by R.A. Salvatore

Cover image

Series: Dark Elf #1
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Copyright: August 1990
ISBN: 0-88038-905-2
Format: Mass market
Pages: 314

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I figured that I may as well try one of these innumerable D&D novels, since I'd never read one and, well, if I liked them at all, there are tons of them to read. This one I had a specific recommendation for, and it seemed like a good place to start.

Overall impressions... bleh.

The world background is adequate. I'm not a big fan of the D&D worlds in general as a world background (they seem rather generic to me), but this book, being the first book of the dark elf trilogy, actually touches on a world background that I find inherently interesting. I like the concept of dark elves quite a lot, and the visual that I have of the drow is rather appealing. The background is handled fairly well in the story, too.

Unfortunately, the writing just isn't very good at all.

The story is okay enough, although mostly just adequate. Sole (well, almost sole) ethical boy and then man attempting to find himself in a world that's inherently evil and corrupt, somehow managing to survive partly by hiding his feelings and mostly by just being way more competent than anyone else... it's not a plot that's going to win any awards, but for lightweight popcorn fiction (and I wasn't expecting anything more), it will do. Unfortunately, one is led around by the nose through that plot, with every character emotion and implication carefully pointed out and beat into the reader's skull. Every emotional conflict and ethical dilemma is explained and belabored until all the timing and suspense is just beaten right out of it, and one is left with the vague impression that the author thinks the readers might be a little stupid.

The lines between good and evil are also rather more black and white than I'd prefer even in popcorn fiction. There's a bit of a nod to the idea that the dark elves may just be brainwashed by their culture rather than being inherently evil, but the concept of redemption is pretty much missing here, and the bad guys, no matter why they may have ended up bad, are guaranteed to stay bad. The only character growth worth speaking of is the main character, and while that's better than none, one character growing against a static background seems unrealistic and too simplistic to me.

Despite the promising background, I didn't find this one enjoyable even for popcorn fiction. I finished the book with some remaining vague interest in the world and in how things come out, but not enough to want to put up with the writing style for another book. Not recommended.

Followed by Exile.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-04-16

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21