R.A. Salvatore

CDS Books / 372 pages / 1st edition (March 2004)

ISBN: 1593150164

It may look easy, but creating a hero is no facile task. Creating a hero that has any sort of staying power to retain an audience’s attention is a complex process. Fortunately, it is a challenge R.A. Salvatore achieves admirably in The Highwayman. And, he thrusts his avenger into a story pleasingly plump with action, adventure, danger, and, most admirably, great tenderness. After all, a hero can only go as far as a writer can take them.

In this return to the world of Corona, Salvatore time-travels to God’s Year 54 to introduce Brother Bran Dynard, a devout follower of the Blessed Abelle and carrier of amazing discoveries and an incredible book to share with his beloved church. Earnest and naïve, Bran never thinks to take into account one of the dark truths of religion; those in power will do almost anything to prevent change. It’s a miscalculation that will cost the brother and his beautiful and amazing new bride dearly.

Time-travel to God’s Year 74 and life has only gotten more worse for the good people under the “protection” of Lord Pryd. Powries lurk everywhere to attack and consume the incautious; Lord Pryd’s demands kill the poor more slowly and painfully. The Church of the Blessed Abelle battle the brutal Samhaists for dominance. And war is never far from any contact with other rulers. As always, it is the peasants who pay the highest price for the discord. It appears there is no hope.

Enter the mysterious figure of the Highwayman. Seemingly invincible and capable of amazing feats that defy explanation. And, he has no love for church, lords, or the loathsome Powries — all of whom share in the desperate state that is grinding the common people away to nothing. Perhaps, there is cause for hope, after all.

But, Salvatore is not satisfied with just any hero. The Highwayman may be one of the most unusual crusaders in fantasy. His origins, his alter ego, his occasional bursts of smugness and ill-advised spite, and the source of his abilities distinguish him from the clichéd supermen of most fiction. The Highwayman is flawed, a person readers can empathise with, rather than gaze upon in awe. If some of his decisions are not the wisest, whose ever are? How would any of us react to finding ourselves in the same position of power?

The Highwayman holds up the best and the worst in humans, inviting us to think about the cause and effect of action and inaction. When is violence justified? What is the reality behind the mask we and our institutions wear every day? Is the worst character really so different from ourselves? Or is it all in the choices we make?

Don’t worry. I suspect the Highwayman will be back to puzzle through these thoughts along with us. It promises to be fascinating to watch a hero mature and learn before our eyes. What will he become? There is so much more to his story; let’s hope we are there to see it all.