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Literature / The Icewind Dale Trilogy

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At center is Wulfgar, son of Beornegar, the guy who was supposed to be the protagonist. Below him is Drizzt Do'Urden, the guy who turned out to be.
"I would gladly teach him. I would revel in his successes as much as my own, but I would demand, I would always demand, a sense of humility, dedication, and an understanding of this power I was teaching, an appreciation of the potential for destruction. I would teach no one who did not continue to display an appropriate level of compassion and community. To learn how to use a sword, one must first master when to use a sword."
Drizzt Do'Urden, Streams of Silver

The Icewind Dale Trilogy is the first The Legend of Drizzt trilogy of books by R.A. Salvatore written in the Forgotten Realms setting. Although originally intended to focus primarily on the barbarian Wulfgar, by the end of the third book it has shifted to a character who was originally meant to be Wulfgar's mentor/sidekick: the Chaotic Good dark elf ranger Drizzt Do'Urden. Drizzt became so popular that he would get his own prequel series of books and would become the star of pretty much every novel in the series set afterwards. This trilogy also introduces Drizzt and Wulfgar's friends: the dwarf king Bruenor Battlehammer, his adopted human daughter Catti-Brie, and the halfling Regis.

The story begins in Icewind Dale, a frozen wasteland that's populated by settlers who have established fishing towns around the three lakes, barbarian tribes, monsters, and sometimes visiting wizards. Some of these wizards trick an inept apprentice into killing his master (and their rival) for them, and then they leave him behind to freeze to death, which is when he comes across an artifact that gives him the power and desire to conquer the whole place. After he gets defeated, Bruenor decides to go on a quest with the others to find the lost dwarven kingdom of Mithral Hall, which he is the heir to but was abandoned when he was still a child. On this adventure, they have to deal with all sorts of obstacles including, but not limited to: finding out where the hell the place is, orcs, barbarians, racist humans, trolls, bog blokes, evil wizards, dark dwarves, invincible golems, a dragon, and a certain master assassin by the name of Artemis Entreri. Entreri has been hired to hunt down Regis, who had stolen something from his employer years ago. Entreri is impressed with Drizzt's combat skill, which seems to equal his own. Thus, he becomes determined to fight Drizzt to the death in order to find out who is better. He doesn't just grab Regis, but another friend of Drizzt's, and tells Drizzt to come and get him if he cares about them. The chase is on until it ends in the desert city of Calimport, where the story concludes.

Books in the series:

  • The Crystal Shard (1988)
  • Streams of Silver (1989)
  • The Halfling's Gem (1990)

Chronologically preceded by The Dark Elf Trilogy and followed by the Legacy of the Drow Series. See also Icewind Dale, a series of Western RPGs set in the same region about eighty years earlier.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Action Girl: Cattie-Brie doesn't do very much fighting at the start of the trilogy, but has become this by the third book.
  • Artifact of Doom: Crenshinibon, the Crystal Shard. See The Corruption for what it does.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses : Drizzt and Entreri in the second book.
  • Batman Gambit: Drizzt and Entreri pile one or two of these on top of each other in the third book, as they try to guess each other's moves and fool each other.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Drizzt. Unfailingly courteous and polite and pretty used to the (generally deserved) racism surfacers show to the drow, but do not threaten his friends or attack the innocent if he can hear about it. Those scimitars aren't for show.
    • A notable example is in Streams of Silver after the Companions have come to the aid of riders from Nesmé (see Ungrateful Bastard below), one of the riders attempts to kill Drizzt. The rest of the riders later make several verbal jabs at Drizzt based on his race and threaten him. Drizzt takes this with his usual quiet stoicism. However, he spots one of the riders going for his bow and immediately whips out his own, taking out the guy's cap and tells the rest of them that if anyone of them make another move against him or his friends, they will die.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Drizzt bluffs his way past a Duergar guard by pulling his cloak over a hand and pretending he has a Drow Hand-Crossbow with its poisoned arrows.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: A citizen of Ten Towns decides to provide intelligence to the attacking barbarians in return for future considerations. Heafstaag doesn't trust him, and swings his axe as if to decapitate him. The guy's been told not to flinch or struggle, that this will be a test, and he doesn't. So he lives, but tries very hard to make sure nobody notices the puddle he's created...
  • Breakout Character: As mentioned in the main description, Drizzt. He's the reason chaotic good dark elf rangers were practically a character class of their own at one point.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity:
    • The dragon Icingdeath could have immediately killed Wulfgar with his ice breath, but he didn't want to freeze his meal solid, so he tried to kill him another way. He should've just settled for frozen food.note 
    • Drizzt ended up chewing Wulfgar out after they kill the dragon; Wulfgar, who woke it up to fight it rather than just killing it while it slept.
    • Or how about Drizzt's obsession with Entreri, which leads him to stop Catti-Brie from shooting the assassin.
  • Bungling Inventor: The Harpells, an extended family of wizards with their own town, experiment a lot with magic, sometimes with disastrous results. One of them has even turned himself into a dog by accident, and the others can't figure out how to reverse it, so they just keep him around as a pet. (He does eventually regain his humanity in a later book... to a degree - as a side effect of the transformation, he's now a werewolf!)
  • Chekhov's Scimitar:
    • When Drizzt is fighting Entrer in Mithral Hall, he falls down a pit trap and his friends assume he's dead. Bruenor finds one of Drizzt's scimitars, the one enchanted with ice magic, and takes it with him. This later comes in handy when Bruenor is prepared to make a Heroic Sacrifice to kill Shimmergloom, and ends up covered in flames.
    • It's later invoked again when Bruenor escapes Mithral Hall and tries to flee the evil gray dwarves by running through the red-hot furnaces of the dwarves' forges. He actually extinguishes the flames as he runs through them.
    • And then there's when the blade saved Drizzt himself from Errtu. Our hero had found the scimitar in the treasure hoard of a dead dragon, and the blade kept Drizzt from being incinerated by Errtu's fires, and eventually extinguished the demon himself.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Some of the Harpells exemplify this trope more than others. Harkle Harpell is the most cloudcuckoolanderish of them. Turns into a Chekhov's Skill in Siege of Darkness when they find a creative solution to a group of mind flayers that are helping the drow army: switching the locations of their brains and their backsides so they can No-Sell their attacks.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Everybody, really, but Entreri take the gold here when he fights Drizzt in a sewer and collects some of the water in his mouth to spit into Drizzt's eyes.
  • The Corruption: Akar Kessel isn't a monster to start out with; although he murders his master, he does that because the other wizards manipulated him and exploited his desperation and frustration, and later on he feels remorse for it. After first finding Crenshinibon, all he really wants is a nice, warm place to call home and maybe some female companionship. The shard corrupts him to the point that he wants to kill or enslave everybody in the whole world.
  • Death Is Cheap
  • Distressed Damsel: Subverted with Catti-brie, who saves herself in the second book.
  • The Dragon: The demon Errtu in the first book.
  • Empathic Weapon: Icingdeath has a low-grade intelligence that has a particular hatred for fiends.
  • Enemy Mine: Drizzt and Entreri team temporarily in order to survive and find their way back to their respective parties. And it is glorious.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Beorg, one of the barbarian kings that plan to conquer and enslave the people of Ten-Towns, feels nothing but contempt for deBernezan, the Ten-Towns resident who betrays his own people in an attempt to line his own pockets.
    • Beorg's fellow king Heafstaag is a cruel, hateful bastard, but even he is disgusted at the way Akar Kessell makes several brainwashed women his playthings.
    • Drizzt notes that Entreri held Catti-brie captive but didn't rape her.
  • Fantastic Racism: Drizzt has to put up with a lot of this.
  • Fearful Symmetry: While not physically identical, Drizzt and Entreri have similar body types and seem to be mirror images of one another when they fight.
  • For the Evulz: In the third book, Artemis Entreri needs to get off a ship with his captive, and there's no reason why he couldn't just sneak away with a lifeboat in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, he decides to murder the whole crew in their sleep and then set the ship on fire so that the captain will burn to death. Even though he wants Drizzt to follow him, and more witnesses to their path would help...
  • Freudian Trio
    • The Superego= Drizzt: rational, coolheaded, lives his life with strong moral principles.
    • The Id= Wulfgar: Hot-blooded, proud, always ready for a fight.
    • The Ego= Bruenor: almost as proud and hot-headed as Wulfgar, but far more seasoned and experienced, keeps the balance.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: See The Corruption.
  • Gender-Blender Name: The most feared and skilled assassin in the world is named Artemis. Though the name would seem very appropriate if Artemis had been a girl.
  • General Failure: In "The Crystal Shard", Akar Kessel might have conquered Icewind Dale if he didn't shoot himself in the foot more than once. In the end, the titular artifact stops responding to his commands and lets itself get buried in an avalanche because it's tired of watching him screw things up and wants a more worthy wielder.
  • Groin Attack: Just before the bar fight, Wulfgar did a two-prong attack. One hand to the challenging fat man's face, and the other to the groin.
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the beginning of the story, Wulfgar and Bruenor face one another in battle when Wulfgar's tribe is trying to pillage Ten Towns. Wulfgar gets his ass kicked and is taken prisoner, finds himself in indentured servitude for a number of years, and during that time becomes friends—and in a couple of cases, family—with the people his tribe had been trying to kill.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bruenor jumps onto the back of a flying dragon and lights it on fire, killing it. The last anybody sees of him, he and the dragon are falling into a chasm, both in flames. Everybody is sure he is dead, and Bruenor probably expected to die, but he happened to be carrying something that made him immune to fire without him knowing it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The death of Dendybar the Mottled. At the end of Streams of Silver, his apprentice is dead and his Flesh Golem is destroyed and he doesn't even have a better idea of where Crenshinabon is, which was his whole goal in this endeavor. He teleports to the golem's location intending to retrieve and repair it, when the ghost of Morkai the Red, (Whom Dendybar engineered the death of at the beginning of the previous book and had been summoning as a spectre ever since) whom Dendybar hadn't realized he had not properly bound or dismissed this time, animates the golem and uses it to kill Dendybar.
  • Honor Before Reason: Wulfgar decides to wake up Icingdeath before battling it, feeling it would be unfair to slay Icingdeath while it slept. The narration is clear that forgoing honor and simply killing the dragon in its sleep would've been the smart thing to do. Fittingly, Wulfgar only survives due to intervention from Drizzt.
  • Hospital Surprise: In The Crystal Shard, Drizzt is called to Bruenor's bedside after the final battle. He assures his mortally wounded friend that he will look for Bruenor's homeland in the spring. Bruenor then reveals that he isn't that badly hurt, he was just trying to force Drizzt to set a starting date for their perpetually delayed quest to find Mithral Hall in the presence of witnesses.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Drizzt kills a monster his pursuers have sent after him, and then waits for them while pretending to have been incapacitated by it.
  • I Thought You Were Dead: Drizzt is seen by his friends falling victim to a trap that they're sure he didn't survive...except he does and rejoins them later. Also, Bruenor (see Heroic Sacrifice ).
  • Karma Houdini: Artemis Entreri, who beats Catti-Brie and threatens her with death in order to ensure her cooperation, cuts off two of Regis's fingers, and leaves them behind as "gifts" for Drizzt in order to further goad the drow into a fight to the death, murders a ship full of people and burns the captain alive For the Evulz...and by the end of the story, he's still alive, not seriously injured, and capable of causing more mayhem, death, and suffering later on. So Entreri escapes least in this trilogy...
  • Kick the Dog: Akar Kessell comes close to doing this literally, except it's a cat and he tries to kill it with a magic spell (for practice) instead of kicking it. Animal lovers have nothing to worry about, since at that time he's pretty hopeless when it comes to spellcasting.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire is the only thing that kills trolls for good.
  • Licking the Blade: Drizzt pulls a non-evil version of this in The Crystal Shard after spearing a piece of mutton with a dagger (and subsequently accidently dropping it) while he and Wulfgar are clearing out a den of giants.
  • Made of Iron: The companions take a ton of punishment in the final act of The Halfling's Gem, yet it barely slows them down.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Artemis Entreri does not react well when he finds out that Pasha Pook has tried to have Drizzt killed before he, Entreri, has had the chance to fight and kill Drizzt himself.
  • Pet the Dog: Pasha Pook telling his loyal wizard that since Entreri'll want his room back, the wizard can have his own room designed and to spare no expense and Pook'll pay for it completely.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Regis only pretends to be under Kessel's mental control until he can throw a monkey wrench into the villain's plans.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Wulfgar's warhammer.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Bruenor and Wulfgar.
  • Shout-Out: Where else have we seen a small group of heroes invade a long-forgotten dwarven kingdom where the previous occupants have Dug Too Deep, unleashing/awakening a demonic creature that massacred their entire civilization? With a character apparently performing a Heroic Sacrifice by falling down into a giant underground chasm with said creature while defeating it? Or for that matter, an exiled dwarven king leading his companions (including a reluctant sneaky halfling) to reclaim his kingdom from the clutches of a dragon?
  • Smug Snake: Rassiter.
  • Spoiler Opening: Or spoiler-book cover, to be precise. The third book, The Halfling's Gem, shows the heroes fighting demons in Tartarus, which only happens at the very end of the book. Also, it shows Bruenor, who is still thought dead at the beginning of the book, alive and well.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The trolls of the Evermoors; no matter how hard the Companions fight, no matter how many trolls they incapacitate or kill, there are always more ready to take their places, and the ones they cut apart grow back their missing body parts (including heads and vital organs; cutting the head off of a troll results in the head eventually growing a new body, the body growing a new head, and then you have TWO hungry trolls coming after you). As mentioned above, only fire can kill them, and even when they've got that it's still difficult for the good guys to hold off all of the trolls.
  • Suplex Finisher: A blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference. When the Companions are attacked by desert bandits soon before reaching Calimport, Wulfgar manages to suplex a horse.
  • Sweeping Laser Explosion: Akar Kessell gives a demonstration of his power in The Crystal Shard by sweeping a ray of Crenshinibon's energy through one of the towns. The description of both the direct devastation and resulting fires is thorough enough.
  • Ungrateful Bastards: The people of Ten-Towns whom Drizzt protects and saved the lives of more than once and has never once offered them harm. Despite all of the good he has done to save them, such as besting the Barbarian King to end the attack (Though this got him the gratitude of one of the towns), his wounded body was kicked and tormented by one of the major leaders. Plus he is the primary reason that Akar Kessell was even defeated at all, since he managed to destroy Crystal-Tirith and cause Akar Kessell to get himself killed.
    • The Companions come to the aid of a group of riders from Nesmé who are being attacked. The rider that Drizzt saves immediately tries to kill him (and would have, had Wulfgar not intervened) once he gets a good look at him. The riders then surround them, refuse them entry into their town, threaten them, and make several verbal jabs at Drizzt. The only reason things don't come to a head is because the riders decide they really don't want to fight them.
  • Virtual-Reality Interrogation: Bruenor is given a potion to drive him back into his childhood, and make him remember the location of his lost homeland. When he cannot tell it because it is secret, Drizzt enhances the illusion by pretending to be an ally coming with an army to help Bruenor. Unlike most examples, the whole thing was actually Bruenor's idea rather than an enemy's.
  • Weak-Willed: Akar Kessel.
  • Work Off the Debt: When Bruenor captures Wulfgar after the invasion of Ten-Towns, he puts the young man to work as a weaponsmith to repay the dwarf for sparing his life.
  • The Worf Effect: Happens to Drizzt, of all people, when he fights King Heafstaag, one of the leaders of the barbarians' invasion of Ten Towns. Drizzt seriously injures Heafstaag, but realizes that Heafstaag will recover. Heafstaag himself nearly kills Drizzt, and leaves the drow helpless on the field. The bigoted Ten Towns leader Kemp and one of his thugs find Drizzt and are about to finish the job when Bruenor luckily interferes.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Drizzt manages to defeat Errtu because the demon wanted to sadistically tear Drizzt apart in melee. Drizzt gets a lucky hit in with Icingdeath and manages to banish Errtu before he can use any of his magical powers. As Passage To Dawn shows, Drizzt wouldn't have stood a chance if Errtu had gone all out against him.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Being Entreri's prisoner is not a fun experience for Catti-Brie.
    • Cattie-Brie also provokes Jierdan into hitting her, but he regrets it immediately afterward.
    • In Streams of Silver, when Whisper tries to charge Bruenor ten times what they'd originally agreed upon for a map and has a dagger ready to stab him if he tries anything funny, Bruenor headbutts her, takes the map, and leaves her the amount he agreed to in the first place.
  • You Have Failed Me: Eventually the Crystal Shard becomes tired of Akar Kessell's screwups, and refuses to help him when he's about to be buried in an avalanche.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: How the plot of the Shard kicks off. Once Akar Kessell kills his teacher, he is abandoned in the snow.