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.
I received this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Child of a Mad God is a character driven fantasy. It’s set in a small part of a much larger world. We have two main points of view throughout the book and through them get an insight into the finer details of the cultures and people.
Aoleyn is from the Usgar tribe, they live on the mountain, surrounded by magic and are considered daemons by the Lake tribes. Even at the age of three, when we first meet her, we get a sense of Aoleyn’s spirit, her courage and her intelligence. She watches and understands a lot more than most. Maybe it is down to the relaxed way in which the crone raised her, but she has a fire in her, a sense of right and wrong that doesn’t always align with the ways of the tribe. Combined with her talent she becomes a headstrong, intelligent teen. By the time she is 14 she is a force. She doesn’t back down and considering the misogynistic ways of her tribe, the social system, she is beaten by the adults a lot. It’s the women who beat her. I always find it interesting that when you have a group of oppressed people, that it is usually the oppressed themselves who are the most brutal with each other.
It pleased her to see Aoleyn standing up to Egard and two other boys-she had knocked one down hard and had Egard up on his toes by taking a handful of his balls with a mighty twist. She hadn‘t backed down at all from the three, and would send them running. But she had done so for a reason that could not sit well with Seonagh. Egard and his friends were bullying a slave boy, the simpleton. Aoleyn had come to his rescue.
While the story is predominately about Aoleyn and the Usgar tribe, Talmadge gives us a much needed insight into the outer world, through him we get hints as to what has happened in the past. From what I can gather there is another series set in the same world, just in a different part of the land. The lake tribes are isolated, so the past events haven’t impacted them. They are considered savages and looked down upon for the way they live, yet they survive in a very hostile environment, so they aren’t stupid. They live in a way which lets them survive. They ritualised the ways of survival, passing the tools down through the generation. To an outsider it might look or sound like myths and superstition, but their daemons are real.
The harshness of these traditions – torture, sacrifice, self-flagellation – harken to more primitive and desperate times, with death ever-present, looming and leering. Torture and sacrifice give to these people a small measure of power over suffering and death itself, perhaps, as they are all intimately touched by death on a regular basis.
I liked the writing, it was smooth and easy to read. It was brutal and harsh when it needed and the time jumps were superb. So subtle, which I like. The plot itself had a lot of different themes going on, which was also good. It talks a lot about fear controlling our thoughts on people who are different to us, how to reclaim your power and living your life. In the end the story felt like it was going to build up to something, but it never did. It all felt flat. It took well over half the book to get to Aoleyn learning about the crystals and magic. Even when the action was happening it was all very basic. It didn’t evoke any anticipation or reaction from me. I could put the book down at any time, I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading. Yes its a character driven book, but all of Talmadge’s scenes felt like filler. Did we get to know him just so we would have a sense of dread near the end? Because I didn’t get that, I wasn’t fussed by the events happening to him at all. I think we could have skipped over half of his story and been okay. And while we are on the subject of the ending, I thought it was a massive let down. It felt rushed, and skimmed over.
R.A Salvatore has been on my radar for quite a while but this is the first book I picked up. It’s an ok character driven fantasy, but I won’t be rushing out to pick up the next one.