by Jerry Wright
Author: R.A. Salvatore
Publisher: CDS Books
Hardcover: 432 pages
I picked up this book because one of our authors is an R.A. Salvatore fan. And there is no question that he is a prolific author. He has written over 20 books in the "Forgotten Realms" universe, originally from game company TSR, but now from game company "Wizards of the Coast". He has also written a number of Star Wars books, a trilogy for Ace, and several other series books.
People seem to either love his writing or disdain him as a Fantasy Hack. He is a pretty good writer, but certainly churning out the 90th "Drizzt the Dark Elf" book (I'm serious about the name...) can't be good for the soul. He is, however, a full-time writer.
Unfortunately, most of the stuff from TSR (and now WOTC) is not all that great (I was going to say "drivel", but one man's drivel is another man's "meat and potatoes"). It is cookie-cutter fantasy for people who know what they want, and what they want is not particularly well-written or challenging. It is Harlequin Romance style formula. When you pick up one of these books, you know what you're going to get. And that is fine, there is room for everyone.
Salvatore, though writing a ton of "formulaic" books for WOTC (Wizards Of The Coast), has broken out and is a best selling author. So... What about THIS book The Highwayman? Very curious...
What some people love, drives other people crazy! "The Best Thing since sliced bread!" "A deep disappointment!" "I loved the backstory, but hated the main part!" "The backstory was boring, but the action scenes were wonderful!" "The characters were three-dimensional." "The characters were cardboard."
Are we talking about the same story here, folks?
Basically, The Highwayman is a superhero comicbook. The main character, Bransen (nicknamed the "Stork" for his crippled walk), discovers that the use of a forbidden magic stone, and the "hidden knowledge" of his long dead father and mother, allows him to not only walk straight and tall, and stop drooling, but allows him to defy gravity and become a swordsman "par excellence" with his mother's special sword.
The milieu is your typical feudal quasi-medieval universe, with Kings and knights and castles, and a growing religion less than a century old that has already forgotten its prime tenets. The story (after "an exciting prologue") starts with journey of a young monk, Bran, (who will later become Bransen's father) sent off to convert the "beasts of Besh" who turn out to be Oriental style mystics and martial artists. The story of Bran, his journey to knowledge, his acquistion of a wife, and reception back at the home church makes a very interesting story.
The story of Bransen, who becomes The Highwayman is unadulterated Marvel Comic. Excuse me. Adulterated Marvel Comic. Salvatore tries to get deep and philosophical in this novel, and I guess, is a good example of "...that a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
This is "the Origin of The Highwayman", and as such, if it is successful enough, Salvatore can write a bunch more, it can be optioned for a movie, and he can move to the Bahamas. More power to him.
At that, it is a far better story than the included short about Drizzt, the Dark Elf. I read it. If the rest of the Drizzt saga is similar, well, I'll save my pennies.