I know what you’re thinking: “what the heck is an article about a book trilogy doing on a gaming website?” Well, before you start scratching your head in confusion, let me preface this article by saying that not only is the Neverwinter Saga an excellent read for fantasy literature fans, it also happens to serve as a sort of prequel for the upcoming Neverwinter MMO being developed by Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios.
Written by legendary fantasy author R.A. Salvatore, the Neverwinter Saga consists of three books: Gauntlgrym, Neverwinter, and Charon’s Claw. Like the Neverwinter MMO, the trilogy is set within the popular pen-and-paper fantasy setting of Forgotten Realms and, as the namesake suggests, is based around the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter (the same location that was featured in Bioware’s hit PC RPG’s Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2) one of many large cities to dot the larger world known as Faerun.
Unlike Neverwinter Nights and its sequel (which both used a modified version of the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons ruleset) Neverwinter will be utilizing assets from the more recent 4th Edition of D&D. For those who may not be familiar with the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting, the transition from 3rd to 4th Edition rules was actually played out within the fiction itself through an event called The Spellplague; a catastrophic event in which Mystra, the goddess of magic, was murdered and the repercussions of her death kept Faerun locked in a grip of chaos and wild, erratic magic for roughly one hundred years.
From a D&D player’s perspective, all “pre-Spellplague” material (as in any novels, games, and rulebooks that cover content from before the Spellplague) is considered 3rd Edition while anything set after the Spellplague is considered 4th Edition. Naturally you won’t need to be a D&D expert to appreciate either the Neverwinter Saga nor the Neverwinter MMO, but for fans who are hoping to delve into all the lore surrounding the MMO, the Neverwinter Saga is something that cannot be missed.
Even if you’re not an avid reader of fantasy literature, you might still be familiar with R.A. Salvatore’s work. Salvatore actually penned all of the original lore for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning; the acclaimed RPG that was developed by baseball legend Curt Schilling’s ill-fated game-development company 38 Studios. Fans of Amalur might recall that an MMO follow-up to the game, codenamed “Copernicus”, was also being developed and that Salvatore was heavily involved in the process of updating and expanding the lore behind Amalur to fit more in line with an MMO setting.
Sadly, despite its solid gameplay and original story, Amalur didn’t do as well as Schilling and 38 Studios had hoped it would and the company went bankrupt after being forced to default on a loan they had taken from the state of Rhode Island (where the company was based) which meant that Copernicus was effectively cancelled. As saddened as Salvatore was by Copernicus’s cancellation, he quickly bounced back to lend his creative hand in setting the stage for another, more optimistic project: the Neverwinter MMO.
Like many other Forgotten Realms novels written by Salvatore, the Neverwinter Saga stars one of his most beloved and widely known characters: the Dark Elf Ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. To cover all of Drizzt’s history within the Forgotten Realms setting would take a whole article of its own but, to put it simply, Drizzt’s presence has become almost synonymous with the Forgotten Realms setting and he is often considered to be one of, if not *the*, most popular characters in both Forgotten Realms and modern fantasy literature in general.
Since many of Drizzt’s past adventures take place in pre-Spellplague Faerun, the Neverwinter Saga also happens to mark his debut within the 4th Edition post-Spellplague world. Because Dark Elves in Faerun can live for centuries on end, the one-hundred year gap between pre and post-Spellplague doesn’t really affect Drizzt physically but its effect upon his emotions is an entirely different matter. As Drizzt struggles to aid the fledging city of Neverwinter from new enemies and other dangers, he is forced to face his past demons and accept the harsh reality that in order to survive in this new world, he’s going to have to leave cherished memories of his old world behind.
Without revealing any major spoilers, I will say that, like any good prequel, the Neverwinter Saga strikes a fine balance between giving meaningful conclusions to some of the major arcs within its pages but also leaving a few things unresolved, Drizzt’s inner chaos included. This may be slightly disappointing to some fans, but to those eagerly awaiting the MMO, this should be welcome news indeed since it pretty much guarantees they’ll get to journey alongside (and maybe even do battle with) these very same characters they’re reading about.
If the Dark Elf Ranger himself were to show up in the Neverwinter MMO, it wouldn’t be his first in-game appearance. Not only did Drizzt and Co. lend aid to the player’s character near the end of Bioware’s *other* smash-hit RPG Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, but Drizzt himself was also a hidden unlockable character in both of the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance console games and he even had a small playable role in the cult hit Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone.
For fans of fantasy literature, fantasy RPG’s and MMO’s, and/or R.A. Salvatore and his famous Dark Elf creation, I’d highly recommend giving the Neverwinter Saga a read. Like all of Salvatore’s other novels, the Neverwinter Saga masterfully blends compelling and complex characters, meticulously detailed worlds and locations, and beautifully penned combat sequences into a thrilling narrative that just can’t be put down. Even better, Salvatore’s Neverwinter trilogy is just the first in a long line of new books being released that are set in both post-Spellplague Faerun and Neverwinter itself.
The trend of supplementing games with books is a relatively new one to be sure. But with esteemed authors like R.A. Salvatore leading the charge, it’s a trend that I hope continues and grows in the coming years.