Boundless by R. A. Salvatore

Boundless Cover

Publisher: HarperAudio (Audiobook – 10 September 2019)

Series: Generations – Book 2

Length: 13 hours and 3 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

From one of the world’s leading writers of fantasy fiction, R. A. Salvatore, comes an exciting and captivating new adventure that focuses on the author’s best-known protagonists, the Drow (dark elf) ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, his father Zaknafein, the rogue Jarlaxle and the Companions of the Hall.

Centuries ago, one Drow warrior was feared and respected above all others in the dark elf city of Menzoberranzan, the legendary weapon master Zaknafein. Even before the events that would eventually force him to sacrifice himself to save the life of his beloved son Drizzt Do’Urden, Zaknafein was never content with his life in Menzoberranzan. Sickened by the evil matriarchal system that rules the city in the name of the dark goddess Lolth, Zaknafein found himself trapped in the service of the ambitious Matron Malice Do’Urden. His only solace is his friendship with Jarlaxle, the charismatic leader of the mercenary band Bregan D’aerthe, with whom he forms a close bond. However, even this friendship is not immune to strife, as influential forces within Menzoberranzan attempt to turn the ranks of Bregan D’aerthe against Zaknafein.

Years later, Zaknafein has been mysteriously returned to life, finding himself in a strange new world, living within the dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym. Despite being reunited with his son, Drizzt, Zaknafein is once again lost; his inherent Drow distain for all non-dark elf life is making it hard for him to fit in with Drizzt’s dwarf, halfling and human friends and family. But as Zaknafein, with the help of Jarlaxle, attempts to find a new path, he is once again beset by dark and powerful opponents.

An ambitious family of human nobles from Waterdeep has combined forces with the ruler of Neverwinter, Lord Neverember, and a minor clan of dwarfs, in an attempt to topple Gauntlgrym’s king, Bruenor, and claim the elemental magical powers the great dwarven kingdom safeguards. While normally such foes would prove little threat to King Bruenor and his allies, these new enemies command a massive and ever-growing army of demons capable of overwhelming even Gauntlgrym’s substantial defences. In addition, their opponents are supported by a noble Drow House from Menzoberranzan whose matron, in a bid to become Lolth’s most favoured servant, is determined to be the Drow who finally captures Zaknafein and Drizzt. As father and son fight for their lives against their new enemies, they soon find themselves pursued by creatures far more sinister and destructive than anything they have seen before. Can the Companions of the Hall prevail, or will evil finally defeat the last bastion of light in the Forgotten Realms?

Boundless is another outstanding and incredibly enjoyable piece of fantasy fiction from one of my all-time favourite authors, the legendary R. A. Salvatore, who is easily one of the top fantasy authors of all time. This is actually the second novel from Salvatore this year, with the second book in his The Coven trilogy, Reckoning of Fallen Gods, having come out in January, and the final book in this trilogy, Song of the Risen God, is set for release in January 2020. In Boundless, Salvatore has once again returned to the iconic Forgotten Realms universe to produce another excellent story set around the character of Drizzt Do’Urden.

The dark elf ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden, is easily the most iconic and popular character that Salvatore has ever created. One of the few moral dark elf characters in all of the Forgotten Realms (the large-scale interconnected universe which has been the setting for a huge number of fantasy novels over the years), Drizzt has been one of Salvatore’s main recurring protagonist for over 30 years, ever since Salvatore’s debut novel, The Crystal Shard. I have long been a fan of Drizzt, mainly because of Salvatore’s amazing second trilogy of books, The Dark Elf trilogy, which told a captivating tale of a young Drizzt Do’Urden. Boundless is the 35th book to follow the adventures of Drizzt and his companions (if you include The Sellswords trilogy) and is the sequel to last year’s exciting fantasy adventure, Timeless. Boundless is also the second book in Salvatore’s current trilogy that focuses on Drizzt, known as the Generations trilogy, which is set to conclude next year in the final book, Relentless (a synopsis of which is already available online).

Boundless was an absolutely fantastic read which takes the reader on an epic thrill-ride through a demon invasion, the dark political underbelly of Menzoberranzan and into the heart and mind of one of Salvatore’s more complex and intriguing characters. Making exceptional use of two separate timelines, Salvatore tells a compelling and intricate story that combines a desperate battle for survival in the present with adventures in the past. Filled with action, adventure, amazing fantasy elements and an epic conclusion, this was a first-rate read that I greatly enjoyed.

This book was essentially impossible to put down from the moment I started listening to it, as Salvatore starts it off with an action packed prologue that sees a large force of halflings, dwarves and Drizzt face off against the horde of demons that were unleashed in Timeless. After this action-packed introduction, the book is then split into four parts, two of which follow the resulting battle for Gauntlgrym and the surrounding lands in the present (the present being Dalereckoning 1488), while the other two parts go back years before the events of the first book in The Dark Elf trilogy, Homeland, and tell a story of a younger Zaknafein and Jarlaxle in Menzoberranzan.

The parts set in the present offer a pretty exciting range of action and adventure as the story is split between several of the fun characters that Salvatore has introduced in all of his Forgotten Realms books. For example, throughout these parts you get to see the destructive siege of Gauntlgrym from the perspective of Bruenor, Zaknafein, Jarlaxle and the Bouldshoulder brothers (who originated in The Cleric Quintet, another one of Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms series). At the same time as Drizzt is being pursued throughout the land by a powerful magical construct, Wulfgar is caught up in an invasion of Luskan by a powerful fleet of monsters, and Regis teams up with Dahlia and Artemis Enteri to investigate their demonic opponents in Waterdeep. This was a fantastic blend of storylines in the present-day parts of the book, and I really enjoyed seeing the various adventures and perils assailing this great group of protagonists. All of the storylines in this part of the book were a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the larger narrative that they were telling. These modern-day storylines end with a major cliff-hanger which is going to make me really want to check out the next book in this trilogy.

While the parts of the book set in Dalereckoning 1488 are pretty awesome, I have to admit that I much preferred the half of the book set back in the past. This part of the book was set over a period of several years and follows a younger Zaknafein and Jarlaxle as they navigate the highs and lows of their original friendship in the darkness of Menzoberranzan. I really liked this storyline, as it not only contained the politics, backstabbing and casual murder that makes all the stories set in Menzoberranzan so much fun, but it also explores Zaknafein’s psyche and starts to explain why he was a different Drow to the other members of his race when he was first introduced in The Dark Elf trilogy. It was also interesting to see the early days of Jarlaxle’s rise as a mercenary leader, and there is also a number of intriguing scenes that feature other Drow characters, such as Drizzt’s mother, Matron Malice, who have been dead for a while. As a result, these parts of the book serve as an excellent prequel to The Dark Elf trilogy, of which I am a massive fan. In addition, these chronologically earlier parts of the book serve to introduce some of the Drow antagonists who are threatening the characters in the present day, and it really interesting to see how the actions of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle hundreds of years in the past are impacting on the future.

I really loved this combination of the two separate timelines in the book and felt that it helped create a fantastic overall narrative. The earlier storyline of Drow house politics, friendships and small-scale grudges contrasts well with the intense war and near constant peril that makes up the 1488 storyline and helps to create a much more compelling book. I also really enjoyed how story elements, such as the exploration of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle’s friendship, or the examination of the cruel dynamics of Drow society, continued on from one part of the book to the next, and it was interesting to see how relationships and minds can change over time.

If there is one guarantee in life, it is that a Drizzt Do’Urden novel is going to feature some fancy swordplay and a ton of action. Boundless is no exception to this rule, as Salvatore has once again furnished his story with all manner of intense and detailed action and battle sequences, as his protagonists fight a variety of opponents. This makes for an exciting and really enjoyable read, as it always fun to see the various ways the Companions of the Hall engage in battle, especially since they have built up quite an impressive array of magical weapons and abilities after 35 books. In addition, Salvatore has come up with some unique and powerful opponents for this book, including two powerful magical constructs that are all but invincible and require extreme measures to combat. The parts of the book set in Menzoberranzan’s past also feature a wide array of dazzling duels and battles from Zaknafein, as he is forced to prove that he is the best weapons master in the city. The author shows off some truly impressive fight sequences in the parts of the book focusing on Zaknafein’s earlier life and Salvatore does a fantastic job providing the reader with a blow-by-blow account of what is happening. I also really liked how the author included several scenes that showed Zaknafein training for future battles in which he attempts to work out the best way to perform some elaborate or near-impossible combat move, which of course would then be utilised in a later fight. Needless to say, those looking for their next dose of fantasy action should look no further than Boundless, as Salvatore has once again provided one hell of a hit.

While I did read a physically copy of the previous book in the series, Timeless, for Boundless I ended up listening to the audiobook format instead. Boundless’s audiobook is narrated by Victor Bevine and runs for just over 13 hours, which only took me a few days to get through. I ended up having a great time listening to Boundless, especially as listening to a blow-by-blow of the amazing action sequences really helped bring these scenes to life for me. Bevine did a fantastic job of breathing life into the book’s various characters, and I really enjoyed the way that he captured the personalities of several of the characters with his performance. I also appreciated the way that he was able to emulate a number of very different characters and species throughout the course of the audiobook. Not only did he come up with sly and calculating voices for the various Drow characters, but he was also able to affect an impressive brogue for the various dwarven characters in the book. This is a fantastic range, and I quite enjoyed all of the voices that Bevine came up with. As a result, I would definitely recommend the audiobook version of Boundless to anyone who is interested, and I think that I will try to listen to next book in the trilogy.

Overall, Boundless is an outstanding and incredible new release from Salvatore, and I loved every second that I was reading it. Featuring a ton of action and some really cool plot elements, Salvatore tells a clever and intricate story that sets some high stakes for his beloved characters. Not only am I excited to see where the story goes in the next book, but I also have a very strong urge to go back and check out Salvatore’s The Dark Elf trilogy, where some of the fantastic characters explored in this book were first introduced. With this latest novel, Salvatore continues to show why he is one of the biggest names in fantasy fiction, and it is thanks to books like Boundless that I will continue to grab every new Salvatore release I can get.

Waiting on Wednesday – Song of the Risen God by R. A. Salvatore

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. After reading the incredible recent fantasy release Boundless, I am in a mood for another novel by one of my favourite authors, R. A. Salvatore, so in this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I check out Salvatore’s next upcoming book, Song of the Risen God.

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Song of the Risen God will be the third and final book in The Coven trilogy, a series which follows on from the events of Salvatore’s epic The DemonWars Saga, which started in 1997 with The Demon Awakens. Set in his unique fantasy world of Corona, The Coven trilogy has so far featured two action-packed and compelling novels, 2018’s Child of a Mad God and this year’s Reckoning of Fallen Gods, both of which I have really enjoyed. Salvatore has been running these novels concurrently with his latest trilogy of books in the Forgotten Realms universe (which includes Timeless and Boundless).

The Coven trilogy is mostly focused on the humans who live around the shores of the massive Loch Beag, as well as the ruthless Uscar tribe who live above the loch on the slopes of the mountain, Fireach Speur. The Uscar are feared warriors and hunters who, with the help of their witch’s crystal magic, constantly raid the fishing villages around Loch Beag, taking the woman and children for slaves. While most Uscar are content with their violent lifestyle, one young Uscar witch, Aoelyn, rebelled and attempted to use her powerful magical abilities to escape the brutality of her tribe.

Together with her lover, the slave Bahdlahn, Aoelyn manages to make her way to the villages at the loch edge, where several of their friends and allies are waiting for them. However, just as Aoelyn and Bahdlahn managed to escape, a powerful army of goblinoids, the Xoconai, attacked both the Uscar and the villages around Loch Beag in the opening stages of an all-out invasion of the civilised human lands that lie on the other side of the mountain.

The second book in this trilogy, Reckoning of Fallen Gods, ended with the Xoconai’s fallen god rising from death and unleashing his full power on Loch Beag, devastating the tribes below and uncovering his massive dragon steed that lurked beneath Loch Beag. This was an epic cliff-hanger to end the second book with, and I am really looking forward to seeing how Salvatore concludes this great trilogy.

Song of the Risen God, which is set for release in late January 2020, currently has the following plot synopsis out, and it looks like it is going to be a pretty cool novel.

Goodreads Synopsis:

War has come to Fireach Speur.

The once forgotten Xoconai empire has declared war upon the humans west of the mountains, and their first target are the people of Loch Beag. Lead by the peerless general, Tzatzini, all that stands in the way of the God Emperor’s grasp of power is Aoelyn, Talmadge, and their few remaining allies.

But not all hope is lost. Far away from Fireach Speuer, an ancient tomb is uncovered by Brother Thaddeus of the Abellican Church. Within it is the power to stop the onslaught of coming empire and, possibly, reshape the very world itself.

While the above synopsis does not contain a lot of new details, it does sound like this is going to be a novel that focuses on a deadly war against the Xoconai. Salvatore’s previous works are littered with a number of scenarios where the forces of good have to fight against a superior force, and I’ve loved every single one of them so far. After the amazing first two books in this trilogy, I expect to have an outstanding time reading Song of the Risen God. This new upcoming book from Salvatore is probably one of my most anticipated reads for the first half of 2020, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

WWW Wednesday – 6 November 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

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The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis (Trade Paperback)

This is a great piece of urban fantasy that I am really enjoying at the moment.  Australian author Maria Lewis has come up with an amazing story and I am glad I received a copy of this book.

Lethal Agent by Kyle Mills (based on the series by Vince Flynn) (Audiobook)

I only just started listening to this audiobook about half an hour ago, but so far it is a pretty decent thriller.  I quite liked the previous book in this series, Red War, last year so I am sure I will power through this book rather quickly.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (Trade Paperback)

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Boundless by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

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The Diamond Hunter by Fiona McIntosh (Trade Paperback)

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The Night Fire by Michael Connelly (Audiobook)

The Night Fire Cover
What do you think you’ll read next?

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton (Trade Paperback)

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That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. This week’s topic is to list my top ten auto-buy authors, that is the top ten authors whose latest books I will always buy no matter what.

This was a pretty cool topic to explore. There are a number of amazing authors out there whose books I will generally try to get each year due to how much I enjoyed their previous works. However, there are a few authors whose books I will automatically buy the moment they come out, many of whom I have been fans of for years. I managed to list my top ten of these authors, with a couple of honourable mentions thrown in as well. Fair warning: this top ten list features quite a large number of historical fiction authors. This is mainly because I previously focused solely on historical fiction for quite a long period of time and have only recently started getting into reviewing other genres such as science fiction or thrillers and have yet to finalise any auto-buy authors in these genres. I have added in a few fantasy authors, mostly because I have been reading these guys since I was fairly young, and their work is still incredibly impressive. Check out my list below:

Honourable Mentions:

 

Conn Iggulden

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One of the top authors of historical fiction, Iggulden has written some compelling books, set in some intriguing historical periods. His latest book, for example, The Falcon of Sparta, was pretty epic and focussed on an amazing event from history.

Mellissa Caruso

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This author’s debut series, the Swords and Fire trilogy, is just outstanding, and I will be adding all of her future books to the top of my reading list. Make sure to check out all the books in this series, including The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire.

Harry Sidebottom

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An author who focuses on Roman history, Sidebottom has recently started blending his books with the thriller genre, creating some intriguing reads, such as his 2018 release, The Last Hour. I currently have his latest book, The Lost Ten, on my shelf and cannot wait to read it.

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

 

Terry Pratchett

The author of the Discworld series and the master of combining fantasy elements with comedic stories. Before he passed away, I could always expect to receive the latest Terry Pratchett book as a Christmas gift every single year, and I would often finish it off by the end of Christmas day. Since his death in 2015, I haven’t really bought any of his novels, although I did manage to obtain them all on audiobook, which I relisten to all the time. As Pratchett is and probably always will be my favourite author of all time, I had to include him on this list, especially as he was my original auto-buy author

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Raising Steam was the last one of Pratchett’s books I received, while I recently reread Moving Pictures before I reviewed it earlier this year.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Maybe a nice copy of Good Omens, since I really enjoyed the show. I am planning to reread Pyramids next, as I am hoping to review it on the blog at some point.

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow has to be one of my favourite historical fiction authors at the moment. His Eagles of the Empire series is one of the best Roman historical fiction series at the moment, and he has also produced a number of other books, including his Roman Arena and Invader novella series with T. J. Andrews, as well as his incredibly detailed Wellington and Napoleon Quartet. I have read all 17 of the books in his Eagles of the Empire series and am eagerly anticipating the 18th book, which will be out later this year. This has to be one of my favourite historical fiction series at the moment, and I will pretty much grab anything written by Scarrow as a result.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

The Blood of Rome (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Either the 18th book of the Eagles of the Empire series, Traitors of the Empire (out 14 November 2019), or Pirata (out 9 July 2019), the collected edition of the Pirata short stories that was recently released.

C. J. Samson

In my mind, the best author of historical murder mysteries at the moment has to be C. J. Samson. His Matthew Shardlake series is just incredible, as each book contains an extremely clever and detailed murder mystery that perfectly utilises the author’s Tudor England setting to tell a compelling story. Every one of his books generally becomes the best historical fiction releases of the year and will often be my favourite overall book of the year as well. As a result, each of Samson’s books are extremely high on my to-read list, and it’s such a shame there is usually a big gap between each of his books.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Tombland (2018), which not only got a five-star review from me, but which made my Top Ten Reads of 2018 list.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Hopefully the eighth book in the Matthew Shardlake series, although I may have to wait till 2022 for it to come out. I have no doubt it will be worth it, though.

Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist is one of the best fantasy authors in the world today. His iconic Riftwar Cycle, which ran for nearly 30 years, is considered one of the greatest fantasy series in the world today and features some incredible books. Feist’s Talon of the Silver Hawk was one of the first fantasy books I ever read, and after falling in love with it I went back and read every single previous book he wrote, starting with Magician and moving onto books such as the epic Empire trilogy he wrote with Jenny Wurst. Without a doubt, Feist is one of my favourite authors of all time and I eagerly grab every new book he releases, including the books in his new series, The Firemane Saga, which started last year.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

King of Ashes (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Firemane Saga book 2 – (I believe it will be called Queen of Storms)


Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis is probably the most prominent authors of the ancient history murder mystery. Her iconic Falco series, which ran for 20 books, placed a character styled after a modern private investigator in ancient Rome, resulting in some entertaining and enjoyable reads. I first started reading the sequel series to Falco books, the Flavia Albia series, back in 2013 and haven’t looked back. Her books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I especially loved the fifth and sixth books in the series, The Third Nero and Pandora’s Boy, which had some extremely epic comedy moments. These Flavia Albia books are a great highlight of my April reading schedule, and I fully plan to keep buying them as long as Davis continues to write them.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Capitol Death (2019) – review to follow soon.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Grove of the Caesars (April 2020)


Stan Sakai

I am a massive fan of many examples of comic books and magna, and I have had the pleasure of reading some amazing series from a variety of different publishers. However, the comic series that I look forward to the most each year is the Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai. There is just something about this series I cannot help but love, and I currently own all 32 volumes of the series, as well as some of the associated books. Sakai’s works are a must-get for me and he easily makes this list.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 32: Mysteries (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 33: The Hidden (2019). I have already ordered this book and it is hopefully on its way.

Robert Fabbri

For the last few years, Robert Fabbri’s debut body of books, the Vespasian series, has been an extremely entertaining highlight of my reading year. The author did an amazing job of combining a compelling examination of the history of one of the most influential Roman Emperors with some of the wild and extreme stories of Roman excess and insanity. The end result is an amazing series of books that I absolutely devour when I get my hands of them. Fabbri is currently working on a new series of books, The Alexander Legacies, which I am really looking forward to, and I imagine I will grab every book in this future series.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Emperor of Rome (2019). This book recently made my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2019 list and is a heck of a lot of fun.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Alexander Legacies – Book 1 (2020)


Ken Follett

Ken Follett is an extremely talented author who has been writing since the 1970s. While he was initially known for his clever thrillers, I am a fan of his incredible pieces of historical fiction. Follett has written some truly amazing pieces of historical fiction including his extraordinary book, The Pillars of the Earth. I was first introduced to Follett’s books with his epic Century trilogy, and honestly all I needed to do was read one of his massive books to fall in love with this author’s work. No one blends life stories of fictional characters with iconic moments of history, and I desperately waiting for Follett’s next piece of work

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Column of Fire (2017)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown – Apparently a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth

R. A. Salvatore

This is another author I would consider to be one of the top fantasy authors in the world today. Few authors have the sustainability and imagination of R. A. Salvatore, and I have been a massive fan of his for years. After powering through his The Icewind Dale trilogy, the series I really fell in love with was his prequel series, The Dark Elf trilogy. The way that he built up the history of his most iconic characters was just outstanding and made me a fan for life. I have since bought or read every single Salvatore book set in the Forgotten Realms, including The Cleric Quintet and all the books featuring Drizzt Do’Urden, including the latest book Timeless, and will continue to read them as long as Salvatore rights about the character. I have also started getting into his books set in the Corona universe and have read the first two books in The Coven series, which started last year with Child of a Mad God.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Reckoning of Fallen Gods (2019)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Boundless (2019)


Bernard Cornwell

The final author to feature in this list is the author I consider to be at the top of the historical fiction genre, Bernard Cornwell. With over 55 historical fiction novels on his resume, Cornwell has written some incredible pieces of work, and I have been a huge fan of his for years. The first Cornwell books I read were part of The Last Kingdom series, and I quickly graduated to other series, such as The Grail Quest novels. I really love how Cornwell can tell a huge number of different stories from across the historical periods, whether he looks at prehistoric adventures in Stonehenge, battles in America with The Fort or setting an intriguing piece of crime fiction amongst the plays of Shakespeare in Fools and Mortals. His body of work is just amazing and I cannot wait to check out what he writes next.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

War of the Wolf (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. Are any of the authors featured within on your auto-buy author list? Let me know if the comments below or link through your auto-buy authors so I can check them out.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books from the First Half of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official topic for this week was childhood favourites; however, as this is the first week of July, I thought I would instead do a quick look back at my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2019.

I have had an amazing time this year reading some outstanding books, so I had a bit of a hard time choosing books for this list, but I did eventually manage to whittle it down to 10 books (with a few honourable mentions thrown in). I decided to only include books that were published between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2019, which helped limit the list a bit for me. While I have reviewed most of these books on the blog or in The Canberra Weekly, there were one or two which I am currently in the process of reviewing and will hopefully go up soon. Check out my list below:

Honourable Mentions:

Emperor of Rome by Robert Fabbri – 4.5 stars

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Reckoning of Fallen Gods
by R. A. Salvatore – 4.5 stars

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Recursion by Blake Crouch

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I literally only finished this last night, but it was an outstanding and captivating read and I’m hoping to write up a review for it soon.

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove – 4.5 stars

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Top Ten List (no particular order):

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – 5 Stars

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I only wrote a short review for this book, but it was a pretty epic novel that I really enjoyed and is easily one of the best books of 2019 so far.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – 5 stars

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Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker – 5 stars

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War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts – 5 stars

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Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey

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I listened to this one a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. I still need to get a review up for it but it was an amazing book.

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – 5 stars

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The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso – 5 stars

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Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray – 4.75 stars

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God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston – 4.75 stars

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Vol. 1: High School is Hell by Jordie Bellaire and
Dan Mora – 4.5 stars

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I hope you enjoyed this list and the books I have chosen. Several of these books are likely to appear in any future Top Ten Reads of 2019 list that I do, but I really think that some of the books coming out in the next six months have the potential to make the top ten. Let me know which books were your favourite releases for the first half of 2019.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods by R. A. Salvatore

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Publishers: Tor Books and Audible Studios (Audiobook Format – 29 January 2019)

Series: The Coven – Book 2

Length: 14 hours 37 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Prepare to return to Corona, the world of The DemonWars Saga, for Reckoning of Fallen Gods, the latest book from master fantasy author R. A. Salvatore and the second book in his outstanding new The Coven series.

In the world of Corona, no lands are as harsh or unforgiving as those surrounding the massive Loch Beag.  All manner of dangerous creatures live in and around the loch, including one massive and unseen lake monster that lurks right below the surface.  But for those who live in the fishing villages that eke out a living around the shore of Loch Beag, the biggest danger is more human in origin.  Living at the top of the massive mountain, Fireach Speur, is a barbaric tribe, the Uscar, who constantly raid the fishing villages below.  Enhanced in battle by the crystal magic of their witches, the Uscar are ferocious warriors who consider themselves vastly superior to the inhabitants of the villages they raid.

This cycle of violence and death existed for hundreds of years until a powerful young Uscar witch, Aoelyn, attempted to change her tribe’s ways by destroying the fossa, a demonic creature that haunted the mountain at night.  However, her decision will have terrible consequences, as ambitious members of her tribe turn against her.  As Aoelyn endures the wrath of her tribe, her friend, the slave Bahdlahn, attempts to escape from the Uscar with help from an unexpected ally.  Down at the shore of Loch Beag, the trader Talmadge, who Aoelyn saved from her tribe’s brutality the night she ended the fossa, attempts to find some sort of peace among the fishing villages who have accepted him as a friend.  However, the appearance of a mysterious stranger will bring significant changes to his life.

But while those living around Loch Beag fight among themselves, they are unaware of a much bigger threat growing in the East.  A lost empire of goblinoids, the Xoconai, are on the march, driven by the return of their fallen god.  The Xoconai are determined to conquer all the lands of man, and the first obstacle they must overcome is the people of Fireach Speur and Loch Beag.

R. A. Salvatore is one of the best and most prolific authors of fantasy fiction in the world today, having a written over 60 fantasy books in his career. He is perhaps best known for his work in the established Forgotten Realms universe and the incredibly popular character of Drizzt Do’Urden. However, Salvatore has also written a series of novel set within his own unique fantasy world of Corona.

Salvatore introduced audiences to this new fantasy world in his 1997 release, The Demon Awakens, the first book in his epic The DemonWars Saga, which spanned seven books between 1997 and 2003.  This universe was expanded out in 2004 with The Highwayman, the first book in his Saga of the First King series.  After the Saga of the First King series ended in 2010, Salvatore left the world of Corona untouched for eight years while primarily focusing on his Forgotten Realms series.  However, he returned to Corona in 2018 with Child of a Mad God, the first book in his new The Coven series.  The Coven series is primarily set in a previously unexplored area of Corona, in the lands around the massive Loch Beag, with the first book focusing on a whole new group of characters.

I am a massive fan of Salvatore’s work, having read nearly all the books featuring Drizzt Do’Urden and his companions (click here for my review of the latest Drizzt Do’Urden book Timeless).  However, before last year’s Child of a Mad God, I had not really gotten into his work set in Corona, having only really read The Highwayman back when it was first released in 2004.  While Child of a Mad God was not my favourite of Salvatore’s books, it did a great job introducing this new area of Corona, while also creating an excellent starting point for the series’ overall plotline.

I found that I enjoyed Reckoning of Fallen Gods a lot more than the first book in the series, possibly because the author was able to dive right in and continue several of the more intriguing plot threads from the first book.  I quite enjoyed how the story progressed; all of the storylines contained within were very well paced and entertaining, coming together extremely well towards the book’s conclusion.  I really liked the over-the-top way that the story ended, as it sets up the next book in the series with some massive stakes and makes full use of the intriguing new fantasy elements that were included within this book.  A bit of a warning about this series: is it substantially darker than some of Salvatore’s other works.  This was particularly true of the first book of The Coven series, Child of a Mad God, which contained a fair amount of torture and sexual violence.  While there is a little less sexual violence in this book, several character development elements are based around these original events and are discussed in some detail.  There is also some fairly dark and gruesome action and torture, which might not be enjoyable for some readers.  Overall, though, this is a great follow-up to Child of a Mad God that once again highlights Salvatore’s skill as a master fantasy storyteller.

Some readers may be wary about checking this book out because it is the second book in The Coven series and the 13th overall book set in the world of Corona.  However, I found that this book to be easily accessible to new readers, with the author ensuring that relevant details from the previous book and series were easy to understand and follow nearly right away.  In addition, there are also a lot of elements for established fans of this universe to enjoy, especially as Salvatore includes a substantial character from one of his previous Corona based series in this book.  The inclusion of this character is an excellent way to tie this new series with the author’s existing works in this fantasy universe, which also highlights the importance of this story to the rest of the world of Corona.  The ending of Reckoning of Fallen Gods also hints that characters and locations from the previous series may come into play in the next book in The Coven series.

I loved all the fantasy elements in this book.  The world of Corona is a fantastic setting for the great story that is taking shape within The Coven series.  The main location for most of this book’s plot, the lands around Loch Beag and Fireach Speur, is a substantially dark and rugged area with a large number of natural and unnatural threats.  In Reckoning of Fallen Gods, there are a number of significant developments around several of these locations and creatures, some of which are pretty insane.  Just like in the first book in this series, Child of a Mad God, Salvatore continues to expand on the intriguing gem-based magic that is a feature of the books set in Corona.  The gem magic that was featured in Child of Mad God was somewhat different from the already established gem magic used in some of previous Corona books, such as The DemonWar Saga, and is based around the magic found atop Fireach Speur.  This expansion of the gem magic continues in Reckoning of Fallen Gods with the main character, Aoelyn, developing additional magical abilities.  Many of these abilities are quite spectacular, and Salvatore’s enthralling writing highlights how impressive these abilities are when Aoelyn utilises them in fights or other magical engagements.  At the same time, another character utilises some of the more traditional gemstone powers they had in one of the previous series, and it is interesting to see the differences and similarities this has with the Uscar magic.

One of the more unique and enjoyable fantasy inclusions within Reckoning of a Fallen God is the new antagonist race, the Xocanai.  The Xocanai are a new race of goblinoid creatures that exist in a realm on the other side of the mountains surrounding Fireach Speur.  The Xocanai are somewhat Aztecan in culture and their empire has been rather cut off from the rest of the world for some time.  However, recent actions have allowed them to come together to invade the human lands, and some of the events of Child of a Mad God may be to blame.  I felt that Salvatore did an excellent job of introducing them in the current book, and he was able to build them up as a substantial antagonist in quite short order.  I liked how the reader is able to get a good view of this new race’s culture and religion in only a few short chapters, while in-universe texts present at the start of each section of the book help to establish a historical past for these creatures.  In the end, they are a fantastic new inclusion to the series and the universe and serve as excellent new antagonists.

Salvatore has created some great new characters for this series, and many of the key characters who were introduced in the first book go through some significant and compelling character development throughout Reckoning of Fallen Gods.  The main character development occurs with Aoelyn, who, after the fallout of the events in the first book, develops a stronger sense of independence and rejects the established male hierarchy imposed upon her and all the female members of her tribe.  Her friend Bahdlahn gains the courage to finally flee the Uscar and is finally able to come to terms with his feelings for Aoelyn.  At the same time, the trader Talmadge comes to terms with the tragedies in his life and is finally able to find some semblance of peace with the people living around Loch Beag.  Even the established character from the previous series (who I am still not mentioning for spoiler reasons) has developed somewhat in this book, as he ruminates on the mistakes from his past that were covered in the previous series.

I have to give credit to Salvatore for creating some truly villainous antagonists for this series, especially among the Uscar characters.  The main antagonists are quite despicable, especially in the way that they deal with Aoelyn and Bahdlahn, and the reader is hoping for all sorts of comeuppance for these characters.  Even the Uscar characters that come across as more compassionate members of the tribe can still be quite dislikeable.  For example, there is one character who appears to change his ways in Reckoning of Fallen Gods.  However, he has a sudden and quite unjustified change of heart back to the Uscar ways towards the end of the book, and his complaining about the event that drove him to betray his friends really does not endear him to the reader.  These great antagonists serve as spectacular foils to the protagonists and really add a lot to the overall story.

I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Reckoning of Fallen Gods, narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds.  This was an interesting change of pace for me, as I had read the physical copy of the first book in The Coven series, so it was cool to hear these characters come to life in the audiobook format.  At 14 hours and 37 minutes, this was not the longest audiobook I have listened to recently, but it still required a little bit of time to get through.  Reynolds is a spectacular narrator, and I really enjoyed listening to him tell this story.  His base narration voice for this book was really good, and I found I was able to absorb a lot of the story through his great narration.  The character voices he came up with were also excellent, and I loved how the distinctive cultural/species groups within Reckoning of Fallen Gods got their own accents.  For example, he ensured that the Uscar characters had a form of Scottish accent, while the other groups that feature in the book, such as the Xocani have a noticeably different way of speaking.  Because of this excellent voice work, I had a lot of fun listening to this book, and I will make sure to get the audiobook versions of this series in the future.

Fantasy icon R. A. Salvatore is in high form once again with Reckoning of Fallen Gods, the second book in his new The Coven series.  Salvatore does an outstanding job continuing the intriguing story he started in the first book of the series, Child of a Mad God, and effortlessly inserts a number of original and familiar elements to create an exciting and epic read.  With some great characters and some inventive new ideas, this is a spectacular new addition to this darker fantasy adventure series.