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Book Review: The Tides of Avarice: A Sagaria Legend by John Dahlgren

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“Each new day I’ve let the tides of avarice pull my ship away from shore and out into the seas of adventure…” So says Captain Terrigan Rustbane, the most dreaded pirate in Sagaria, whose greed and cruelty have led him on the course of destruction and mayhem chronicled in John Dahlgren’s adventure The Tides of Avarice. Yet when these tides sweep up an unlikely hero, they can alter the fate of an entire world, setting the courses of many lives upon new paths of self-discovery, freedom, and redemption.

Sylvester Lemmington is living a quiet life in Foxglove as Junior Archivist and Translator of Ancient Tongues. He works at transcribing the scrolls that detail the Great Exoduses of the lemmings over the “Mighty Enormous Cliff to the Land of Destiny Across the Great Wet Without End,” in one of which his father took part long ago, never to return. He considers himself too bookish and timid to ever win the heart of Viola, his best friend and true love, and tries to resign himself to her marriage to the odious Mayor Hairbell. But everything in his small world begins to change one night when he rescues a stranger from drowning. The wounded ferret tells him of the lands across the sea from which he came, destroying Sylvester’s perception of the world taught to him by his religion. It also leads him to question all his beliefs despite warnings that speaking his questions aloud could land him a place in the next Great Exodus.

The stranger, known as Keelhaul Levantes, also gives him a crumpled piece of parchment sought after by the dangerous man who gave Levantes his fatal wound. A few days later, a strange gray fox arrives in Foxglove asking about Levantes, and soon Captain Terrigan Rustbane and his band of pirates are wreaking havoc in search of the parchment, which contains the final piece of a map which will lead to the treasure of the Zindars. When Terrigan learns he has the map, Sylvester, along with Viola and her mother, is kidnapped by the pirates and forced into a perilous journey in search of the treasure.

The voyage aboard the pirate ship Shadeblaze with the foul and dangerous crew of rats, badgers, raccoons, and other animals plunges the lemmings into a treacherous existence where life and death hang on the whim of the heartless, bloodthirsty captain. They focus on surviving the ordeal with their skins intact, searching desperately for any opportunity to escape. As they make it through jungles teeming with deadly creatures, an attack upon the Shadeblaze by the Queen of Spectram’s navy, a mutiny against Rustbane, and an island inhabited by cannibals, Sylvester finds untapped courage and resourcefulness that win him the respect and love of the feisty Viola. His journey shatters his religious beliefs completely as he learns some terrible truths about the leaders of Foxglove and the purpose behind the doctrines taught to the citizens.

But will his newfound strength be enough to free the people of Foxglove from tyranny? The treasure of the Zindars that Rustbane seeks has the potential to destroy the world or save it, depending on what is in the heart of its discoverer. On their journey to find the treasure, the battle of Sylvester’s goodness and integrity against Rustbane’s cruel cleverness will have consequences for all of Sagaria.

After reading a blurb for The Tides of Avarice, I was expecting some cute kids’ adventure story about lemmings and pirates. But this book blew my expectations out of the water. It’s smart, funny, sarcastic and yet big-hearted, with a solid, exciting plot, enchanting characters, vivid imagery, profound ideas, and great morals. Of course, the lemmings are adorable, but they’re also fierce and courageous, and the story is packed with adventure that both adults and children can enjoy. But, like Sylvester Lemmington himself, this book offers a lot more than it appears to on the surface.

Quill Says: In an imaginative, intelligent adventure where compassion and individualism triumph over evil and conformity, The Tides of Avarice plots a daring course through the vilest lows of villainy to inspiring heights of spirit.

(Reviewed by Cory Bickel for Feathered Quill Book Reviews)

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