“What place is this that is my world; what dark coil has my spirit embodied?…In the light, I see my skin as black; in the darkness, it glows white in the heat of this rage I cannot dismiss. Would that I had the courage to depart this place or this life, or to stand openly against the wrongness that is the world of these, my kin.”
I first read Homeland when I was in junior high. I admit that I forgot the majority of the minutiae details of the story. I just remembered really enjoying the read. I decided to reintroduce myself to Drizzt when it became apparent that I was going to spend 8h in a bus and wanted something to occupy my mind. I wanted something dark with an edge. Something that I knew I was going to like. I do believe that I love Drizzt’s origin story even more this second time around when I am fully able to appreciate the subtle evils of the drow society.
Location, Location, Location
“‘Let them rain their wrath on these old shoulders already burdened by the hopelessness of Menzoberranzan.’ Ignoring the consequences, the weapon master rose to his feet and yelled, ‘Menzoberranzan, what the hell are you?'”
Menzoberranzan is a city in thrall of the Spider Queen: an ancient and malicious deity. It is deep, deep underground in the Underdark and home to the dark elves and their slaves. This is not a place for those with principles. This is not a place for those with kindness in their hearts and wonder in their eyes. Menzoberranzan breaks honor and devours innocence. Here, the only rule is that of self-service as it serves the Spider Queen. Oh-yes, and you had better complete your treacheries in secret because in this place of evil the justice of getting caught is just as abhorrent as not doing the treachery in the first place.
Plotting Things Most Nefarious
Conditioned hatred was rarely a rational emotion.
Treachery within treachery is a way of life. Noble houses do not openly fight, but use more nefarious means of climbing the ranks within the city–by underhanded killing off of higher houses. The one code they all live by is to NOT GET CAUGHT. Being caught means that the Spider Queen is displeased. It means death.
“Those most powerful in Menzoberranzan spend their days watching over their shoulders, defending against the daggers that would find their backs. Their deaths usually come from the front.”
At the moment of Drizzt Do’Urden’s birth, he was marked for death. A third born son in a matriarchal drow society is not a good son to be. It means being sacrificed for increased power of the matron. Luckily, within the noble house of Do’Urden, another’s treachery saved him. Just as Matron Malice was about to order her daughter to kill her newest son, her third son became her second and was no longer useful as a sacrifice.
“Zak placed little value in wizardry, preferring the hilt of a blade to the crystal rod component of a lightning bolt. Zak moved to stand before Drizzt and handed him the coin.”
This is the story of how Drizzt not only defied death, but managed to retain his good nature in a the midst of his vicious nest of familial spiders. His one light in his dark youth was the weapon master Zaknafein Do’Urden who hides secrets of his own and yet fights to protect his young charge. And he does fight–he fights himself, his culture, his deity, and the very head of his house.
“‘Your skin is as dark as mine’ Malice reminded him.”
But Matron Malice has other plans for her not-so-dark son. She wants a seat on the ruling council. And simply killing her way to the top is a tricky proposition when her rival is still in the Spider Queen’s good graces. Especially when Matron Malice is not as clever as she thinks and made a mistake of astronomical proportions when she gained her current seat (view spoiler).
“‘What more could one such as Drizzt become?'”
Between his obvious sword skills, his aptitude in the magic of the nobles, and his heritage as a Do’Urden, Drizzt is a prize piece on everyone’s board…including the Spider Queen.
This is a book that is hard to put down! The political manipulations of the noble houses and the out-and-out cruelty of the drow race is Machiavelli’s Prince meets Tuatha Dé Danann (I know that is fairies and not elves…but it is still valid!) I loved every biting word and every underhanded scheme. The evil bleeds from the minds of the drow…all but the possible exceptions of Drizzt and a very bitter Zak.
The world was so real that you could practically see in infrared and walk the streets of the drow city in the Underdark. The characters will robust and complex. The schemes were believable and malicious. It was wonderful.
The book did leave us with one final question to lead us into the next novel: how will Drizzt survive morally intact in such an evil place?
“Truth, though, is nothing in the face of self-falsehood, and principles are of no value if the idealist cannot live up to his own standards.”