Wednesday, July 8, 2020

7 Hot Takes on the Original Drizzt Trilogy

Just halfway through the second book of the Homeland-Exile-Sojourn Trilogy now and I have mixed feelings about them. I read them as a teenager, of course. I liked them at the time, although I preferred other official D&D books and characters more. Something about Drizzt is and was unappealing to me. I get that he is a true 'Outsider' character and that a lot of people who played D&D (especially back in the day when it was social death to do so) could relate to this idea of being alone, even among your own people. So what kept me from really relating to this empowered, yet alienated hero?

Here are 7 hot takes on the series so far. The good and the bad.

1. In the character of Drizzt, we get a version of us that we would wish to be. When the books were first published, most of the readers were geeks, nerds and losers (think: Stranger Things). They felt alienated and alone - like Drizzt. Unlike Drizzt, they also felt weak, uncoordinated, ugly... and Drizzt is wish-fulfillment to these readers. He's graceful, strong, handsome, etc.

2. R.A Salvatore is very good at describing combat. He chooses words that let me see the action, but he never gets bogged down in the fine detail. If the art is in hiding the art, he's very very good at this.

3. The books are comic books in prose. This is neither good nor bad. Mind Flayers attack with a "Fwoop!" sound. The story is action heavy. The characters are as flat as cardboard, for the most part.

4. Speaking of characters, some are too over the top for me to maintain suspension of disbelief. If Matron Malice had a moustache, she would twist it. There's a character named Jarlaxle in book 2. He's a deadly mercenary. He does this foppish flourish with his floppy hat that makes me want to throw the book across the room and shout "No! Bad!"

5. The character of Belwar Dissengulp (this is such a great name for a deep gnome) has a tag line - or verbal tick. It is slightly overused (like a comic book character, say) but it is very well conceived. "Magga cammera" is smart, and it works. His title of "Burrow Warden" is likewise, a wonderful idea.

6. Also from book Two, Exile.... and this complaint is similar to the Jarlaxle one. There's a rogue wizard who lives in the Underdark in a portable tower or something. Fine, fine, I'm with you. He's a bit nutty and chaotic. Still with you. He speaks in a heavy German accent. You lost me.

7. Ultimately the books don't fully satisfy. It's not the occasional over-the-top characters; I can live with those and edit them out of my mind's eye. I think my big problem is Drizzt: he's too powerful. From the start, he is an unbeatable fighting machine. There are zero times in the story so far when I felt he might really be in trouble. I guess that brings us back to the comic book. Superman, Thor - all the other folks who wear underpants on the outside - they can't be beaten. Maybe that's why I always preferred the semi-hero to the superhero. I'll take Spiderman over Superman any day. Better yet, give me Luke Skywalker. A hero's journey is so much better when the character doesn't begin at the destination.

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