|The Barnes & Noble Review|
R. A. Salvatore, renowned for his classic Forgotten Realms novels as well as his bestselling DemonWars saga, returns to his signature world of Corona with a brilliant new fantasy series that incorporates a hero to rival Drizzt Do'Urden, the scimitar-wielding dark elf featured in dozens of Salvatore's Forgotten Realms tales.
The Highwayman takes place centuries before the Demon Wars ravaged the realm. The land of Corona is still wild frontier: roaming bands of bloodthirsty red cap dwarves plague the roadways, egotistical princes fight amongst each other for political supremacy, and two very different religions -- the brutal polytheistic Samhaism and the magical, gem-empowered Church of the Blessed Abelle -- struggle for dominance amongst the masses.
When Bran Dynard, a brother of the Blessed Abelle, returns home after ten years discipleship in a faraway desert realm, he is a changed man. Not only has he married a beautiful, dark-skinned native of Behr, he has been enlightened by Behr's faith, the Jhesta Tu -- a Taoist-like religion of introspection that involves centering one's life energy. But when Bran and his pregnant wife reach the Chapel of Pryd and meet with its leaders, he isn't seen as an enlightened champion returning home but as a heretic. His dark-skinned wife is considered a beast and their marriage an abomination.
Bran and his wife are demonized, and both eventually lose their lives; but their child -- a fragile, handicapped boy named Bransen -- is somehow saved. When Bransen matures, he is uncoordinated, stutters, and is unmercifully mocked by the townspeople. But when he gets his hands on the magical gems of the Abelle church, something amazing happens.
The Highwayman is archetypal Salvatore: crackling with masterful characterization, action-packed plotlines, riveting battle sequences, and surprises around every turn. Look out, Drizzt, here comes the Highwayman!
Paul Goat Allen