cover image The Dragon King

The Dragon King

R. A. Salvatore / Author Warner Books $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-4

Plenty of sound and fury but precious little fire rumbles in the belly of Salvatore's pseudo-Tolkien conclusion to the Crimson Shadow trilogy. Here, Avon's foppish evil wizard-king, Greensparrow, and his dragon alter ego provoke Eriador's wizard-king, Brind'Amour, into breaking the flimsy truce achieved in Luthien's Gamble (Forecasts, Jan. 29). Though badly outnumbered by Avon's ""cyclopians,"" Brind'Amour and his assorted allies assault Avon to free Eriador forever. With the help of Luthien (whose magic alter ego is the Crimson Shadow), Katerin (the Shadow's warrior-maid lover), Siobhan (a revengeful half-elf rape victim), Oliver (a mouthy half-pint ""halfting"") and a flotilla of nouveau Vikings, the wizard-king slashes through acres of monsters and sloshes through torrents of gore. Despite the rivers of blood, however, Salvatore's vocabulary and imagination prove dry. Supposedly noble characters ""smirk,"" ""snicker"" and ""bat their eyes,"" and no cliche is left unused: even Saddam Hussein is paraphrased for the coming ""grandfather of those battles."" Salvatore's tired story depends on gratuitous violence and misused motifs from classic sources (Tolkien's Luthien was a fetching Elf-princess, for example, not a male hero with a fragile ego). These lumbering false steps make Salvatore stumble badly in his attempts to evoke memories of Middle Earth. (Nov.)