The Drizzt Novels: Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore
Sojourn is the third book in the Dark Elf Trilogy by R A Salvatore. It is set in the Forgotten Realms Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting created by Ed Greenwood. The book was first published in paperback in May 1991 by TSR Inc. It was rereleased in hardcover for the Legend of Drizzt books by Wizards of the Coast in 2004. I was able to procure my copy on Amazon for about $1.50.The type of book is called a remainder which means the publishing houses are wholesaling them to move excess stock. Remainders can be identified by the red dot on the edge of the pages. This is good for me as I have no intention of ever selling my copy but it does decrease the resale value quite a bit. The hardcover versions of these books are accompanied by charming Q & A interviews at the end of the book with the author and various reviews of the book by famous to semi-famous people in the front. Margaret Weis is featured in this edition. She is the R A Salvatore of the Dragon Lance Series another game setting and Wizards of the Coast property.
Spoiler Alert – Stop Reading if you do not want to know what happens in this book.
fig 1. Old cover art for the paperback
fig 2. New cover art by Todd Lockwood
We find Drizzt in his hundredth morning on the surface watching the sunrise that stings his eyes and ruins his gear. This is cathartic for Drizzt as it is penance for his Underdark sins and he is seemingly burning away the vestiges of his past. He faces an unknown world laid out before him and an unsure path to follow. He finally ventures out of his cave to see some of the world around him and in typical Drizzt fashion he makes a few friends and lots of enemies. Out of shear loneliness he exposes himself to the Thistledown farming family and picks up the nickname Drizzit. Unfortunately for Drizzt a couple of Barghest Whelps, or demon spawn, get wind that he is in the area and use his presence as a cover for their own activities up to and including the murder of the Thistledown family. Elf trackers are called in out of Silverymoon and immediately begin to suspect that is more going on than a misplaced dark elf in the area but Roddy McGristle will hear none of it. Roddy becomes obsessed with the capture of Drizzt. They pursue him into the wilds where Drizzt meets one of his truest friends and mentors Montolio DeBrouchee.
Montolio teaches Drizzt everything he needs to know about how to make his way on the surface world. The language and seasons and even that he is a ranger and what that means. One of the most important things he learns is to put a name to that which he feels and the faith in his heart, his goddess Mielikki. Drizzt is resistant at first but comes to accept that he is of that faith. As with all good times in Drizzt’s life it is all too short as a hoard of assorted monsters lead by enemies that Drizzt seems to make all too often.
After his time with Montolio comes to an end, he goes out into the world with a renewed sense of purpose to try and make a place for himself. This proves extremely difficult as he is shunned, turned away, and chased off from every place he goes. He makes his way into the far north to the last vestige of human habitat in the frozen tundra, a sorry little excuse for civilization called Ten Towns. It’s a last chance place for the unwanted, unloved, and lost. Even here, with his hopes high for acceptance, he is turned away. But the shrewd leader of the town gives him a job. He is to go to the far side of the mountain and keep watch on the barbarian tribes so the town won’t be surprised by an attack. Drizzt accepts the job with resignation and determination. Little could he guess that he would meet a 15 year old girl on the side of that mountain that could see him for what was in his heart and not the color of his skin. Catti-brie keeps her secret friend to herself but it is not long before her very protective father, the King of a dawrven clan, Bruenor Battlehammer comes out on the mountain to confront Drizzt and drive him away. Bruenor is attacked by an ice monster and Drizzt helps in the fight. Bruenor, after spending a little time with Drizzt, is also able to see past Drizzt’s Drow heritage and grants him leave to stay upon the mountain. Drizzt having finally found a place of tolerance and begrudged acceptance calls his little cave on the mountainside, home.
This book is a wonderful read with some heavy social and religious themes. First and foremost it is a fish out of water story. Unlike in Exile, book two in the Dark Elf trilogy, Drizzt is master of his element, a Drow in the Underdark. In this story he has a child naiveté both enduring and troublesome. Everything is strange and new, all the things we take for granted in a story like the trees, changes in the weather and even the sky are a mystery to Drizzt. Because of his evil heritage he is able to communicate with a few of the races of evil weal that runs across but the language of the goodly folk is beyond his experience.
The biggest disadvantage Drizzt has is the color of his skin. He is a dark elf with ebony black skin. In the forgotten Realms, dark elves have a well deserved reputation for evil. Based on this, because of the color of his skin, he is met with hatred and violence everywhere he goes. The real world social implications for this continuing theme throughout all of the books are hard to ignore. No matter what may be in our favorite ranger’s heart he will always be faced with prejudice and mistrust. We as readers cry for the injustice meted out to Drizzt on page after page because of his race but we as a society continue to allow those same injustices on the people around us with indifference to the socioeconomic problems faced by minorities in our own country. After reading sojourn what can’t help be a little more sensitive to the daily plight caused by racial injustice.
This is also a story of faith. Drizzt is able to name to what is in his heart just as so many people struggle with their own reconciliation of a higher power. He comes from a society that worships evil and winds up with no use for the gods at all. He carries a misconception that all gods demand service and sacrifice and questioning slavery to the whims of gods that have their own evil and uncaring machinations. Montolio is able to show Drizzt that there is more to faith than what he has experienced under the brutal tutelage of the spider queen. The social parallels to our own interpretations of the gods of the real world as interpreted by peoples all over the world in inescapable.
By the end of this book we are able to exhale in relief that Drizzt is able to find a place in the world that he belongs and is accepted for what is in his heart and not judged by those closest to him for what is on the outside or the reputation of his kin. Sojourn and all three of the books in the Dark Elf trilogy are jewels in my fantasy collection and come with this author’s highest recommendations. Drizzt’s convictions and moral compass are his armor against the racial prejudice and injustice he is faced with everyday. Who among us doesn’t aspire to this level of morale certitude? It is what makes Drizzt the most endearing characters in fantasy fiction and R A Salvatore one of the most inspiring authors of the same.
The next book in the series is The Crystal Shard. Click the link below to read the review.