Book Review: Sacrifice of the Widow by Lisa Smedman

Sacrifice of the Widow
(Book 1), The Lady Penitent Series
Lisa Smedman
Wizards of the Coast, 2007
ISBN 0786942509
Mass Market Paperback

FR Date: 1372-1375

Lisa Smedman’s new book, Sacrifice of the Widow, is the first of three in the new Forgotten Realms (FR) series, The Lady Penitent. This series is a must read for any Forgotten Realms fan. It brings about the Drow transformations that changes the world of the Forgotten Realms forever and offers the story behind the Drow Pantheon changes in the Forgotten Realms Role Play Game books.

The two Drow goddesses, Loth and Eilistraee, mother and daughter, play a game of sava where the moves they make upon the board change the land of Faerûn. Each is intent on winning the game, a game that has been going on for as long as mortals have been in the Realms. A wager is proposed by Loth that the winner take all and death is the reward of the looser, witnessed and enforced by Ao, the overgod. As the goddesses move their pieces about the board, their mortal worshipers progress through the Realms, doing the bidding of their goddesses while Vhaeruan, brother to Eilistraee and Loth’s son, plots treachery unbeknownst to them.

Each chapter begins in the familiar FR style, providing the “Year of…” and the DR date, allowing Faerûn historians to easily place these events into the Forgotten Realms timeline. Fans will recognize Qilué, High Priestess of Eilistreae and Chosen of Mystra, as she scrys another familiar character, Halisstra Marlarn, Eilistraee’s Champion and wielder of the Crescent Blade. Qilué watches as Halisstra is slain, despite Qilué’s help, but doesn’t realize that Halisstra won’t be joining Eilistreae in her eternal dance. Fast forward three years and we meet a new character, Halisstra’s brother, a wizard and the only other surviving Marlarn after the fall of Ched Nasad. Q’arlynd’s adventure begins when he locates a portal to the surface and makes contact with priestesses of Eilistreae after accidently killing one of their sisters. He learns his sister made her way to the worship of Eilistreae and begins a plot to rebuild House Marlarn with his sister as its head and he at her side. Another new character is introduced to fans when the Darksong Knight and novice priestess to Eilistreae, Cavatina, is order by Qilué to retrieve the Crescent Blade from the Daemonweb Pits, Loth’s home plane.

The story focuses on Halisstra’s own transformation and struggle between her new nature & her old conscience and desire to serve Eilistraee, while Vhaeruan’s plot, through his worshipers, unfolds and Q’arlynd, in typical Drow form, tries to find his most adventitious niche. The adventure is fluid and has a natural progression that carries the reader along. The combat scenes are typical, and somewhat predictable, for a Forgotten Realms novel. This book gives a stand alone story with the sava game as the carry over factor to the series. It also offers the “Oh My God, No Way!” experience that will have readers referring this book to their friends who are Forgotten Realms fans.

Smedman offers not only a classic Forgotten Realms style story but also an insight into the Drow race that has not been seen since R.A. Salvatorer’s War of the Spider Queen Series or Elaine Cunningham’s Starlight & Shadows Series. Dungeon and Dragons or other fantasy fans will feel right at home with the races, characters and combat, both melee and magical. For readers who have never experienced the Forgotten Realms and the lands of Faerûn, check out this book and you will quickly become immersed in this world.

Reviewed by Brenda Cothern, August 2010.