Random Book Review – Because reading is a necessary part of survival.
The Reever by Richard Lee Byers
Fantasy books are often pushed to the side as escapist reading unless they are direct allegories for something. I couldn’t disagree more. Many fantasy books deal with complex issues that can cut very close to home. The veneer of fantasy allows us to digest the internal message without having a knee-jerk reaction that may cause us, the reader, to immediately stop reading and ignore what the author is trying to say. The Reever is an excellent example of this.
We follow the journey of a young boy, a pirate, and a wizard. All face situations that have correlations to our own world.
The young boy, Stedd, must face down an inflexible theocracy, one that refuses to change out of fear that their lives maybe rendered meaningless. This could be a direct commentary on current religious organizations and their stance on gay marriage, or on our own government and its lack of an effective stance on global climate change.
The Reever, Anton, must come to terms with darkness from his past. This darkness happened not because Anton was a bad man but because he was a bored man. He didn’t see his overall worth in the grand scheme of things. Anton could not see that his role as a customs official was just as vital as the role of a sailor or soldier in the military.
And finally the wizard Umara. I would like to note that the wizard was a woman with a shaved head who was described as exotic in appearance and attractive, in part, because of her shaved head. I think this is a nice step away from the chainmail bikini, or boob plate that we often see given to female characters.
There is still a flaw. Anton is never really described in terms of appearance, where as she is. In fact if I had not seen the cover, or had not been familiar with the fantasy nations and regions used I would have not realized Anton was darker skinned (that is another thing I applaud, fantasy is too often white washed) for a good portion of the book.
But to get back on topic the wizard comes from a nation with an evil past that has taken an even more villainous turn, a nation that is now ruled by the undead. It would not be a stretch by any means to say that there is a connection to both the United States and to how many long for a better time.
Now I am not saying that the author is somehow in favor of a 1950's America, but rather a pre 9/11 America when our own government was not a threat to our civil liberties. This is perfectly summed up by her relationship with her Master, who is also a vampire that can actually sense her thoughts.
All these points I have gone over may make it sound like a thin veneer of fantasy, but it is very possible to read this book and never once think about any of these elements. The Reever is a fun read. It is set in the shared universe setting of the Forgotten Realms, but you don’t need to know anything about the Realms to enjoy the journey. I often found myself unable to put this book down, wanting to know what happens next.
A side note; a shared universe setting is never a reason to NOT read a book. With the internet at your fingertips (quite literally with most phones), you can actually look things up using the Forgotten Realms Wiki, or the Wizards of the Coast website. If you are willing to spend a half hour looking at pictures and videos of cute animals you can look up what a Turmishman is.