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Tromping through the Neverwinter Wood, Drizzt Do’Urden navigates a winding path littered with secrets and lies. Guenhwyvar, his loyal panther, miraculously returns to his side. But Guen is not all she seems. Far away in the Shadowfell, Shade warlock Draygo Quick spies through her eyes, intent on uncovering Drizzt’s divine allegiances — which prophecy predicts will illuminate the uncertain fate of Faerûn. Drizzt’s lover, Dahlia Sin’Felle, tosses in her sleep each night, tormented by the memory of the child she thought she’d killed. Tangled up in her dark secrets, the ties that once held her close to Drizzt threaten to tear as her bonds to his former foe, Artemis Entreri, continue to grow. Meanwhile, in the caverns of Gauntlgrym, the drow Tiago Baenre enlists the help of Bregan D’aerthe in his quest to destroy Drizzt. While making promises they may not keep, the agents of the elite drow mercenary group hide plans of their own. Determined to stand for what’s right in the Realms once again, Drizzt forges a new road north — toward Icewind Dale. Will his new companions follow? Can he fight the darkness alone? Either way, he knows now where he’s headed — back to the only place that’s ever felt like home. New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore pulls out all the stops in this shocking conclusion to the series related to the much-anticipated, award-winning game: Neverwinter
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The Best Sidekick a Warrior Could Ever Want
R.A. Salvatore muses on the identity—and unintentional identity crisis—of one of Drizzt Do’Urden’s most important allies, the fearsome black panther Guenhwyvar.
She started out as a dog, a moorhound, actually, named Canthus. When I wrote a sample chapter to audition for the second book ever published in the Forgotten Realms setting, way back in the summer of 1987, I thought the Realms were the tiny Moonshae Isles and that TSR (the original publisher of the Forgotten Realms setting) was looking for someone to write a direct follow-up to Doug Niles’s Darkwalker on Moonshae. I didn’t want to use Doug’s characters in any meaningful way—they’re wonderful characters, but I don’t like sharing protagonists!—so I grabbed one, a sly fellow named Daryth and his moorhound named Canthus, to introduce the hero of my story, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale.
Quite a bit changed during that audition period, starting with me discovering the size of the Forgotten Realms, and learning, to my great relief, that my editor didn’t want me anywhere near Doug’s work, since he was writing sequels to his book. So I set my book, The Crystal Shard, far away in Icewind Dale and added a character named Drizzt Do’Urden who soon took over the book. One thing I did keep from Doug’s example, however: the animal sidekick.
Why? Any pet lover already knows the answer to that question. Drizzt was created as the classic, misunderstood outcast, a bit of a loner, and often driven by circumstance to his own devices. Has anyone gone through junior high school or high school who can’t relate to this?
I certainly can. And in those times when I found myself confused and feeling very alone, I had a savior, a dog named Cocoa and then a dog named Yuma. They listened, without judgment, and using them as sounding boards often got me through the tough and lonely days.
So Drizzt needed a friend like that, I figured, and Guenhwyvar was born.
Female or Male?
Let me clear this up, once and for all: Guenhwyvar is a female panther! I know, I know, don’t point out the problem with that argument, please. You see, when you’re a professional writer, working on deadlines and working with a team of editors/artists/designers and the like, you come to learn certain things about the process. In the case of Guenhwyvar, for some reason I never figured out, I was told that the panther had to be gender neutral. I argued about this policy, but to no avail. Guenhwyvar was a magic item, so I was told, and so Guen was an “it,” not a “she” or a “he.”
The cat remained a “she” in my mind, certainly, but I painstakingly went through the manuscript of The Crystal Shard and removed all of the gender-specific pronouns. In some places, the use of “it” sounded quite awkward ; when you name a character, then use “it,” well, try to do it and you’ll see what I mean. Nevertheless, I had my orders.
Soon after The Crystal Shard hit the shelves, I discovered, to my chagrin, that the copyeditor had apparently spotted the awkwardness of the gender-neutral pronoun, too, and so he/she (it?) had smoothed out the prose... by replacing “it” with “he” and “him”! But no, Guenhwyvar is a female panther!
I got the name from those magnificent Mary Stewart books about King Arthur, where “Guenhwyvar” is the spelling of Arthur’s Queen, and, according to Stewart, the name meant “Shadow.” Perfect for Drizzt, I figured, coming from the shadows and needing a shadow. Wherever would Drizzt have been without her? Indeed, where will he be without her going forward? Read The Last Threshold to know more.
—R.A. Salvatore, February 2013About the Author:
R.A. Salvatore was born in Massachusetts in 1959. His love affair with fantasy, and with literature in general, began during his sophomore year of college when he was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift. He promptly changed his major from computer science to journalism. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications in 1981, then returned for the degree he always cherished, the Bachelor of Arts in English. He began writing seriously in 1982, penning the manuscript that would become Echoes of the Fourth Magic. His first published novel was The Crystal Shard from TSR in 1988 and he is still best known as the creator of the dark elf Drizzt, one of fantasy’s most beloved characters. His novel The Silent Blade won the Origins Award, and in the fall of 1997, his letters, manuscripts, and other professional papers were donated to the R.A. Salvatore Library at his alma mater, Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
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