What does the strange behavior of the goblins have to do with the rogue males?
I don’t know yet, but we have two oddities occurring at the same time and in the same precinct. Doesn’t it make sense to infer a relationship?
Not necessarily. Menzoberranzan has scores of plots and conspiracies going on at any given time.
-Ryld Argith and Pharaun Mizzrym
I was real close to not purchasing this book, much less review it. But, I had a slot I needed to fill on my review schedule, so….
I did have reason to be hesitent. Firstly, this is a Forgotten Realms book, and it concerns the drow, also known as dark elves; now, I’m a fan of Salvatore’s signature character, but it has felt to me sometimes that the publishers are trying to over-market them; banking on the popularity of Salvatore’s books. Secondly, it is the first of six books, in one of those “event” books. That makes me nervous too, as the last Forgotten Realms “event” book I read left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Finally, the series itself-released in hardback-is being written by multiple authors, which sometimes works well, sometimes doesn’t. Still, all three together combined to convince me to put this on my “wait until paperback” list.
But, I had a slot I needed to fill….
Deep in the bowels of the earth, there are all kinds of underground creatures and races. One of the most feared are the drow; their entire matriarchal society revolves around worship of their goddess, Lolth. Everyone there has power as their goal; they will murder friends and family to acheive their goals. Layers upon layers of intrigue and shifting alliances in an eyeblink is the hallmark of their cities, such as Menzoberranzan. Still, Mezoberranzan has had a number of reversals lately (primarily because of consistent desires to get at a certain drow ranger), so things are a little…delicate. And this is where we start the novel Dissolution.
Gromph Baenre is the city’s most powerful archmage, a member of the most powerful House in Menzoberranzan. And he’s quite the busy little beaver. On one hand, he sends a Master of Sorcere (the city’s school of wizards) named Pharaun Mizzrym to seek out the reason why drow males are suddenly vanishing-and even more disturbingly, staying vanished, having taken nothing of value with them. And it isn’t restricted to one House, and not restricted to commoners or nobility. Pharaun “recruits” a friend and swordmaster, Ryld Argith, to aid him.
But Gromph doesn’t stop there. He’s also interested in increasing his own status in the city, so he sends magical creatures secretly to assassinate his sister, Quenthel, who is currently the Mistress of Arach-Tinilith, the place where priestesses are trained (it also helps that he doesn’t like her all that much). Naturally, he can’t be seen to have been responsible, especially if the attempts fail. Quenthel, in the meantime, is consolidating her position, since her students seem to be a rather uncooperative bunch. And in a seemingly unrelated plot point, Faeryl Zauvirr, an ambassador from the drow city of Ched Nasad, is concerned about caravans from her city never arriving in Menzoberranzan; worse yet, the Matron Mother of the most powerful House in the city, Triel Baenre, seems to have taken a sudden dislike for her, and that is not a good thing.
Everything starts to make sense (or mostly anyway), when Pharaun comes up with a theory after an unpleasant meeting with his sister (remember what I said about family in Menzoberranzan?); if true, it will shake the foundations of not just Menzoberranzan’s society, but that of the entire drow race.
I liked this book more than I thought I would; as a concept, I think that Menzoberranzan has been mined out. After everything that Salvatore did to the city in his books, it amazes me how it is even still around! In addition, it’s hard to root for the drow; these are not nice people. In spite of that, Byers has managed to make at least two likable characters, Pharaun and Ryld; even though they are still pretty evil elves (at one point, they casually talk about murdering a drow patrol to cover their activities), they have a wit and charm that just accentuates the danger they represent. And you have to feel a little sorry for both Quenthel and Faeryl, who are both under various types of assault without having a clue why; of course, that’s just life in a city of the drow.
While I won’t spoil how it ends (really, why would I do that?), I will go so far as to say that Menzoberranzan takes some more hits in this book, and promises a look to other drow cities outside of Menzoberranzan in the next book. As far as I’m concerned, that alone was worth the price of admission. So if you like Drizzt Do’Urden’s hometown, the drow, or even the prospect of the dark elves having a heaping sequence of bad days, you may consider picking up Dissolution. It starts the War of the Spider Queen off pretty nicely, and I hope the following authors can match or exceed it.