I've been harsh on Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) in the past for their 4th Edition supplements because none of them have really stacked up to Heroes of the Feywild. The books that followed usually lacked Feywild's perfect blend of "crunch" (rules) and "fluff" (narrative). With 5th Edition pending in 2014, it's perhaps not surprising that Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue is entirely fluff. If 5th Edition will truly be "edition-agnostic," it makes sense to produce supplements that can appeal to players of all editions.
The first chapter covers a Campaign of Intrigue, offering different settings of drow history for Dungeon Masters to set their campaign in. This is all drow, all the time: Menzoberranzan is specifically focused on playing drow in the Underdark. Take your pick from when the drow first founded their beloved cities to 2nd Edition's Time of Troubles, 3rd Edition's War of the Spider Queen, and 4th Edition's Spellplague.
The second chapter details The Way of Lolth, which ranges from how the drow worship Lolth to their matriarchal society. I have difficulty imagining how such a culture of evil can last centuries. Corruption eventually causes uprisings, which in turn become corrupt and collapse, only to be replaced by a new government. But Menzoberranzan does its level best to convince us on page 22:
"Drow are cold parents, instilling self-reliance and independence in their offspring to make them strong enough to survive a bloody adolescence. Ill treatment reinforces the race's natural inclination toward evil...Chaos is a predominant trait of the drow, a fault that has cost them potential conquests time and again throughout history...Yet there is a framework of order underlying the chaos, otherwise the drow would have been reduced to extinction long ago."
The third chapter covers Drow Factions. I was disappointed to discover that the matriarchal society is not true in all cases with House Xorlarrin - a concession, I suppose, that not all male players will want to play subservient characters. There's also House Do'Urden, which allows players to non-Lolth worshipping drow. In other words, if you want to a play a drow who isn't evil, doesn't worship Lolth, or doesn't obey the matriarchy, you can. I would argue this makes playing a drow less interesting in a campaign about drow, but I suppose it was a necessity so that the setting can appeal to a wide range of playing styles.
Chapter four details the City of Spiders, ranging from life in the streets to the Clawrift, which my 5th Edition character Tobias Hyrthstone recently investigated. There's also a full color map in the back of the book covering Menzoberranzan and the Underdark around it. The fifth chapter covers The Northdark, which includes a keyed map of the ruined illithid city of Phalinksal. A Neothelid is detailed too, but there are no stats listed here at all; this is one of the few places where the stats seem like they were removed from the book.
The last chapter is all about being a drow. This chapter is WOTC's attempt to make an evil adventuring party suitable for campaign purposes, which players have been doing for decades. It's a refreshing reversal of the "only good player characters" rule that has been WOTC's standard for years. As page 118 explains:
"Just because the adventuring group is comprised of evil characters doesn't mean that the character should constantly come to blows. Evil characters with similar goals or common foes can work together without conflict. Like most creatures, they achieve their goals faster by working together than by plotting at cross purposes."
It's a bit like playing Paranoia, but with less clones.
Most gamers either love drow or hate them. Menzoberranzan isn't going to change your mind. But if you like the idea of playing a drow campaign, this book does an excellent job of presenting the drow in all their glory, from their original appearance in Gygax's adventures to the works of R.A. Salvatore.