After the events in Exile, R.A. Salvatore left Drizzt finally moving onto the surface and out of the Underdark in his ideological search for peace and quiet after he realized his mother, Matron Malice Do’Urden would never leave him alone as long as he lived in the Underdark, while being completely unaware of Malice’s own demise at the hands of one of her daughters after the spirit wraith Lloth gave to her command failed to kill him.
Sojourn is an attempt at describing the beginning of Drizzt’s life on the surface and what comes with it – The process of getting used to a new place and discovering what for Drizzt is an entirely new world, along with finding out just how races on the surface react to the presence of a drow, a reaction that generally is just as bad as the reaction most races on the Underdark had.
Unlike in Homeland and Exile, where the action developed in the Underdark and Drizzt had both the eyes of Lloth and of house Do’Urden over himself, the whole of the story in Sojourn happens in the surface with absolutely no connections to the Underdark except for Guenhwyvar, Drizzt’s loyal companion, and the few belongings he carried with himself when he decided to move to the surface looking for a new, quieter life. This works against the book in several ways, the main one being that, with the driving point of the first two books suddenly taken away, the novel loses interest from the get-go, since what we’re shown is how Drizzt behaves alone, without any proper danger chasing him or, at least, without any proper believable (And likeable, since Matron Malice is one of the most interesting antagonists I’ve read in fantasy) danger behind him at all times.
The main storyline shows us how Drizzt attempts to adapt to living in the surface and how he tries to find a place he belongs to in this new world that’s alien for him. On the way, he has a rather tragic incident with a family of humans in a small town which prompts him to run away from everyone, with the belief that wherever he went nothing but death follows. After spending a particularly harsh winter by himself, he finds a companion in Montolio DeBrouchee, a blind ranger who’s inhabited the zone for several years and who starts teaching him how to deal with nature. The last part of the book has Drizzt, once again, looking for a place he can feel he belongs to among the Ten Towns in Icewind Dale, thus setting the table for The Icewind Dale Trilogy.
Sadly, this book doesn’t quite fit in with the previous two and for most of its length it seems to serve no proper purpose of its own. First, the main storyline itself is quite uninteresting when compared to the complicated plot lines followed by Homeland and Exile. Second, and perhaps more importantly, character development is thrown out of the window during this book, with Drizzt spending more and more time feeling sorry for himself in what feels like late teenager angst. The protagonist of the book just never quite seems to stop whining about things going wrong with his life and how he never meant to hurt any of the people who got hurt because of his actions or situations surrounding him. That is, probably, the weakest point of the book. Drizzt had already shown strong signs of being a whiny brat, but in the previous two books, especially in Exile, he was paired with companions that made the story interesting nevertheless. Now that we find Drizzt alone, however, we’re treated to page after page of lamenting the past and being unable to move on with his life which, though probably akin to human nature, makes for lousy narrative and character development: The drow equivalent of an angsty emo child doesn’t really make an interesting character.
The other two issues this book have are the weakness of its plot – Most of it goes around Drizzt running away endlessly of a hunter who wants to kill him and Drizzt, in an exemplary display of idiocy, refusing to off the guy and make this world a better place, instead running from everywhere the guy appears in and turning the book into a senseless hide and seek game. The other critique I have about this book, and this is a strong one, is the quality of the writing: It has gone down since Exile, and I often found myself finding sentences that were unclear or that simply showed a horrible use of grammar. Sure, nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes, but for a big release as this was one would expect it to have gone through a rigorous proofreading process.
Regardless of its many flaws, however, Sojourn is an entertaining fantasy read. It doesn’t manage to stand out from other books in the genre, but there are certainly worse to be found and the book does serve its main purpose of showing how Drizzt came to settle in Icewind Dale, thus setting the table for the following trilogy (Which was actually written before this one – This is indeed a prequel). I’m yet to read the Icewind Dale trilogy, though I seriously hope Drizzt manages to outgrow his emo phase and become a proper warrior with a background that includes something other than lots and lots of regret and suffering. My personal recommendation regarding this novel would be, read it only if you liked the previous two novels and are interested in jumping into the Icewind Dale trilogy and the rest of the Legend of Drizzt books. This book might’ve made the New York Times best-selling list, but in truth it is just too flawed to stand out on its own.
Final review rating: 3/5
Availability: The book is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
|Buy Physical Book