“They live with the belief that anything is acceptable if you can get away with it, that self-gratification is the most important aspect of existence, and that power comes only to she or he who is strong enough and cunning enough to snatch it from the failing hands of those who no longer deserve it”.
We dive into a magical world full of evil nobles and treacherous plots to deceive and murder, even amongst kin. Homeland is the first book in the Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, which chronicles the story of Drizzt. Drizzt is a drow, or dark elf, who has to navigate this world with an ever present target on his back, due to being noble-born and having the natural ability as a swordsman, so skilled that it invokes jealousy amongst his peers. This begins the story of a remarkable dark elf.
A majority of the story is confined to the drow city Menzoberranzan, the home of twenty thousand dark elves. The exotic and dark imagery used to describe the city Menzoberranzan is the exact spark to the imagination that you crave from a fantasy novel. The setting of Homeland is one of my favorite aspects of the book and really sets the tone for the rest of the happenings throughout the story. The description of the landscape develops in your mind’s eye an image that is both magnificent and ornate. A dark expansive cavern with hollowed out stalactite spires being used as homes, protected by enchanted mushrooms, and slave species meandering about doing the bidding of their dark elf masters. An underground city, home to the evil matriarchal dark elves and their lowly classed male counterparts.
In Menzoberranzan, each noble house vies for power and rank amongst each other while attempting to gain favor with their deity Lloth the Spider Queen. The sons to Matriarchs are sent to academies to become wizards or fighters, both of which bring pride and strength to their respective families. The prized daughters become powerful clerics dedicated to Lloth bolstering their houses’ strength further than even wizards and warriors.
Though most of the story is within the confines of the city, on one occasion the story spills out into the world above, and a larger portion of the underworld referred to as the “Underdark” is explored while Drizzt is on patrol after graduating from the fighting academy. Drizzt gets to learn about the outside world and the ways of the dark elves from the perspective of other races and species alongside the reader here beyond Menzoberranzan, and we see the actions of the young drow create doubt and suspicions amongst his peers.
From a young age Drizzt is trained to become a warrior for house Do’Urden, and is refined into a tool available to Matron Malice, his mother and matriarch of House Do’Urden. Drizzt’s ability with dual scimitars lends itself to some fantastic action sequences and battles in Homeland, and there are plenty of them in the monster-filled Underdark. As he grows and develops as a character though, Drizzt feels out of place in this world where deceit and violence are respected attributes. Despite his ability as a warrior he is no ordinary bloodlusting drow.
During his first mission with a full party of drow traveling surface-side to eliminate a camp of “evil” elves he finds himself unable to participate in the attack, standing in horror as his party gleefully murder a defenseless foe. There are multiple instances of Drizzt finding himself taking pity on others who suffer at the hands of the drow, and while drow nature dictates that he should be celebratory, instead a seed of doubt is planted within the character. The empathy and resistance to violence is noted by his enemies though Drizzt does his best to conceal his true thoughts. His uncertainty with blindly following the ways of the drow is eventually solidified, and in disgust over the nature of drow and their loyalty to Lloth he starts down a new path. The last problem for Drizzt becomes clear in that finding an escape from a world that you are so ingrained in as a prince and noble is difficult, especially for someone under close supervision.
The Dark Elf trilogy is clearly influential in the role playing game world which is evidenced through the popular use of the iconic dark elves from this series, and spider themed dungeons throughout the genre. Drizzt himself even makes multiple appearances in Dungeon and Dragons themed video games, Baldur’s Gate being one of them. If you are a nerd for Lord of the Rings or role playing games in general then there is a high likelihood that you have already read Homeland, but if you have not then I am stressing heavily that you are missing out. Drizzt’s journey from drow fledgling to master swordsman while navigating the dangerous politics of drow society is an example of top notch world crafting and character development, so do yourself a favor and read Homeland.
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