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Sep 06 2014

Audiobook Review: The Collected Stories: The Legend of Drizzt Anthology by R.A. Salvatore

To most people, they wouldn’t describe me as someone who likes books. My online persona is deeply trenched into the movie watching field (and TV shows as well) with a minor in gaming. With all these movies and games, it is hard for me to find time to read books.

But then I moved to Houston and had a commute to work. It has been wonderful because I have started to use audiobooks during my drive time in order to rekindle a passion I used to have and make use of a rather boring and tedious time.

However, who cares about my thoughts on audiobooks? Especially such a random one as above. The only reason I wanted to do this review was because this particular audiobook has been in the news. Back in February, news outlets reported that Ice-T was reading a book for dungeons and dragons and found it hilarious.

My only issue with that is calling it a “Dungeons & Dragons” book. Yes, technically true, but anyone who has read these Forgotten Realm books would never call it that, they would just call them the Drizzt series, a way more descriptive and actual helpful piece of information. Because I love the Drizzt series, and this release (The Collected Stories: The Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore) was over 20 years of short stories that went along with the novel releases, I was stoked. I was happy too that each one had a different celebrity reading the 20-100 minute story.

Either way, this intro is already too long. I just want to give quick thoughts about each story AND the voice acting behind it, because that is pretty dang important for an audiobook. I will also not bore you with plot details you won’t understand unless you read the other 30 or so books. The book was also a free download, and still is one, if you get interested.

Drizzt Cover

The First NotchFelicia Day

Hey, Felicia Day is famous for being a nerd. How exciting! She also probably role plays, so this could be really great! Well, it wasn’t. This one is about Bruenor as a young Dwarf getting his first kill with his famous axe. In it are a lot of Dwarves, Goblins and even an Ettin! And she definitely gives the characters appropriate voices. However, to me all of the Dwarves (4-5 total) sounded basically the same and all felt mostly incomprehensible. That made conversations between them (which there is a lot) pretty hard to figure out. So yeah. A complete fail in the audio department, leaving me with maybe 40% of a story. So I don’t know how great it was. I couldn’t understand it!

Reader – 1/5
Story – ???

Dark MirrorDan Harmon (Creator of Community)

When Dan Harmon began to talk, he had a slight high pitch that I found unsettling, but in this long tale you get used to it. This story, Dark Mirror, tells a powerful tale of racism in a fantasy backdrop. It is easy to imagine where this story takes place in the overall mythos and feels like something that could have been placed into one of the books. Overall the voice work is average, but this story becomes worthwhile for the actual plot.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 5/5

The Third LevelGreg Grunberg (Heroes)

Finally, a story about Artemis Entreri, everyone’s favorite assassin, telling about his youth, joining the Thieves Guild and initial rises to power. I don’t have anything negative to say about Greg Grunberg for narration, but he gave a terrible voice to the young Artemis. He is an intimidating character, even in his youth, and his voice was anything but intimidating. The story does a good job of helping to tell just how Artemis began his rise to the top and showed off his wise antics when he was just a lad.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 5/5

GuenhwyvarTom Felton (Draco from Harry Potter)

Who doesn’t love a British man reading to you? It is literally the best. British people can read to me all day. My problems with this story, telling us how the mythical beast Guenhywvar came to be, is that the story just felt too long. It involved characters we will never hear about again and doesn’t even go and to explain all of the events that surround how she became magical. It kind of just hand washes it away. More background into the setting and world at that time would have been nice in getting to know character motivations.

Reader – 5/5
Story – 3/5

That Curious SwordDanny Pudi (Abed from Community)

Danny Pudi has that odd voice, but he too is a nerd at heart and seems like someone who would really understand the source material. It took me a little bit to get used to the unique sound, but once I did, had relatively no problems with the voice, especially during the action scenes. This tale involves Artemis again, but with Jaraxle, and explains a small event in their life. Again, the issue is that although parts of it are interesting, I don’t know why it was important to publish this tidbit on its own. Like “Oh that’s cool…but why does it matter?”

Reader – 4/5
Story – 3/5

Wickless in the NetherSean Astin (Samwise from LOTR, Rudy, The Goonies)

More Artemis and Jaraxle! This time telling a tale involving dragons, because everyone loves dragons. There is nothing unique about Sean Astin’s voice, but he was able to accurately convey the correct emotions through the text and that is all I could have really hoped. The story again ends up telling only a tidbit again. I find it hard to care about the end results, especially since I don’t remember how it affected the actual story. However, this one was also really amusing, so it made up for the pointlessness.

Reader – 4/5
Story – 4/5

Art and Drizzt

Need a picture to break this up. Here is Artemis and Drizzt fighting, because they are awesome.

 

The DoweryMelissa Rauch (Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory)

Melissa Rauch is a female, I think most people would agree with that. Ideally, being a woman would lead to doing really great female voices. But in this story, of Drizzt and Catti-Brie looking to catch some pirates to relieve their sadness over PLOT, every time she voiced Catti-Brie felt like nails on a chalkboard. Which is unfortunate, because she too did really awesome when it came to the action scenes, giving great emphasis. This story, and a couple of the next few, is entertaining, but I have a hard time placing it in the overall mythology.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 3/5

Comrades at OddsIce-T

Ah, Ice-T, the reason people may have actually heard about this book in the first place. We know Ice-T actually knows the source material, because he tweeted about how confusing a lot of the words were to pronounce months before he got the gig. Which is why they gave him a story with a lot of Drow and words like “Menzoberranzan.” His voice was definitely unique, but I didn’t feel like he had a lot of passion as he read. The story itself just felt like it was all over the place and didn’t answer a lot of questions. I knew roughly when it was taking place in the mythology, but it still felt rather vague.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 2/5

If Ever They Happened Upon My LairWil Wheaton (from the internet)

Wil Fucking Wheaton! This is another man known for being a nerd. I expected this one to go badly, just because of the Felicia Day story, but this man? This man can read a fucking book. This is a story that had dragons, liches, dwarves, and human-esque characters and they all had unique and wonderful voices. I wish most of my stories were told in Wil’s angry black dragon voice, I really do. The story was again entertaining, and would have been worthy of a 5 out of 5, but…I have no fucking clue where this goes in the story. From what I can tell, zero characters from the Drizzt books are in this one. I mean, the stories says The Legend of Drizzt, so I would hope they relate to him in some way?

Reader – 5/5
Story – 4/5

Bones and Stones‘Weird Al’ Yankovic

Weird Al? You sly dogs. Everyone knows Weird Al’s unique voice, and the fact that they gave him a story was just awesome. However it didn’t feel like he tried too hard to give the two main characters any real voice. This story involves my least favorite character, Pwent, and his search to find the remains of a fallen friend. However, there are also Orcs doing the same thing nearby. This is a very safe story and you can tell how it will end really early on, so it was pretty meh overall.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 2/5

Irul-adoonMichael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four, No Ordinary Family)

Michael Chiklis has done a surprising number of nerdy things outside of his action roles. So I guess it isn’t too surprising to see this casting. However, both his vocal work and the story are nothing to write home about. The story is about a magical place in the woods, where a few characters who have died in the story live peacefully, and the few regular living humans who accidentally stumbled upon it. And basically, zero changed from the beginning to the end of the story. It didn’t give us new insight to their afterlife, it didn’t cause anything important. It was just a cute story and felt like a huge waste of time.

Reader – 2/5
Story – 1/5

To Legend He GoesDavid Duchoveney (You know who fucking David Duchoveney is)

Speaking about dead people, this story tells about the final days of Wulfgar the Barbarian on the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale. It has David Duchoveney, another man with an excellent narrator voice, telling the grim tale of the warriors final battle. This is the only story that was not published before this collection, so it is pretty unique. The Wulfgar story itself in the novels is never really fully answered, outside of living the rest of his life on the plains. So it feels great to have some closure and relates to the previous story, bu in a better way.

Reader – 3/5
Story – 4/5

Conclusion:

Man, I sure feel like a complainer and a hater. I was very nitpicky with these selections, because most audiobooks are done by professional voice people, so these random nerds and celebrities are going up against fierce competition. Some of them succeeded and some of them floundered. I guess that really tells us that celebrities are just normal people. Some win, some lose.

Overall, it was a good filler in the Drizzt series, which I am almost caught up on again after a few years of down time. As of right now, I have read 36 books about this Drow and his companions and the world around them, with only 3 more to go before I am caught up. A series I would recommend to anyone and can tell you that at least the latest books on Audible.com have very fine narration indeed.

If you read all of this, congrats. I hope your day is void of Orc raids.

Nick “Listening Counts As Reading Too” Hamden

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