Savage Bounty by Matt Wallace

5.0Overall Score

Savage Bounty

When I reviewed SAVAGE LEGION, I said the book was one that I noticed had something larger to say than could be found in the text. And that holds true again with SAVAGE BOUNTY. Where Legion held ...

  • Plot
    5.0
  • Characters
    5.0
  • Themes
    5.0
Savage Bounty
Title: Savage Bounty
Author:
Published: 07/20/2021
Page Count: 400
ISBN13: 978-1534439238
A war has begun. Savages, the empire’s most valuable resource, have been thrown at their captors’ enemies long enough. If their rebellion succeeds, it will undo a nation. At the helm of this Savage uprising is Evie, the Sparrow General. It isn’t a title she asked for or particularly wants, but she is the last hope for several peoples at the edge of extinction. Back in the empire’s city seat, Dyeawan, a brilliant young strategist…

When I reviewed SAVAGE LEGION, I said the book was one that I noticed had something larger to say than could be found in the text. And that holds true again with SAVAGE BOUNTY. Where Legion held up the mirror of an ugly society and kept you in a headlock while looking at it, Bounty breaks the mirror and asks you to pick it up and squeeze the jagged pieces. SAVAGE LEGION was a powerhouse novel that made you look at the deep insidiousness of power. SAVAGE BOUNTY asks you to consider all the corrupt places and dark forced choices even good people might fall into when trying to confront such ingrained, generations long power.

It’s the perfect natural progression of the story and I’m glad Matt isn’t making the fight against Crache appear completely noble or victory inevitable. There’s a certain grimness in the way the narrative makes sure you understand that Crache is a bloated beast, but not a feeble one. It can feel hopeless, but to me it also feels truer. Again, like I said with Legion, I think Matt is holding up an eye to a lot of Western society and making us swallow some of those harder pills. Dismantling imperialism isn’t something that will be easy, it won’t come without lives lost and there’s a slim chance of victory even under the best of circumstances. But you still must do it if you want a better world and I think that’s where the hope lies in the narrative. Evie, Taru, Lexi, and Dyeawan are our POVs again and each is fighting to make the world better in their own way against hard choices and mounting opposition.

I went into this book expecting Evie’s journey to be the one that would captivate me the most. And to be sure, her journey in this book is exceptional. But to my surprise, it was Lexi’s struggles in this book I found the most intriguing and thought provoking. She essentially found herself in one no-win situation after another and still strived her best to do the right thing. It felt like literally every effort she made to gain some autonomy over her existence was robbed from her and despite that she pressed forward in trying to do what was right. I look at her character and think about how many of us are in the same boat as her. Struggling with one no-win choice after another, knowing the oppressive weight of our circumstances and still trying to do the right thing anyway? I have to say that the character of Lexi is a testament to why we should all be practicing radical empathy when dealing with others. And she’s a tremendous example of how heroes don’t have to win to still be courageous and heroic.

Dyeawan’s journey is incredibly interesting too because I don’t know if she’s headed down the path of hero or villain. Nothing of course is ever that simple in the world of Crache, but in SAVAGE LEGION the character felt like someone you could easily root for and see them as a light of sorts. Not so much in SAVAGE BOUNTY. There’s added layers of complexity to her character that make me think she may have taken on more of her mentor Edgar than she realized. If she went the path of Vader (for a popular reference) I can’t say I would be surprised, but if she didn’t, I wouldn’t be either. And don’t mistake that as a critique of Matt’s writing not being clear. No, if anything, I think it’s incredible how he manages to keep that tightrope in place with such stellar writing. It’s not often nowadays where a story leaves me in a space of not being sure where a plot is going, and I’m always satisfied to come across it.

Evie’s story feels perhaps the most traditional to epic fantasy, but it’s in that tradition that Matt once again pokes holes through tropes. He thinks about things like logistics, food, the real struggles present in alliances, clashes of culture. All these things present challenges to Evie and are almost more damaging than any army she might face. The generals in Crache don’t get to just give pretty speeches before dark gates. They have to think about how to keep their soldiers fed.

Speaking of trope breaking there’s one moment in this book where Matt goes sideways with a trope, and I was caught completely off guard. And I should have known better, but the writing lured me in so well. It made me believe for a moment that things might not be so bad and nope, still very much bad. It’s an incredible gotcha and I won’t spoil it.

SAVAGE BOUNTY just doesn’t pull any punches. It’s difficult work in the way that all things trying to break a mold are, but it’s worth reading.

Comic books, SFF and good cooking are the essential elements of Brent Lambert. A full-fledged military brat, he is consistently struck by wanderlust and has a keen sense of things never really being permanent. A writer with an insurmountable TBR list, he strives to make Black gay characters exist in all worlds and all times.

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