The Demon Awakens
R.A. Salvatore
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Get R.A. Salvatore's *The Demon Awakens* delivered to your door! The Demon Awakens
R.A. Salvatore
Del Rey
February 1998
624 pages
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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R.A. Salvatore's name is likely most familiar to readers of TSR's Forgotten Realms roleplaying novels. Several of his books in that series have been New York Times bestsellers, including The Legacy and Starless Night. With The Demon Awakens, Salvatore returns to the broader fantasy genre with an epic rife with magic, evil and hope.

Far beneath a volcanic mountain in the land of Corona, a demonic dactyl flexes its wings, breaking the bonds that have held it for the long centuries following its last defeat. Its awakening signals a return of evil incarnate, for the dactyl is the harbinger of dark times indeed. The demon gathers its armies in secret, calling goblins, giants and powries to its stronghold for direction far from any dwellings of man or elf. So it is that none, save for a very few sensitive ones, know of the horrors about to take wing.

In the tiny village of Dundalis, young Elbryan Wyndon and his best friend, the girl Jilseponie, eagerly await the return of the hunting group their fathers are out with. The men return with a good catch, but their return is not joyous in every aspect, for they bring too the corpse of a single goblin. The village fathers establish patrols around Dundalis to watch for goblin forays. As time passes and no attacks come, the patrols relax. The men allow the children, led by Elbryan and Pony, to continue mock patrols. One night, as Pony and Elbryan share their first kiss while playing at patrolling, the unthinkable happens: goblins and giants in league attack the unwary village, wantonly murdering every living soul in Dundalis. Every soul, that is, but for two; Pony survives a fire by burrowing next to a stone foundation, and Elbryan is first rescued and then spirited away by elves, members of that long-lived, legendary race weakened in numbers by the last war against the demon dactyl.

Elbryan, believing Pony dead, spends his adolescence in Andur'Blough Inninness, the elven sanctuary. He learns there to become what his uncle once was before him: a Ranger, elven-trained and responsible for keeping watch over the human population of Corona's frontier. He grieves for his family and his beloved Pony, but his sorrow gives him the strength to surpass all expectations his elven teachers hold for him. He is named Nightbird, and gifted with the bow Hawkwing when he leaves Andur'Blough Inninness to take up his duties as Ranger. A new village has risen up from the ashes of Dundalis, and it is around this reincarnation of his boyhood home that Elbryan patrols. He is unloved by the populace there, but somberly sees to their safety despite such rejection.

Cat-the-Stray is the name a barkeep in Palmaris gives to the amnesiac girl he and his wife adopt. Cat is self-sufficient and wary, plagued by dark almost-memories, but deeply grateful to her adoptive parents. When a handsome local nephew of a Baron starts courting her, Cat initially resists. But a match with Connor Bildeborough would add prestige to her foster folk, and the gentleman is not without charms. It is Connor who helps her remember that her name was Jill, and she agrees to wed the nobleman. The marriage proves ill-fated, however, for Connor has waited impatiently for the consummation of his desire for Jill. On their wedding night, the dark wings of repressed terror drive the young bride away from her husband. He almost takes her forcibly but is counterattacked by the terrified woman. The marriage is annulled the next day, and Jill goes into service as a footsoldier in the King's army. She rises through the ranks quickly, appalled by the lackadaisical attitude rife in the military but determined to be vigilant herself.

When bloody-capped powries attack the coast watch where Jill is stationed, her fears are proved founded. The other guards are woefully ill-prepared for the attack and are quickly, and bloodily, routed. Jill escapes, but her survival brands her a deserter. Incognito, she travels with a mad priest who instigates barroom brawls preaching prophecies of the demon's return. Brother Avelyn was once one of the select of the Abellican church at St.-Mere-Abelle, the collector and preparer of the sacred stones that fall to the distant island of Pimaninicuit in a shower once every six generations. Avelyn is the greatest master of power in the sacred stones seen in recent memory, but too pious for his own good in a Church corrupted by power and riches. Avelyn escapes assassination by his masters, but his masters turn his old rival Quinalt into the perfect assassin: Brother Justice, bent only on finding and destroying Brother Avelyn.

Chance reunites Pony and Elbryan, and together they agree to help Avelyn in his quest to destroy the dactyl in the depths of far Mount Aida. But unnatural armies of goblins, powries and giants stand in their way; hot on their heels is the implacable Brother Justice. A handful of elves, a wisecracking centaur, and a perfect stallion are their only allies in this battle to stop evil from destroying Corona forever. Love, trust, and hope are their greatest weapons in what may be their final stand.

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