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.