"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett...
The Forgotten Realms continues its epic The Sundering event with the fourth book in the series, The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers. The Reaver is a crazy mash-up of characters that shouldn’t all work in a cohesive way in single novel. How do you mix gods, pirates, the undead, wizards, vampires, elves, a little boy and more into a story? It is almost as if some decided to combine The Golden Child, Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings into a single tale. Moreover what author would have the gumption to try?
Richard Lee Byers delivers a story that weaves these imagination capturing archetypes into a story that feels like a natural extension of the world of The Sundering that we have been introduced to so far.
In the 4th book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, Richard Lee Byers introduces Anton Marivaldi—a renowned reaver with an insatiable thirst for bounty and a moral compass that always leads him toward the evil he’s never tried.
Endless, pounding rain afflict the Sea of Fallen Stars and the coastal regions surrounding it. Harvests are failing, travel and trade are disrupted, and civilized forces are giving way to the deluges caused by the storms. In panic and despair, many have turned to the goddess Umberlee, Queen of the Deeps, offering her sacrifices with hope that they will be spared the inevitable reckoning of her perpetual tempest.
Evendur Highcastle, undead pirate captain, risen from the depths to assume the mantle of Umberlee’s Chosen, takes advantage of the people’s desperation to strike for both spiritual and temporal power in her name.
Vying with Highcastle for the hearts and minds of the people is Stedd Whitehorn, a little boy and the chosen of a god thought lost to time: Lathander, the Morninglord. In a time of such upheaval, Stedd’s message of renewal and hope runs in stark contrast to the savage ethos of Highcastle and his waveservants.
When Anton captures the boy in order to collect Highcastle’s considerable bounty, the reaver is quickly caught in the riptide caused by the sundering of worlds.
One of my favorite stories growing up was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It was one of the first stories that really captured my imagination as a child and as a result pirate stories will always hold a special place in my literary heart. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the protagonist of Byer’s novel was Turmish pirate Anton Marivaldi.
Through a series of events Anton is thrown together with the Red Witch Umara and the chosen of the Morning Lord Lathander, a young boy named Stedd Whitehorn. Stedd is driven by visions and intuition from the Morning Lord to travel east to Anton’s homeland. As a Reaver, Anton begins the book as being one of many attempting to capture Stedd and sell him to the highest bidder, the undead pirate captain Evendur Highcastle who is the chosen of the goddess Umberlee, Queen of the Deeps.
In the novel Anton and Umara begin the story very much in the darkness, but through the course of the story and their continued interaction with the genuinely and purely good Stedd, they are drawn inexorably out of the shadows and into the light. The beauty of the stories that I have read is the combination of these heroic bands of characters that come from diverse races and backgrounds. I really loved the interplay between the three main characters, while the story focuses on Anton, Umara also receives well developed characterization, particularly early in the novel with her distaste for her superior.
Byers balances the character growth in the novel with multiple action scenes both on the high seas and on land in a way that captures the imagination with their colorfulness and scope. There are so many wild things happening in The Reaver that it could collapse from all the dispirate elements that Byers throws together but the pacing is crisp and the action scenes are well spaced out.
The Reaver delivers a satisfying conclusion to incredibly fun tale, it is easy to see a scenario where these characters could come together again, but the story feels so complete and self contained that I was completely satisfied with the experience and while this book is part of The Sundering series it is the perfect stand-alone book that does not require any previous knowledge by the reader. If you haven’t explored the Forgotten Realms yet and are ready for some fun, The Reaver is a great place to jump in.
Interview with Richard Lee Byers:
The Reaver is available in hardcover, trade paperback, eBook and audio-book editions and is on sale now.
Editor’s Note: An electronic review copy of the book was provided for this review.