Servant of the Shard is meant to be the first book in a series of three books, which is why I was perplexed that the very first word of the prologue is ‘he’ like it assumes some kind of prior knowledge to something that has happened before the story has started. In fact, the entire opening of the book reads like this. So much so that I did a little research into the author and discovered that this trilogy is preceded by five other series’, set in the same world, that follow on from each other.
My main issue with this is that if you are going to have several series that follow on from each other, there should be a brief summary in the beginning of the book to inform the uninformed reader of anything they need to know to enjoy the story. Stephen King did this with his epic fantasy, The Dark Tower and it majorly helped me, especially when I waited a few months before reading the next book in the series.
Another issue with reading this as a first book is that there are a lot of characters with weird fantastical names and they are all introduced at the same time. This made life very confusing for me. I am only a simple minded man and to accommodate lots of new names at the same time was very challenging for me.
By page 6 of the 369 page fantasy extravaganza I had finally established who everyone was and their place in the world (no easy task,) and could move on to bashing the narrative. There is overdone dialogue description where the author over emphasises the calmness of one character’s talking. Had there been a preamble detailing the previous books and this character’s specific traits, this might not have been necessary. However the phasing of, ‘he asked calmly – too calmly,’ is a lazy way of describing the difference in character.
Page 17 is littered with over written sentences, one such example being, ‘taking no obvious note of her arrival at all.’ This style carries on throughout the novel, so much that I stopped making note of anything after page 24.
There were two other things that bugged me before this point (bad things happen in twos in seems.) ‘Life in the Dark Lane’ is the title of chapter two and while this is clichéd, it is also out of context in this particular fantasy where cars do not exist.
On page 24, one paragraph is written from the perspective of two different characters which again makes for confusing reading as well as poor layout and sentence structure.
After this point I stopped making notes, put all my issues with the story aside and discovered that the book actually gets better as it goes along. Salvatore has got a lot of skill when it comes to writing complex action sequences. Even though there is a lot going on, they are quite easy to follow and he manages to build suspense without foreshadowing future events or character death.
Also as a final note, I am pleased that the book actually features a crystal shard which uses its holders as servants. Finally, we have a book with an appropriate title!
Servant of the Shard by R.A. Salvatore was published by Wizards of the Coast in 2000. RRP £5.99 (Amazon Paperback)