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Book Review: Maestro (Homecoming Book II)

April 19, 2016

Maestro is the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Homecoming series (Drizzt Do'Urden novels), set in the Forgotten Realms. This review will contain BIG SPOILERS for the book, so if you have not read the book, I suggest you do.

As the title suggests, the book centers around Jarlaxle and his workings. I want to start off by saying that overall, I truly enjoyed this book more than Archmage. I only didn't finish it in one day because I have other obligations. There were some really cool fight scenes that really pulled me in, and for people who like reading about the drow city of Menzoberranzan and the chaos that prevails, they will probably enjoy this book.

Some of my favorite things:

1) That cover art! Jarlaxle on the cover by himself with that much detail is the best. And the fact that the book is heavily about him. It's about time that we got another look at this amazing and favorite character.

2) Reading about Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri again. I have missed these two SO MUCH. They are easily my favorite characters, far above all the others, including Drizzt, and especially the Companions. They are probably the main reason I keep reading these books. Jarlaxle and Entreri have such a unique relationship --bromance, if you will-- that overshadows even that of Drizzt and Cattie-Brie. I do wish we would have seen more of them. I could write an entire blog post about those two.

3) Seeing how Jarlaxle works.

Jarlaxle: We're friends, right?
Person: ...... What do you want?

Sure, he's a manipulator, but in the end he does it for a good cause. Jarlaxle is and has always been an opportunist, but that doesn't mean he doesn't value his relationships. If he can benefit from a friend, he will do it. We've always known this about him, but this book lets us see it in action.

4) Seeing Jarlaxle not know what to do for the first time. This really made me, as a reader, anxious! If Jarlaxle says things will be okay, you know things will be okay, no matter how bad they seem. Jarlaxle has the answers to everything, and always seems to find a way out of a jam. But in this book, he finds himself in quite a pickle, several times. I honestly didn't know if my favorite characters were going to make it, and I loved that, because a story shouldn't be predictable.

5) Seeing different individuals of different alignments coming together for a cause, even if their individual reasons are different. I mean, a gathering of some of the most powerful individuals in the world of Drizzt Do'Urden, how can that not be cool?

6) Yvonnel. I actually enjoyed her, to my surprise. The way her mind works was a fresh change to your typical matron mothers. Everybody knew who they were dealing with after meeting her once. She is a bad person, but I enjoyed seeing how she put the matron mothers, especially Quenthel Baenre, in their place.

Yvonnel to everyone else
7) The two pretty cool fights: Drizzt vs Tiago and Drizzt vs Demogorgon. Not going to say too much about them, but probably my favorite part is how Menzoberranzan comes together to help Drizzt defeat the Prince of Demons. I didn't think we were going to see this one in this book. That was probably the best encounter I've read in a long time. Also, Tiago finally gets his.

8) Drizzt and Cattie-brie arguing. Finally a bit of real-ness to that relationship! We haven't really seen them be real with each other since way before she died the first time. It was a nice change of pace for them. After all, every couple has arguments.

9) The changing dynamic between Entreri and Drizzt. These two started out as nemeses, but have become more like frienemies. At one point, I even thought Entreri would sacrifice himself for Drizzt. I was about to close that book and never open it, or any future Drizzt books, again. I am happy to report it didn't happen.

10) The overall dynamic between Entreri, Jarlaxle, and Drizzt. Whenever you have those three together, it just increases the value of the story. It was a bit like they were bros, and also a bit awkward, and Jarlaxle grew weary of playing mediator, but it seemed fitting for those three.

11) Cattie-brie's reunion with her "parents", and the fact that they have moved on and had another child of their own. I feel like it addressed the question of the importance of the Companions' family this time around. Cattie-brie never had a mother of her own the first time, and I'm glad Salvatore didn't just completely ignore the fact that finally having a mother would be significant in her life.

There were a couple things that I wish Salvatore had gone more into:

1) Jarlaxle and Entreri's reunion. This is something that was hinted at at some point during the Neverwinter saga. There was a scene in one of the Neverwinter books were Entreri sees Jarlaxle again after many years (and after being betrayed terribly by him), and Jarlaxle says something to the effect of having things to talk about. I was hoping that after Archmage we'd get to see that long-awaited, surely angst-ridden reunion (I imagined Entreri would punch Jarlaxle in the face). Sadly, this doesn't happen, and instead we jump forward to where they have already sort of become bros again, and it is hinted that Entreri is the one who sought out Jarlaxle to guilt-trip him into helping.

2) Most people won't care about this one at all, but what did Bregan D'aerthe do to Calihye, specifically? Is she dead? How did she die? I had given up on ever finding out, and then in Maestro, Salvatore writes that Entreri 'lost' Calihye to Bregan D'aerthe, but he lets us assume what this means beyond having been forced into working for them. What did she even do for them, and what happened to her? I know many people really don't care. I do, especially since she's mentioned again in this book. I mean, it would take like two sentences.

And yes, there was one thing that, to be completely honest, seemed way out of place and out of character. If you've read the book, you probably know what I am going to list:

1) The sexual tension between Gromph and Cattie-brie. I mean, WHAT EVEN...???? I know I'm not the only one thinking this was odd and felt unnecessary, as I've conversed with other readers about it.

It seemed to me that Gromph was trying to intimidate Cattie-brie by putting NSFW images in her mind, but surely someone of his caliber would not resort to something so basic. And why would Cattie-brie react the way she reacted? When Cattie-brie was alive 100 years previous to this, AND when she was in Iruladoon, she had conversations that led readers, me, to believe that she was beyond basic physical attraction in terms of her love for Drizzt and in terms of how she approached relationships. She made it a point to say that what she had with him was more than that, that if Drizzt was intimate with others, she would understand, but she would also know that it meant nothing because she loved him and he loved her. 

So, when she has a conversation with Penelope in this book about what it means to be physically intimate and why Penelope is okay with being physically intimate with people other than her husband, it just feels a bit out of character. Cattie-brie 100 years previous to this wouldn't have cared. Maybe I have misinterpreted Cattie-brie all this time, but I feel that she would have instinctively known what exactly was happening from the beginning, and confronted the Archmage immediately, and not gone about it in a sneaky way. Both Cattie-brie and Gromph, to my (maybe flawed?) understanding, were way beyond these simple shenanigans. If it were some other less mentally powerful and less magically focused character (like Wulfgar), I would have been more understanding. Maybe this was done to show how bored Gromph was and how out of his element he is, and also how arrogant, and maybe to set it up to show his layers later on. Or maybe it was just done to show, yet again, how ridiculously powerful Cattie-brie is now. Whatever the reason, this happens, but then everything is okay between them in the end, which somehow feels even more odd.

Again, I really love reading these books, I have since I discovered them. I will continue to read them (as long as Artemis Entreri doesn't get killed). So the following may come across as odd for a fan of Drizzt's story, but the entire concept of Menzoberranzan still being so obsessed with Drizzt is something I find a bit... tiring. 

Drizzt to the Matron Mothers
I know the longer lifespans make it possible for grudges and such to be held for much, much longer, but I guess I would have expected by now that Drizzt's life would have had other problems. I understand this is the whole premise of the Homecoming series, it just overall seems a bit repetitive. 

However, I really did enjoy Drizzt's visit to his city of birth this time around, and I really did want them to get Dahlia out of there. New things happened because of the Faerzress that spiced up the story. Maybe this is due to my background in psychology, but the fact that the book ended with Drizzt essentially being psychotic (temporarily and due to magical influences) seems more interesting to me than if the book had ended as they usually end, with everything everywhere being mostly okay (which of course I am also a fan of). Drizzt contracting the "sickness" and the fact that it is making him question everything in his reality definitely sets up the next book and I honestly can't wait to read that.

1 comment on "Book Review: Maestro (Homecoming Book II)"
  1. *thumbs up*
    hoping for more Gromph-Catti moments in the next book