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The Ancient (Saga Of The First King) by R.A. Salvatore

01/10/2008. Contributed by RJ Barker

Buy The Ancient in the USA - or Buy The Ancient in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 384 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1789-6).

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The brutal Samhaist priest, Ancient Baddon, and his followers are plotting in their ice castle on the shores of an Alpinadoran lake. If they can bring their plans to fruition, calamity awaits the land of Vanguard and beyond. Bransen Garibond is drawn to Vanguard in search of his lost father and pulled into the ongoing conflicts between its peoples. Can Bransen stop Ancient Baddon before his plans come together and ruin is visited upon the land?

After fighting my way through the previous book in this series, 'The Highwayman', I was happy to find that 'The Ancient' is a better book. Sadly, that still doesn't make it a good one.

Like it's predecessor, this is a simple book full of cardboard cut-out characters and uninspiring writing. A creature chopped to bits by an axe is described as 'melting into a pile of torn muck,' which makes no sense and conjures up images of 'The Wizard Of Oz'. There are also character names that just struck me as strange choices. Crazy V and Jameston Sequin being the two that really stuck in my mind.

I've not read anything by R.A. Salvatore apart from this series. The back cover of this book quotes reviews as saying '...excels in world-building and creating complex, introspective characters who triumph through wit and determination...' That is not the case in this book and if I had paid for this on the strength of that blurb I'd be furious.

I can't help feeling that TOR are making an error with this series. If they removed some of the more overt sexual references in this it would be a great book for a younger age group and if that was the target reader this review would be much better. As an adult book it fails it lacks complexity and by the end I was forcing myself to read on. It often feels like the editor should have been a bit more severe with their cutting knife. Some sentences would be great if they didn't have a few extra words tagged on that tell you what's going on, just in case you didn't pick it up. The language skips between modern and archaisms like '...for he...' which only serves to remind you you're reading. As do the exclamation marks, which are infuriating! They make the text seem very false!

However, there are some things in this that are good. The first person introductions work a lot better than the third person text, they seem a lot more natural. The Powries, a race of dwarves, are fun and lift the text whenever they're around. In fact, the Powries were by far my favourite element and I looked forward to their appearances. The choice of action, a hot lake in an alpine wilderness is a really interesting setting and works really well.

On balance, this is a better book than 'The Highwayman' but if you're into heroic fantasy then you're probably aware of David Gemmell and this doesn't match up. If you're not aware of David Gemmell then you should probably buy something by him rather than this.

RJ Barker

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This book has 431 votes in the sci-fi charts

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