cover image The Bear

The Bear

R.A. Salvatore, Tor, $7.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 9780765317919

This final installment in the Saga of the First King series brings readers back to Honce, Salvatore's heroic fantasy locale. The war between wily old Laird Ethelbert and sadistic young King Yeslnik rages on with almost too many characters for comfort. Bransen the Highwayman, defeated by the mystic woman warrior Affwin Wi, feels his life is pointless and slopes home to his wife, while former monk Cormack struggles to broker a new alliance between old enemies. Salvatore piles interminable grisly action upon nefarious conniving, centering Honce's only hope on the Bear, Laird Bannagran, whose courage in battle and "some measure of honor" at last give Bransen a new sense of purpose and Honce, the decent rulers its suffering people deserve. This long fable of good and evil, spiked with blood-and-guts combat, closes the series with a hint at generational continuation—though readers may find new permutations of his faux medieval sex-and-violence hard to digest. (Aug.)