Book Review: ‘Homeland’ by R.A. Salvatore

December 20, 2010 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, On Writing by pacejmiller

They say if you want to write a particular genre, you’ll have to read that particular genre.  A lot.

With so many fantasy novels out there, I didn’t really know where to start (apart from the obvious ‘classics’ I’ve already read).  My wife’s colleague then introduced me to the world of Drizzt Do’Urden — a series of books written by NY Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore with those visually arresting book covers.  There have been something like 20 books written about Drizzt, a ‘drow’ (or ‘dark elf’), and the stories actually form part of a larger universe — Forgotten Realms — which I understand is a Dungeons and Dragons RPG campaign setting.

If you have no idea what any of that means, I’m right with you, because I still don’t have a clue what all that is about.  But I wanted to read a good fantasy novel, one that isn’t a zillion pages long and one that won’t bore me to death.

And so I started at the very begining — the birth of Drizzt Do’Urden in the first book of the series (chronologically speaking), entitled Homeland (first published in 1990).

After a slight struggle initially trying to get a handle on Salvatore’s style and the fancy names, I found myself immersed in the dark and bizarre world of the drow (Menzoberranzan, a city in the ‘Underdark’), where the women rule over the men and the various ‘houses’ try and gain the upper hand over one another through clandestine wars and backstabbing.  Everyone has an agenda, and it’s usually to further their own status or for sick pleasures.

And in the middle of all this evil mayhem is Drizzt, the talented kick-ass drow with a kind heart and two deadly scimitars.

I was amazed at how well Salvatore painted this brand new world using so few pages.  Despite having to set the foundations and explain everything from scratch, the pace never sags, and the exposition rarely feels contrived.  The dialogue does get a little over the top at times, as does Drizzt’s tortured ‘good guy’ routine, but on the whole, Homeland is a very enjoyable read that has me wanting more (luckily there’s plenty more!).

This has probably been said many times before, but Salvatore is a master at describing battle and fight scenes, especially one-on-one duels.  Writers interested in learning how to write action sequences that are fast paced and not overly repetitive should definitely check out Salvatore’s books and study his techniques.  I certainly learned a thing or two.

I’d definitely recommend Homeland for those who want to get into fantasy (reading or writing) but feel a little overwhelemed by all the stuff that’s out there.  At a very manageable 343 page, Homeland is a relatively brisk read compared to the thousands of doorstoppers in the fantasy/sci-fi sections of bookstores.  I’m very eager to read the next book in the series, Exile.

4 out of 5 stars