Monday, April 16, 2018

A Fantasy Adventure Begins

The Sword of Bedwyr (Crimson Shadow, #1)The Sword of Bedwyr by R.A. Salvatore
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time I met R.A. Salvatore. He came to my high school and talked to a small group of us 9th graders. He had just signed his first book contract and was about to embark upon a very successful career as a fantasy writer. This impressed me a great deal, because Salvatore is from Leominster, Massachusetts....I know, that's incredible, right?!....Okay, so the reason that impressed me was because Leominster is right next to Townsend, and Townsend was where I was born and raised. So, the thought of a local boy making good as a writer thrilled me! I wanted to be a writer and here was living proof that a kid from the sticks could live that life!

Salvatore's achievement was a far greater influence upon me than his actual writing, only because it took me 30 frickin' years to read one of his books. I find that amazing. I don't know how it happened. Ever since the day I meant him I've meant to read his stuff, but somehow I never got around to it until this past week. It's one of the great reading snafus of my life.

However, all that is being rectified beginning with the Crimson Shadow series. Book one, The Sword of Bedwyr kicks off the trilogy in a way that promises the kind of fun and adventure I was hoping for! There's battles and monsters and treasure and more!

The book plays out sort of how a game of D&D runs. First you get the party together. In this instance it's just a warrior and thief. A wizard happens along later on, but he's not quite a full member of the band. In this case, we're not starting with first level characters. We've got a skilled swordsman and a practiced thief. They're jumping right into the tough stuff, slaying a bit of sword fodder before diving into some truly tough monster encounters.

The actual characters are at least interesting, if not absolutely enthralling. The thief, a charming and funny halfling, is straight out of a Monty Python sketch. Actually, I mean that literally. He speaks with the heavy accent and delivers the same lines as the castle guard with outraaageous French accent, played by John Cleese, in The Holy Grail. That's borrowing perhaps too heavily from a preexisting source, but I enjoyed it so I let it slide. However, when you have a halfling thief enter a dragon's lair and proceed to flatter the dragon in hopes of escaping the encounter alive, well then you've gone too far with the borrowing. That scene from The Hobbit is just too famous to tread upon. Of course, dragon encounters are nothing new to literature. They go as far back as the Old Testament and Greek epics of the 5th century BCE. It's just, well, that particular scene combination is very Tolkien-specific.

Irregardless, this is still great fun and I'll be moving on to book two soon! I plan to dive into Salvatore's other series, and one day I'll no doubt devour his Drizzt stories. I'm told those are the shit, so I'm saving them and working my way up to them. Hey, ya gotta have something to look forward to!

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