The Crimson Shadow collects R. A. Salvatoreâ€™s novels about Luthien Bedwyrâ€”The Sword of Bedwyr, Luthienâ€™s Gamble, and The Dragon Kingâ€”into one volume for the first time. Luthien begins the trilogy as an idle younger son who spends his days fishing and training with his fatherâ€™s gladiators. For his entire life, his homeland of Eriador has been occupied by neighboring Avon and its monstrous allies, vicious one-eyed beings called cyclopians, but Luthien is oblivious to it. Everything changes for him when a cyclopian kills Luthienâ€™s best friend in the arena at his fatherâ€™s order, and his older brother Ethan is banished for speaking out against the crime. Distraught and disillusioned, Luthien kills the cyclopian in revenge and flees. His fight against injustice eventually leads him to spearhead a rebellion against the evil wizard-king Greensparrow, and in the end, he becomes the famed Crimson Shadow, hero of Eriador. Along the way, thereâ€™s plenty of action, suspense, and humor to keep the reader involved.
The characters, if not profound, are vividly drawn. Luthien and his lover Katerin are honorable warriors, and Greensparrow is suitably wicked. The standout among the supporting characters is Oliver de Burrows, â€œhighwayhalfling,â€ who gets most of the best jokes. The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn; even when Luthien must resort to thievery to survive, he never forgets the honorable path.
Action is Salvatoreâ€™s specialty. Especially in the hand-to-hand combat scenes, his talent shines. He has the gift of describing action minutely enough for a vivid image, yet his pacing is good enough that the scene never bogs down. Banter among the companions and some humor in the actual fighting (such as Luthien firing an arrow point-blank at a cyclopian and missing) break the tension at strategic points.
The volume concludes with a brief interview with Salvatore in which he discusses his writing and his worlds. Of future forays in this world, he says: â€œI fall for my characters (those that survive). Right now my contractual obligations prevent a peek at [Luthien and Oliver], but I never say never.â€ If he does return, many of Salvatoreâ€™s fans will be eager to make the journey with him.
April 9, 2007 – Cheryl Barkauskas for Senses Five Press