Series: Coven #1
Publisher: Tor Books (February 6, 2018)
Length: 496 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
Child of a Mad God is a return to Corona for R.A. Salvatore, but this time out the familiar lands are far away, as a wilder, dark world far beyond the Wilderlands takes center stage. Here savage tribes reside. Brutal raids see innocents killed. Ritual sacrifices are common. Slaves are taken. Women are raped. Demons hide in the shadows. And covens of witches aid their warriors and pass on their secrets to selected girls. To say this book showcases a grittier, bloodier side of the author’s writing style is fair, but at heart, it is still the familiar action packed Salvatore tale all his fans will adore.
Far to the west, past even the Wilderlands, is a barbaric region, where people can get lost in the untamed vastness. The young frontiersman Talmadge is one of these people, eager to avoid the crowded chaos of civilization. His time spent traveling from township to township trading with the semi-civilized tribes for precious goods he turns into gold to finance his survival. The years passing by as he slowly finds his way in the world.
Meanwhile, in the Usgar Tribe, Aoleyn is a young orphan being raised by a witch; her life filled with the harsh realities of tribal life in a patriarchal society, where warriors loot, pillage, rape, and enslave anyone they wish – even their fellow tribesmen. Aoleyn herself not immune from casual brutality. And it is only when she has grown into a young woman and finds within herself the sacred magical power that she feels strong enough to fight against the traditions of her people, determined to live a life far different than what she has grown up in.
Eventually, these separate tales of our two protagonists slowly entangle, causing them to come together to deal with tragedy, terror, and make some very important life decisions. No real conclusion is reached in their encounter and its aftermath, but it certainly sets up important things to come in this saga going forward.
What most readers will likely adore about this story is the character of Aoleyn, who perfectly represents the new fantasy go to character of smart, strong, and perceptive woman determined to right the wrongs of society. To make our heroine’s rise even more awe-inspiring here is the fact she comes from a horribly misogynistic society, one which glorifies brutality, slavery, rape, and general vileness. Her slow recognition of the injustices of her people and their treatment of everyone around them a true hero’s journey of personal enlightenment, as Aoleyn begins the process of escaping from the bonds of her morally bankrupt society.
On the other hand, what most readers will not enjoy about this novel is the slow pacing of the narrative. Understandably, Salvatore devotes a great deal of time carefully molding and shaping the harsh wilderness of Corona while also lovingly fleshing out Talmadge and Aoleyn, but what is not quite so understandably is the fact that this takes up over half the book with little to no payoff being given readers in the conclusion. Yes, the last hundred or so pages is filled with more action and drama than the preceding three hundred fifty, but the ending doesn’t really conclude anything. Rather, it feels more like a long, drawn out set up for book two.
Child of a Mad God is an interesting return to the world of Corona, telling a gritty and brutal tale of a rugged frontier land and its inhabitants. Whether you enjoy world building and lore or strong female leads, this book will have some element to please, especially if you already have a strong affinity for Corona or the author’s writing. Certainly, the slow pacing and general lack of a conclusion might be bothersome, but if you need a fix of R.A. Salvatore fantasy, this book will not disappoint.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.