Canticle (The Cleric Quintet #1)

End Date:  January 30

Author:  R.A. Salvatore

Published:  1991

Genre:  Fantasy

Pages:  384 (paperback)

Selected By:  BillMo

Average Score:  Scoring Liked Book

“High in the Snowflake Mountains sits the Edificant Library, a place of scholarly study for priests, bards, and others.  Now from the hidden vaults beneath the library a devastating curse is unleashed, and a young cleric must battle the terrifying creatures set loose by a malevolent, consuming essence that’s been released, before his own brethren turn against him.  Cadderly must put his studies to the test and enter the catacombs far below to save his brothers and himself.” – from the Amazon summary.

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Gigglemug Reviews

BillMo: Scoring Great Book

I love R.A. Salvatore’s books. My husband introduced me to his works by recommending the Drizzt series, and I read quite a few of those before I made it to The Cleric Quintet.  Once I got around to reading those, I absolutely fell in love – it was a great change of pace, being not so serious as the story of Drizzt (though I do love Drizzt!!!), and it introduced a whole new set of characters.  My favorite thing about Salvatore’s writing style is his excellent description of fight scenes – the stage for each one is set with so much description and the action plays out so well that it’s like letting a movie scroll through my head.

“For all of that love, though, the druid still did not know where he fit in.”

I became easily attached to the entire cast of characters in this first novel of the series.  I do have to say that out of the five of the books featuring Cadderly as the main character, he can come across as being a little annoying in this introductory novel.  But he is only twenty when his story begins, and if you read the remaining books you actually watch him grow up as time passes – in Canticle he is young and innocent and sometimes even a little naive; however, toward the end of Canticle he experiences some inner struggles that require aggressive actions that go against his natural instincts, and those gave him a bit more depth in my opinion and sort of provide a glimpse of how he’s just beginning to see how things really are and who he’ll have to become to be successful and useful in his world.  The greatest lesson I think he learned in this, his first real adventure, is that sometimes in life the right decisions feel all wrong, and you don’t know for sure that they were right until after the dust clears and you can look back at things more objectively.  I also really liked that he is always a gentleman and often a goofball, and, despite their seemingly mismatched pairing and the fact that they’re two entirely different people with opposing outlooks and natures, he clearly does not want to control, change, or exchange his love interest, Danica.  She’s different than he is, and he doesn’t understand her, he cannot comprehend her half the time, and he cannot tame her – but that’s what he loves about her.

” ‘I always assume the worst, thus am I pleasantly surprised if anything better occurs.’ “

Besides Cadderly and the dwarves, readers meet druids (a very nature-loving bunch, naturally, and who wouldn’t love them, right??), zombies, ghouls, evil wizards, and even a mummy!

My favorite bad guy in this book is the imp, Druzil.  He’s a fantastic master puppeteer who basically goes through the entire story saying, “Dance, playthings, dance!”  He manipulated every situation to serve his best interests, and he always looked out for himself, using his strategic brilliance to foresee who stood better chances of winning and making sure to favor and back them at every opportunity to achieve his own goals.

” ‘Hold still, ye stinking oak kisser!’ Ivan bellowed, whacking wildly.”

The entire premise of Canticle has to do with the release of a devastating curse, and I found it humorous that it revealed the true natures of many people and what was in their hearts.  For instance, some of the priests literally ate themselves to death while others ripped themselves apart in order to make sacrifices to their deities – while the fact that people died isn’t funny in the least, the ideas themselves were original and, before reaching those final stages, the ways the curse played out were really interesting and funny.

I obviously recommend this book quite highly to anyone who enjoys their fantasy with a bit of campy fun and a story which involves a band of heroes in an impossible situation that has a logical and gradual conclusion (unlike some books where authors write themselves into a corner and then just vomit up some solution to get it over with – you know, sort of like The Maze-Runner Trilogy).

BillMo’s Favorite Character:  I have two: the squirrel, Percival, who added a bit of comic relief while also being cute and fuzzy, and Pikel, the dwarf who aspired to be a druid.  The interactions between the latter and his brother, Ivan, are absolutely hilarious, and the combination of the two of them together – Ivan, the cookie-cutter dwarf who cannot understand why his brother loves trees more than rocks – can lighten any mood.  Plus, Pikel reminds me of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, and, like Groot, he has a very limited vocabulary but is still extremely expressive and gets his point across – plus he’s described a bit cartoonishly, with his legs pumping in place, revving him up for a charge that gives him the forward momentum he needs to be a devastating force in his own right.  I can picture that perfectly!

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.

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The Divine Ms. Em: Scoring Liked Book

No Written Review Provided.

Ms. Em’s Favorite Character:  The dwarven brothers, Pikel and Ivan Bouldershoulder.

Ms. Em read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.

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Lady Esbe: Scoring It Was OK Book

Let me preface this by saying that I was extremely bored through most of this novel and it was a struggle for me to read beyond ten pages in a clip and not get sleepy.  It was sheer will power and that the story began to pick up the last third of the book.  However, I am not a fan of the writing style or the language used in the novel.  The pace of the book was terribly slow for only a three hundred page book.  There was too much redundancy and absurdity that just made it much harder to bear.

I wasn’t a fan of the novel starting out with an evil act.  I’m a big fan of crime fiction and the like, and that usually does start with a crime or evil act.  However, the execution of this act made me more irritable than intrigued.  Then commencing to attempt to endear us to inhabitants of the Edificant Library was almost a bit haphazard.  The introduction of each new character didn’t truly ­pull at my heart strings.  I may have smiled a little at the introduction of Cadderly and the three Druids and even Danica.  However, as the story goes on I get a little more annoyed with each person.

I am not the biggest fan of fantasy; however, I feel that there are others who do this so much better (i.e. Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett), especially the comedy portion of this novel.  When Salvatore attempts to be funny it comes off campy and not worthy of a smirk, much less a chuckle.  For example, the Bouldershoulder brother’s fights and the fact that one apparently isn’t coherent beyond a few “Oo oi’s”  What?  Really?  Is this your idea of humor?  If so, it absolutely sucks.  Even their method of attack is stupid.  They start with this running in place, much like the Three Stooges, to build up momentum before beginning their charge.  Honestly, I found this stupid as a child with the Stooges, it was even worse in written format.  From the clumsy rivalry between Rufo and Cadderly to the incessant infighting of the antagonists at the Trinity Castle and even the overly harsh reactions of Avery, I was just not intrigued at all.  I also could barely stomach the attack on the Edificant Library and it’s inhabitants.  While on one level, it was ingenious on the part of the antagonists to create a chaos curse; on another, it was just so ridiculously executed that I was pushing through the book to be done versus out of pleasure reading.

I could go on and on about the absurdity of the names, the situations and even how the plot unfolds.  However, I will give credit where credit is due.  I like that the Bouldershoulder brothers were able to fight the curse.  I like that Danica was a strong female character.  I also liked that Newander was able to find his strength in the end.  Cadderly is clearly to be the hero of this piece, yet I found myself more annoyed with him than anything.  From start to finish, he shirks his duties on some level and is ultimately the catalyst of disaster that befalls the Edificant Library because of his inexhaustible curiosity.  He doesn’t try to temper his urges to gain more technological knowledge, which helps in the end.  However, by his own admission, he has no true devotion to his priestly studies.  If he had, he may have been able to temper his need for exploring with practicality that would have saved everyone involved some heartache.  As I said above, by the point in the book where they began the quest to confront the evil that has permeated the library, I was pleased that it picked up in pace.  Yet, the execution for me was still lacking.  To be honest, the book could have been shorter by one hundred pages and removed some redundancies that would have made it a little more palatable to me.

I don’t know how to describe how utterly bored I was reading this.  I mean, I did find a cure to insomnia.  But that’s not a good thing when reading for pleasure.  If this book had been executed with the level of dexterity and humor as Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman, I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed the book and found someone to root for truly.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t find anything that redeeming about it other than it moved quicker by the end.  I struggled on my rating.  I honestly disliked the book, but the last third of the book moved quick enough to get me through it and thus raise it from a one-cup (didn’t like it) to a two-cup score (it was okay).

Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character:  None of them.

Esbe read the Mass Production paperback version of this book.

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Elle Tea:  Scoring It Was OK Book

I always feel the need to justify these lower-end scores, so I want to reiterate that a two-cup score means I thought the book was okay – it’s not a one (didn’t like it), and it’s definitely not a zero (hated it), but it’s also not a three (liked it).  I mean… Yeah.  Okay.  It was alright.

The first thing to be aware of is that Canticle is a Forgotten Realms novel, which means it’s going to be heavy on the D & D.  If you’re not into Dungeons & Dragons, Baldur’s Gate, and / or Neverwinter Nights, you’re going to risk being lost (at best) or completely baffled by the absurdity of it all (at worst).  If you’re not a fan of D & D, you might want to skip this one and move on to a different fantasy series that doesn’t require at least a passing knowledge of the different classes and how they operate and a minor familiarity with some of the deities of the campaigns.  If you’re not a fan but want to give it a go anyway, I’d tell you ahead of time to keep an open mind, because things are going to seem a little campy if you’re used to fantasy novels like The Kingkiller Chronicles, A Song of Ice & Fire, or The Lord of the Rings.

“Druids considered themselves the guardians of nature and the natural order.  Unlike wizards and priests of many other sects, druids accepted that they were the watchdogs of the world and that the powers they brought were more a call for help to nature than any manifestation of their own internal power.”

I actually am a fan of all of the above, and I quite liked Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt series, but this one just never quite got past “meh” for me.  It wasn’t bad or even badly written, really – initially I thought perhaps this was Salvatore’s take on a YA novel in the world, but when people started ripping themselves apart and bashing their own faces into giant stones, I realized that was not the case at all.  The scenes that showed how the curse itself unfolded were as fascinating as they were disgusting as those affected by the spell revealed their true natures and depths of their own beliefs: a warrior fixated on honing their skills to perfection becomes obsessed with mastering a lethal technique with bloody results; druids lose themselves entirely to their animal forms and natures; the followers of demanding deities who require sacrifices of flesh give the lives of everything they can find, and when they run out of things to kill, they turn on themselves, hacking off and yanking out bits and pieces of their own bodies in the names of their gods; gluttons eat themselves to death; sibling rivalries escalate into violent confrontations…

I’m writing this out, and I’m thinking, even now, “Wow.  It sounds like it should’ve been so cool…”  And maybe it was, and I just wasn’t in the mood, but something tells me not.  Because as nifty as all of those scenes were, I just never could get past how silly it all seemed, in the end.  Sure, the imp was pretty wicked, and the evil wizards were nothing short of complete assholes, and all of them were hatching some fairly nefarious plots – but they never quite made it to the “vile villain” category for me.  They were more like Disney villains, in a sense – you knew they were supposed to be bad because they were the ones dressed in all black, cackling in the corners and twirling their luxurious mustachios… but the author’s tendency to try to make them laughable to one another as they schemed to bring down not only their mutual targets but also each other only served to make them laughable to me, as well.  I’ll use The Little Mermaid as my analogy here: essentially Ursula the Sea Witch wants to knock King Triton down a few pegs while simultaneously taking over the entire ocean, right?  But what if, the entire time Ariel and her whole drama were going down and Ursula was knocking about being the baddest, ugliest thing under the sea (forgive me, I just couldn’t help it, and now that song is stuck in my head), the reality was that the real brains behind Ursula’s whole operation was Flotsam (one of her eel sidekicks), who, incidentally, had set up a side project in the criminal mastermind business with the shark who tried to eat Flounder.

” ‘They’re of the order.  Their hearts lie with the animals.  Pity me, I say.  I have found my voice and it’s neither bay nor growl, nor even the cackle of the bird!’ “

Just not scary.  Cute, sure.  Campy, absolutely.  But not anything I could ever really take seriously.  Drizzt’s story appealed to me because of how different it was – it took the fantastical world, classes, politics, and religions of Forgotten Realms and added very real concerns like racism and zealotry, then mixed it all together with a story of redemption and self-discovery that was sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, sometimes violent, and just about always nerve-wracking.  With Canticle, I couldn’t help but snicker at things that I don’t believe were intended to be snickered at – I mean, the hero’s weapon of choice is essentially a yo-yo (which is never actually labeled as such in the book and is instead described in a couple of highly detailed passages but which doesn’t change the fact that it is still a friggin’ yo-yo), and the curse that’s supposed to be so terrifying actually has a name, and that name, my friends, is: Most Fatal Horror.  Just leaving it as something like Chaos Curse would have been infinitely better, in my opinion – I mean, every time I’d get to a line that had someone gasping in some way about, “No!  Not the Most Fatal Horror!”, I would actually laugh aloud.

Flotsam, Ursula, and that nameless shark with the (cue the Psycho violin screech) MOST FATAL HORROR against a young cleric armed with a yo-yo.

Yep.  Not so much.

Elle’s Favorite Character:  I quite liked Percival (the squirrel), because he was just such a random addition and one that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.  But it was primarily Newander who got my attention, hands down.  I loved the scene on the mountain where he saved the eagle’s nest – but not before verifying that the predators preparing to attack it were indeed not part of the natural order.  He truly cherished and respected the world, from the lowest blade of grass to the clouds rolling above him, and he respected and truly loved every living creature in it – and I loved him for his deep sorrow when he believed that his true nature was somehow less than those of the other druids around him when the curse caused their animal natures to overtake their human ones while he retained his human form and voice.  His heart was just broken… but I think, by the close of it all, he knew in his heart who was more in tune with Silvanus, and he wasn’t disappointed in the least.

Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.

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