Book Title: Child of a Mad God
Series: Coven (#1)
Author: R.A. Salvatore
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – Bold and brilliant
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
I’m new to Mr. Salvatore’s books. I’ve heard of his name and reputation as an excellent fantasy writer but this is my first foray into his worlds. I can easily see why he has such a strong following. Here is the description from Goodreads:
When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home.
The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.
Vicious, barbaric, magical, fantastic, enthralling, startling, terrifying … all words I’d use to describe this book. It follows the stories of two very different orphans in the world of Corona. One, Talmadge, a young man on his own in a savage world. He is a sensitive soul, troubled by the violence around him, and by the violence he must wield in order to survive. Second, is Aoleyn, who is a very young girl when we first meet her. She is part of a tribe whose brutality knows no bounds. She is a girl with spirit, power and an innate goodness that lifts her above the rest of her people. She is seen as strange, and desirable by the terrible leader of her tribe. Of course, you know that will not serve her well.
If I have a caveat about this book it is with the level of violence. A number of readers have complained about the frequency of violence and rape in the book. Please consider that when deciding whether or not to read this book. While rape exists in this book it is not graphic and not described in detail, but it is definitely there. We see a surfeit of “rape as plot device” in today’s t.v. shows and books, so I felt I had to ask myself, “Is it used in the same gratuitous, superficial way in this book?” Honestly, I don’t know. I do understand what the author was using it for. He illustrated the ways in which men feel free to use a woman’s body as a means of stealing their power, which is quite literally what is happening in this book. Men of Aoleyn’s tribe have no way of using the magic in this world. They use sex with magic wielding women in order to subsume their spirit and make use of their magic without their consent. It is also a key component of the power dynamic in this god-awful tribe. I can’t pretend that both of those scenarios do not exist in the world today, and that they haven’t been part of the dynamic between men and women for millennia. I can accept it as part of this story because it is not used in a titillating or useless device to weaken the women and bolster the story of a man. You may not feel the same way and I have nothing but respect for your opinion. In that case, this book is probably not for you.
Apart from that issue, the writing of this book is exceptional. It can be a little slow, but only because the author is taking his time with development of the cultures in this world, the magical system, and the rich physical world of Corona. The book is not without it’s moments of beauty. Talmadge, in his journey as a merchant, provides a glimpse at the wealth of culture and people in Corona. While it is a dangerous place, it has it’s own savage beauty. I want to revisit these two characters, Talmadge and Aoleyn. I want to see more of this terrifying world so I will definitely be looking into his other books set in this world, as well as awaiting the next book in this series.
Song for this book: May it Be – Hayley Westenra