Another enjoyable novel in The Sundering series from Forgotten Realms, The Reaver is a novel of antiheroes and the influence of hope. Like the rest of the series, this novel has a large cast with those working for the side of good and those working against it, but more so than any of the others, in this the heroes are more than reluctant. They’re downright opposed to the idea.
It’s an odd wander at the side of Anton, Umara, and others who are out to claim the reward offered for a Chosen boy by various interested parties. The greed and maneuvering within and between the various groups is a wonder to behold. Battles of arms and magic, both from mere mortals and those imbued with powers from gods or their natures (vampires for example) make everything more complicated. No one seems to hold onto the boy for long, or if they do, it’s a loose grasp without a clear way of profiting.
The boy, Stedd, is chosen by Lathander, the Morninglord, who everyone has thought long dead. Stedd doesn’t know what his purpose is exactly. Lathander offers glimpses and hints, along with power when requested, and Stedd tries to figure out what he’s supposed to do, aided…or hindered…by those around him.
The way Lathander, through Stedd and circumstances, manages to turn the least promising event to his own purpose is wild. The novel is based on acts of gods, plural, and they’re working against each other. It’s a crazy series of coincidences but because you know a god is behind everything, it’s fun to guess how the next twist will come about rather than feeling like the story is a series of puppeteer moves. Even more, the nature of the people involved and their choices are a critical part of the events rather than having things occur despite them, though I’m sure Anton would protest the truth of that statement.
Stedd’s dedication and simple faith is a factor the other gods and interested mortals hadn’t really considered when they set forth on their plans. He has a way of reminding those around him of better days and times when they felt like they were better people. This is the real strength of the story. It’s watching a peasant boy’s influence on pirates, mages, common, and uncommon folk alike who had given up. He helps them learn to hope again and to think better of themselves and better themselves. Even the good folks are made stronger, happier, and healthier by meeting Stedd, but to do so sometimes requires force, other times persuasion, and still other times happens so quietly that a person thinks they’re pursuing selfish aims only to make a hundred tiny choices they can explain away but which add up to a complete change in how they see themselves and the world.
I enjoyed both the positive message and the way redemption was made possible but required active participation. Not all who interact with the boy improve, but those who do feel the benefits wholeheartedly.
P.S. I got this book from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.