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  • Author: Richard Lee Byers
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 344
  • Price: $24.95


Dark Elves and Spider Queens

By James T. Voelpel     October 29, 2002

Wizards of the Coast states that 2002 is the year of the drow, as the number of products featuring these Dark Elves testifies. Along with DISSOLUTION the first book in the WAR OF THE SPIDER QUEEN, outlined by R.A. Salvatore, there is the new Drizzt novel THE THOUSAND ORCS written by the same Salvatore. Gaming-wise there is the mega-adventure for DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, CITY OF THE SPIDER QUEEN plus all new drow units for the now defunct CHAINMAIL miniature game. Coming in December is the novel INSURRECTION by Thomas M. Reid. In total there will be six novels in the WAR OF THE SPIDER QUEEN going all the way into early 2004. In DISSOLUTION, the first book in the series, Richard Lee Byers, author of over fifteen novels including VAMPIRE APPRENTICE, SOUL KILLER and THE SHATTERED MASK takes us back to the most famous of Drow cities Menzoberranzan.
In the Forgotten Realms series of novels Menzoberranzan is the greatest city of the drow, a place where waking up is a pleasant surprise and your greatest enemies maybe your family and friends. The drow are a race of elves as cruel as they are beautiful, exiled thousands of years ago to the dark reaches of the underdark, ruled with an iron hand by their goddess Lloth and her high priestesses. This Queen of the Demonweb pits enjoys pitting her followers against each other to weed out the weak from the strong and plotting revenge against the surface elves who wronged her and her people.
Dissolution revolves around the Lloth's apparent rejection of the drow and the priestess sect trying to keep this information out of the hands of the common folk. Meanwhile Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, has begun to suspect that a power vacuum exists and hatches a plan to eliminate the High Priestess Quenthel Baenre. At the same time drow males, noted for their subservience to the female rulers of the drow have been fleeing the city to parts unknown, Gromph elects the mage Pharaun Mizzrym to investigate this mystery. Pharaun invites his friend the weapon master Ryld Argith to accompany him as he delves into where the males are going and why.
A serviceable first novel in the WAR OF THE SPIDERQUEEN series DISSOLUTION does not enjoy the higher level of writing from it's patron R.A. Salvatore (the best and best known Forgotten Realms writer). Byers does an admirable job trying to flesh a bunch of characters with no real redeeming qualities or like ability. That itself is the inherent problem with the novel since all the main characters are by definition evil and corrupt you have trouble rooting for anybody. Probably the two best characters are the mage Pharaun and his friend Ryld, as a real bond can be seen between them, their less savory qualities not withstanding.
Most of the other main characters are less developed especially Salvatore hold over Quenthel Baenre. The loss of her goddess's backing does not appear to worry her as much as the repeated attempts on her life. A bit more of build up to Lloth's disappearance would also give the novel a better start as it feels like you missed a previous book when you start reading. The plot is reasonably interesting and includes plenty of comic book action, sorcery with a bit of dramatic tension sprinkled in. Even with its flaws fans of the drow will surely enjoy DISSOLUTION and its upcoming follow-ups. In no way is this any kind of classic, but it delivers what this kind of novel promises.

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