The Legend of Drizzit Series by R. A. Salvatore
Review by Julie D. (ecomama)
I have been a lifelong fan of fantasy, reading Tolkien & Heinlein as a pre-teen, among whomever I could find at the libraries in California’s Silicon Valley megalopolis. One character stands out among many & for a long time, I wished to read more about the dark elf, Drizzt, Do’Urden, who was introduced in 1988, in The Crystal Shard. It is finally time to read the Legend of Drizzt series from beginning to end…and it begins with The Dark Elf Trilogy. What struck me then, as now is how desperately I want to jump up & shout “I will be your friend!” I am not alone; this lonely drow has won the hearts of millions across the world.
I have seen many requests in my time as a member here for recommendations in the fantasy genre, as people who have never read the classic masters of the 60s, 70s & 80s, have now become intrigued by a genre that has, in some ways become eclipsed by paranormal romances & YA fantasy. So, I thought a review, as I read this prequel series, detailing the early life of Drizzt, would interest members looking for a classic & engrossing epic fantasy written by a master storyteller.
Sometimes the epic fantasies can become so bogged down in some overarching theme or quest, coupled with world building, that much of the flow & character connection stumbles along. Not so with RA Salvatore! The details of this fantastical, underground world inspire without bogging you down in pages upon pages of detail. Enough that you can plop yourself into the story & observe the characters as it unfolds. Readers who are inspired by delving deeper into the motivations of various characters will not be disappointed, as Salvatore did indeed explore his characters in depth…even to allowing some understanding of characters whose motivations are completely at cross-purpose & value of my own. By understanding the drow (dark elf) culture & how it came to be, you then can understand more fully the conundrum of Drizzt’s life.
The first book, Homeland, details the circumstances of Drizzt’s birth & how that affects his childhood & most of his youth, through to his 30s. Salvatore expertly separates his life into comprehensive experiences, beginning with 10 years of indoctrination as a male drow in a female-ruled, underground, chaotic spider-worshipping society. His sister’s role is to teach him his place, and he spends all of his time cleaning the chapel, listening to lectures, and being punished quite violently in an attempt to mold him into the perfect drow prince. I refer to the “kind” sister. Next, he is a servant to the household, not allowed to look beyond his own feet. And finally, when he is accepted as the “second-son,” his mother screams at him for not looking her in the eye. He eagerly accepts his place in society as a noble & spends the next several years as the sole pupil of the Weapon’s Master of the house, where he is further taught, not only how to fight, but how to live. But here is the twist. The Weapon’s Master himself does not truly accept the ways of the drow, rejoicing in Drizzt’s innocence, joy & morality. Around 20 years of age, Drizzt is sent to the Academy, where he will finish his warrior training over 10 more years. A great deal happens during this portion of Drizzt’s life, both to his relationship with Weapon’s Master & within the Academy, where enemies from his birth lurk. The culmination is a moment of decision regarding Drizzt’s future. Dark elves have lifespans nearing a millennium…if someone doesn’t stab them in the back. Who does he want to be? How does he want to live?
If you are not thoroughly attached to Drizzt by the end of book 1, before the middle of book 2, Exile, you most certainly will be a fan. Having left the city of his birth, his homeland, for the wilds of the Underdark, Drizzt learns that survival is simply not enough…not enough to keep him living for centuries. His family is hunting him, and killing all that get in their way. He is tired of being alone. He fears he is becoming something contrary to everything he believes in. So, he seeks out an enemy of the drow, the deep gnomes. He resigns himself to the prospect of dying if they will not accept him; he does not even accept himself, so expects nothing from them. Blingdenstone, the city of the deep gnomes, offers him a glimpse of a community working together…and Drizzt learns what “living” truly is. When word of his family’s continued hunt threaten the people who have welcomed & accepted him, Drizzt realizes he must, once again, venture into the Underdark alone, with only his most trusted, occasional companion & long-time friend, a magical panther. He is thwarted, of course, by Belwar, a deep gnome whose life he saved during his days in the Academy, who insists on accompanying him. The camaraderie & pranks between the three companions had me laughing out loud. Drizzt experiences many challenges to his personal beliefs, and, finally, he returns Belwar to Blingdenstone, while his honor carries him alone, in his exile, to the surface world.
In Sojourn, Book 3, Drizzt’s first battle is quite obvious, after four decades of near darkness his eyes must adjust to the light of the sun. Drizzt was born with unique eyes for a dark elf, along with a wider range of light-sight, giving him an advantage during this transition…and I appreciate that this transition was not rushed or glossed over. Salvatore’s style allows for the realities of everyday life, the trials, the joys in simple things & the humor. I found it disconcerting to imagine Drizzt as a rogue, dealing with prejudice, rather than as a trusted companion; I suppose someone new to this character would not experience that off-balance sense. Either way, my heart goes out to him and the many people around the world who simply search for a safe & peaceful place to belong. “One day, I was determined, I would find acceptance and find my home…in the end, principles would be seen and accepted for what they were, the character of the person would outweigh the color of his skin and the reputation of his heritage.” As with the other books, there is a lot of deep prompting & thinking; I love books that inspire readers to new perspectives! I especially love the character of Montolio, the blind ranger, who teaches Drizzt about nature on the surface, as well as connecting him to a higher purpose & spirituality.
I dislike reading books full of harsh negative realities & ugliness…though some writers are simply too good to put down for all that; you will find book 1 especially has a darkness to it. At times, I am frustrated, others saddened or disgusted & it reminds me too much of the present tragedies on this planet. It is the mark of an exceptional writer to evoke your emotions & keep you thinking decades later! Though it was more grim than I prefer to endure for my reading pleasure, be assured there is an HEA for our hero. The occasional musings of our hero, written in a much older, experienced voice, give tantalizing glimpses of the future & of how his early years affected him throughout his life. These books certainly left me wanting more of Drizzt, and ready to reread the Icewind Dale trilogy next. There are 28 books thus far in the series, released in subseries of 2-4 books, all of which can be read independently if you are not ready to tackle the whole.
* The Dark Elf Trilogy
* The Icewind DaleTtrilogy (written 1st)
* Legacy of the Drow
* Paths of Darkness
* The Sellswords (overlaps with Paths of Darkness #3)
* The Hunter’s Blades
* The Sundering (Book 1 only)
* Companions Codex
PaperBackSwap currently has 3 copies of Book 2 & 3 listed. However, I also noted that the Wish List lines for others are not long, and in some cases zero.