Middle novels in trilogies can be so Goddamn tricky. This is certainly true as a writer, but somewhat so as a reader and a reviewer as well. I have been super psyched to get my hands on Savage Bounty since I finished Savage Legion a little under a year ago. It jumped to the top of my TBR and I started reading it almost immediately. And I enjoyed it! I enjoyed it a lot!
I just don’t know what the hell to say about it, and I can lay that directly at the feet of it being the second novel in the series. Here’s the thing: Savage Bounty has strengths everywhere Savage Legion had strengths. The characters are fascinating and diverse. Wallace’s worldbuilding is stellar. His prose is clean and effective in a way I want to steal. I want to steal a lot of the things about this book, actually, and have I mentioned Click comes out next week, because it does!
What it doesn’t do is hang together especially effectively on its own. There are four PoV characters (three are women and one nonbinary, by the way) and none of them ever encounter each other, although two are on the same battlefield by the end of the book. The problem is, while I really enjoy these characters and want to know more about them, and I enjoyed the parts of their stories that got revealed in this book, I’m not sure Savage Bounty hangs together as a book as well as it should have. Savage Legion also told stories of characters that didn’t interact very often (moreso than this book, though) but each of them hit a crescendo at the end of the book, and while it was clear that more was coming, it definitely felt like a work in itself. Bounty definitely feels like the middle book; it feels like Wallace is moving his pieces on the map to get everything set up for the big finale, but I can see the gears moving a bit more than I want to, if that makes sense.
(It’s also a hundred pages shorter than Legion, which blows my mind and is not how these things work. We trilogy people like our doorstop books! This could have had more time to breathe, it’d have been okay!)
Now, of course, as a fantasy reader, I’m well used to trilogies; there’s realistically no chance that I’m not buying the third book in this series, and that’s no less true now than it was before I picked the second book up. And I still think Savage Legion is a stellar fucking book, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, you need to get off your butt and go do that. And as a fan of Matt’s in addition to Matt’s books I feel kinda bad that I can’t issue this one the same full-throated endorsement that I did the first book. You should still read it! It’s not like the wheels have come off the series or anything! It’s just that this is definitely the second book in a trilogy, and it has the weaknesses that lots of second books in a trilogy have. If you don’t know this series, go read Savage Legion. You’ll love it and then you will buy Savage Bounty on your own. Just don’t, like, pick this one up out of order and expect to be able to read it without reading the first one too. It’s not going to work.