‘The Reaver’ by Richard Lee Byers is book four in the multi-author event, ‘The Sundering’. Set during the Era of Upheaval, each novel tells a smaller story, which often include beloved characters and some of Faerûn’s iconic heroes. ‘The Reaver’ takes us to the Sea of Fallen Stars where a small boy is trying to be the voice of a god everyone believes has passed. It’s a good time for the return of Lathander, also known as the Morninglord, an aspect of Amaunator, god of dawn, renewal and spring. The Great Rain seems endless. The lack of sun has crops failing and, well, everything is wet, all the time. It’s a miserable existence.
Not everyone is averse to endless rain. The evil sea goddess Umberlee likes it just fine. As the sea rises, so does her influence or so the waveservants say. Small acts of evil endear ordinary folk to the Bitch Queen, pitting friends and families against one another as they struggle to survive misery and starvation. Understandably, Umberlee would like Stedd, the prophet of Lathander, dead. As Stedd is one of the Chosen, the preferred method of disposal is ritual sacrifice. With a hefty price on his head, Stedd quickly learns he can trust no one, not even the servants of more benevolent gods. Worshippers are jealously guarded, after all.
Enter Anton Marivaldi and Umara Ankhlab, the reaver and the red wizard. They are just two of the agents attempting to capture the boy in order to exchange him for the reward. Anton’s motivation is primarily pecuniary, Umara is driven more by duty. She identifies as an envoy of Szass Tam, who I understand is one of Byers’ regular cast of characters.
Thrown together by circumstance and individually beguiled by the boy, Stedd, Anton and Umara become unlikely allies. Together, they battle their way east. Separately, they each vow to take the boy to complete their own quest. But as Stedd’s power grows, the good within each is illuminated. They stick by him through the proverbial thick and thin, battling friend and foe, Chosen and their gods, and the remnants of the Spellplague, so that Stedd might realise his true potential and purpose.
Again, I slipped seamlessly into another world. The authors of the ‘Forgotten Realms’ write well, really well. ‘The Reaver’ is devilishly easy to read. The story takes off from the first page, quickly gaining momentum before settling into a easily deciphered adventure that combines elements of ‘The Sundering’, Byers own characters and the surrounding lore of Faerûn.
I like Anton. I get the feeling he would outwardly disdain such a comment, but be inwardly pleased. He’s the bastard with a heart of gold. Umara is more difficult to like, but I think she would appreciate that comment as well. With her shaved head and tattoos, she has spent some time perfecting her façade. The woman within is easy to connect with, however. Though Stedd inspires Anton and Umara to help him, they stay true to character throughout. Umara is a red wizard and Anton is a reaver and they use what they know to prevail: dark magic and piracy.
‘The Reaver’ is epic fantasy at its best. Swords and sorcery, swash-buckling action and illusion, twisting and turning politics of men and gods. Combat is fast-paced and some of the battles are truly grand in scale. Byers makes great use of all the tools available to a ‘Forgotten Realms’ author, peppering his pages with fantastic creatures and stunning magic. He definitely makes each his own, however. His characters felt truly unique in a world governed by archetypes.
The plot of ‘The Reaver’ was fairly simple, which is refreshing. The shifting alliances and motivations of the characters and the twists in the purpose of certain situations provided all the complication necessary to give the story a weighty feel. It also adds a great chapter to the Era of Upheaval, and advances the general plot of ‘The Sundering’.
Richard Lee Byers is the author seventeen or so novels for ‘The Forgotten Realms’. From what I can tell, Anton is a new character. I found mention of his name in ‘Queen Of The Depths’, which is from another multi-author series from ‘The Forgotten Realms’. Anton is written so confidently, I was sure I’d find a series about him. I’d like one now, please. The further adventures of Anton and Umara would do nicely.
Written for SFCrowsnest.
The Companions by R. A. Salvatore (August 6, 2013)
The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp (October 1, 2013)
The Adversary by Erin Evans (December 3, 2013)
The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers (February 4, 2014)
The Sentinel by Troy Denning (April 1, 2014)
The Herald by Ed Greenwood (2014)