When R.A. Salvatore became a large name in the Forgotten Realms universe, after writing the Icewind Dale trilogy, he decided to make an origin trilogyWhen R.A. Salvatore became a large name in the Forgotten Realms universe, after writing the Icewind Dale trilogy, he decided to make an origin trilogy about the character that made him famous and has earned him lots of money: Drizzt.
The first thing that should be noted about the "Legend of Drizzt" is that it is based in a shared fantasy world for the Dungeons and Dragons RPG game. Keeping this in mind the reader should not dwell too much on the details or the logic of why things are happening the way they do, because it's RPG logic. As soon as this is accepted the easier it will be to "digest" the events transpiring in the story.
Starting off, we are introduced to the Underdark, a kingdom far bellow the surface, and to the society of the drow, evil backstabbing dark elves who have fled the surface, made wars with their mortal enemies the surface elves and have relocated underground for thousands of years. It's a classic premise of the times very Tolkien-like in style. Then we are introduced to the main protagonist, Drizzt, who instead of being sacrificed when he's born to the drows' evil goddess, as custom dictates, he's spared due to the other drow noticing his purple eyes and deeming him "special". So we have the following cliches, the protagonist growing up and entering a warrior school, training for 10 years, rivalries, practice fights and the time to grow a conscience and moral code. Soon Drizzt learns he cannot live in the drow society given their evil and traitorous nature and he becomes a target for enemies outside and within his house. He also becomes an enemy of the evil goddess the drow priestesses worship and force this religion to every member of their race. The book ends up with Drizzt running away in the Underdark to survive. This is the best novel in terms of characters, setting and character/story development. The battle scenes are nice, made by someone who knows about swordfighting, but they drag for too long and they become boring/silly. The dialogue is cheesy, Drizzt is annoying and the plot armor around him is too much. Still the tone and pacing are quiet good compared to the other two books.
The second book begins a few years after the first's ending with Drizzt wandering in the Underdark, having fled from the other drow of his birth city. He explores various regions while battling random monsters and befriending random allies. There is nothing much in terms of characters/story development besides Drizzt's battle skills, which are the only thing the writer seems keen on developing. Still, his combat abilities fluctuate from dominating each fight to barely escaping/winning some fights. Seriously, could not Salvatore, at least, roll a coherent roll in the encounter table since he appears unable to write a coherent story? The only other thing is Drizzt's family, having given up trying to capture him after many tries, they animate his father/mentor as an undead and send it after him. The final battle between them, I admit, is cool although it ends disappointingly after all the build up. The pacing is a little better than the previous book but almost nothing else is. The Underdark is a cool setting but Salvatore doesn't seem able to create a claustrophobic horror environment. Some of the other monsters and/or cultures look interesting and could be further explored but Salvatore doesn't dwell on them as much as he does with the drow.
Book 3 starts with Drizzt now in the surface after finally escaping the Underdark and trying to find a place to inhabit. This leads to a search of several years where the story takes place and in which Drizzt again fights random enemies, wanders from place to place, makes some allies, befriends a blind ranger hermit who becomes his second mentor and teaches him about nature(in game terms he gains the Ranger class) and finally moving to Icewind Dale, where he meets Bruenor the dwarf who will be his adventuring companion in the following novels. This is the worst of the trilogy as nothing coherent seems to going on. Plot and pacing is all over the place. Drizzt seems to find enemies at random(possibly bad roll in the encounter table) and most of the people who befriend him look even more random. It makes no sense how events are proceeding, I mean there is a team hunting Drizzt because he is a drow and then some leave mid-way, with the rest stopping when they see he's not evil but never knowing him. At least Salvatore shows some of the racism Drizzt encounters in later stories, which is good, but he also makes, for example, some of Drizzt's magic disappear without explanation(game-wise sunlight destroys drow magic but that doesn't explain why not all of his magic was not wiped). Also the villains were ridiculous and not as threatening as the drow and Underdark creatures from the previous two books.
Drow society is probably the most interesting thing in this whole story and Menzoberranzan the best setting. Salvatore did not create the drow but he is responsible for developing their society and in that regard, at least, he does a good job. I like how they are socially structured in houses ruled by matriarchs. I like the drow architecture as described, I like the way their society works and operates with the males considered trash in front of the females. I like the 3 schools and the role they play in training the young drows. I like their politics and how they have and defer to the ruling council, where for a house to ascend in the society it needs to overthrow another house but it must be done in secrecy otherwise the council will destroy the aspiring house even if it succeeds in defeating the rival. It embodies the concept of chaos in evil as secrecy is valued and while they pretend to follow the rules, as long as something is done successfully, instead of punishment there is reward. unfortunately it is not without stereotypes and the way the priestesses are presented is much too stereotypical. The idea of matriarchy is interesting, as well as the role religion has to play in it and how the role between sexes is reversed. Again though Salvatore makes the female characters not "feminists" or exactly strong characters, but as I saw it they looked like evil dominatrixes.
Drizzt is the main problem as the protagonist, although he's not as annoying and disappointing here as he's in following books. From the moment he's introduced as an infant the reader automatically assumes he's "special" given his purple eyes in contrast with the red ones drow normally have. This is to showcase the ideological difference between good and evil, because given the 80's cheesiness such a difference must be portrayed physically, so the opposite of red/evil is normally blue/good, but Drizzt is "different" so the innovative idea was to give him lavender eyes. It builds further to the point when he is a teenager and it's time to be decided if he'll become either a warrior or a mage, the test he's subjected to is ridiculous, for he manages to catch all ten coins thrown in the air with his fingertips (with the first try!) and as such dubbing him "ambidextrous". People wonder how he has compassion, mercy and kindness, since most of his people simply don't seem to care about them and he wasn't raised up this way. Furthermore how can there be only one good drow when the goddess protector of their race is evil and allowing a good drow to live. There is a theory that as she's chaos as much as evil, she's content on letting Drizzt live, for he causes chaos in the world. Is good inherent only in him? Maybe it was because of his father but that is not explored as much as it should. He even manages to win the allegiance of the magical panther, later his companion, while in the possession of an enemy and while ignoring the magical contract with it's master, who has ordered it to kill Drizzt, it breaks free of his control thus ignoring the fundamental laws of magic in DnD. In DnD terms this was innovative for the time, as before it was not possible for a drow to not be evil and so enter Drizzt, the prototype for countless imitators who not only copied his style/equipment/personality, but they believe this character is great, thus killing the ranger archetype for many following years. In short Drizzt is an oxymoron as he doesn't, as a character, have any logic or depth while being game-wise original and game breaker for his time.
Drizzt's father is far more interesting and likable and that's cause his background is more believable. Unlike his son he had centuries to grow, learn and adapt in a city like Menzoberranzan, developing feelings of guilt and remorse for all the bad things he's done and thus "mentoring" Drizzt not only in fighting but trying to teach him how to avoid the path he has taken.
The deformed wizard survival of another house that house Do'Urden raided years ago, being the "antagonist", he's among the most well written characters in this book and deserved more "screen time" with all his scheming and planning and well thought plans, only to perish ingloriously at the end of the first book.
Finally Jarlaxle is first introduced in this trilogy, a character Salvatore is going to use in many more of his works and with good reason. He's by far the best character in these novels, his eccentric appearance marking him as different from the other drow, but unlike Drizzt he is like that by choice, separating himself in a society where appearance reveals your social status and place. And so we have a mercenary leader who doesn't belong to any house but has a cool organisation and he's charismatic, suave and skilled enough to thrive in a environment like that.
I don't remember other characters from the books worth mentioning.
Overall I'd say that the story is among Salavatore's best(which is not a very high praise) and could be made better if his descriptions added to the atmosphere instead of focusing on uninteresting battles and how Drizzt looks/thiks/speaks. However, for what it is, I enjoyed the first a lot with less interest in each of the follow ups. ...more