie into the setting and the events of the previous novels. We see how the toxic masculinity enshrined in their society is detrimental to the tribe’s well-being and leads to the wisest voices in the tribe being ignored. There are no easy fixes, and the eventual resolution involves both sides having to make sacrifices and compromise.
There’s not nearly as much pointless combat in this book as I expected from an R.A. Salvatore novel. There are a couple of irrelevant fights, like the brief “suddenly, some yetis show up!” moment halfway through. You can practically hear the author thinking “Hey, the heroes haven’t gotten to kill anything in ages. I guess I should put some sort of fight in here to keep the readers from getting bored?” But pacing it too slowly is a much better problem to have than packing half the book with mindless slaughter. Of course, it all eventually climaxes in a giant running battle against a bunch of monsters and fiends, but it’s rather short by Salvatorean standards (only the final fifth of the book) and interspersed with occasional dialogue and characterization. It’s probably the best pacing that Salvatore has done yet, a far cry from the hours and hours of consecutive fight scenes that we had to slog through in books like The Halfling’s Gem and The Fallen Fortress.
I quite enjoyed the “sea voyage” parts of the novel, despite the flimsy plot that shoved the characters around it. The sea is an implacable enemy that can’t be defeated by Drizzt stabbing it, and Salvatore has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about how the presence of magic would change life on board a ship. Having a wizard on board to manipulate the wind and weather is clearly invaluable, and ship-to-ship combat involves a lot of arcane wind-whipping, tracking other nearby ships, blocking visibility with mist, and good old fireballs and lightning bolts. Every magical measure also has a magical countermeasure, so few ships sail without a wizard or cleric on board. It’s the little touches of verisimilitude like that which make a fantasy world feel actually fantastic.
Drizzt feels a little less cheesy this time around. In previous books he’s been a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut of death who always intuits the correct thing to do and can never be misled. Here he’s… well, still that, but he gets a couple moments of vulnerability that improve matters a bit. He’s in genuine danger during the fight against Errtu at the end, which doesn’t go nearly as well for him as it did the first time around, and he’s fooled into thinking that Errtu’s prisoner is his father Zaknafein rather than Wulfgar. (Why Errtu bothered with this deception isn’t clear, but so little about his plan makes sense anyhow.) He gets a lot of quiet scenes where we see what he wants (friends, a sense of home), and all of his character work isn’t crammed into the long pseudo-philosophical soliloquies that occasionally interrupt the story. It’s definitely an improvement over some of his previous appearances.
Catti-brie, for her part, feels like a missed opportunity. She gets a couple of quiet moments where she’s trying to figure out what she wants her relationship with Drizzt to be, but that’s about all she gets for characterization. Mostly she’s just following Drizzt around, offering occasional emotional support and shooting things that get in their way. It’s a far cry from the “I’m going to go off on my own and find adventure!” note that the previous book ended on, since this isn’t her story at all.
Bruenor doesn’t get much time in this book, but what time he gets focuses more on his softer side. He travels back to Icewind Dale because Mithril Hall, now that it’s in good hands, doesn’t really feel like home. He misses Drizzt, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar terribly, but won’t admit it out loud. After their tearful reunion, though, he goes back to his usual role of “guy who hits things with an axe.”
I thought Wulfgar was handled well, which is something I never thought I’d say. He spends most of the book being tormented by demons, then gets a chance to wreak vengeance on his captors at the end. During the denouement, it’s made clear that he’s not just going to blithely shake off six years of constant torture and go back to being one of the gang; instead, he’s a post-traumatic wreck who’s going to need his friends’ help to recover. It’s some welcome vulnerability for a character who until now has been relentlessly, irritatingly macho. I vaguely recall that he spends the next couple of books dealing with these issues, so it’s not something that the author’s just going to overlook or wave away. I still wish he hadn’t been brought back in the first place, but if Salvatore had no choice then this was probably the best way to handle it.
And Regis… well, Regis is there too. He hasn’t gotten much in the way of character development since his backstory conflict was wrapped up in The Halfling’s Gem, so he’s mostly a tag-along character whose interactions with the other characters are fairly superficial. But it was nice to see that he’s the one who bravely saves the day at the end in a callback to his role in The Crystal Shard, so he’s not a vestigial appendage who’s only in here for historical reasons.
The author spends plenty of time on the characters’ emotions, fitting in little moments of interaction amongst all the excitement. We know what drives them and what they want, even if it’s often driven home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and it’s satisfying to see them achieve it. All this is a refreshing contrast to the Cleric Quintet, where it felt like Cadderly’s personality and characterization veered about from book to book as if Salvatore never had him figured out.
Speaking of which, Cadderly shows up in a minor role in this book as the badass super-priest who advises Drizzt and Catti-brie on their demon problem, and it turns out to be a pleasant surprise. We get to see how he’s rebuilt his monastery after the events of The Chaos Curse, made tremendous personal sacrifices for his god’s sake, come to terms with his Chosen status, settled down with a family, and matured as a person. He’s too much of a wreck, physically speaking, to go into battles with the protagonists and steamroll all their foes, but within his little sphere of influence he’s become confident and powerful without being a dick. It’s a good epilogue for his story, but somewhat spoiled by the suggestion that his physical deterioration might be reversing and eventually he’ll be 100% fine again. A personal sacrifice doesn’t mean much if your god just gives you back whatever you lost.
I can’t say I was nearly as pleased to see Ivan and Pikel, his aggravating slapstick sidekicks, who get an excruciating physical comedy sequence in their first scene that made me wince with embarrassment. There’s nothing I can say about them that I haven’t already said in previous reviews, so I’ll just point out that the best part of their cameo here is how short it is. Danica shows up too, but not for long, and her role is little more than “be friendly to the protagonists.”
The wacky wizard Harkle Harpell shows up and sticks around for about a third of the book, a development which made me groan aloud. The Harpells’ goofy antics feel so out of place in a Realms novel — they’re all “Unseen University meets the Three Stooges” while everyone else around them is trying to do serious high fantasy. Harkle is so absent-minded that I can’t understand how he survived to adulthood, let alone became a powerful wizard, so I didn’t mind when he unceremoniously ejected himself from the story. This isn’t a fundamentally unworkable concept, mind you. Just toning down the wacky antics and “absent-minded professor” routine a little bit would have gone a long way towards making him feel like a real person, but subtlety has never been this author’s strong suit.
Each of the barbarian characters is a face for a particular aspect of their cultural conflict. The stubborn, prideful Berkthgar represents traditional values and nostalgia for an earlier time. The older, wiser Revjak represents adaptation to modern society and a shift from valuing martial prowess to valuing peace and prosperity, but he has neither the physical nor social clout to prevent Berkthgar from sidelining him. His young son Kierstaad is trapped between the two, spends most of the novel agonizing about it, and then tries to take a third option at the end. I love it when characters’ conflicts tie into the setting and culture around them, so these folks were a big hit with me.
We get to see some scenes narrated from the point of view of Crenshinibon, the evil artifact of doom, and its hapless wielder, and they actually work quite well. You see how it’s patient and cunning, playing the long game of slowly eroding its wielder’s will. It’s not omnipotent — being wielded by a stubborn, devout dwarven priestess really cramps its usual style and forces it to be more subtle — but it’s powerful enough to give the heroes a serious challenge. The manner in which it’s eventually defeated is something that was introduced in an earlier book, so it doesn’t feel like a random ass-pull.
Errtu, on the other hand, is still a fairly boring character. Evil for evil’s sake, driven by revenge, yadda yadda. He becomes more interesting once he finds Crenshinibon and has something to struggle against, since his conflicts with Crenshinibon are far more fun than watching him come up with the world’s most roundabout scheme to draw out Drizzt. Ultimately, though, he’s just a jerk without much personality.
Here’s Salvatore’s favourite theme again: unity trumps dissension. Good people unite and work together, while bad people fight amongst themselves and ruin their own plans. Errtu and Crenshinibon eventually lose because they spend too much of their energy fighting each other, with Crenshinibon trying to dominate Errtu’s mind and Errtu punishing the shard for it. As a counterexample, Berkthgar nearly fractures his tribe and sparks internecine violence, but finally he realizes the wisdom of doing the right thing for his people instead of following his pride. At the end, everyone works together to survive and all the good guys get happy endings.
As themes go, it’s not bad. It’s a good way to provide an explanation for why the heroes succeed and the villains fail that’s more interesting than just “the heroes are so awesome” or “the villains are too thick.” When you have capable villains who work at cross-purposes, the author doesn’t have to arbitrarily hamstring them to let the heroes win. Like I said when this theme came up way back in The Crystal Shard: it’s not subtle, but it gets the job done.
Everyone also spends some time pondering the concept of “home”: what makes a place feel like home? Drizzt realizes what Icewind Dale meant to him when he returns there midway through the book. Bruenor returns to Icewind Dale, but it still feels incomplete until his friends return. Wulfgar comes home in a very dramatic manner. It’s all summed up by this quote from one of Drizzt’s soliloquies:
To me, home is not just a place, but a feeling, a warm and comfortable sensation of control. […] It is both a personal and a shared domain, for it is the place a person most truly belongs, and yet it is so only because of those friends around him.
I’ve had some nice things to say about the plot and characterization in this book, but I’m afraid I don’t have anything good to say about the writing. It’s some of the weakest writing he’s done yet, on a technical level, and I was frequently grimacing or howling in disbelief. For starters, the commas. Jesus, was he being paid by the comma? They’re scattered randomly everywhere.
The island of Mintarn, four hundred miles southwest of Waterdeep, was cloaked in thick trees, and Guenhwyvar was perfectly blended, reclining on a branch twenty feet from the ground, camouflaged so well that a deer might walk right under the cat, never realizing its doom. 
There are so goddamned many commas that it feels like just about every single clause in the book is separated from its fellows. You almost feel sorry for the lonely little sentence fragments.
Of course, the others all knew, Catti-brie’s quiver was powerfully enchanted.
It’s like the book is being narrated by an asthmatic who has to stop for breath after every few words — an excitable asthmatic, no less, given how inclined the narrator is to exclaim things.
From her high perch, Catti-brie picked several more shots, each one taking down a strategically-placed pirate archer, and one driving through a man to kill the pirate goblin sitting next to him!
Maybe this is just a personal prejudice, but I find that the exclamation points give the narration the feel of a children’s book. It’s talking down to the reader, as if they can’t be trusted to figure out that something is cool or interesting unless the narrator double-underlines it for them, and it makes the narrator an intrusive character with a distinct voice instead of the impartial describer of reality. That’s fine if your narrator is actually a character in the story, but it’s woefully out of place for an omniscient narrator.
And boy, is it ever omniscient. The narration tells us pretty much everything, spoiling plot twists (Deudermont’s replacement by a doppelganger, for instance) and often telling us what just happened in an excessively dramatic manner:
They were together again, the five friends, more than ready to face whatever odds, more than ready for battle.
They didn’t know the depth of Errtu’s terror, and didn’t know that the fiend already had Crenshinibon in his evil clutches.
Come on, man, we just saw that happen. You don’t have to remind us, and you certainly don’t have to oversell it so hard. All this, plus some easy typos (“reigns” for “reins,” etc.), make me suspect that this book didn’t get much attention from an editor before it went out the door. But at least I don’t remember running into any parenthetical asides in the narration, which is a habit that I’m glad Salvatore has outgrown.
I think the witch’s prophecy broke my brain a bit. We’ve seen some serious abuses of the English second-person singular in these novels before, but this may be the most facepalmy attempt at antiquing prose that I’ve ever seen:
A challenge, renegade of renegade’s seed,
A golden ring thee cannot resist!
How did an editor not take him aside and tell him how “thee” works? He gets this wrong four times in a 20-line poem, so it’s not just a one-off typo. And it’s embedded in some seriously excruciating poetry. It mostly rhymes and mostly scans, but he accomplishes this by sacrificing diction and meaning to the point where it feels like word salad.
Thanks to the extraordinary vagueness of the prophecy, both Drizzt and the reader are supposed to think that Errtu’s prisoner is Drizzt’s father Zaknafein, not Wulfgar. But the “deception” is set up so heavy-handedly that the reader can’t help but be aware. Both the dialogue and the narration always refer to him as just “the prisoner,” and the verbal convolutions the author has to go through to mention “the prisoner” without ever saying his name are so clunky that it’s impossible not to notice that he’s trying to hide something, even if you hadn’t already guessed it by the end of the previous book. With all the other omniscient narration going on, I’m a little surprised that he bothered to try to keep any secrets.
And of course I have the usual comments about Drizzt’s long-winded philosophical asides, but if a reader hasn’t gotten tired of them after the past nine novels then there’s nothing I can say that will change their minds now.
It’s a very mixed bag. Half of the plot is a ridiculous runaround and the writing is remarkably grating. But the author has done a solid job with the characters and their conflicts, tied up a bunch of loose ends from previous books in an enjoyable manner, and left himself a clear sequel hook. I’m not sure how to balance these disparate elements in a single scalar grade. I did, however, catch myself looking forward to picking the book up after each time I put it down — not just because finding stuff to comment on is fun, but also because the characters were entertaining enough to hold my interest.
In my experience, characters are the most important aspect of a novel. I’ve read novels with beautifully done characters but practically no plot that I still found interesting, but novels with a good plot and bad characters leave me bored. I’ve read books with terrible prose but good characters and been captivated, but books with beautiful prose and bad characters feel like a self-indulgent exercise in writing. Ultimately, every other consideration in a novel takes a back seat to “Do I care enough about these people to find out what happens to them next?” In between all the giant battle scenes, Salvatore has spent many hundreds of pages working on these characters — their backstories, their personalities, their interactions, their needs and desires — and that makes it satisfying to see how things end up for them.
Speaking personally, I feel that this is a good point for me to say farewell to Drizzt and the gang. They resolved a bunch of their problems and came to a natural stopping point in their story, before things got too ridiculous or dragged on long enough that I became bored of them. They may have gone on to have many more years of giant battles and tangled storylines instead of getting the proper ending that they deserved, but I can stop reading and decide for myself that their story ended here.
 Interestingly, this has become much less true in recent years. Exact statistics are hard to come by, but it seems like somewhere in the 2000s was the point at which sales of trade paperbacks and graphic novels outstripped sales of monthly comics, and the trend has just accelerated over the course of the past decade. There’s an interesting discussion to be had about the reasons, but that’s for someone else to talk about on a different blog.
 For added silliness, Guenhwyvar is a six-hundred-pound monstrosity who’s three times the size of a normal panther, yet she can flit silently among the branches of trees and leap three stories into the air. Even in a fantasy world, the reader expects that gravity will still apply.