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Coming Soon: Timeless by R.A. Salvatore

Title: Timeless

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: Drizzt Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: September 4, 2018 <-Release dates are subject to change on a whim. This was accurate as of 7/17/18.

The Overview: Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the City of Drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house. The greater nobles watched him, and one matron, in particular, decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival great houses to secure her prize, but that prize was caught for her by another, who came to quite enjoy the weapon master. This was the beginning of the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, and the coupling of Matron Malice and the weapon master who would sire Drizzt Do’Urden. R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle—an introduction to the darkness that offers a fresh view of the opportunities to be found in the shadows and an intriguing prelude to the intriguing escapes that lie ahead in the modern-day Forgotten Realms. Here, a father and his son are reunited and embark on adventures that parallel the trials of centuries long past as the friends of old are joined by Drizzt, Hero of the North, trained by Grandmaster Kane in the ways of the monk. But the scourge of the dangerous Lolth’s ambitions remain, and demons have been foisted on the unwitting of the surface. The resulting chaos and war will prove to be the greatest challenge for all three. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

A new Drizzt novel? Sign me up!! Admittedly I have a few books in the series to catch up with first (I’m on Neverwinter and will probably skip the Companions series so… 6 books behind?) but given how much I enjoy returning to this realm, I’m looking forward to it. Just the snippets I allowed myself to read from the overview, it sounds like it takes place in one of my favorite places in the saga: Menzoberranzan. Nice!!

I don’t think I’ve ever been up to date with this series… am I the only one?? :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

Title: Child of a Mad God

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: Coven #1

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’ve been reading (and enjoying) R.A. Salvatore for almost 20 years, so what struck me as profound during Child of a Mad God was how well-rounded a writer he has evolved into. He was always an accomplished storyteller, but compared to his early works in the world of Corona (published in the late 1990s) it’s immediately clear how next-level his work has become. Child of a Mad God was superbly written and I don’t have a single critical thing to say about any craft-related aspect of this book – it was excellent.

I didn’t realize this book was part of the Corona world until I was about halfway through. Even though I’ve only read two other Corona books (Demon Awakens and Demon Spirit), Child of a Mad God felt self-contained enough to be read on its own. It will transport you to an isolated, indigenous  landscape, and set a mood that is almost otherworldly in its delivery. There were a few minor characters (including an unknown (to me) POV in what I call the “Drizzt letter” at the beginning of every part) that felt a little like cameos from previous books and made me feel like I was missing a bit of historical depth. But none of them had any direct impact on the main story. I’m actually looking forward to reading the backlist in this series to find out if we really have seen these characters before.

The main POV characters had so much depth that it sort of took me off guard. I wasn’t expecting to have so much emotion pulled out of me, and that introspection is probably the strongest element of the story. He really digs into the motives and carnal wants of these characters, which slowed the pacing considerably even though it still had a lot of impact. As I touched on already, the world building was fantastic. It was totally immersive into this culture without ever dwelling on the mundane aspects of their daily lives. Instead, it focused 100% on the things that made the plot special. Even though it was slower, not a single page was wasted. 

So, while I absolutely loved all of the elements I usually rate books on (writing, characters, world building, etc.), I need to be honest about my general enjoyment-level of the book. You see, it’s pretty brutal. It often danced on the edge of what I can tolerate (take this with a grain of salt because I’m the first to admit that I’m a wimp), meaning a lot of my reading experience involved an odd juxtaposition of loving it but absolutely hating the awful things that happened within it. Even so, from an analytical standpoint, I can appreciate how those brutal moments helped raise the stakes for the story and really ground the reader in this unforgivable society. By no means is it a happy story, but it’s certainly a compelling one. I usually need a strong ray of hope to keep me engaged in books, which Child of a Mad God was pointedly lacking. I yearned for vindication for these characters and was rewarded with a punch to the gut every time. Even so, the potential for satisfaction in future books is what has me eager to continue the series.

Recommendations: I’d hand this book to fantasy readers who often list “good characters” as their main criteria, but it also fits the bill for excellent world-building and beautiful writing. If you can stomach indigenous brutality and slower pacing, Child of a Mad God is a great pick for you. I felt it stands alone well enough that you don’t have to have read previous Corona books to enjoy it, but that’s speaking from someone who doesn’t yet know quite what she’s missing. :)

I’d like to thank R.A. Salvatore and the publicists at TOR/Forge for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of Child of a Mad God! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

Title: Child of a Mad God

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: Coven #1

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: February 6, 2018

The Overview: As the Blood Moon rises high upon the mountain of the Usgar a demon hunts. But this is not the demon’s story. This is the story of a young woman, the daughter of a witch, born under the Blood Moon, how she finds herself alone in a tribe of vicious barbarians, and how she came to know the world.

From the bestselling author who created Drizzt Do’Urden comes a brand new series that is sure to capture the hearts of lifetime fans, and ignite the passions of a whole new generation of fantasy readers. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

R. A. Salvatore has been entertaining me with his Drizzt books since I was a teenager and I have nothing but overall positive things to say about his works. That said, I do think many of his female characters are either weaklings that need protection or so masculine they come across as men… but with boobs. That hasn’t really affected my overall experience, but with this newest series on the way with a female protagonist, I have high hopes that it will provide for me the only thing missing from this author’s repertoire – a relatable female character who is strong because of her femininity rather than despite it. I’m excited for this book, but I vow to make myself finish his Demonwar Saga before diving in (a series I’ve been “working” on for over a year… the first one was good, I just haven’t made time for the second). Here’s hoping I’ll like Child of a Mad God as much as his other books. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

Title: The Demon Awakens

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: The Demonwars Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: A great evil has awakened in the land of Corona, a terrible demon determined to spread death and misery. His goblin armies and fearsome giants ravage the settlements of the frontier, and in the small village of Dundallis their merciless attack leaves behind two shattered orphans: Pony and her lifelong friend, the youth Elbryan. Taken in by elves, Elbryan is raised to become a formidable ranger–a fateful role that will lead him into harrowing confrontation.

Meanwhile, on a far-off island, a shower of gemstones will fall onto the black sand shores. These heaven-sent stones carry within them an incredible power–the key to all that is good in the world and all that is evil, and it is up to one young monk to liberate them from the corrupt monastery that harvests them. Pray that they don’t fall into the wrong, clawed hands . . .   -Goodreads

The Review:

As the entire Demonwars Saga has been gathering dust on my shelves for over ten years now, boy do I feel foolish for not having read The Demon Awakens before now. There were so many elements I loved, and at one point was even considering a 5 star rating (I’ll address what knocked it off that in a minute). It dazzled me with great characters, an interesting magic system, exotic fantastical settings, and a fast-paced plot filled with loads of action and excitement (with plenty of that brilliant hand-to-hand combat that Salvatore is known so well for).

The characters were fresh, exciting, and really fun to get to know – totally on par with their Forgotten Realms counterparts (if perhaps a mite less memorable). I had been a little worried that they’d be carbon copies of Drizzt and his gang, but thankfully they weren’t. It’s always a concern I have when reading a slightly less popular series by authors known primarily for other works. It’s kind of silly, because logically good writing knows no bounds. Anyway, Salvatore has definitely shown me here that he’s no one trick pony.

50% of The Demon Awakens (from about the 1/4 mark to the 3/4 mark) was a solid 5-star (I loved every freaking moment) type of story for all of the attributes listed above. It took a while to get past the spoiler-ish summary I’d read before diving in (which is why I usually don’t more than glance at overviews – does knowing key plot points of a story before diving in bother anyone else is much as it does me?).

Anyway, obviously there were some great components to The Demon Awakens, but there were a handful of things bothered me enough in the last 1/4 of the books to knock down my rating. Character development was one of them. I know I just spent a moment gushing at how great I thought they were; what I’m referring to here is how these great characters changed throughout the novel. One of my favorites underwent a seeming 180 degree personality flip over a very short time period… it was a little disorienting. It felt like two totally different character profiles were given the same name and slapped together. Also, the only relatable female character, who had strong growth arc through most of the book, eventually became second fiddle and almost incidental near the end.

Story trajectory was my other issue. Salvatore took my least favorite plot point and beat it to death with a small cudgel. I acknowledge that at some point that plot point needed to be resolved, but that doesn’t mean I was obligated to enjoy it ;P. The parts I wasn’t excited about earned a 2 star (it was just okay) rating.

That said, I’m still definitely continuing on with the series, as there was a significant parts of this book I loved with a fierce passion. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that some of my favorite plot elements make their way into the next installment.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Gauntlgrym by R.A. Salvatore

gauntlgrymTitle: Gauntlgrym

Author: R. A. Salvatore

Series: Neverwinter #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The OverviewDrizzt joins Bruenor on his quest for the fabled dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym: ruins said to be rich with ancient treasure and arcane lore. But before they even get close, another drow and dwarf pair stumbles across it first: Jarlaxle and Athrogate. In their search for treasure and magic, Jarlaxle and Athrogate inadvertently set into motion a catastrophe that could spell disaster for the unsuspecting people of the city of Neverwinter–a catastrophe big enough to lure even the mercenary Jarlaxle into risking his own coin and skin to stop it. Unfortunately, the more they uncover about the secret of Gauntlgrym, the more it looks like they can’t stop it on their own. They’ll need help, and from the last people they ever thought to fight alongside again: Drizzt and Bruenor. -Goodreads

The Mini Review: 

Salvatore strikes again! I took a little break from this saga after The Ghost King (which ripped out my heart), but picking up Gauntlgrym after all that time felt like coming home.

Salvatore is known for his detailed hand-to-hand combat scenes, which pack a lot of excitement into his books. I have to say, after 20 or so novels of the same back-and-forth swordplay, I started to get a little… bored isn’t the right word, but let’s just say it lacks a bit of the thrill it once had for me. That said, I can’t imagine a Drizzt book without intricate fight scenes, so you really can’t win with me. ;P

Gauntlgrym’s storyline required an unusual passage of time compared to others in the series, which was a cool change of pace that kept me interested throughout. I also loved the mix of new and old characters – the elf woman (cover image), among my new favorites.

Overall, Gauntlgrym (I am proud to say that I can finally spell it without having to look it up– go me!) was a fun installment and excellent continuation of the series. Although it was nowhere near my favorite of the saga, I’m still excited to start Neverwinter sometime soon.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

 

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Top Ten Authors I Would Love to Meet!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week was supposed to be attributes to the top ten things on my bookish bucket list. Since over half of the things were desires to meet my favorite authors, I decided to switch it up a little:

Top Ten Authors I Would Love to Meet!

They all take turns as my favorites, depending on whom I’m reading at the moment. But the person I’d most like to meet right now is:

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Seriously, though, they’re all amazing authors. I would be willing to travel across a few states to meet these authors. Everyone of them is among my all-time favorites, and I hope to one day include them all in the “top ten authors I’ve met” list. :-)

Here’s a list of some of the authors who would have been included on my list, had I not already had the pleasure of meeting them:

Patricia Briggs

Dan Wells

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Brandon Mull

David Farland

Rachel Caine

Just to name a few… :)

by Niki Hawkes