In Homeland, the first book of the trilogy, we met Drizzt Do’Urden, a young drow who was born a stranger to his race and their customs, a member of a bloodthirsty warrior race who preferred peace and harmony to eternal fighting even when he himself was one of the best warriors his city had seen. By the end it Drizzt decides to finally turn his back to his family and race and abandon the city of Menzoberranzan looking for a simpler life away from the cruelty that reigns on the drow society.
The second book in the Legend of Drizzt series and the Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore starts right as the previous one ended, and this time the storyline is focused on Drizzt’s life in the wilds of the Underdark and his attempts at crafting a life for himself while his mother, Matron Malice Do’Urden directs a chase against him with the main goal of having him sacrificed to the Spider Queen Lloth, who took Drizzt’s betrayal with anger and reacted by taking away her favor from House Do’Urden.
In general, Exile follows the path traced by Homeland and the style in which it is written is extremely consistent with its predecessor – The stories are entirely different and Exile deals with very different themes than Homeland did, but the style in which it is written is pretty much the same, and it actually gains a bit by being set in the Underdark, which we had previously gotten to know during Drizzt’s constant patrols of it.
The main theme explored here is Drizzt’s loneliness and the hunter he needs to become in order to survive in the Underdark, which is arguably one of the most dangerous places in the Forgotten Realms, a world where pretty much anything can kill you. However, the book could be divided in three parts, since the dynamics of the story change wildly between them.
The first part deals with Drizzt’s life right after leaving Menzoberranzan, his survival in the Underdark and how living as a lonely hunter affects him psychologically, until he breaks and decides to try to get in contact with other sentient beings with an attempt at joining a deep gnome city he runs into, and later on it deals with his return to the wild Underdark – This time with a new companion – Until the moment when he finally decides to explore the external world.
The writing style used follows closely that of Homeland – Salvatore constantly changes the focus of the story, this time mainly between Drizzt and Malice, in an attempt to give the reader the knowledge of exactly how much danger Drizzt is facing in every single moment of his adventures in the Underdark. This, however, is a double-edged sword and it plays against Salvatore: Malice is much more interesting a character than Drizzt, and her scenes are often better written and executed than Drizzt’s, since most of his scenes focus on his internal fight of good against evil. This doesn’t mean that Drizzt’s adventure is dull at all, but it is very important to note that in this book, just as in Homeland, the driving force of the narration is the antagonist rather than the protagonist.
That’s not to say Drizzt’s story isn’t enjoyable either, though it is at times enjoyable for the wrong reasons: His companions manage to often become more interesting characters than him and, though a decent protagonist, the book wouldn’t have been nearly the same hadn’t he found the few companions he does during the adventure. In this book, Drizzt begins to become a Mary Sue of sorts, a literary martyr who seems to always be in the wrong side of things at least from his own point of view, and the all too common reflections he does on his life, always filled with regret, manage to drive the character down to the point of making him uninteresting sometimes. Thankfully, these parts of the novel are generally buried among better developed scenes so it doesn’t become unbearable, but it is worth noting that they’re there, and much more present than they were in Homeland.
A special mention is deserved by the resolution the main plot gets in Drizzt’s end and the way by which it is delivered. Though the fates of Malice and House Do’Urden are beautifully explained, the reason why it happens – The defeat the main artifact by which Malice planned to carry her revenge against Drizzt to regain the favor or Lloth is rather poorly planned and, though heavily reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, it creates an odd plot hole where something that’s supposedly impossible to happen miraculously happens exactly in the one occasion where our protagonist needs it. In other words, the plot is resolved by a Deus-Ex-Machine of sorts, making the final resolution of it rather empty on Drizzt’s end of things and, even worse, giving him more reasons to keep feeling sorry for himself over the rest of the novel and over the whole of the last novel of the trilogy.
As a closing comment, Exile isn’t a bad novel by any means. The story in it is actually interesting, though clichéd and showing signs of poor planning or writing at some points, and it manages to keep the reader’s interest up almost as well as Homeland did. The main issue with it could be considered one of lazy writing and just finding the easier (though improbable or impossible) way out of the predicament Drizzt finds himself in when there’s a particularly mean spirit wraith chasing him. However, it has many high points that keep the story working, the main ones being the characters of Malice and Pech, both probably the most interesting characters in the book. It is a novel worthy of a read, especially if you enjoyed Homeland. It doesn’t top Homeland’s writing or story, but it is fun nonetheless.
Final review rating: 4/5
Availability: The book is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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