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The Ancient (Saga of the First King) Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This ensemble-driven follow-up to 2004's The Highwayman finds bestseller Salvatore liberally borrowing themes and character types from his earlier novels. As in the Cleric Quintet, a disaffected monk (Cormack) contemplates higher wisdom and draws the love of a restless outsider (the shaman Milkeila), while rough-and-ready dwarf Mcwigik provides brute strength and comic relief in similar measure. As in the Drizzt novels, the nominal hero wanders, deals death and addresses his readers in impassioned italics. Bransen Garibond's dual identity as the swashbuckling Highwayman and stuttering Stork recalls the Crimson Shadow. As in the Icewind Dale books, the setting is a remote wintry landscape, with isolated islands standing in for barbarian villages. The scattered cast takes much too long to converge, and druidic arch-villain Ancient Badden never emerges as an effective antagonist. The result is a Frankenstein's monster–like construct of brisk prose and lively combat scenes: imposing at first glance, but awkwardly assembled and doomed to disappoint. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--Library Journal on R. A. Salvatore
"Bob Salvatore always makes the most fantastic seem real. His heroes become friends we care about, and his foes fascinate."
--Ed Greenwood on R. A. Salvatore
“Salvatore's strongest fantasy to date. [His] potent mixture of detailed historical context, well-rounded characters (including secondary figures torn by conflicted loyalties to their church and state), brisk pacing and exciting battle scenes make for a consuming read.”
--Publishers Weekly on The Demon Apostle
“Lacks nothing in pacing and well-handled battle scenes. This is his most ambitious book to date.”
--Booklist on The Demon Awakens
“Mortalis is Salvatore at his best--and even better.”
--New York Times bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole
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However, the road proves dangerous as Dame Gwydre abducts Bran demanding he become THE HIGHWAYMAN of yore to save her people from the purge of the Druid Samhaists and their leader Ancient Badden, who are ethnically cleansing the land of disbelievers. Badden has awakened a powerful malevolence who Bransen must defeat before going after the Druid, but he cannot do it alone.
THE ANCIENT is an entreating return to the world of Corona as Bransen is forced to return to his youth to fight a growing evil. The story line is fast-paced although Bransen's doubts about his skills seem somewhat out of place with his self-confidence as described earlier in the tale and his past. Fans will appreciate his efforts and those of his new teammates to battle the evil Ancient Badden and his chosen evil one with the usual incredible final battle.
The plot of this book is actually several plots woven together to create an overall plotline. The overall plot is that of Bransen trying to find his the father he has never known. However, there are more immediate plot line that are put into play. There is a subplot of a disenchanted monk who is seeking to find himself either in the tenets of the church or away from the church's teachings. There is also a subplot of a barbarian shaman who is dealing with her faith and beliefs in the face of the new faith that she is being exposed to due to the arrival of the monks. The third subplot involves Bransen being tricked into participating in something that he otherwise would not have taken part in. All three of these subplots are loosely tied together by the threat of an ancient evil.
A couple of the characters found in this book are carryover characters from the Highwayman. Most notably Bransen. However, aside for a few select characters, the cast of this book is new. A word of caution to fans of Mr. Salvatore's Drizzt novels. Do not become too attached to any character in Salvatore's Corona novels, at times when you least expect it one may happen to die. Two of the more interesting new characters are Cormack and Milkeila. Both are from separate religions, but are dealing with the same feelings about their religions. Each of these characters experiences significant character development throughout that novel, some of which is introspective which I appreciate as we don't really see that much in fantasy novels. Bransen, although he is a main part of the story, doesn't really seem to experience much development at all. By and large, the way he starts the novel is pretty much how he ends the novel. I really enjoyed his character in The Highwayman, yet I never felt like I really connected with his character in this novel. There were also a couple of powries who I also had a hard time connecting with. From past novels we know that powries are heartless, killers and tough as nails. Yet, in this novel, while we certainly learned more about them - it almost seemed as though Mr. Salvatore tried to force the powries into being a bit of comedic relief which is totally against everything we, as readers, know about them. The villain, Ancient Badden, is your typical fantasy novel villain. There is really nothing that sets him apart from other villains. He's not a `badly' written villain by any means, it's just there is nothing `special' about him either.
I do have a couple of criticisms about this novel.
1 - Fans of Mr. Salvatore's Drizzt novels will surely recognize the use of journal entries in this novel at the start of each section. When I say the first entry I inwardly groaned. When I saw the second one I was disappointed that Salvatore would use that means of conveyance so popular in the Drizzt books, in this novel. It's the adage of going to the well one too many times takes away the uniqueness. I often like the Drizzt entries, but they seem very out of place in this novel.
2 - The way the chapters are set up is very, for lack of a better word, unconventional. There are several small sections in each chapter covering a different point of view. A couple of times it even alternates between a couple POV in a given chapter. This approach makes the chapters, at times, feel choppy and disjointed. That style, at least to me, takes away from any solid flow the previous section may have established.
Some things that I really liked about this novel.
1 - I like the overall story arc of Bransen looking for his father. It was hinted at towards the end of the Highwayman and I think it will be a rather interesting tale to read about his search and how he handles having to use the gemstones to be `normal'.
2 - I really enjoy how Salvatore writes secondary characters. They are almost always as richly detailed as the primary characters. It is nice to see that attention to detail given to even minor characters.
3 - I just really enjoy reading books set in the world of Corona. It's a richly detailed world that has some very unique elements to it. As well as the general rule I mentioned before about Corona novels. No character is safe from impending death. It's a refreshing thing to say in fantasy novels now-a-days.
Overall, I really wanted to love this book. Yet, once I finished I did not feel it was Salvatore's best work. It's certainly a solid novel, and one many fans will most certainly enjoy. But, I never felt the `wow' factor I felt with the Highwayman, or the Demon War novels. If I had the ability to rate this novel a 3.5 out of 5 I would do that, but being that I don't I will give it a 4 out of 5. It's certainly a book I would recommend to fantasy fans, with the caveat that they should really read the Highwayman first. I am looking forward to see what other stories Salvatore will write in Corona.
The warm water lake in the midst of a glacier is the source of Samhaist power and when the Samhaist leader, The Ancient, discovers an Abellican fortress in the midst of the lake, he decides it must be destroyed--along with everyone who allowed it to exist. The Samhaist faith is the truth, after all--it promises death, which is the only certainty.
Brother Cormack is proud to be one of the Abellicans who's settled in an island in the warm lake, even if none of the locals has adopted the faith he and his fellows teach. But when the monks rescue three injured barbarians and then refuse to let them leave the monastary until they accept the Abellican faith, his own faith is shaken. Could this really be the mercy and gentleness he believes in?
Bransen, the unwilling hero, and Cormack, the monk stripped of his faith, together with a small band of redcapped dwarves, seem like little threat to The Ancient himself. Still, although Cormack might have been cast out of the Abellican brotherhood, he's got to do something to prevent their complete destruction--as well as the destruction of the people living in the lake--including the woman he's come to love.
Author R. A. Salvatore creates a fascinating character in Cormack--a man of faith, rejected by those of his faith. Throw in some wonderful fight scenes and you've got a book worth reading. I found less to like about Bransen. Salvatore created him as the reluctant hero, but he seems more reluctant than hero. As he, himself, realizes, he is selfish even when doing good and it's, frankly, sometimes difficult to care whether he comes out of his many fights on the winning or losing side. The story is enhanced by wise-talking dwarves, bit characters like Dawson and Dame Gwydre, and a well-motivated villain in The Ancient.
THE ANCIENT makes for enjoyable, if lightweight, reading.