Exile by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
. . . In which Forrest's children con him into reading yet another book that wasn't originally on his TBR pile . . .
Yet another inadvertent social-science commentary, this time of a more psychological bent than sociological. Here we see Drizzt, the renegade drow-elf, struggle to regain his . . . well, his self. It's a lonely life out in the tunnels of the Underdark, worse, even, than the halls of your local middle- or high-school (if you can believe that). You see, the Underdark is full of bullies. Not your pudgy, freckle-faced, push-you-into-a-mud-puddle class bullies, but bullies that really want to kill you and eat you (and not necessarily in that order). As a result of this environment, the kind, gentle Drizzt has become a killing machine, a survivor, a bully's worst nightmare.
Worst of all, Drizzt has suffered abuse at the hands of his own sisters and mother. No, that's not exactly true. His mother wants to kill him. More than anything else in the world. This does nothing for his self-esteem.
I'm no psychiatrist, but it shouldn't take a PhD to figure out that this guy is pretty messed up.
Still, he has to have friends, right? Even the most awkward social reject has friends (who are also awkward social rejects). Enter Belwar, a svirfneblin that Drizzt encountered in the first book, Exile. Yes, there was the relationship-limiting issue of Drizzt having ordered Belwar's hands being cut off (if I'm remembering that right), but let's let bygones be bygones. Can't we all just get along? And who better to forgive an outcast, "good" drow who has abandoned the evil ways of his family, than a gnome with a pickaxe and magical hammer for hands? Reasonable, no? While we're at it, let's throw in a Pech that has been polymorphed into a Hook Horror (if I were the wizard who did this think, I would have changed him into a slug or a pudding or a soggy cardboard box or something, but what do I know of wizarding?). Three buddies, all trying to help Drizzt overcome his evil inner self.
If that's not enough, let's throw in some foes. Of course, there's Matron Malice, Drizzt's mother. Then there's the undead corpse of his father, Zaknafein, which is being controlled by Matron Malice (who really wears the pants in all this?). Add in a few random encounters with mindless whatnots, and a whole section of Mind Flayers, and you've got a recipe for a pretty good book.
Seriously, as much as I mock, I admire. Not the writing. Salvatore has a penchant for using words that don't make sense, though they sound like they should make sense (we call those "malapropisms," children). In the words of Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." But other than a bit of grammatical sloppiness, and a touch of overly sappy dialogue (both external and internal), I do like this book. It was written for teenagers, no doubt, and I'm a little older than that. Just a little. But the action was exciting, the characters were good, but not great, and the Underdark is fascinating. What really pushed this from a 3 to a 4 star book, however, was the intrigue between the drow themselves. Homeland set the stage for this, but watching the theory play out into practice was absolutely amazing. Hopefully I'll see more of that when I kowtow to my son's desires for me to read the final book in the trilogy and maybe even take a sidestep into one or two other Forgotten Realms books.
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