I've loved Drizzt Daermon N'a'shezbaernon since I was about eight years old, but I've never read R.A. Salvatore before. I know--a crime, right? Especially for a fantasy addict like me. But I've read so many D&D books that were cheesy, nothing but battle scenes and shallow characters with really modern-tinted dialogue, so I resisted reading these, afraid that actually encountering Drizzt in a book would ruin him in my eyes.
Well, finally I gave in because curiosity, although it killed the cat, isn't actually avoidable. And if anything, I love Drizzt more now than I did.
I encountered Drizzt first, I think, on the PC video game Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast. An amazing game that I still play to this day, but that's beside the point. The point is, I walked out into the open and saw a Hasted drow mowing down gnolls. Most of them were blown to pieces before I could even get my party down to him. And yeah, that drow was Drizzt, and I knew I had to have him in my party. Then I talked to him, and it was love at first sight--this guy was awesome.
On TotSC, if you kill someone and don't get experience points for it, it means that they can be in your party if you tackle certain areas of the game appropriately. When I found this out, I resolved to take my Ranger, always my favorite class and the most powerful character I'd ever made--she'd already killed Sarevok at this point and had all the best equipment on the game--and kill Drizzt. If he didn't give me experience, I'd spend forever doing whatever I had to until I figured out how to get him in my party.
It wasn't that easy. I spent three months fighting him. Every day, get up at the crack of dawn, load up TotSC, fight Drizzt, die, load game, fight Drizzt, die, fight Drizzt, die . . . that dark elf literally must have killed me a million times, but finally, I managed to kill him, and wouldn't you know it, he gave me experience. My heart was broken, I cried for days. (Hey, I was like, eight or nine, give me a break.)
The point of that embarrassing story is that I wasted three months of my life, just to get this drow into my party after I'd already beaten the main boss of the game. So when I say that I adore Drizzt, I mean it. Every time since TotSC that I've encountered him, I've practically jumped for joy.
So, yes, this book is flawed. It's a little cheesy. Sometimes certain words are used repetitively, or the characters blunder around so stupidly that I want to laugh at them. Sometimes it seems slightly juvenile, which clashes oddly with the graphic nature of certain scenes . . . but I loved it anyway. Reading Homeland was kind of like hanging out in a familiar place, because I've spent so much time in the Underdark. The plot was solid and clear, not lacking in action but not taking every excuse to start a fight, either. The characters, although very obvious, were definitely good.
Drizzt was wonderful, of course. I should have known that nothing could ruin him. He could almost have carried the entire book by himself (and I only say almost because no single character can carry a truly horrible book by themselves . . . but Drizzt is as close as it gets).
I love also the way that this book doesn't seem much like a video game book. Even though I know the world it's set in inside and out, even though I know the rules of the magic and I know that, somewhere, the Dungeon Master is watching dice hit the floor, it doesn't seem like it. I would classify this as just another fantasy book, not one tethered strictly to D&D. I think anybody who likes fantasy, even if they disdain Dungeons & Dragons, would enjoy this.
And now, perhaps predictably, I am going to go and devour Exile as soon as possible.