War is fast approaching Fireach Speuer as the armies of the Xoconai Empire make their way west to lay conquest over the humans and reclaim their ancient lands. Under Scathmizzane the God King’s orders, the xoconai have descended upon the uamhas and the Usgars in the mountain, the start of their bloody, long campaign.
In Song of the Risen God, the final book in the Coven trilogy, everything comes to a head in a clash of magic and steel as Aoelyn and her band of friends rouse up forces in an attempt to save the world as they know it from the oncoming threat of the xoconai.
As with Salvatore’s previous works, Song of the Risen God’s high fantasy universe is captivating and expansive, with many players on the map converging as war reaches their front steps. While Aoelyn and company are assisting refugees to safety, for example, two Abellican monks, Brother Thaddius Roncourt and Sister Elysant, are digging through an ancient tomb to find Abellican treasures that may have some significance. As the main heroes cross paths with various others and fracture for reconnaissance, their journeys take readers across Fireach Speuer, exhibiting just how big and serious the threat of the xoconai’s conquest is.
In Song of the Risen God, Salvatore expands even more on the magic systems he’s established, with the introduction of the xoconai and how they wield the God Crystal. The magic in Corona behaves and is utilized differently depending on the culture, and through the xoconai we see a much darker use of magic. Similar to the Usgar, the xoconai have augurs who channel magic. If magic were to be considered energy in Corona, the law of conservation of energy would not apply to xoconai, as souls are harvested and used before they dissolve into nothingness, trapped in the God Crystal. There is a certain cruelty in the xoconai’s use of magic, that contrasts with the elemental and healing aspects that Aoelyn and the Abellican monks use.
Aside from religion, one of the other bigger themes here, it seems, is redemption and how it goes hand in hand with power. Redemption for Aydrian and Brother Thaddius, who had supported the opposing faction in the Demon Wars; redemption for Khotai, who is gifted back her mobility; and even redemption for Aoelyn, who still grapples with the scars of her assault and coming to terms of loving another person, as well as her past as an Usgar witch. Even in the final battle, Aoelyn faces those from her past, and there is an understanding of both what she has escaped as well as what she can submit to in her quest for independence and mastery of the stones.
As a high fantasy, Song of the Risen God is engaging, action-packed and thoughtful, bringing up criticisms and critiques of religion, misogyny and conquest/colonialism. Its strongest aspects are the fight scenes, full of movement and spectacle to really draw you in. One criticism of Song of the Risen God, however, is that many tense moments within the book seem to be resolved rather diplomatically, where heated or emotional exchanges are diffused or weakened, such as Aydrian’s meeting with King Midalis, to warn him of the approaching danger. Still, Song of the Risen God manages to be tightly packed, with no scene feeling out of place. The women in the story are still the driving force on both sides, which is a testament to Salvatore’s commitment to subvert some of the classic pitfalls that female characters are victim to in fantasy books. Tuolonatl, the general for the xoconai armies, for example, is a strong leader with conviction, yet full of doubts in regards to the method of the xoconai, almost like a young Aoelyn.
As mentioned in previous reviews, if the first two books in the trilogy were about the convergence and clash of cultures, this final book is about the compromise of cultures. As the Xoconai carry out Scathmizzane’s orders of conquest, refugees from all races band together in the hopes of survival and put aside differences to tolerate and learn from each other. This point is highlighted, for example, by Aoelyn and her use of her crystals as opposed to the Abellican monks and their Ring Stones, who believe that the power of the stones are a holy gift reserved for them. However, with the looming threat of the xoconai, Abellicans such as Brother Thaddius see the advantages of an “outsider” such as Aoelyn being able to master the crystals, which in turn questions and shifts their world view.
Song of the Risen God delivers a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy; the war ends, and our heroes begin the work for peace and reconstruction, as well as setting out to fulfill other personal needs. While the story of The Coven might be done, Salvatore hints that there is more to come for Corona.
Song of the Risen God is available from Tor Books.
Gabriella Tutino is a NYC-based freelance court reporter, writer and book reviewer. Her work appears on Tor.com, Comics MNT, the US Review of Books, and Highbrow Magazine. Her favorite topics are mythology, anime, and fashion. You can find her travel blog here and follow her on Twitter @gabriellatutino.