Dissolution (Forgotten Realms novel)

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Cover of Dissolution by Brom
First edition cover art by "Brom"
Author Richard Lee Byers
Cover artist Brom
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Publication date
July 2002
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 344 pp (first edition, hardback) &
384 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN 0-7869-2714-3 (first edition, hardback) &
ISBN 0-7869-2944-8 (paperback edition)
OCLC 50103476
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3552.Y428 D57 2002
Followed by Insurrection

Dissolution is a fantasy novel by Richard Lee Byers. It is the first book of the War of the Spider Queen hexad, based on the Forgotten Realms setting of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.

Plot summary

Pharaun and Ryld journey to a tavern, where Ryld plays sava (a chess-like game) while Pharaun goes to the basement, where various female drow captives are available for males to do with as they see fit with. Pharaun talks with one of them who reveals the name of several elopers. While he is there, Ryld is attacked by other males whom he has taught. Afterwards, the two companions talk about the quest and decide the males are eloping because of the unusually harsh rule of the females in the last few weeks. Pharaun reveals that he has reason to believe that Lolth is gone and as such the females cannot use divine spells anymore, and are limited to scrolls and magic items. Ryld, though skeptical at first, eventually believes him.

They learn of an uprising among the lower class creatures led by a mysterious prophet, and decide to pretend that they support the elopers. They kill a group of Drow to prove their "dedication" to the cause and are reluctantly taken in. They learn that the mastermind behind the rebellion is an evil illithid lich (called an "alhoon" or an "illithilich"), and that when he sends a mental signal, all the lower creatures will attack.

While this is all happening, Gromph Baenre is sending various demons to attack Quenthel Baenre, all taking the guise of various aspects of Lloth, e.g. a demon spider, a demon of chaos, a darkness demon, and others. While this happens, a group of students at Arach-Tinilith decide that Lloth is disfavouring Quenthel, and resolve to kill her. She learns of this plan and has the offending students killed.

Another subplot involves an ambassador from the neighbouring city of Ched Nasad being refused the right to leave by Triel Baenre. She eventually attempts to leave and is stopped by a traitor in her household. She then escapes the city, but is caught and taken to Triel. She realizes someone has turned Triel against her and is tortured by Jeggred Baenre, Triel's draegloth son.

Eventually the lower races get the signal to rebel. Pharaun escapes from the Illithid and gathers the forces of Menzoberranzan to fight. A battle ensues, where much of Menzoberranzan is marred. At the end, the general populace realizes the weakness of the priestesses, and Pharaun, Ryld, Quenthel, Jeggred, and the ambassador, Faeryl Zauvirr, are sent to Ched Nasad to see if they are also afflicted.

Characters in Dissolution

  • 'Pharaun Mizzrym' – is a mage from House Mizzrym. He is charismatic and is a fine example of a drow mage - well dressed, eloquent, and never left standing on one foot. He employs a variety of tools to get the job done − magic and subterfuge are the two most often seen, but he will not hesitate to make a deal with a whore or murder seven apprentices to gain power. He is often contrasted with Ryld Argith, but the two share a steadfast friendship that is somewhat shaken at the end of the book.
  • 'Ryld Argith' – is a master warrior at Melee-Magthere, the warrior school of the Drow. He is often blunt and appears slightly uncultured compared to his companion Pharaun. This is largely attributed to the fact that, unlike Pharaun, he was born a commoner and not an aristocrat. However he has managed to rise up and maintain a respectable position. He enjoys a good friendship with Pharaun Mizzrym that is built upon their differences. He joins Pharaun to look for missing males in the beginning of Dissolution.
  • Gromph Baenre – is the Archmage of the Drow city, and is thought to be one of the most powerful wizards alive. He is the first character we are introduced to in the book, and he is one of the last we leave. He has a deep feud with his sister Quenthel, and sends many demons to attack her throughout the course of the book.
  • Quenthel Baenre – is the High Priestess of Arach-Tinilith. She is vicious and is left highly strung by the disturbance among the females of the Drow. She disagrees with Gromph on most subjects, and when they advise their mother, or more recently, their sister, they disagree on all topics they are asked for their opinions on.
  • Triel Baenre – is the newly instated head of House Baenre. She didn't ask for the seat of her mother, but she got it anyway. She is relatively short for a Drow and is highly sensitive to this. When she is stuck for advice she asks her siblings, Gromph and Quenthel. Because they always offer different arguments, this allows her to see two perspectives of each scenario, giving her significant insight. Recently, however, she has been a bit out of contact with them.
  • Faeryl Zauvirr – is the ambassador of Ched Nasad from the House Zauvirr.

Major themes

One of the major themes of the book is the constant struggle between the houses of the Drow, and their inherent chaos and evil that is such a powerful contrast to our society today. The quote from the very first page sums it up: Evil, like chaos, is one of the fundamental forces of Creation, manifest in both the macrocosm of the wide world and the microcosm of the individual soul. As chaos gives rise to possibility and imagination, so evil engenders strength and will. It makes sentient beings aspire to wealth and power. It enables them to subjugate, kill, rob and deceive. It allows them to do whatever is required to better themselves with never a crippling flicker of remorse.

The book contrasts the Drow society with ours today. A running theme is the way the Drow treat the lesser races − one Drow is seen as ripping pieces of flesh from the ribcage of a still-living goblin to feed his pet. But it is the uncaring, almost casual way that the Dark Elves do this that contrasts so harshly with our world.

Another contrast is the matriarchal Drow society. The book's main plotline of the eloping males is caused by the vicousness of the stronger, higher ranking females. This is similar to hyena society.

Release details

  • 2002, US, Wizards of the Coast ISBN 0-7869-2714-3, Pub date 31 July 2002, hardback (First edition)
  • 2003, US, Wizards of the Coast ISBN 0-7869-2944-8, Pub date 1 August 2003, paperback


James T. Voelpel commented about this book: "A serviceable first novel in the War of the Spiderqueen series Dissolution does not enjoy the higher level of writing from its patron R.A. Salvatore (the best and best known Forgotten Realms writer). Byers does an admirable job trying to flesh a bunch of characters with no real redeeming qualities or like ability. That itself is the inherent problem with the novel since all the main characters are by definition evil and corrupt you have trouble rooting for anybody. Probably the two best characters are the mage Pharaun and his friend Ryld, as a real bond can be seen between them, their less savory qualities not withstanding."[1]