R.A. Salvatore created his famous dark elf character, Drizzt Do’Urden, in this first series, The Icewind Dale Trilogy. It’s in these three Icewind Dale books that a dark elf, trained in evil and dark mysticism, as well as a culture of brutal fighting and Spartan perspectives, learned how the rest of the world thinks and how different talents can overcome challenges working together.
The three books of The Icewind Dale Trilogy include The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and the Halfling Gem. However, the three together play out one of the strongest storylines R.A. Salvatore produced as a fantasy author, and it represents the reason he has so many fans with his Forgotten Realms books.
The following article may contain spoilers.
The setting for The Icewind Trilogy starts in the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale after Drizzt has already spent some time on the surface side of the world. This is quite a change culturally for the dark elf, especially since dark elves, or Drow, generally live their entire lives underground except when raiding above ground for resources and slaves. Drizzt Do’Urden was born a dark elf noble, but his household was part of a hierarchy that worshipped an evil hybrid of a dark elf and a spider, the Queen Lolth. This entire race of evil elves were very apathetic in their attitudes towards other life and each other, always looking for ways to find advantages as well as to kill or control via weakness, including other Drow. Drizzt household was to be destroyed at the beginning of the series, but he was saved by his father which causes the local elf authorities to then sacrifice Drizzt father instead.
While Drizzt escaped the dark elf lands, he spent many years surviving underground without any friends or family before first finding the surface. With the help of a human, he learned to become a ranger and living a solitary life except for his one friend, a magical panther. Drizzt also traveled and learned to fight until he settled around Icewind Dale, which enters the Icewind Trilogy storyline.
The Crystal Shard: Icewind Dale Trilogy, Book 1 by R. A. Salvatore
The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore (Unabridged) Audiobook Narrated by Victor Bevine
Running Time: 12 hrs and 2 mins
His life in Icewind Dale was not comforting; dark elves in general were seen as murderous and evil by most surface-side races, so even a reformed dark elf was still watched closely. Drizzt’s presence was accepted by the local dwarves but his time was mostly spent in the surrounding, cold region, hunting food and killing off threatening giants or snow yeti when they became a problem locally.
However, when a major challenge to the Ten Towns of Icewind was imminent in the form of barbarians ready to destroy the region, it was the dark elf who discovered the invasion plans and helped the Icewind leadership to fend off the threat with magic and arms. Humans and dwarves in the Ten Towns put aside their bickering and created a formidable force, eliminating the barbarian threat permanently. However, in battle as Drizzt mortally wounded the Barbarian King, Drizzt too was hurt badly, and the King escaped. It’s in this battle that Drizzt first learned to rely on others for help when needed as his own injuries made it hard to fight alone.
Additionally, one of the dwarves Drizzt had befriended, Bruenor, was attacked by a young barbarian named Wulfgar. Rather than let the barbarian be killed after battle by the other dwarves, Bruenor became Wulgar’s guardian. He already had a pattern of protecting orphans, having saved and raised a human girl, Catti-brie, after her parents were killed by an earlier goblin attack.
The dwarf also defended Drizzt when he was grounded with injuries, leveling Icewind opponents taking advantage of the elf’s weak moment. Via Breunor’s vouching at that moment, Drizzt was left alone and fully accepted by Icewind Dale, especially when everyone realized by Bruenor’s chastisement Drizzt saved their lives exposing the barbarian attack ahead of time.
The above set the stage for the characters to work together, Drizzt and Bruenor as fighting partners, and Wulfgar as Bruenor’s apprentice, learning the arts of dwarven warfare and smithing. In the meantime, a failed wizard finds the Crystal Shard, a sentient and magical gem. The Shard takes control of the wizard who then starts going around conquering nearby regions and lands with the help (actually mental control via the Shard) of orcs and goblins. His aim sets a target for Icewind Dale, which puts the heroes and the villain on a predictable collision course.
As the Shard-controlled wizard comes down on Icewind, Wulfgar destroys the barbarian King who escaped Drizzt, and the dark elf takes on and banishes the winged demon with the help of his panther. From there the heroes turn the tide of battle and go after the wizard himself through his orcs and goblin army. Traps occur but with the help of friends the dark elf stops the threat to Icewind and the Shard becomes buried in an avalanche.
From here, the story segues into the second novel, Streams of Silver, with Bruenor convincing Drizzt to help find the lost dwarven home, Mithril Hall.
Streams of Silver: Icewind Dale Trilogy, Book 2 by R. A. Salvatore
Mithril Hall represents a past ancient fortress of dwarves, including Bruenor. However, the city was lost in the past due to an invasion of Duerger, or ugly dwarves, and a larger threat. Bruenor believes with the help of the dark elf, Wulfgar and Regis, the team can finally figure out where the Hall is located so the dwarves can reclaim it again.
That said, the team is already being chased by a very dangerous assassin, Entreri, due to the Halfling having stolen a ruby embued with magical properties. As soon as the trip is about to begin, Entreri arrives in Icewind Dale, just missing the group. However, he does find Catti-brie, and gains travel information under threat of death. He lets Catti-brie live, but now the group is under threat. Catti-brie tries to follow to warn her friends. Entreri figures out he’s being followed and decides to capture Catti-brie to use as bait later on.
Drizzt’s reputation, unfortunately causes complications, and local wizard threats along the way who think the elf has the Crystal Shard on his person. Trying to get the magical gem, these threats then create problems for the team enroute. The assassin catches up with the team as well, making the challenge worse.
The combined team wins the challenge and then continues traveling, fending off barbarians, more wizards, armies, monsters, and hostile elves and humans due to the dark elf. Along the way they find valuable clues for Mithril Hall’s location. Catti-brie, in the meantime, takes advantage of the assassin’s tension with his allies and escapes. She catches up with her friends as they finally discover Mithril Hall, with a major battle between Drizzt and Entreri taking place. This is a key point as it sets the stage for the dark elf and the assassin for novels to come, paralleling Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Dr. Moriarty. It’s also a key mirror image where a human who should have been born a dark evil elf finds his challenge in a Drow who wants to be good. Again, mortal threat forces the two in mid-battle to stop fighting and work together to survive.
The rest of the team scout and work to find their way out of Mithril Hall which Bruenor deems unreturnable thanks to the Duerger. In their escape, they are threatened by a shadow dragon and only escape with great sacrifice from Bruenor. Drizzt reconnects eventually, but Entreri finally grabs his target, Regis, and runs for it. The story closes with the Bruenor’s dwarf clan and allies under Catti-brie’s leadership returning to take Mithril Hall. In the meantime, the dark elf and Wulfgar go after their halfling friend and the assassin.
The Halfling’s Gem: Icewind Dale Trilogy, Book 3 by R. A. Salvatore
The assassin Entreri returns to his employer’s city in Calimport to deliver Regis as captive. Further, the assassin has Drizzt friend panther captive in his magical statue as well. The third book however, early on, surprises readers with an assumed conclusion that didn’t occur in the last book. After taking Mithril Hall, Cattie-brie and a friend go after Drizzt and Wulfgar to help. Everyone is reunited at a critical battle moment.
Arriving in Calimport with Drizzt in disguise, the team then faces wererats and another battle between Drizzt and the assassin. However, wounded, the assassin cheats and identifies Drizzt as a disguised dark elf, which turns the whole city against Drizzt in a moment. The team rescues the dark elf who won’t kill innocent crowds to escape himself.
All seems lost when Entreri’s employer enters the picture and uses a magical trap to send the dark elf and his team to a demon-infested hell named Tarterus. However, Regis manages to escape long enough to provide a portal of escape and the team gets back to normal plane of existence. However, Drizzt has to go through a major battle with demons to save one of his team.
Entreri, in the meantime, licks his wounds and plans how to eventually defeat the dark elf by death once and for all. His employers don’t matter anymore; the assassin is addicted to the idea of beating and killing Drizzt in battle.
The Icewind Dale Trilogy set the standard for fast-paced, elaborate story-telling for R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realm’s stories, especially any that included the dark elf and his friends as heroes. It also establishes a theme for a number of books following, as events in these three books provide the foundation for stories later as well, especially the repeat matchup between Drizzt and Entreri, the human assassin.
Victor Bevine narrates all three audiobooks of the Icewind Dale Trilogy, perfectly capturing the excitement of the series and delivering a thoroughly engaging listening experience. Victor Bevine went on to narrate further Salvatore adventures and became the voice of the Forgotten Realms, at least in audiobook format.
The Icewind Dale Trilogy set a high benchmark for all the Salvatore novels that followed. It’s a tribute to how powerful this trilogy has been received in the fantasy genre, as everything Salvatore would go on to write, would always be measured against it. These are a great set of audiobooks that you’ll want to revisit again and again. If you have yet try a Drizzt adventure, do yourself a favour and check them out.