For the longest time, I heard the name R.A. Salvatore being thrown around by fantasy nerds, but never had any desire to check him out for myself. That all changed when I played the game “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” whose major selling point was that its story and world were written by none other than Salvatore himself. My interest finally piqued, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the first book in the series I had heard the most about: “Homeland” in the Legend of Drizzt series, and WOW, it was worth it!
For those who don’t know, R.A. Salvatore is a very well-known fantasy author who primarily writes stories set in pre-existing universes, most notably Star Wars and, in this case, Neverwinter. Homeland sets the stage in the dark underworld of Neverwinter, the ridiculously large network of caves and caverns known as the Underdark. A family of dark elves (referred to as Drow in this story) named House Do’Urden have set their sights on becoming the ninth most powerful family in the Underdark city, Menzoberanzen. The key to their success is the sacrifice of their newest child, who is being born as the attack takes place. But in an unexpected turn of events, the child is allowed to live, and is named Drizzt. There is something different about Drizzt, though, as his family comes to realize as he grows up. While he commands unequaled skill with weapons, he lacks the ferocity and cold hearted ambition his kind are known for. Homeland details Drizzt’s life growing up, such as the cruel treatment of his wicked family, being trained at the Drow academy, and being sent on missions that test his resolve to remain above the Drow’s appetite for violence.
The first thing that I noticed while reading Salvatore’s work was how fast paced it is. While other fantasy authors love to bog down the story with a truckload of details about the world its taking place in, Salvatore keeps the world building to a minimum. While he does give you a clear explanation of how the Underdark looks and how Drow society functions, among other things, he does it quickly and simply, without bringing the story itself to a crawl. Whether this is because he expects you to already know about the world (possibly by playing the Neverwinter games), or because he simply wishes to focus more on the events at hand than the setting, I’m not sure, but for some uninitiated to the world of Neverwinter before reading this book, I was never once confused by what was going on, even with the sparse amounts of detail given. This, for me, is a huge plus seeing as how I usually end up putting down books like this because the story moves too slowly.
That being said, it is the characters that bring this story to life. All of these characters, from Matron Malice, to Zaknafein, to Drizzt Do’Urden himself, have strong, believable personalities that are very fun to read. In a world that almost worships the stoic lone wolf protagonists, Drizzt was a refreshing step away from the norm with his longing for friendship, reluctance to use violence, and all around innocent personality. Of course, he can still kick some serious butt. When he pulls out his twin scimitars, prepare yourself for some of the most entertaining fight scenes you’ll ever read!
I think the stark contrast between Drizzt and his family is the highlight of the book. While the young Drow revels in his skills with the blade, he rejects Drow society to the point of being completely unable to comprehend their mindset. While the reason for this is unclear, the lack of an explanation didn’t really hurt the story in my opinion. And while the ending wrapped the story up satisfactorily, it left enough open ends for there to be a sequel… or in this case, more than twenty! And if they all maintain the excellence that Salvatore has presented in Homeland, then I plan to read them all!
I give The Legend of Drizzt: Homeland a 9/10!