A monk, a dwarf and an outlaw walk into an ice castle to cross swords with a power-hungry religious zealot—and, no, that’s not the setup for a joke.
After spending the past few years shepherding his iconic creation Drizzt Do’Urden through the shared world of the Forgotten Realms, Salvatore (The Orc King, 2007) kicks off a new series in the land of Corona featuring Bransen Garibond (The Highwayman, 2004, etc.). Having gained control over his crippled body with the help of a magical gemstone, Bransen sets off with his wife and her mother to find the father he never knew. Previous escapades perpetrated against the ruling class while in the guise of the roguish Highwayman come back to haunt him, however, and he is captured and forced to fight on behalf of Dame Gwydre, a ruler desperate to protect her people from the machinations of Ancient Badden, vengeful leader of the druidic Samhaists. In an effort to cleanse the northern territories of nonbelievers, Badden awakens an ancient and powerful evil, one whose defeat requires Bransen to join forces with the aforementioned monk and dwarf. Nominally the outlaw, Bransen indulges in antihero posturing that seems a tad contrived in light of his previous exploits and the nature of the series, but the climactic battle scene offers a rousing conclusion.
Fails to hit the highs of previous Corona books, but still a worthy addition to the lore of Salvatore’s invented world.