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    Review of THE ANCIENT by R. A. Salvatore (see his website)


    Tor, March 2008

    With his soul-stone in place, Bransen Garibond is a perfect warrior and thief--the Highwayman. Without it, he becomes a cripple--the Crane. This disguise has helped him evade capture, but eventually the rulers have figured it out and sent a message to the Abellican monastary. The Highwayman is to be arrested and executed. With this threat over his shoulder, and a false promise for reward, Bransen is tricked into fighting a war against hordes of trolls, barbarians, and giants.

    The warm water lake in the midst of a glacier is the source of Samhaist power and when the Samhaist leader, The Ancient, discovers an Abellican fortress in the midst of the lake, he decides it must be destroyed--along with everyone who allowed it to exist. The Samhaist faith is the truth, after all--it promises death, which is the only certainty.

    Brother Cormack is proud to be one of the Abellicans who's settled in an island in the warm lake, even if none of the locals has adopted the faith he and his fellows teach. But when the monks rescue three injured barbarians and then refuse to let them leave the monastary until they accept the Abellican faith, his own faith is shaken. Could this really be the mercy and gentleness he believes in?

    Bransen, the unwilling hero, and Cormack, the monk stripped of his faith, together with a small band of redcapped dwarves, seem like little threat to The Ancient himself. Still, although Cormack might have been cast out of the Abellican brotherhood, he's got to do something to prevent their complete destruction--as well as the destruction of the people living in the lake--including the woman he's come to love.

    Author R. A. Salvatore (see more reviews of novels by Salvatore) creates a fascinating character in Cormack--a man of faith, rejected by those of his faith. Throw in some wonderful fight scenes and you've got a book worth reading. I found less to like about Bransen. Salvatore created him as the reluctant hero, but he seems more reluctant than hero. As he, himself, realizes, he is selfish even when doing good and it's, frankly, sometimes difficult to care whether he comes out of his many fights on the winning or losing side. The story is enhanced by wise-talking dwarves, bit characters like Dawson and Dame Gwydre, and a well-motivated villain in The Ancient.

    THE ANCIENT makes for enjoyable, if lightweight, reading.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/17/08

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