The Dark Elf Trilogy Revisited

Listening to the R. A. Salvatore interview on this site compelled me to read all of the Drizzt books. At that time, The Dark Elf Trilogy was the only set of Drizzt books I had ever read. I found very quickly that I had forgotten just how good these books really are. Chronologically, this marks the very beginning of the famous ranger’s life, literally introducing Drizzt’s pregnant mother in the very first chapter. But let’s not fool ourselves, “mother” is not really a term suited for Matron Malice, an evil drow high priestess constantly seeking the favor of Lloth, a spider goddess who demands the sacrifice of each family’s third born son (in this case, Drizzt). I’ll not say anything about how Drizzt survives this cruel tradition; although I’ll give it away that he isn’t born with Twinkle and Icingdeath attached to his hands ready to defend himself. No mother deserves that, not even Malice.
Throughout these books, Salvatore describes the environment and events without too much straight exposition, allowing the reader to see the action on his/her own terms. The end result is a very real and personal connection to the Underdark and all of its characters no matter their alignment. The lines between good and evil are rarely blurred. We are left with no question as to the sheer evil of drow culture and its stark contrast to Drizzt’s principles of good. I realize that the current trend in fantasy is toward moral ambiguity, and I suspect you see more of that in later Drizzt books, but it can be very refreshing as a reader to know exactly where your hero stands. Salvatore reinforces the colossal magnitude of Drizzt’s raw talent and superior training through his interactions with Zaknafein. Re-living events like Zaknafein’s coin flipping test and Drizzt’s signature double thrust low are primarily what makes re-reading these books so damn fun.
By the second book, Drizzt escapes into the Underdark with no one but his faithful beast companion Guenhwyvar for company. Drizzt’s staying power as an exciting figure is quickly revealed as the pages continue to turn even as the protagonist is the only humanoid character. Through engaging internal monologue, Salvatore conveys Drizzt’s struggle to hold fast to his principles as his bestial side emerges in the face of total solitude and constant danger. Our favorite hero is not alone for long though. In order to salvage his sanity, he makes a desperate decision resulting in the formation of an unlikely and treasured friendship. Drizzt and his new companion flee a powerful entity whose success Matron Malice is counting on.
To me, the most unexpected and awesomely suspenseful thing about the trilogy is the delay in Drizzt’s decision to seek the surface. I kept wondering, when and how will he decide because after all, it’s common knowledge that the surface is where he ends up. Every step of the way toward making this decision, Drizzt shrugs off overwhelming odds against dangerous and exotic creatures. Salvatore maintains believability through some of the best detailed fight scene writing in all of fantasy literature. Finally, we do get to see Drizzt’s first interactions with the surface world. After initial problems stemming from the assumptions of local farmers along with the presence of a truly evil force from another plane, Drizzt finds a new mentor who sets the young drow on the course toward Ranger-hood.
This was one of the most pleasurable re-reads I’ve ever had and can’t wait to finish my first reading of The Icewind Dale Trilogy. There is one more thing I took away from The Dark Elf Trilogy. Although it is common now in fantasy to see characters that reject their innate racial alignment, at the time Salvatore introduced Drizzt it wasn’t as common. For this type of misaligned character to have genuine depth, there must be substantial and believable backstory for discerning readers to buy-in, and Salvatore proves to be a master at creating such plausibility amidst such contradiction with this trilogy.

#036 RA Salvatore Interview: Charon’s Claw

Join us for this special mid-week podcast as Brandon, Chris, Danny and Matt talk with RA Salvatore about his new book Charon’s Claw, dnd next, Forgotten Realms and more.  Look for our review of the new book later this week and enjoy the show!

We appreciate any and all 5-star reviews on iTunes and likes on Facebook.  Tell your friends about the show and send any comments, questions or ideas to podcast@crimsonbastards.com

Don’t forget to look for us at DragonCon this labor day weekend!

Play

Review: IDW’s D&D Forgotten Realms #1

IDW and Wizards of the Coast have been working together lately to churn out a growing number of Dungeons and Dragons related comic books and the latest of these is a new Forgotten Realms series.  Avid readers will remember that I did a review of the trade paper-back version of the re-release of the original Forgotten Realms comics a while back.  Not long after that the announcement of this new series was made and I have been waiting ever since to get my hands on the first issue.   Thankfully the wait is now over, the comic read and the reviewing has begun.

First off, this book is actually written by Ed Greenwood.  If you don’t know who Ed is then I’m giving you a blank stare as you read this sentence.  Okay I’ll be nice, Ed is basically the real life Elminster and possibly an actual denizen of the Realms banished to our plane by some powerful magical spell.  In other words he’s kind of a big deal as far as the Forgotten Realms are concerned. Continue reading “Review: IDW’s D&D Forgotten Realms #1”

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Classics Volume 1

I recently reviewed the first volume of the Forgotten Realms Trade Paperback  reprinting by IDW comics which covers the first eight issues of the original comic.  Today I’m reviewing the first volume of Dungeons & Dragons Classics which contains the first eight issues of that comic which was originally published in the late 1980’s.  This comic series is once again placed in the world of Faerûn and starts before the Forgotten Realms books timeline wise.

The first story arc is contained in issues one through four serves to bring the entire party of adventurers together and introduce the main heroes of the comic, but is also serves as the back story for Priam Agrivar, whom you might remember from the Forgotten Realms comic.  Without giving too many spoilers, the history of Priam alluded to within the other comic series is fleshed out in more detail here and we see the adventure which leads him to cliff diving for fun at the beginning of the other comic series.  The other members of the party include iconic race/class combinations such as an Elven wizard named Cybriana from Shadowdale and a female human fighter named Vajra Valmeyjar.  However the other two members of the group introduced in this first story are a bit more quirky than what you might see in a comic based on a newer edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  The first is Timoth Eyesbright, a male centaur fighter and Onyx the Invincible, a dwarven fighter/thief that specializes in throwing darts.  These two characters serve to bring about some interesting situations and inject humor into the story in a way that is reminiscent of 1st edition games and as such they truly add to the overall comic. Continue reading “Review: Dungeons and Dragons Classics Volume 1”

Review: Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy

The transition from third edition to fourth edition D&D consisted of many changes in the game. For Forgotten Realms the change in editions also heralded changes in the world of Faerûn mostly in the form of the Spellplague.  The story told in the three books of the Abolethic Sovereignty follows a group of adventurers several years after the Spellplague has washed through the land, changing magic and generally disrupting the world.  Raidon Kane is a half-elf monk who spends most of his life hunting aberrations.  As the story begins he is heading home to his daughter after an adventure hunting and fighting these strange creatures when the Spellplague bursts forth and turns his life on its head.

Raidon awakens about ten years later to find Faerûn much changed and that his former life, including his daughter, has been lost.  There is truly no rest for the weary however as Kane soon finds himself embroiled in a fight against those who would awaken the Abolethic Sovereignty and unleash the horrors of the Far Realm upon not only the Forgotten Realms, but all worlds. Continue reading “Review: Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy”

Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics Volume 1

This first Trade Paperback collection of original Forgotten Realms comics was released early last year.  For those like myself who didn’t have access to an actual comic store in the late 80s/early 90s when this comic was originally released, this TPB release was fairly exciting.  The first eight issues of the original comic are included within this volume which comprises two separate story arcs.  The first story, “The Hand of Vaprak”, is contained within issues one thru four and the second one, “The Dragonreach Saga” is told in issues five thru eight. Continue reading “Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Classics Volume 1”