The world is vaguely European, vaguely late Middle
Ages. It has suffered under the harsh rule of an evil, self-styled
The Eorl of Bedwyrdrin no longer has the will to fight the king,
and his son Luthien is too young to know life differently. When
events conspire to cast Luthien from his home, he reluctantly sets
out on a path that will bring him eventually to open rebellion. He
joins the flamboyant thief Oliver deBurrows, falls in love with a
half-elf slave, and acquires a crimson cloak with a reputation as
mysterious as its abilities.
R.A. Salvatore has created a modestly ambitious plot for The
Sword of Bedwyr, the first of three books about the Crimson
Shadow. The Sword of Bedwyr so obviously belongs to the
projected larger series that it lacks a plot of its own until late.
The sword itself features in a small fight in the beginning and is
not mentioned again until the last page when Luthien's former
girlfriend Katerin presents it as a token of the Eorl's support.
While the symbolism of receiving the sword and his father's support
makes a good -- even strong -- endind, it does not justify the title
of the book. The wizard-king, who was set up from the beginning as
the villain, does not appear at all.
The point of view is murky, especially since this is supposed to
be Luthien's story. And Oliver deBurrows, swashbuckling
highway-halfling that he is, badly overshadows the hero.
Any peaceful interludes are cut out -- Salvatore goes straight for
confrontation and action, with the impression that Luthien and Oliver
live precariously from one surge adrenaline to the next. Then again,
maybe they do. Salvatore seems incapable of writing a scene that does
not end in armed conflict, and the novel reads like a badly connected
string of sword fights. At least the sword fights, and there are
many, seem reasonably accurate.
But constant action comes at the expense of other interesting and
more subtle developments. Luthien's love affair, for instance, is
hardly mentioned at all (we learn more about Oliver's romantic
nature!), despite the fact that this is Luthien's principle
motivation for the last third of the novel. Salvatore does not even
begin to touch the ramifications of Katerin's arrival at the end.
Well, maybe in Book Two.
Salvatore is the author of eighteen other books, most of which
have been published by TSR and are set within the worlds of their
role-playing games. The Sword of Bedwyr, although not based on
a game world, still strongly reflects Salvatore's gaming background.
This review originally appeared in the July 9, 1995 edition of
The Roanoke Times.
The Crimson Shadow:
The Sword of Bedwyr. Warner, 1995
Luthien's Gamble. Warner,
The Dragon King. Warner,
This review copyright 1995 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated March 22, 1998