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on 17 October 2003
I have read some of the reviews of this book, and one in particular deriding the vocabulary used by the author as someone trying to impress us with his knowledge of the dictionary. To the person who wrote that review the answer is simple - BUY a dictionary.
Byers is as eloquent as he is witty; his main character Pharaun, a Drow wizard, an excellent creation; and the expanded world of the Drow he shows us is as rich a tapestry as we could hope for - from the heights of the luminescent houses to the lows of the filth encrusted poor quarter of the city, you can almost smell it such is his style. The difference between this and the Drizzt books is simple - it is written about the Drow who actually want to live there, and who play the games their station in life demands with the tools and skills at their disposal (when available). In this respect, you see the city and race from the point of view of one who actually belongs there, as oppose to Drizzt who obviously doesn't and so has a very different perspective of his first home. The drow here, especially Pharaun, have fun, in their way.
It is very entertaining, excellently written, and a joy to read a book written by someone who obviously knows the subject matter very well and who knows how to have fun telling a story. Highly recommended, and 'only' four stars because I hope he writes more Drow and continues this excellent start.
And expands all of our vocabularies. Aren't we supposed to learn from books...?
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on 22 April 2004
I've never really rated R A Salvatore that much. I've enjoyed the Drizzt books, in a trashy sort of way, but his best characters have always been the evil drow, not the drippy drow do-gooder with his tedious philosophising. So it's nice that the drow in these books are authentically unpleasant - even the characters we are supposed to sympathise with (like Pharaun the wizard) are a pretty rum bunch. It's much more shades of grey than the black and white in Salvatore's books. I also enjoy the fact that the author has worked in the D&D rules (in the use of material components and spell-effects, for example) which Salvatore never bothered with.
That said, this book is something of a "get to know the characters" affair (this written with hindsight having read up to book 4) and has a few longeurs. But it is certainly enjoyable, and in terms of the writing style the best of the series, with the dialogue between the characters well brought out (and it's not a challenging read, despite some other reviews).
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on 21 February 2004
I found that this is certainly an interesting book, though it still has some spots which could use work. Upon picking up the book, I didn't really know what to expect; R.A. Salvatore has had some exceptional books, and although this surrounds the same places and some of the same people, it is not, in fact, R.A. Salvatore. I know it is wrong to expect to just fall right into a tale by the original author of the Drow stories, so I had no expectations from the start.
Byers does not exactly do justice to Menzoberranzan as well as Salvatore was able to do. The atmosphere is changed somewhat, an expectable aspect of differing authors. Perhaps the buildings are described differently, perhaps the lighting, but all the same, the city is not so much the same as before. "Dissolution" shows more parts of the city other than the noble houses, moving into the districts of commoners and the slums of underling fugitives and unfortunates. Menzoberranzan shows in a different light of not just being a beautiful, majestic city, and other aspects are revealed. Crowded houses and dying goblinoids pile into the slums, and a bustling marketplace brings trade to the Drow and gold to the matrons.
The characters don't all show the same outstanding cruelty of Salvatore's books. Pharaun and Ryld, two dark elf masters, are the best of friends to ever be found amongst the most untrusting of races. I was perhaps skeptical, and nearly disappointed, by how they were portrayed as more loving creatures than I would expect, but at the same time, they can show that even friendship isn't enough to risk everything they have. Other characters, such as Quenthel Baenre, show the spite, malice, and gruesome affection for death and suffering, which one would expect of the Drow. Overall Byers does well to portray the race.
Despite the bright sides of the book, I still think that there are parts which could be improved. Even with the long list of books Byers shows to have written, I would have expected a book of this quality to be of a first or second novel. The writing style and overall voice in the first half of the book occasionally show a poor side, with weak word choice and perhaps points where the author just simply trying too hard. Towards the end, Byers had much fewer errors and seemingly picked up on where he was going wrong at the start. The second half could be considered more like the work of an experience author.
"Dissolution" is still a fairly good book. The story keeps the reader interested and intrigued through the book, and the pros outnumber the cons. This is a good, fun read. The intriguing plot leads into book two with excitement and expectations for an impressive story to follow.
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on 22 February 2007
This is a good book so i'll start by getting the negative point over first. While I am interested in the forgotten realms novels, i found it so hard to keep up with the story initially. I'm sure people who don't really know much about the dark elves will have the same problem. while I know they often write the story in scenes. I felt bowled over by the numerous characters before they were properly established. A character summary might have been a good idea to start with. E.g . in the first few chapters we are introduced to so many characters, some of whom are not important at all ( well they are just side characters) and while the realism helps, its just confusing. I found myself thinking, who was that again, the wizzard, or an initiate or a warrior. E.g. the conflict in the Mizzrym house and the baenre house. there was Quenthel, Triel, Gromph, Pharaun, the sisters, and various house guards. I just kept thinking, who is who?

Despite that, if one perseveres it is a good book, once you understand what the drow society is like, the basics that the Arach til.. something is the central temple group of priestesses, the melee magthere is the warriors group and the sorcere group consists of wizards.

I think you need to understand the foundations of drow society and the book is not self explanatory in that way.

On the plus side I found the book very entertaining, once you got in to it. The adventure is very diverse. Lots of different things happen and its somewhat refreshing to read a book where there are no good guys. There are the conformists and the revolutionaries. I think we can get attached to the story but at the end of the day not feel sorry for them when bad things happen as they're all evil and treacherous opportunists.

A good read overall.
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on 10 July 2002
Richard Lee Byers picks up where R.A Salvatore left off and has possibly improved the world of the dark elves. Menzoberranzan is the subterranean city of the dark elf and a place where you can find death at any turn. We have come, from Salvatore's previous books touching this world, to know the dark elves as backstabbing and ruthless to the point of family members scheming against each other if power or position is at stake. This book will allow you to see further into the world of the feared dark elf/ Drow and how they will react when their world is threatened. Will they be able to put aside their plots and plans to defend their city, their very culture? You will have to read the book to find out.
I also recommend The Price of Immortality, a book I recently came across and very much enjoyed !
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on 29 September 2014
explores the underdark and drow society really well
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on 17 July 2002
Whilst providing an interesting take on the world of the dark elves, I feel Byers is often long-winded in places and seems to delight in showing off his extensive vocabulary by using obscure words and terms at times where brevity might better serve to carry the story forward. As a result I found that the book and it's plot failed to carry me along with it.
Furthermore the book seems to drift off from the canon set out by Salvatore in some pretty major ways (despite being part of the series Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen). For example, one of the main character's is Quenthel Baenre; who was killed by Drizzt along with her mother Matron Baerne in Salvatore's Siege of Darkness. Yet this book is set after the fall of Malice, and yet Quenthel is clearly alive. Indeed, Byers mentions that three of Baerne's children were left alive after Malice's fall; and whilst this is true to canon, the three children (according to Salvatore, and backed up by the work of Elaine Cunningham) were Triel, Gromph and Sos'Umptu, yet Byers seems to have swept Sos'Umptu under the carpet and resurrected Quenthel in her place.
In summary then, I find that Byers provides an interesting interpretation of the Drow, but spoils it by blatantly contradicting canon and then constraining the resultant story in a pompous and long-winded writing style that serves only to drag down the plot and bore the reader.
To conclude : A disappointing offering that could have been so much better.
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on 20 October 2003
being a long time fan of any book on the drow race, i had high hopes for this book. i am glad to say that dissolution was by far the best i have read so far and i am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series.
So can the world of the drow of menzabaranzen and the underdark have more detial than this?
i hope so because it will mean the war of the spider queen series will blow you away with just how much is involed in surviving the underdark. and give people in live action roleplaying a better understanding of a highly complex and subtle race these drow are
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on 30 October 2003
this book has started a series which has left lots of room for developing the characters from menzobarranzan, the first book hasn't disappointed. Strange though that each book is written by a different forgotten realms author, but that remains to be seen. Keep up the good work.
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on 27 July 2002
as was said before byers does use his obviously extensive vocabulary(sp?)throughout this book and at times it seems like you need a dictionary just to figure out whats going on, perhaps simpler language would have been better but if you take a broad look at this book and dont knit pick its an enjoyable and interesting book. the last few chapters are particulary good, especially the the way he describes the mage battles, the last one is nearly on par with salvatores writing of cadderly's battle with his alballister. cant wait for the next one...
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