by R.A. Salvatore
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317902
Date: 18 August 2009 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
R.A. Salvatore continues his series, Saga of the First King with The Dame. War rolls through Honce as two lairds vie for the title of king. One ambitious laird, DaLaval, lays waste to the land killing, destroying, and driving the troops of Laird Ethelbert back. When Prince Milwellis of Palmaistown, a DaLaval ally, demands the brothers of the Order of Abelle treat his soldiers first, Father Artolivan head of the Order refuses. The Order has pledged neutrality and the warring lairds agreed to allow the brothers to treat the wounded of both sides and hold all prisoners until the war ends. Disgruntled and angry, Milwellis leaves and in defiance takes Ethelbert's wounded with him denying them treatment. He vows vengeance against the order.
The story picks up where The Ancient ended with the Highwayman, his allies, and Dame Gwydre of Vanguard. With the destruction of the Ancient, the Highwayman demands his freedom and a Writ of Free Passage for himself and his family from the Dame. She agrees, but warns him that with the war in Honce, she cannot guarantee others will honor it. He also seeks amnesty for his friends including two dwarves (powries), traditional enemies of humans.
When assassins kill Laird DaLaval, his nephew and heir, Yeslnik, assumes control and proclaims himself king. Arrogant, vain, and cowardly, Yeslnik stays well to the rear in battle, but insists his men pursue victory. Because a broken sword found in his uncle's corpse resembles one wielded by the Highwayman, he sends his best general, the Bear of Honce, to kill the Highwayman. His hatred for the man clouds his vision and he refuses to accept that his foe was far removed from DaLaval City.
The Highwayman wants to stay with his wife and witness the birth of their first child, but events intervene and he must make difficult choices. He also seeks knowledge of his parents and his heritage. He learns that choices are not always clear and may have unintended consequence.
New York Times best selling author, Salvatore delivers plenty of action, hair-raising escapes, and politics. His villains at first appear one-dimensional, but he gradually develops them into more rounded personalities.
Characters from the earlier novels reappear in The Dame. The abrupt ending of the novel may jar some readers, but leaves a need for the saga to continue. Much remains unresolved and the war continues.
The saga began with The Highwayman (2007) and continued with The Ancient (2008). He also has another series, The Demon Wars (1997-2004), set later in the same world as Saga of the First King.