The Dark Elf Trilogy is a prequel series of books by R.A. Salvatore that describes the life of Drizzt Do'Urden, a young dark elf who starts his life in the drow city of Menzoberranzan. He being the third born male child (and thus due for ritual sacrifice immediately after birth), his mother, Matron Malice Do'Urden, spares him after his eldest brother is killed by second brother Dinin to gain in rank.In Menzoberranzan, and in drow society as a whole, ascension to a higher rank is gained not by merit, but by strength — if you can live long enough to kill those that outrank you, you gain rank and prestige. As long as it's done on-the-sly, and nobody remains to accuse you.The drow place very little value on life — children are set up as pawns in dangerous training exercises, the Academies of the city teach outright racism and genocide, and anyone who is not drow (and occasionally, not drow enough) is quietly executed before they can become a liability.Unlike others of his race, Drizzt is very honorable and kind, a mindset which clashes rather violently with that of his much more vicious kin. At first, Drizzt refuses to acknowledge that such evil can exist unpunished, but is eventually forced to confront (and question) his nature after his family's various schemes almost force him down the same dark path.Upon leaving his homeland, Drizzt spends several years roaming the Underdark (a massive series of caverns and tunnels that span from one end of Faerun to another) before befriending a deep gnome and finding his way to the surface.Thus begins the tale of one of the Forgotten Realms' most popular characters — in fact, Drizzt has become so well-known (and stories featuring the character so widely-read) that many readers don't know that there are other characters in the Forgotten Realms canon.Books in the series:
Big Damn Villains: At one point in the second book, Drizzt and his friends are captured by illithids (mind flayers) and made into the creatures' brainwashed slaves. Zaknafein, who's been revived as an undead monstrosity sent to kill Drizzt, eventually tracks him to the illithids' lair. The mind flayers try to mentally enslave him the way they did Drizzt, but since he's an undead monster who's being controlled by an external force he's pretty much immune to it. Zaknafein slaughters the illithids, and ends up freeing Drizzt and his friends from their enslavement.
Bittersweet Ending: Mixed with Earn Your Happy Ending: By the end of the trilogy, Drizzt finds his calling as a ranger and befriends Bruenor and Catti-Brie, two of his four future adventuring companions. However, along the way, a lot of innocent people are killed, including Drizzt's father Zaknafein. Zaknafein gets brought back to life as an animated servant tasked with hunting down and killing Drizzt, however he commits suicide rather than kill his own son.
Can't Catch Up: Drizzt's instructors eventually realize that, because of the training he had already received from Zaknafein, his classmates would never even approach his ability and start having him compete against more senior students.
Chaotic Evil - In universe, being a D&D property. The entire dark elf race, excluding Drizzt and Zaknafein.
Chekhov's Gun: The sphere of light Zak uses on Drizzt in an earlier chapter of Homeland is the same method Drizzt uses to escape from House Do'Urden at the end of the novel.
Clean Dub Name: In the Russian version of the books, Drizzt was changed into Dzirt, due to the original name resembling a sound of bowel evacuation. (Of course, in English, the Russian version sounds like he's a delicious confection of some kind.)
Combat Pragmatist: Zaknafein, to a surprising extent despite his skill. He carries little glass spheres on him that bathe the room in blinding light when shattered, which to the drow who normally live in complete darkness can be quite detrimental, and uses one against Drizzt in a particularly vicious battle. He also has no qualms about kicking a male opponent where it hurts.
When Drizzt calls him out on it, Zaknafein brilliantly replies with this:
Drizzt: Do you so hate to lose?
Zaknafein: Do you not understand? To lose it to die! You may win a thousand fights, but you can only lose one!
Dystopia: To an outside observer, drow culture and society (for lack of better words) is pretty much as close to Hell as you can get without actually dying. The drow themselves, on the other hand, are having the time of their lives.
Downer Ending: Book one, Homeland ends on this. The book ends with Zaknafein allowing himself to be sacrificed in place of Drizzt, and Drizzt ultimately fleeing Menzoberranzan into the wilds of the Underdark - a much nastier place.
Evil Matriarch: More prominently - Malice. In the background - every other drow mother. They sacrifice their own children.
Evil Me Scares Me: Particularly in Exile, Drizzt is constantly afraid of losing control and succumbing to "the hunter", his other self which he developed in order to survive the dangers of the Underdark.
Feuding Families: Played completely straight, and extreme since advancement via all means available is the norm in drow society; basically every family of repute is slugging it out with all the other ones for advancement. More specifically the Do'Urdens vs. the Hun'nets whose feud leads to the downfall of both families eventually.
Groin Attack: Zaknafein uses this against Drizzt in one of their sparring matches.
Honor Before Reason: Subverted. In his second grand melee, Drizzt marches out into the open and challenges his final opponent to an honorable fight. The opponent takes advantage of this to attack him from behind... and trips over the wire Drizzt set up for just that eventuality.
Infant Immortality: Averted. The third born male child is always sacrificed to Lloth on the day of his birth. Zaknafein also witnesses the children of House DeVir being slaughtered without mercy.
A male child of a lesser house is killed by a hook horror during a training session, which serves as something of a Berserk Button for Drizzt.
In the Blood: Though in this case Drizzt is acutely aware of his origins. Sub-trope might feasibly be named 'Putting on the Drizzt'.
Intrinsic Vow: Useless fighter or fighter who can fight your control enough to kill himself? To clarify, Zaknafein under the control of Matron Malice, breaks free just long enough to throw himself into a pool of acid to prevent himself from killing Drizzt.
It Makes Sense in Context: At the end of the second book, we see two drow men locked in a deadly swordfight over an acid pit. Finally, one of them yells "You are not my father!" to which the other replies with an evil sneer: "No ... I am your mother!" If anyone who didn't know the story were to somehow stumble over this passage, they'd surely be confused to no end.
I Surrender, Suckers: The gnomes in the novel Exile thought that Drizzt was trying to pull one of these when he was truly surrendering.
Luke, I Am Your Father: Zak is Drizzt's father, although it's pretty clear to everyone but Drizzt throughout the first novel.
Meaningful Name: Don't expect a lady named "Malice" to be winning any Mother of the Year awards any time soon. Or for the family that has "bane" in their name (House Baenre) to be warm and caring.
More than Mind Control: The process of Zin-carla involves taking control and reanimating a lifeless corpse while making sure that the owner's memories and emotions don't interfere during the time the body is resurrected; this is how Malice brings Zaknafein back to life.
My God, What Have I Done?: Drizzt asks himself this multiple times throughout the trilogy, after maliciously cutting off several of Briza's fingers and making an attempt on Dinin's life, whenever he goes into 'hunter mode', and once again when he indirectly - and inadvertantly - causes the death of a farming family.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If Dinin hadn't killed his brother, Drizzt would have been sacrificed the day he was born, and never lived to perform any of his heroic deeds. And House Do'Urden would still stand. In an attempt to get to a slightly higher rank, Dinin started a chain reaction that lead to his complete downfall.
Only Sane Man: Even though he was born and raised in Menzoberranzan, Zaknafein knows something is deeply, nightmarishly wrong with drow society, and he tries to simultaneously get Drizzt to understand this and to protect him from it. Matron Malice and Drizzt's sisters have other plans.
Prophetic Name: "Drizzt" can mean both "Dawnfinder" and "Unyielding Hunter" in drow language.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Alton, after the death of his family due to House Do'Urden, should be the Trope Codifier, especially since he nearly ruins House Hun'ett's plan of destroying House Do'Urden by attacking Drizzt for no explained reason. Masoj tries to pull a Hand Wave explanation, but to little avail.
Rebellious Prince: Drizzt. Since the drow are matriarchal, Drizzt even shares the "no say in his own life" role that many princesses run from.
Unfriendly Fire: In the beginning of Homeland, Dinin kills his older brother during the battle with another house. Mind you, no one is fooled. Later, it is mentioned that wizards cannot participate in surface raids - because some guy killed a few drow with a fireball in a raid and claimed it was a malfunction of his magic due to the conditions (the investigators were in no hurry).
Unknown Rival: For most of the novel Homeland, House Do'Urden is completely unaware that House Hun'nett is plotting against them.
Villain Corner: Vierna is supposedly the nicest of Drizzt's sisters, and it is implied that absent the corrupting influences of Drow she might have turned good. However, a few Kick the Dog moments and the fact that her occasional kindness towards Drizzt does not come from pure intentions make it clear that she is, at best, only slightly less Chaotic Evil then the rest of her family.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: Drizzt at the beginning of the first novel; then he gets a nasty taste of reality ...
Wham Line: Dinin's news about the attack at the end of Exile is one hell of a wallop.
Dinin: "We are under attack."
The new Matron Mother: "House Fey'Branche?"
To put that in context, the heads of Menzoberranzan have come to kill them. Even if anyone survives, nobody will take up their claims for revenge. House Do'Urden is screwed.
Even worse. The ones coming to kill them are already there. Early in the book, Matron Malice accepted help from House Baenre, augmenting Do'Urden's defenses with their guards. When Malice fails in her attempt to regain Lloth's favor, the enemy is already inside the walls.