I opened the box carefully, reverently even. The last thing I wanted to do was damage the contents and though chances were slight, I closely monitored how deep the incision was, insuring that nothing inside would be harmed in any way. First one flap, then another, continuing on until all four were flipped out so as to facilitate the removal of the treasure within. A bit of packing paper and bubble wrap is all that separated me from the coveted prize inside its current containment. Lifting the multiple items from their home, I slowly removed one after another from the stack, setting them down carefully on the table beside me. After taking out four of them, I spotted it. It was next to last in the bundle, just waiting for me to take it up lovingly. I touched the cover, maybe to remind myself that this was no dream but in fact the time had come for it to be part of my life, to be a part of the world. Six books arrived that day from my editors, but only one was Boundless by R.A. Salvatore. And regardless of how my day was going, it had been redeemed, for Drizzt had come home again.
To be fair, I may have exaggerated that a bit but I was, in all honesty, beyond excited. This new series called Generations is diving head first into the life of Drizzt Do’Urden’s father, Zaknafein, as well as exploring events that led to Drizzt’s birth. And this particular book, being the middle of the trilogy, delivers a cornucopia of information, both from the past and the present. For anyone unfamiliar with the character of Drizzt, this may be hard to pick up from this point. There are, after all, over thirty books that revolve around this fan-favorite character.
I love this exploration of two timelines, it deepens our knowledge of the ways of the Underdark in general and that of Menzoberranzan in particular. We get to see the political machines at work in both times, though there are subtle differences, due in part to Zaknafein’s friend Jarlaxle who silently pulls strings from behind the scenes. Few denizens of the Underdark understand exactly how much power Jarlaxle holds, or more accurately, how powerful his mercenary company, Bregan D’aerthe is both above and below ground. This part of our tale has some revealing facts with regards to that and the friendship between these two great drow warriors. It’s a friendship that has spanned centuries and outlasted death.
Much is written about Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, sometimes friendly and at other times contentious. The trysts that the drow warrior engages in are dangerous but frequent, almost as if he has a death wish. I personally found myself empathetic to Drizzt’s father, for he seemed as if he wanted to be better than the others but was constantly kept from reaching those heights. The matriarchal society to which he was born brooked no interference from a mere male, regardless of his prowess with a set of blades.
I want to be clear here, there is little of Drizzt in this book. The book is clearly about Zaknafein and how he was possibly the greatest warrior to serve (and I use the term lightly) Menzoberranzan before his death. But if anything, dying and being brought back centuries later has strengthened his resolve and empowered him to be more than the sire of the great drow ranger we all know and love. For as demons walk the surface world and seek the destruction of all material things, he shows that his son is not the only one who can live and act honorably. Trust is not something that comes natural to anyone that was raised under the watchful eyes of Lloth, the Spider Queen goddess of the drow. But he finds himself having to trust others as demons invade the dwarven hold Gauntlgrym. But as nasty as demons can be, something worse stalks Zaknafein and his son, creatures powerful beyond measure.
Full disclosure, I obviously love Salvatore’s work. But this is a Drizzt novel only in the most marginal of ways and that is okay. Seeing his father wrestle with his own personal demons, literally and figuratively, makes a lot of sense. There is not a lot left that readers can learn about our beloved Drizzt except those with whom he surrounds himself. After almost three dozen books, I am impressed that the author still finds new and original material with which to amaze his readers. But the ending of this part of the story hit me by surprise: Of all the things I suspected might happen, this was never on the list. But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself!
Split between time and two worlds, Zaknafein had always been conflicted. That inner turmoil was magnified by his inferior position as a male dark elf in the matriarchal drow society. Only his status as one of the greatest warriors””as well as his friendship with the mercenary Jarlaxle””kept him sane. When he finally perished, he was content knowing he left behind a legacy as substantial as his son Drizzt.
Except . . . someone isn’t ready for Zaknafein to be dead. And now he’s back, hundreds of years later, in a world he doesn’t recognize. His son’s companions are not the prideful””and bigoted””males the drow warrior was accustomed to in his previous life. Drizzt’s circle includes dwarves, elves, and, perhaps worst of all, a human wife.
Struggling to navigate this transformed new world, Zaknafein realizes that some things have not changed: the threat of demons and the machinations of a drow matron no longer content with her family’s position in the ranks of Houses.
Though he has been displaced in time, Zaknafein is still a warrior. And no matter what prejudices he must overcome, he knows he will do his duty and fight by Drizzt’s side to stem the tide of darkness that threatens the Realms.