I am weak, perhaps, or I am a fool. Whichever the case, I am not yet ready to stop this war I wage; I am not yet ready to abandon the warmth of the spilled orc blood. These beasts have brought this pain upon me, and I will repay them a thousand thousand times over, until my scimitars slip from my weakened grasp and I fall dying to the stone.
In The Lone Drow, the longtime readers of the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden see why this series is called “The Hunter’s Blades”.
Way back, in the Dark Elf trilogy (which I believe is being reprinted at this writing), when Drizzt left his homeland, he submerged all of his more noble instincts to the more primitive ones, where one had to fight or die-or to be more accurate, to kill or die, all by instinct. It was the only way to survive outside of Menzoberranzan. In time, though, he was able to come out of such a state, and learn to truly live again. He’s always been an extremely dangerous fighter; but acting as the Hunter, he’d even make the assassin Artemis Entreri wet his pants (hm, now that’s a really disturbing image…). But that was a long time ago. He found a cause worth fighting for, and friends worth dying for. Unfortunately for Drizzt, at the end of the last book, it appears to him that he would never get the chance to die for them-for they are all dead (or so he believes). Now, he is The Lone Drow, and the only thing he lives for is to kill the orcs that took his friends away from him.
This offering of the trilogy has a number of different tracks to follow, some of which converge, and some that do not. Obviously, the big draw is Drizzt’s plot; not only is he dealing with the death of his friends, but he’s also having a little crisis as he realizes that he will (barring his own death by the sword) outlive almost everyone he would care for. He’s able to put these questions aside for the most part, mainly because of his methodical goals of killing as many orcs as possible-perhaps even get to Obould. At the same time, his friends are out to defend Mithral Hall-well, most of them; Bruenor is mortally wounded, leaving…well, let’s just say it shouldn’t be any surprise to longtime readers who is named Steward to lead the dwarves in this dark moment.
But there’s a lot more here. Drizzt is shadowed by a pair of elves from the Moonwood, who want to warn him about one of their own who wants him dead-not realizing that she has already faced the dark elf (and didn’t come out of it). The Bouldershoulder brothers are still here, helping along with the dwarves from Mirabar. Speaking of Mirabar, the sceptrana Shoudra Stargleam and her gnome aide, Nanfoodle, are also on hand, under orders from the mad Marchion to ruin the ore of Mithral Hall-yet Nanfoodle is affected by the courage and honor these dwarves demonstrate (and believe me, Nanfoodle offers one of the most fun moments of this book-I wish I could even hint at it, but it’s just too good to spoil). I can’t neglect the continued presence of the quartet of dark elves; I especially liked a theory from Kaer’lic concerning Drizzt and how he manages to avoid getting killed by servants of Lolth-and it even makes sense, in a twisted way.
Salvatore does his usual job of portraying massive warfare from the point of view of the main characters; while there are huge amounts of orcs (along with giants and others) that assail the forces of Mithral Hall, we primarily see only portions of this, as seen by Wulfgar and Cattie-Brie, and by Drizzt. Even though small groups aren’t much of a threat to these heroes, the fact is that the orcs can afford to lose a few dozen-and our heroes can’t even afford to lose one. And one cannot overestimate the danger Obould represents-for in the beginning of the book, he gains the blessings of the orc god as well. All through the book, it’s apparent that Obould is something special…well, as far as orcs go.
As usual, the star of the show is Drizzt; the character is going through a substantial crisis. He’s still not as lost to the Hunter as in the past, however-a legacy, perhaps, of his time with Bruenor and the rest, and he does get some help as the book progresses. All of the Companions of the Hall get substantial face time (well, mostly; Bruenor isn’t exactly in the best of shape); Regis trying hard to be a good Steward in Bruenor’s absence, and having to make some really tough choices; and Cattie and Wulfgar have a meaningful discussion on the merits of loving a dark elf (and I want to especially mention how impressed I was with how Wulfgar is portrayed here; being married himself now has certainly done wonders with him) while trying to cope with an invasion of orcs at the same time as facing a future without the dwarf who effectively raised them both. It’s these character moments that really made this book stand out, even beyond the efforts of the dwarves to fend off what is increasingly looking like a doomed struggle. The Lone Drow should satisfy Salvatore fans-but it will also whet the appetite for the final book in the trilogy.