Artemis Entreri is an assassin who carved his way up from the streets of Calimport to the right hand man of Bodoni Pasha. Jarlaxle Baenre is a Drow, a Dark Elf committed to spreading Chaos through the world at the behest of his Dark goddess, Lolth. When the Dark Elves attacked Bruenor Battlehammer's kingdom at the same time Artemis Entreri was attempting to kill Drizzr Do'Urden for the crime of being as good as he was and bringing all his beliefs, and his entire life into question, the two met when the Dark Elves captured Entreri.
Artemis Entreri was taken far below to the Dark Elf kingdom, where he found the politics and machinations of the Underdark to be too overwhelming and byzantine for even one such as he. Jarlaxle at first imprisoned Entreri, and now has freed him to become his travelling companion in the world above. Although Jarlaxle claims to only want to explore the possibilities and opportunities available in the land above, what he really wants to do is set up a Kingdom of his own, with Artemis as King and he as the manipulator in the shadows.
Part of his plan was accomplished while he was under the control of the artifact Crenshinibon, a crystal shard that gets power from the light of the sun and can make huge copies of itself. Now Jarlaxle is released from its power, but the hunger for a kingdom of his own remains. In the previous books, Entreri and Jarlaxle went north to the Bloodstone Lands, the Kingdom of Damara. On behalf of the leader, King Gareth, Jarlaxle and Entreri assaulted a castle that was the twin of the one belonging to Xenghyi, the Witch-King who Gareth defeated to free the land. With them went Mariabronne the Rover, a famous Ranger and student of another of Gareth's companions, Olwen Forest-Friend, one of Queen Christine's distant cousins, Athrogate the Dwarf. an agent of the Assassin's Guild And its leader Knellict, Calihye, an elven swordswoman, and her lover, another elf, Parissus, as well as a few orcs from the community of Palischuck. At tne end of the adventure, few remained, and now Entreri and Jarlaxle go to King Gareth to be rewarded for their deeds.
Entreri and Calihye have become lovers, but she is swamped by memories of Parissus and the many years they were together. Jarlaxle has a lover of his own, Ilnezhara, an ancient and powerful silver dragon. But one of his prizes from the castle, the phylateracy of a Dracolich who was once a black dragon, may well have put Jarlaxle in a position opposing theirs. And even he is no match for a Dragon without the whole of his mercenary company, Bregan D'aerth, backing him up.
Not all of Gareth's companions trust the pair, and even the Paladin-King himself has some doubts about the two. While he cannot bring himself to shun them because of the deeds they have already done, he has no objections to two of his companions, Riordan Parnell, a bard, and Grandmaster Kane, a monk, seeking the truth of what happened in the Castle and how Mariabronne died. While Entreri betrays the Assassin's Guild rather than serve them and their dictates, another organization is added to the two's list of enemies.
And when Jarlaxle attempts to claim Vaasa as his new Kingdom with Artemis Entreri as King, both of them will have to fall back on some fast thinking, and doing, to get out of the mess they have created for themselves. With a whole host of enemies and no friends, can the two salvage Jarlaxle's dreams of Kingdom, or is it not even worth trying? And afterwards, can Entreri live with the truth of his past and memories, or will he find that it's even worse than he once thought?
I love R.A. Salvatore. In fact, I love his character of Drizzt Do'Urden, the dark elf. Artemis is sort of the Anti-Drizzt, in that his entire life and beliefs and ideals are the polar opposite of Drizzt's. For some reason, Jarlaxle has taking a liking for Artemis Entreri and is trying to help him... be something different. Something better, maybe, but he doesn't realize that Entreri is content with his life, perhaps even happy, but for the goad of Drizzt making him realize he could have gone down a different path.
I am not extremely interested in the character of Artemis Entreri. While Salvatore's attempt to give him a life and a background and make him something more than a scarily competent and just plain scary assassin was good storytelling, it still didn't make me care for the character or view him as anything other than damaged goods. Jarlaxle, the drow, too, has depth, but even when we see his thoughts, he seems to be nothing more than his mask a civilized "Magnificent Bastard" character who lives his immensely long life spreading chaos wherever he goes.
I truly didn't care about either character, which made this book less than successful for me. The fact that the last fifth of the book completely revolved around Artemis' investigations into his past was a complete break from what had gone on earlier and I couldn't see Jarlaxle playing Drow Psychologist for Entreri as being very interesting.
This was not my favorite R.A. Salvatore book, not by a long shot. It's competently written and the adventures that happen are okay, but the main characters being a pair of asses who are evil asses that cause Chaos for themselves and others around them and then have to deal with the results of that just didn't appeal to me. Luckily, he's still writing about Drizzt and his friends, so I can read those books instead.