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Monday, September 15, 2008

“The Stowaway” by R.A. & Geno Salvatore (Reviewed by David Craddock)

Official R.A. Salvatore Website
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Rather than a thought-provoking journal entry from Drizzt Do'Urden, R.A. Salvatore's beloved and venerable dark elf character, “The Stowaway” opens with a note from the author that is both kindly worded and blunt: readers, this is not his story. Though characters created by Wizards of the Coast's arguably most prolific author do make appearances, “The Stowaway”, book one in The Stone of Tymora trilogy, belongs to his son, Geno, whom the author credits with years of Drizzt-oriented research, fact-checking, and editing. R.A. reveals that he stepped in to write or tweak the occasional scene, but the narrative and its execution are inarguably Geno's, as is the younger Salvatore's gift for writing, which Salvatore asserts is instinctual, not hereditary.

While I do agree that writing's “magic spark,” as Salvatore says in his introduction, cannot be inherited, I find it hard to believe that the senior Salvatore hasn't at least spiked his water supply with something. Geno Salvatore's debut novel is indeed firmly his own, one that stands as a testament that the younger Salvatore has arrived on the writing scene with flourish.

The Stowaway” tells the story of a young boy who, like many tragic fantasy protagonists, was orphaned early in his young life. The Lucky Child, as he is called, bounces from one ward, a kindly old woman, to a warrior who becomes a father figure to him. The man gives Lucky Child a magic stone which he claims is the young man's birth right. Like all magical artifacts, keeping the stone brings with it a great deal of danger which the two avoid by dashing through cities and stowing away on ships.

Like his wards, Lucky Child does have a name, but they are not for me to reveal here. In fact, if the touching note from R.A. Salvatore that was included with my review copy of the book is also available in retail editions, I recommend postponing its reading until after finishing the main story. The boy's name is one of many elements revealed in the story, and its revelation has significance to the boy's character. When the boy wants someone to learn his name, he tells them, but not until they have earned his respect.

Nuggets of information related to Lucky Child and the stone he carries are revealed over the tale's intentionally disjointed course. Instead of starting at point A and unfolding across B and then C, Geno begins at C, fills in A, jumps to B, and fills in a bit more of C before leaving the reader to dangle from “The Stowaway's” cliffhanger.

Tidbits such as names, along with hints as to what they mean to Lucky Child, are dropped at the story's beginning, but are not fleshed out until its middle or end. While many authors have employed similar styles to confusing results, Geno's application serves to intrigue rather than bewilder. The pace is silky smooth with hardly a bump to be found over the purposefully fragmented narrative.

Adding to the enjoyment of the book is Geno Salvatore's prose. Short and sweet, Salvatore never over or undercooks descriptions. Like a batch of the Grimm Brothers' stone soup, Geno supplies the stone and, with a bit of encouragement, effortlessly coaxes readers into providing additional flavor from the stores of their imagination.

The only valid complaint to level against “The Stowaway” isn't a complaint at all, but more a concern. Because Geno did co-author the book with his father, many critics might feel compelled to argue that it is R.A., not Geno Salvatore who is responsible for the book's fascinating characters and well-paced story. It is inarguable that R.A.'s name sells, and though the accomplished author is emphatic in proclaiming his role as largely that of a consultant, I only hope that would-be naysayers take R.A.'s words to heart.

Over the course of “The Stowaway”, Lucky Child has a few encounters with Drizzt Do'Urden during which the dark elf encourages Lucky to keep his chin up during difficult times. Rather than using such meetings to prop the newest Forgotten Realms' character, it seems appropriate to view the conversations as a passing of the torch. R.A. undoubtedly has lots of writing left in him yet, but does admit that he waits “impatiently for the day” when someone claims that Geno is a better writer.

In “The Stowaway”, Geno Salvatore tackles meaty subjects with poignancy and elegance. Be careful, R.A.—the day you're waiting for might come sooner than you think…

NOTE:The Stowaway” is the first installment in The Stone of Tymora trilogy, which is designed for young readers.


-raul said... is busy building the next everquest/wow addiction for gaming.

I have to admit im probably not going to pick this up, i dislike children of famous authors so-far that i have seems a lot more is sold on name then actual talent. If he were a young geno shoemaker would he be getting a first trilogy deal with marketing like this?

It may not be fair to state; but as a lot of struggling writers in the slushpile seas would comment...the unfair 'commentary' isnt the problem.

Faith said...

Oh, yay! I was looking forward to reading this, it's good to hear that it will be enjoyable :)

Cindy said...

I've been looking forward to giving this book a try. While I do agree that he might or might not have gotten a deal based on his writing you can't tell until you give it a try. Plus I can think of a ton of other authors that have deals that make me raise an eyebrow or two.

Paul said...

This could have been quite a good little book, as it had a good premise and a good story. The mechanics of its expression were not bad, and it is readable. However, there are several glaring discontinuities of plot and character development which tend to pull it down. Either this work did not receive enought editorial attention; or required too much. Another round through a 'different' threshing mill would have done it the world of good.

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