STARRED REVIEW
February 06, 2018

Survival of the fittest

By R.A. Salvatore

On the mountain of Fireach Speuer, only the strong survive. Warring tribes raid one another for food and slaves. The winters are harsh, and when the blood moon rises, a demon creature hunts the living with ravenous fury. It’s a harsh setting, but Aoleyn, the fiery and engaging female lead of R.A. Salvatore’s Child of a Mad God, makes each moment spent in this world a treasure.

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On the mountain of Fireach Speuer, only the strong survive. Warring tribes raid one another for food and slaves. The winters are harsh, and when the blood moon rises, a demon creature hunts the living with ravenous fury. It’s a harsh setting, but Aoleyn, the fiery and engaging female lead of R.A. Salvatore’s Child of a Mad God, makes each moment spent in this world a treasure.

Aoleyn dreams of joining the Usgar tribe’s coven of witches like her mother before her. But as she grows up, she can’t ignore the brutality of the society in which she lives. The physical savagery visited upon slaves, the hollowness of marriage and myriad other abuses prime Aoleyn for an awakening. When her immense magical powers manifest in her 18th year, she finally discovers a way to break free of the tribe’s iron grip and confront the evil presence infecting her homeland.

This challenging environment is made all the more daunting by the sense of remoteness that permeates the book. Salvatore regularly reminds the reader how far away these tribes are from the rest of his world, using places and people familiar to readers of his other Corona novels as anchors to the larger universe. It’s skillfully done—hints of his other novels shine through, but past references never bog down the story at hand. And intercut with Aeolyn’s story is the perspective of the demon creature, which constantly reminds the reader what lurks in the darkness.

Aoleyn’s metamorphosis from stubborn child to powerful witch propels the reader through this harrowing story, as we feel her fear, frustration and, ultimately, resolve. Never satisfied with the narrow life her tribe offers her and willing to endure painful trials to get what she wants, Aoleyn captivates from the very first line, and is sympathetic and centered throughout.

Salvatore should be commended for cutting a new path here, and as this is the first book in a series, readers will reap the benefits. Grand palaces and shining swords are traded for roaring fires and whistling peaks. This is fantasy refreshed, with familiar concepts reconfigured for a new arc. Luckily, we’ll have a wonderful heroine to pull us along for the ride.

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Child of a Mad God

Child of a Mad God

By R.A. Salvatore
Tor
ISBN 9780765395276

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