The Drizzt Novels: Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

This article is a review of Homeland. The first of many books in R A Salvatore's exceptional fantasy series centered on Drizzt Do'Urden and based in the Forgotten realms world.

For those of you who have not heard of Drizzt Do'urden, I can only say that you are definitely missing out on the greatest fantasy novels of our generation, but it's never too late. Robert A Salvatore published the first book in this series in 1988, "The Crystal Shard" and has been writing them ever since. the original Publisher was TSR and all of the Drizzt books are set in the Forgotten Realms created by Ed Greenwood.  With his next book due out in October of 2010, I can say without reservation that I have been enjoying his books (the Drizzt novels in particular) my entire adult life. I picked up crystal Shard when I was nineteen and now I am eagerly awaiting his latest just before my 41st birthday.

     The Dark Elf Trilogy, consisting of Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn, in that order, are Salvatores second trilogy, prequels to the Icewind Dale trilogy started in 88. But as these were the first stories chronologically, I will start with the first, Homeland. As there are many printings of this book it is still relatively easy to find. Just visit your local secondhand book store and you may be able to find  paperback copies of it in relatively good condition. There are also both hard and soft copy anthologies as well. Should you want to posses, as I do, The 20th anniversary Legend of Drizzt hardcovers released by Wizards of the Coast starting in 2004, you may have a more difficult time. I bought a copy of it on Amazon.com and I'm sorry to say, it is in woeful condition. For twenty five bucks I got a very poor condition old Library copy. Such is a testament to the popularity of these books. New and mint copies of this book in particular were extremely expensive, and as of this writing, are currently unavailable on Amazon.

     I will give a brief synopsis of the first of these amazing books but I must give a shout out to Todd Lockwood who has done the art work that has become the image of Drizzt and his companions. Some of the old art work, especially on the Legacy of the Drow set was pretty goofy looking.

SPOILER ALERT - If you do not want to know what these books are about so you can read them for your first time, stop reading this article now.

                 

Fig 1.   Homeland old cover art                 New Cover art by Todd lockwood

     Homeland starts out with an epic description of the brutal ways of the underdark and the birth of Drizzt in the Do,urden temple to Lloth the Spider queen. Just as he is born he is to be sacrificed to the Drow's dark deity but his brother Dinin assassinates his elder brother during a conflict, there by staying the hand of his family and saving his life. We immediately get a real sense of how dark and twisted Drow society is and Drizzt is raised in slave like fashion by his older sisters. His father Zaknafien, a legendary weapons master in Menzoberranzan (the largest and most feared of the Drow cities in the underdark) recognizes Drizzt's potential to be a two handed fighter and takes over his training. During this youthful time,Drizzt comes to understand the evil ways of his kin and peoples and internalizes the values that will guide his life from then on out. He is sent off to the Drow fighting academy to become a warrior and his father (who is a powerful killer out of necessity) fears for the lose of his soul. Drizzt goes with a raiding party to the surface to slaughter elves and is unable to do his part in the name of their terrible Spider Queen. Zaknafien need not have worried about Drizzt's heart but ends up paying for Drizzt's crimes by submitting to his matrons need for a sacrifice to make up for Drizzt's bad (in the eyes of his peoples) deeds. Drizzt, enraged by the loss of his father, steals a panther figurine from Masoj Hunnet at the academy and decides to leave his home forever to escape the evil ways of the Drow. The panther figure is a magical conduit for Drizzt longest time companion whom he can call upon at will, the spirit of the panther incarnate, Guenwhyvar. As the book comes to a close Drizzt is making his way out of the city and into the wilds of the underdark.

     Of course there are many wonderful subplots and other characters to numerous to mention in this review but suffice it to say that this book is a finger burning page turner. Never before has a single character of fantasy fiction been so incredibly compelling.To date there are nearly 200 novels set in the Forgotten realms fantasy world and none of them have come close to selling as many copies as the Drizzt novels. Drizzt embodies the best in all of us and that hero that we all aspire to be. He endures hardship and trial without ever losing his sense of right and wrong. He never takes the easy path and compromises his beliefs. This is the primary lesson he learns from his father who is a brutal killer but only because he believes for every Drow he kills he is ridding the world of one more evil person. Zak was unable to stand up for his principles in the shadow of his dark life and has grow a bitter resignation for his failure to rise above the evil Drow society. He hopes this for his favored son and goes to his death knowing that in teaching his son to think for himself, he has ultimately succeeded.

     This is powerful stuff and it resonates into what real people aspire to achieve in their real lives. Drizzt is able to maintain a pure belief in his principles given an extraordinary amount of adversity. He is both naieve about the world around him yet resolute in his convictions. who among us wouldn't desire to strive for this kind of pure strength of character. By his own words R A Salvatore was inspired to write after reading the lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien, maybe you have heard of it. The Drizzt novels are written in the same idiom to similar spectacular results. If you are a fan of the genre, these books are a must. If you have never strayed into the escapism that fantasy fiction has to offer but have thought you might like to give it a try than this is the best place that I can suggest starting.

     In fact the idea of the Drow warrior begins to permeate peoples lives and they don't even know where its coming from. For the fans of the online game Second Life, you may have already run across groups of Drow avatars. They look like dark elves that dress in dark clothes and have a less than spritely attitude like their fea cousins. These elves don't run around in the forest singing, they brood in dark holes and gothic castles and are generally very heavily armed. Many computer games that are fantasy based, like Morrowind or Oblivion, give you the option of being a dark elf as well.

     Drow or dark elves are quickly becoming a staple in the world of fantasy fiction of all types and this is the novel that starts it all. If you give this novel a try you will be hooked and can look forward to over thirty novels involving these characters and many more books about Drow by many other authors. I invite you to join the millions of readers who are already enjoying this most spectacular adventure.

The next book in the series is Exile. Click the link to read:

knoji.com/drizzt-novels-exile-by-r-a-salvatore-alone-in-the-dark/

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