Okay…so I was a little disappointed with this novel. I do not remember being this disappointed in it when I read it over a decade ago. I think part of my disappointed is from the natural growth one goes through as a reader (becoming more analytical with time.) Do not mistake me–this is still a good book. But the previous books were great. THIS book was merely good, in my estimation.
“To survive, he had to adapt.”
We meet up with Drizzt after he has abandoned the familiarity of the Underdark for the uncertain harshness of the surface world. He has been on the surface for about 100 days and sees every sunrise while the magic items that tie him to his roots slowly fade. His past mistakes and the hunted feeling that follows his lineage makes the dark elf leery of approaching anyone; and so like his time in the Underdark, solitude is quickly becoming his enemy. Afterall, what good is it to come to a bright new world when the old problems still chase you?
“…despite Drizzt’s angry vow that he would go off alone, that he would bring no more danger to anyone, he had known loneliness as too close a companion for too many years. He could not help but look over his shoulder, out of curiosity…”
And this is where we run into my problem with the novel: it felt like a series of short stories with a common character rather than a novel. They were good stories. I enjoyed reading them. But it all seemed disjointed. Drizzt’s surface world journey felt less natural than his time in Menzoberranzan and the Underdark. I felt that the author knew where he wanted Drizzt to go and was in a hurry to get him there. It was very ‘wham, bam’ to me.
First Drizzt decides that he cannot be on the surface of the world and alone and goes about observing some farmers. His interests interferes with more nefarious parties plans. This interference, and the fact that he is a dark elf, leads us to a band of rangers- and a less than honorable human named Roddy McGristle- hunting the drow. Even after they know that Drizzt is innocent of the crime in which they pursue him, they still do until (view spoiler) they benefit from his good nature enough to go head to head with McGristle and turn back.
“If Drizzt had been less out of sorts, he might have seen the charity in the elf’s gifts, the healing potion and the returned dagger, as a possible lead to a future relationship. But the memories of Maldobar and the guilt that bowed the drow’s shoulders would not be so easily dismissed”
Once again Drizzt goes back to his solitary ways and ends up meeting the mountains and winter for the first time. If it was not for Guen and the kindness of strangers that he did not know helped him, he would not have survived this surface world. The winter part of the story was mostly self-pity and lasting guilt. This was a very low point for our stalwart hero. Then suddenly…(a new short novel) he meets a retired ranger! A ranger who will not let our dark friend wallow in exile.
“‘If you take me in, if you even allow me to remain near to you, then you will be doomed, as were the farmers in the village.’
‘I do not fear doom,’ Montolio said, forcing a smile. ‘I have lived through many… fights, Drizzt Do’Urden. I have fought in a dozen bloody wars and spent an entire winter trapped on the side of a mountain with a broken leg. I have killed a giant with only a dagger and… befriended… every animal for five thousand steps in any direction. Do not fear for me.’ Again came that wry, knowing smile. ‘But, then,” Montolio said slowly, ‘It is not for me that you fear.You fear for yourself,’ Montolio continued, undaunted. ‘Self-pity? It does not fit one of your prowess. Dismiss it and come along with me.'”
Montolio DeBrouchee (Mooshie) is an old, blind ranger who had to come to terms with his own self-pity years before when meeting a dragon took his sight. He is one who hunted and hunts the evil creatures of the world to protect. And yet, he sees something in Drizzt that others fail to even try to: goodness. He feels that Drizzt is kindred and focuses on teaching him the ways of the forest and ways of living with honor and letting go of unnecessary guilt.
“Is yours an honest lament?…Most are not, you know. Most self-imposed burdens are founded on misperceptions. We – at least we of sincere character – always judge ourselves by stricter standards than we expect others to abide by. It is a curse, I suppose, or a blessing, depending on how one views it… Take it as a blessing, my friend, an inner calling that forces you to strive to unattainable heights.”
Then after some a quick battle that was instigated but the awful bounty hunter McGristle and another winter, the time with Mooshie abruptly ended and once again Drizzt was alone. Having promised his friend to look for Drizzt’s own place in the world, the dark elf set off to find a place to belong–a home.
“There is a wide world out there, my friend, full of pain, but filled with joy as well. The former keeps you on the path of growth, and the latter makes the journey tolerable.”
Here we follow Drizzt as he hops from town to town (and gets turned away) in search of a place where someone will accept him. Unfortunately, even on the surface world the reputation of dark elves is less than complimentary and no one is willing to take the chance. This part of the story is exceedingly rushed and feels incomplete. That being said, I would not really want to linger on this journey either. I am not sure how the author could have made this part seem more robust…in the end it was a serendipitous comment by a band of travelers he is protecting that leads Drizzt to Icewind Dale. The place the author was obviously trying to get us to. I say obviously because it is here that the rushed feeling of the story finally slows back down to normal time again.
“Again I was alone, except when Guenhwyvar came to my call. On this road, though, I was alone only in body. In my mind I carried a name, the embodiment of my valued principles.”
Here we meet Cattie-Brie and Bruenor Battlehammer for the first time. Cattie-Brie was instantly accepting of the drow while her father was not. That is until McGristle found his way on the mountain looking to kill the dark elf. When McGristle goes too far and Drizzt comes to the rescue, the dwarf is forced to rethink his whole understanding of what creatures are evil in the world and what ones are good.
“Never trusted humans,” he said evenly. “Never know what one’s about, and when ye find out, too many’s the time it’s too late for fixin’! But always had me thoughts straight about other folks. An elf’s an elf, after all, and so’s a gnome. And orcs are straight-out stupid and ugly. Never knew one to be other-ways, an’ I known a few!” Bruenor patted his axe, and Drizzt did not miss his meaning.
“So was me thoughts about the drow,” Bruenor continued. “Never met one – never wanted to. Who would, I ask? Drow’re bad, mean-hearted, so I been telled by me dad an’ by me dad’s dad, an’ by any who’s ever telled me.” He looked out to the lights of Termalaine on Maer Dualdon in the west, shook his head, and kicked a stone. “Now I heared a drow’s prowlin’ about me valley, and what’s a king to do? Then me daughter goes to him!”
This book felt like a study in anticipation. I loved Mooshie and despised ole Rod, but I was not as involved in the stories because just when you were really getting into one, the wind shifted and you were off again. And the ending was not an end at all but rather an abrupt halt that made you blink. I just cannot help but feel like this would have been better as a series of shorts rather than cramming it all into one book. Never the less, I will be picking Drizzt up again in the Icewind Dale series.
“Drizzt knew then that he would sit up on the climb, Bruenor’s Climb, many times and watch the lights flicker to life, for, adding up all that the dwarf had said, Drizzt surmised one phrase clearly, words he had waited so many years to hear:
Welcome home. “