Extinction, by Lisa Smedman

extinctionClimb out of the darkness, rise into the light.
Turn your face to the sky, your elf birthright.
Dance in the forest, sing with the breeze;
Claim your place in the moonlight among flowers and trees.
Lend your strength to the needy; battle evil with steel.
Join in the hunt; to no other gods kneel.
Purge the monster within and the monster without;
Their blood washes you clean, of this have no doubt.
Trust in your sisters; lend your voice to their song.
By joining the circle, the weak are made strong.
-Invitation to join Eilistraee’s priestesses

Imagine that you are a priestess of Lolth, and highly ranked in your city.  Then imagine that one day, your spells stopped working-as well as those of the other priestesses.  Now imagine that a few months later, you are homeless, your city gone.  You travel with a number of other dark elves, along with your battle-captive.  With them you reach the very doorstep of your goddess’s realm-and discover she’s not answering the door.  Imagine the frustration of losing your power, your status, and ultimately your faith.  This, then, is Halisstra Melarn’s inner conflict, and the most significant plotline in Extinction.

The drow from Menzoberranzan and Ched Nasad have returned-rather abruptly-from the Demonweb Pits, where the Spider Queen makes her home; and yet again, they are on the surface.  Tensions are running high, as Pharaun, Quenthel, and Jeggred nearly give in completely to their antagonism.  Cooler heads prevail, allowing Quenthel to come up with the next step of their journey-she still wants to try to contact Lolth, which means they need to get to the Abyss.  Unfortunately, they pretty much killed off the last method they used.  A combination of magic and blood secures a possible way that they can travel back to the Abyss (and it will be one familiar to old gamers of the D&D Planescape line).  It should come as no great surprise that the method involves yet more travel, this time to the homes of one of the more alien forms of life in the Underdark.

Not all of the group are going on this leg of the journey.  Halisstra volunteers to head to Menzoberranzan, taking along with her a message from Quenthel-and followed by Ryld Argith, who has entered into an unusual relationship with her (well, unusual for drow, anyway).  She isn’t destined to get far-as she and Ryld fall into the hands of people who are a little annoyed at Halisstra because of a minor matter of a murder in the last book.  Her time with them will force her to make a life changing decision-return to the life she knows, or to try another choice-one that doesn’t include having to watch her back every waking moment.

While all this is going on, nothing remains static in Menzoberranzan.  The forces of Chaulssin are still knocking on the door, the armies of duergar and fiends making plans with Nimor to crack open the strongest bastions of the city.  Gromph Baenre is still out of action, having failed to best the lich Dyrr; don’t count on him being out for long, with some rather interesting allies on his side.  Triel Baenre is only now learning a bit of the nature of what opposes her, and she’s not stupid-she comes up with some workable tactics against the invaders.  Too bad that Nimor’s not exactly slow either.

The back cover of this book indicates that this is a somewhat quieter book, and it’s true.  Extinction doesn’t focus as much on the quest to find Lolth as much as it does on the personalities of the main characters of this book.  It’s primarily on Halisstra, who really is at a point in her life where making a such a choice is actually something to consider, where before she’d kill anyone who even hinted at it.  At the same time, it’s tricky to figure as to whether any choice she makes can be considered truthful-she herself goes into this believing that anything she says she really won’t mean.  It’s never that easy, though.  The other protagonists aren’t neglected, though:  Valas deals with a transformation equally life changing (potentially), while Quenthel and Pharaun decide that this quest will go a lot easier without the other one.  I was a little surprised by it, although I shouldn’t have been-the two have been rubbing each other the wrong way since the beginning, and drow nature being what it is….  And Ryld, well, he cultivates a “friendship” with creatures that are pretty much unknown to the drow, but are a staple of a number of fantasy stories-and an early encounter may very well cause a change in him as well.

There’s still enough action to satisfy fans of that kind of thing (Gromph’s strike is nicely ingenious, which I’d expect from an archmage of his age, and the siege of Menzoberranzan proceeds apace; and that’s not counting little things like dealing with demons, outwitting underwater foes, and very, very big monsters).  Don’t expect boring out of this book-it may be quieter, but there’s still a lot going on.  By the time we reach the end of Extinction, a destiny is taken up, a big step in the siege is taken-along with a price paid for such a step-and an exceedingly dangerous new leg of the journey begins.  How’s that for a set-up?

The War continues….

Categories: Forgotten Realms, War of the Spider Queen | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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