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Literature / The Sellswords

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Entreri and Jarlaxle on the cover of Servant of the Shard
The Sellswords is a book trilogy by R.A. Salvatore that focuses on the stoic human assassin Artemis Entreri and the opportunistic dark elf mercenary Jarlaxle. A spin-off of Salvatore's Drizzt novels, these novels are different from Salvatore's usual Forgotten Realms novels in that it stars a duo of Villain Protagonists.

The books in the series are:

  • Servant Of The Shard (2000)note 
  • Promise of the Witch King (2005)
  • Road of the Patriarch (2006)

Servant of the Shard takes place in the southern city of Calimport, where Jarlaxle's mercenary band Bregan' D'aerthe seeks to expand their influence to the surface. They kill one of the most influential Pashas of the city and install Artemis Entreri as their new front. However, since Jarlaxle got his hands on the Crystal Shard Crenshinibon in Paths of Darkness, it has been influencing his thoughts, leading him to make some questionable decisions that draw the ire of his lieutenants.

In Promise of the Witch King Entreri and Jarlaxle venture north to the Bloodstone Lands of Vaasa, where they plan to work and live for a while. While head-hunting for goblin ears, Jarlaxle, newly endeared to the surface world and always driven by the chance of acquiring more wealth, finds out about an old magical castle in the northern wastelands. The two of them join an adventuring party that plans to loot the castle and destroy the lingering presence of the lich known as the Witch King.

Still in the Bloodstone Lands, Road of the Patriarch has Jarlaxle planning to set up beneficial trading connections for Bregan D'earthe in the northern land. Curiously, he plans to do this by establishing his own kingdom from within the old castle of the Witch King, setting up Entreri as the new King and thus aggravating the nearby reigning Paladin King Gareth Dragonsbane of Bloodstone.

Chronologically the books take place somewhere between Paths of Darkness and Transitions, as Jarlaxle is out of the focus of the main Drizzt novels for that time period, before returning in The Pirate King. Entreri is not seen again until The Neverwinter Saga but then returns as a main character.

This series provides Examples Of:

  • Always Someone Better: Artemis used to be unable to stand the fact he wasn't the strongest swordsman alive. However, his experiences in Menzoberrazan taught him much-needed humility. As a result, he doesn't take it personally when he gauges the fact the Royal Family of Bloodstone could kick his ass every which way from Sunday.
  • Antihero: Jarlaxle and Artemis are brilliant examples thereof.
  • Artifact of Doom: Much of the first book deals with Jarlaxle's attempt to find a magical fortress he can use to build his own kingdom.
  • Break Them by Talking: Used brilliantly by Jarlaxle to get Entreri a royal pardon after Entreri declares himself king of Vaasa and is taken down after his army is utterly destroyed.
  • Broken Aesop: The fact a Paladin King authorizes the genocide of the local humanoids, including buying their ears. Many readers decided he'd crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Chaotic Neutral/Neutral Evil: invoked Jarlaxle's canonical alignment varies between the two. He acts NE during the main Drizzt series (as a mercenary who only gets involved in drow power struggles when he's getting paid), but is closer to CN in The Sellswords.
  • Character Development: Artemis slowly starts to regain a bit of his humanity, including the ability to love and feel affection for other individuals. He's still a bastard but he's no longer a psychopath.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Servant of the Shard is about various criminal organizations trying to gain control of a powerful magical artifact. Naturally, there are backstabbings and betrayals galore.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Artemis Entreri is very skilled at using his surroundings and nearby objects against his foes and doesn't hesitate to use any kind of skullduggery if it will help him win.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Jarlaxle! A complete list of all the magical items and weapons he carries around with him would double or triple the length of this entry. Lots of them come in handy during his travels with Entreri.
  • Darker and Edgier: This is a considerably more morally gray book than the main series.
  • Enemy Mine: Cadderly (from The Cleric Quintet) joins forces with Artemis and Jarlaxle to destroy the Crystal Shard.
  • Evil Weapon: Charon's Claw, an evil sentient sword. But Artemis has such a high degree of mental discipline and willpower that he is able to dominate the weapon and force it to serve him.
  • Fantastic Racism: Played with as Bloodstone is such a hellhole that a Drow like Jarlaxle doesn't draw much interest. However, they offer bounties for the ears of goblins or other humanoids. Jarlaxle exploits the fact of this to rouse the locals against the Paladin King of the region.
  • Freudian Excuse: We finally find out why Artemis is the way he was. His mother was raped and/or used as a prostitute by a corrupt branch of the Selune clergy, which resulted in his conception. He was thus raised in horrific poverty beside their immense wealth as his mother died in destitution like so many other girls misused by them. There is also the fact that he was physically and sexually abused by the men who took his mother in, who he thought to be his Father and Uncle, and was, later on, sold by his mother to a paedophile.
  • Heroic Willpower: Artemis is able to bend Charon's Claw to his will though sheer mental strength. His iron willpower also makes him immune to the lure of the Crystal Shard.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Once the Royal Family of Bloodstone get wind of the pair's plot, it's more or less over as they're Epic Level Heroes who can squash the leads like bugs.
  • Lack of Empathy: Artemis has always possessed this but Jarlaxle, of all people, gradually coaxes him out of it.
  • MacGuffin: The Shard in Servant of the Shard.
  • Mordor: Bloodstone and its surrounding territories are this due to centuries of misrule by Zhengyi the Lich King.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Jarlaxle introduces himself as Drizzt Do'Urden, legendary Defector from Decadence amongst the Drow. Also, in actuality, his often-enemy.
    • Jarlaxle's plan to make Artemis Entreri, King of Vaasa.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Paladin King of Bloodstone and his court are a bunch of epic-level adventurers who carved their land out of something approximating Hell on Earth.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Artemis gets some much, much needed revenge on his father.
  • Villain Protagonist: Artemis and Jarlaxle are pretty horrible people, objectively, though both have mellowed considerably from their earlier appearances in the series.
  • Wham Line: The very end of Servant of the Shard:
    Jarlaxle Baenre, the third son of Matron Baenre, once sacrificed to Lady Lolth by his mother and his siblings, knew better than to trust his own brother.