This stunning new release of the classic R.A. Salvatore novel recounts the origins of Salvatore's signature dark elf character, Drizzt Do'Urden. This title kicks off The Legend of Drizzt series, which will showcase the classic dark elf novels in these new audiobook editions.
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Drizzt is, by far, the most iconic drow character in fantasy literature. He's so popular that within the circles of roleplaying gamers, both tabletop and computer, it's a common joke that every drow is a two-sword wielding goodie goodie, despite their race's fierce reputation. Players will name their characters in an homage to Drizzt, just as they might with Legolas or Gandalf. That's some high praise, right there.
Homeland is the first book of the Dark Elf Trilogy and the (truly massive) Legend of Drizzt Saga. While it's not the first appearance of Drizzt, it's the place for new readers to start, because here you'll learn of both his origins and his background. Homeland describes the City of Menzoberranzan, home of the drow, and the struggles for power that take place there.
If you've never read a book about the drow, you'll quickly find that there's a lot to learn here. Salvatore assumes that the reader is unfamiliar with his setting, and he exposes the reader to the atrocities committed in the name of drow culture through the eyes of the naive and innocent Drizzt. By the end of the book, you will have a good feel for what the drow are all about, and likely be hungry for more of their plots and intrigue.
The story features many interesting characters: the insidious matron Malice, the vengeful Alton Devir, the noble Zaknafein. Drizzt is the primary hero, but to be perfectly honest, I found his character arc the weakest in the book. His naïveté and indomitable innocence are meant to be his best qualities, but I felt robbed of the potential for a redemption story that could have made him much more interesting. Surrounded by characters who are falling into ruin through their own actions or finding spiritual redemption for their crimes, Drizzt's transition from naive to slightly-less-naive doesn't feel very spectacular. This is, however, a matter of taste. The tone of this novel really sets up the heroic tone the larger series is known for.
As for the delivery, Bevine does an admirable job. I have quibbles on pronunciation, here and there, but since all of these words were born on paper, there probably is no solid agreement on any of them. Bevine does a good job of transitioning between the harsh calculating characters like Matron Malice and the more idealistic Drizzt, which is rather impressive.
Ultimately, if you are interested in learning more about the drow or getting into the Drizzt series of novels, this is a great place to start. The intrigue and plots are interesting, but there's enough action to keep you interested if that's more your speed.
I'm noticing that the more I love an author's work, the longer the review.
So, strap in. And be warned. This will NOT be short. This work deserves a detailed review. You deserve more than a cursory review on this series.
Keep in mind that I read this series many, many years ago, and began writing this review in the hopes that once I listened to it as soon as it hit my library, it would be a positive work. And it is. I'm glad, because I also was ready to give it a scathing review if poorly produced.
First a bit of background on the author. I've thoroughly enjoyed R.A. Savaltore's fantasy writing for many years, and consider a fair portion of his writing (and listening) to be essential additions to any Audible listener's library. Granted, no author's entire body of work is perfect, and Salvatore' is definitely NOT an exception to this tried and true literary rule. Some of his earlier work reflects an author still finding his way, and is uninspired and drifting. However, when he penned the Drizzt origin trilogy, he moved into a more masterful and inspired writing direction, creating dynamic and page-turning writing enjoyed by fantasy readers and listeners around the world.
Today, Salvatore is, essentially, a stand-apart Wordsmith among the myriad of fantasy authors to whom you've listened. Anyone who's read his DemonWars Saga, his Forgotten Realms, and Star Wars novels understands why I appreciate what this fantastic author brings to the literary table.
So, on to this first in the Drizzt origin trilogy.
Why is this series so important, and therefore, such an essential fantasy addition to your Audible library?
Salvatore's trilogy has some of the most engaging fantasy writing you'll quite possibly read. His sweeping and vivid descriptions of Menzoberranzan, the cavernous underdark kingdom of the drow elves, the intricate machiavellian backstabbing plots between the drow ruling houses, and even within Drizzt's own horribly dysfunctional family, and the spot on engaging storyline were well received by the public. The trilogy eventually launched numerous sequels and novels by Salvatore and other enjoyable novels in the crow universe by equally inspired authors (See my Audible Spider Queen series review, and expect my Icewind Dale review in the future!). This fantastic body of work has made a HUGE impact on modern epic fantasy, and it raised the bar on what we could, and SHOULD, expect from good fantasy writing.
And in this case, our very valuable Audible credits.
As usual, I do NOT provide spoilers, nor plot giveaways in review. Again, the journey, ESPECIALLY in this series, has its own voyage of discovery that simply must be experienced firsthand. I'm confident that some of you will will mark this review as not helpful for this reason. So be it. I will not spoil this fantastic journey for the rest of you. There is so much to the drow novels, that you are going to by busy, and pleasantly so. Here's one SMALL example. Here's a list of the MAJOR drow houses, and all play a part in these fantastic novels:
The MAJOR houses of Menzoberranzan, in order of dominance (There ARE others): 1.Baenre 2. Barrison Del'Armgo 3. Oblodra (challenged by another house in another novel) 4. DeVir (challenged by another house in this novel) 5. Hun'ett (challenged by another house in another novel) 6. Faen Tlabbar 7. Xorlarrin 8. Agrach Dyrr (challenged by another house in another novel) 9. Mizzrym 10. Do'Urden (later challenged by another house in another novel) 11. Fey-Branche 12. Tuin'Tarl 13. Duskryn 14. Srune'Lett 15. Horlbar 16. Kenafin 17. Druu'giir 18. Hunzrin 19. Shobalar 20. Vandree 21. Symryvvin
I challenge you - Go look on the web for the astounding collection of information and lore on the lore of these novels. It's rich. It's daunting. It's exhausting. it's consuming.
Now, on to Salvatore's writing style. He's not an Erikson or Moorcock. Those artists take their time in descriptive writing that requires strong focus to be enjoyed. Salvatore's style is more like the lovechild of Brooks and Chalker - Down to earth, a bit more to the point, yet vividly descriptive. I found myself getting wonderfully lost inside this trilogy, and I'm betting you will too.
Keep in mind that years ago, there was an earlier audiobook of this trilogy. It was intolerable, due to the unpleasant narration - It truly ruined the effort. I stayed up late to download this audiobook, and begin my listening. Here, the narrator is much better, and doesn't impede the author's work. Nicely done, and a wonderful improvement, Mr. Bevine!
So, be warned, dear Audible listener. You're going to be spoiled by this work, and you're going to demand equally good listening of your fantasy authors.
You'll also want to get the other two audiobooks in this fantastic series, and want the rest of the drow audiobooks here at Audible.
Finally, a tremendous "Thank you!" To R. A. Salvatore.
I'm still enjoying your journey after all these years.