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The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers

The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers
Book Name: The Reaver
Author: Richard Lee Byers
Publisher(s): Wizards of the Coast
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Forgotten Realms
Release Date: February 4, 2014 (US) February 11, 2014 (UK)

If you have d20’s on the brain then you’ll love The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers. This swords-and-sorcery adventure crosses through the Forgotten Realms, the destination of choice D&D campaigns. Aficionados of character sheets will have much to recognize and relish, especially the spells.

The magic is the most dazzling element of the novel. A sea priest throws a pinch of salt, summoning man-shark minions. His next spell drowns someone in the air. A halfling sears an unsurprised foe with acidic pipe smoke. A sea goddess’s chosen teleports through the briny depths, entering the heart of the oceans, a plane of toothy leviathans and bone-crushing currents. Crackling words leave an aftertaste of lilies, and a druid waves a “rustwood wand,” while treants sing like pipe organs, and pixies buzz. The forest creatures gather in a circle of magic to fight a storm of doom.

The Great Rain has flooded fields and rotted crops for over a year. Rising tides poison orchards with salt. Famine threatens the Sword Coast. The world still reels from a cataclysm known as the Sundering, when the elves tried to recreate the promised land. They wished for a safe haven, and they evoked it with ritual. The elves excluded their dark kin, the drow, and those castoffs retreated deeper into the Underdark and started making sacrifices to the spider goddess, Lloth.

Not all that is detailed in The Reaver. This is the fourth book in The Sundering series, which R.A. Salvatore began with The Companions. Fans of R.A. Salvatore will find the same romping fun in Richard Lee Byers’ writing. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Forgotten Realms will likely wish to begin with an earlier book. I dove head-first into The Reaver because the cover featured a person of color and the premise tickled me. You see, I have a weakness for sea monsters.

The oceans have grown restless. A drowned pirate has risen from his salty grave, a bloated zombie and champion of Umberlee, Queen of the Depths. This shipwrecking goddess wears a cloak of jellyfish. She holds court with saw-sharks and sea dragons. Her human devotees wield tridents as they dispense her will: The strong shall devour the meek.

To oppose the zombie prophet, the Morninglord has instilled his divinity in a boy named Stedd. He’s an Oliver Twist with healing magic, and this angelic child is abducted by the two antihero protagonists. The first of the nefarious pair is the pirate Anton, a reaver in D&D terminology. His ruthlessness grinds against the impervious goodness of Stedd. The pirate disrupts Stedd’s morning prayers, only to regret it later when the lad lacks his curing energies. Despite Anton’s worst intentions, he grows fond of the boy.

Stedd finds another unlikely friend in Umara, a red wizard from the realm of Thay, a land ruled by the undead. She chafes under her overlord, a vampire whose magic worms into her mind. Vampires aren’t portrayed with sparkles and overwrought sighs. When the vampire bites her, she feels “the sting of his needle teeth and the suck of his cold lips.”

Exploited by the undead though she may be, Umara flaunts some serious style. Her clean-shaven head is bright with tattoos. She summons black tentacles and casts mirror images of herself. Having protected my character with those same spells in D&D, I could not help but cheer her on.

The novels set in the Forgotten Realms provide gamers with additional mental imagery for their campaigns. The books enrich the playing experience, and the opposite is also true. For that reason I recommend these books to role-players. If you haven’t yet tried Dungeons and Dragons, well, there’s your first mistake.

Some of the earliest books I ever read took place in the Forgotten Realms. In fourth grade I had my eyes opened to an underworld glowing with fairy fire. I had discovered the novel Homeland by R.A. Salvatore. The Sundering series could likewise be enjoyed by younger readers.

Readers of all ages will not have long to wait for the conclusion of the series. Through magical coordination, Wizards of the Coast has commissioned a battalion of authors to join forces. The sequel to The Reaver will launch in but a couple months. There’s no reason to delay your voyage across the Sea of Fallen Stars.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be swimming with my new sea-dragon friend to meet a certain goddess robed in jellyfish. Who knows? Maybe the Queen of the Depths will need a new champion soon enough.


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