Homeland is the first book in R.A. Salvatore's first trilogy, "The Dark Elf Trilogy." I'm reviewing this book for a number of reasons.
First of all, I love R.A. Salvatore's works. His books are what I'm looking for when I say that I read Fantasy. Salvatore is creative, descriptive, concise, and when you read his works a picture of his world is painted clearly in your mind's eye. Most of the legends/myths/folklore of dark elves is solidified in Salvatore's works. J.R.R. Tolkien created the idea of elves being more than mischievous, ankle-high, fairy creatures, but Salvatore took that idea, mixed it with Norse mythology, and created the first real Dark Elf world. D&D (namely Gary Gygax) created the evil spider goddess Lolth, and Salvatore built a Dark Elf religion around the imagined dark-goddess. He took ideas that were at their birth, and built on them to create a cohesive world of imagination.
Secondly, Drizzt Do'Urden is a bad-guy who turned against his upbringing. This concept is amazing. There are probably earlier books which have done this, but this fantasy world creates a perfect environment to teach this lesson without offending anyone. Drizzt is part of an evil society. I don't think anyone can read about the Dark Elf society without thinking that they are pure evil. Drizzt starts to realize this, but the doctrines of his upbringing make him afraid to even venture to leave. If you were to try to do this with any real-life religion, nationality, political party, or even radical movement groups, you'd end up offending somebody. I think even Nazis still have sympathizers out there somewhere. The Dark Elf world is a sterile field which can exemplify evil without pointing fingers. And Salvatore humanizes Drizzt by showing his inner turmoil about abandoning his people. Even when he's fully convinced they are wrong. Anyone who has had to leave a family, religion, political group, etc. must feel these same emotions. No matter how bad they were, they were all that person knew. Home is hard to leave.
Lastly, life is not all gumdrops and kittens when Drizzts leaves. Being alone is hard. Salvatore shows this beautifully. Drizzts is an amazing, adept warrior, and his life is a near-nightmare out on his own. Just because you make the right decisions in life, doesn't mean life will be easy. In most cases, the right decisions are the hardest.
These morals aren't jammed down your throat. Most of the more modern novelists I've been reading are too quick to shove their point down your gullet. Tell a good story, and let the moral show in your work. I may be guilty of this because I'm a fairly new and inexperienced author, but I sure do admire Salvatore because of his ability to easily teach without preaching.
Okay, now the synopsis:
Drizzt Do'Urden (Our protagonist) is a male Dark Elf in a Matriarchal society which values him little more than a slave, despite being born into a prestigious family. The Dark Elves are evil. They strive only for power and position, at any cost. The only way Drizzt can ingratiate himself with his mother and sisters is by destroying families in higher standing. Even the Spider Queen, Lolth, goddess to the Dark Elves, demands blood and betrayal.
Drizzt recognizes that his family is brutal, but is largely protected from the depth of their wickedness by his weapons-master and trainer Zaknafein. Male Dark Elves aren't blessed by Lolth, so they must rely on their physical prowess to fight, whereas the Females can wield dark magic from the Spider Queen. The males can perform small spells, but nothing compared to the females. Drizzt is more than gifted when it comes to the sword, mainly because he is being trained by the best weapon master in the realm, but this is considered a lesser talent even among the male Dark Elves.
The more Drizzt studies, the more he becomes disillusioned with his people. His only friend is a spirit animal which doesn't even belong to him; Guenhwyvar, a panther from the astral plain. Guenhwyvar belongs to Masoj, a male wizard, but the panther bonds with Drizzt causing problems for the already doomed, innocent Dark Elf.
The book leads to the shattering of his child-like perception of his people, and his eventual choice between his people and what he believes to be right.
This is true literature. I'm sure a lot of people in the literary world will quickly dismiss it as silly Fantasy/Fiction, but the lessons and emotions are more real than most great works of literature I was required to read throughout school.
Salvatore is a close second for my favorite author because of the incredible world he created. Most of modern Dark Elf lore in video games, movies, and books are derived from the Forgotten Realms world Salvatore created. I was surprised a few weeks ago when I reviewed a book and the author didn't even know who Salvatore was. The author patterned his Dark Elf world directly after Salvatore's, and didn't even know it because Salvatore's concepts have been expanded so much through the Fantasy world that most just accept them as the way Dark Elves are.
Of course, I give this book