I first tried to read The Crystal Shard back in 2006, after I managed to get a copy of the Icewind Dale trilogy from the US, since fantasy books are particularly scarce where I live. I just couldn’t get into it, no matter how I tried. It might have been my relatively scarce experience with English literature back then but from any point of view I looked at it, it felt as if I was being thrown into the middle of a story with far too many characters and locations thrown at me too fast, making me get utterly lost on what was happening. Thus what was perhaps one of the books I had wanted to read the most became an impossible one to get through.
Now, several years later, having read many more books and, perhaps more importantly, having read the Dark Elf Trilogy, I took The Crystal Shard again, that book that had managed to daunt me when most can’t, and attempted to read through it. This time, I succeeded with reading it and enjoying it.
Being the immediate continuation to the Dark Elf Trilogy which, interestingly enough, was actually written after the Icewind Dale one, the story finds Drizzt Do’Urden living in the Ten Towns area of Icewind Dale, in what is for him the only place in the forgotten realms where he isn’t constantly attacked – The people around him mistrust him, but they tolerate him well enough, perhaps thanks to his friendship with clan leader Bruenor Battlehammer. The main plot, however, rather than centering on Drizzt (Who at that point had been planned as a supporting character to Wulfgar) centers on the struggles of the people of the Ten Towns when affronting two different raids that are spaced by a few years. The story, however, is told mainly from the eyes of both Drizzt and Wulfgar, with supporting companions Bruenor and Regis taking the lead occasionally.
The main storyline, however, deals more with the second raid than the first one – The first attack being mainly the mobile by which one of the characters joins the story. The second attack, however, is the result of a lengthy plan that Crenshinibon, the crystal shard the title refers to, had been cooking while using Akar Kessel, an apprentice mage that kills his tutor to obtain the power of the shard. Thanks to its power, since Kessel is a complete idiot when it comes to magic, he manages to raise a huge army of local monsters and even a demon to fight for him in an attempt to destroy the Ten Towns and make Icewind Dale his domain.
At the same time as the book tells the story of the shard and the war it starts, it also tells us more personal stories of both Drizzt and Wulfgar, how each adapt to their current situations and, more importantly, how both manage to find common ground on their beliefs that turn them into an excellent team of fighters, constantly aiding each other. It is this part of the story the one that shines the most – Something that didn’t at all surprise me since the most interesting part of the Dark Elf Trilogy was precisely the inner development of the characters and the actions that were tied to them.
However, The Crystal Shard isn’t without its flaws and, while entertaining for most of its duration, the latter part of the book (namely the attacks on the ten towns) drags on a little too much for its own good, several of the scenes detailing the attacks (but not the ones detailing Drizzt’s move on Akkar) feeling overtly extensive for what they add to the storyline. Also, character development here is lacking when compared to that found in its prequel trilogy – Even when I myself harshly criticized the lack of character development found in its last book, Sojourn. This has the sad side effect of making the characters seem flawless and to some extent immortal, since nothing of what happens is an effect of their own acts, instead every single difficulty coming from an external source, with them always beating the odds heroically.
On a general overview, however, The Crystal Shard is by no means a bad book – It is certainly better than Sojourn, yet its plot lacks the intricacies of Homeland and Exile, with a plot that feels a little too derivative and a way of solving the problems at hand that feels a little rushed, the final victory taking place more because it’s what was meant to happen than because the characters actually suffered through the odyssey to beat the odds. And making the characters seem so perfect and to some extent clichéd comes at a price – Though entertaining, The Crystal Shard is hardly a book I’d name a cornerstone of good writing or plot development, being instead a decent one that manages to do well enough without ever allowing its story to become compelling due to a serious lack of personal involvement of the characters on the plot.
Final Review Rating: 3.5/5
Availability: The book is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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