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Homeland
Dark Elf Trilogy Book 1
Reviewed by Matt Cowger, © 2005

Format: Book
By:   R.A. Salvatore
Genre:   Fantasy
Released:   March 2004 Hardcover, December 2005 Mass Market
Review Date:   October 04, 2005
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

"Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!"

To say that Drizzt is one of the flagship characters of Wizards of the Coast's hoary Forgotten Realms series is like saying rain is wet. For those among the geekistas that don't know what the Forgotten Realms are, imagine a vast magical Tolkien-esque world, and letting people play a popular role playing game in it; shake and stir until settled. For the rest of us nerds, it is the home of Drizz't (as he was once known before Salvatore realized he went overboard on apostrophes for drow elf names). In the heady days of second edition Dungeons and Dragons, college, and "Wow, look! A keg!" Drizzt became the archetypal anti-hero. Women in the game wanted their characters to date him; guys wanted their dark elf rangers to be him.

Why, why you ask should D&D nerds (of which I was and am still a huge one, proudly, so back off, jack), pay so much attention to this guy? Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy.

During the 1980s Salvatore put out a job-like series of books called the Icewind Dale trilogy. They didn't suck, they weren't fantastic, they were just books set in a game universe most of us had characters that were already kicking ass in. (El Akim of the Wastelands of Anuroch is still a baaaadmuthaaa — wha? Just talkin' bout El Akim.) The only remarkable character in the books was Drizzt, so TSR commissioned a set of books about the Forgotten Realms' Elric-lite.

Those books went on to kick ass like Jackie Chan on the best seller lists like nothing seen since the Dragonlance books. TSR hit pay dirt again. (Which they seem to do with a creepy, revenant-like regularity). They have now been re-released in deluxe editions on gorgeous paper with slick covers, author forwards and selections from �Drizzt's journals'. Plus cleaned up a bit, if I recall correctly from my first round with the series.

The book details early Drizzt, an outcast among Drow (dark elf, i.e. elves with dark skin and white hair) society, aside from his father, mentor, and occasionally creepily-obsessed-with weapons master, Zaknafien. Young Drizzt struggles with the unpleasantries of drow society, portrayed wonderfully in its entire nasty house against house struggles. Menzoberranazan, the home town of Drizzt is presented in grand detail, with an unrelenting view of both the evil of the place and how the occupants therein have no idea how horrible they are.

There are parallels to Nazi Germany which are obvious to the reader and which I won't approach. Drizzt, due to the miracle of the fact that he can Absolutely Kick Ass, protects his ideas and makes it through his early travails. This is, of course, turned on its head when big Daddy D is confronted with the horror of his own family and chooses his own fate, out of the drow city.

R.A. Salvatore is a job-like writer. He is competent, sometimes good, but always loving a good ass-kicking sword fight in the Howard style. But where Howard mixed the swords with a heart sometimes, the first book of Drizzt feels like the heart was a tacked-on afterthought to the bleeding limbs. Descriptively though, the book is fantastic. The mind's eye easily grabs on to What Salvatore describes; it is the Why that loses you. There is absolutely no reason for Zaknefien or Drizzt to be the way they are aside from perhaps radioactive mutation. They are underground after all. But they feel the way they do in this absolute moral vacuum apropos of nothing.

With that in mind it gives Drizzt's struggle out of the drow city the quality of a video game, with all the excitement contained in a book.

I give Homeland 6 out of 10 Illithid skulls.

Matt Cowger was trapped in the underdark with his party, but thanks to a handy teleport they were in Hooters Waterdeep in no time!

 
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