This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
30.08.2018 / Orbit / Fantasy / Paperback / 544pp / 978-0356509044
Target Audience: Fans of epic fantasy with plenty of bold character developments and a narrative with grit, heart and humour.
About Bloody Rose
Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.
When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants-and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE A WALK ON THE WYLD SIDE
Bloody Rose is another soaring and immersive epic fantasy outing that captures our imagination, our hearts, our fears and our love of a good old battle all over again. Kings of the Wyld was an enormous act to follow but Eames is not an author who shies away from a challenge. Bloody Rose is set 6 years after the events of KOTW; it still occupies the same dangerous lands of Gradual; it does have some connections to the past novel but it also feels amazingly fresh. Completely new perspectives, a whole new cast to sink our teeth into and more exploration than ever of the world that Eames has hand-crafted.
Nicholas Eames has built a world that readers want to discover, to experience and to learn about the rich lore hidden within. Every nook and cranny of Gradual, The Heartwyld (woodland filled with unimaginable creatures) and beyond has character, wit and personality. This land is populated by warriors, mercenaries and creatures of our nightmares but the world has so much soul and heart mixed in with the darkness, blood and grit. Even the weapons, armour and artifacts have their own presence in the story, turning the tides of a fight in the blink of an eye. Eames is a pure genius and he makes writing look effortless, gaining a momentum in two books that most authors would be lucky to see in a trilogy.
Bloody Rose is another spectacular treat that deepens the legends and mythos of Eames’ fantasy world and it deserves a place on every bookshelf. It can easily be read as a standalone though knowing the history is beneficial as there are plenty of Easter eggs and references to enjoy along the way. In contrast to Slowhand, the battle hardened warrior legend in KOTW, the account of Bloody Rose is told by 17 year old Tam. Tam gets her shot at freedom from the confines of her small town roots when she is recruited as a bard by the legendary band Fable, fronted by Bloody Rose.
Fable are on their last tour of the arenas before they embark on a controversially secret gig far away in Diremarch. Tam wonders, the same as everyone else, why Fable aren’t joining all the other mercenary bands in the fight against yet another encroaching hoard to the north led by the giant Brontide, that threatens to destroy their lands. Rose makes it clear that their journey is a much more vital one. Tam scoffs when she finds out what they intend to do, thinking it is a joke. Rose is deadly serious about it, they are going after the Dragoneater, the biggest, meanest Simurg that has ever plagued the lands. There also seems to be a necromancer on the loose, reanimating the dead to fight the band and scare townsfolk (Epic scene in a graveyard!).
As the band traverse the tumultuous paths towards their prize, they become more and more entangled with fate of Gradual and to succeed in defeating their greatest adversary yet, each member must sacrifice something in return. It is such a great and refined story that contrasts the bold and brash journey of KOTW. I enjoyed the new cast this time around too. Each character is immediately memorable and again has their own meaningful presence within the group.
Fable consists of Bloody Rose (daughter of legendary fighter Golden Gabe, though if you mention him you’ll get a punch in the throat), Cura (a summoner who’s fierce and horrific beasts are inked into her own skin), Freecloud (one of the last druins who now wields Madrigal, an ancient sword forged by a god), Brune (a conflicted shaman who can turn into a bear, though he has never felt like it was his true form) and Roderick (a satyr with a big heart and a serious attitude). Though Bloody Rose is the title character and her character is explored well, especially in regards to her deepest secrets, the main event was really Tam. Tam is special, a talented musician like her mother and a fighter like her father. I enjoyed seeing her transform from this awkward lost lamb into the courageous woman she is destined to become.
Bloody Rose just has a different flow and feel to KOTW in terms of narrative but the writing is still as superb as ever. I am still very much enjoying the rock and roll analogies that accompany the world and make it more relatable and cool. Eames just writes in a way I have never seen before, his sentence structures and prose are completely unique. I actually spent a lot of time, with both novels, reading certain parts aloud in amazement. The dialogue is brilliant and I laughed, cried, cheered and roared with the band as they battle forever forward. Eames’ character development is the best part of Bloody Rose. Every member of the band gets time in the spotlight as well as secondary characters too. It was also good to see some familiar faces also apart from the third act which broke me a little.
Bloody Rose did suffer a little bit without a definitive adversary to fuel the band’s efforts (at least until the third act). With Lastleaf, Saga had history with him and it felt natural. Fable are mostly following the unspoken rule of Bloody Rose and are just as surprised as we are as events unfold. It made it slightly harder to connect with Fable as a unit which is where Saga excelled. I felt like I was a part of Saga, in on everything and their fight was my fight. The themes and influences are much stronger in Bloody Rose than KOTW. Eames loves his influences and nods to other key works within his writing. From Tolkien, G. R. R. Martin and J. K. Rowling to bands like Rush and Thin Lizzy, Eames pays homage to many great talents in his own way.
Themes that Eames tackles in Bloody Rose are as vast as they are important. Drug addiction, parenthood, legends vs the truth, family, sexual orientation, abuse, grief, misplaced anger, self-image and discovery of the outside world. Bloody Rose is not just all big action set pieces that drop jaws (so awesome!), it has depth and meaning. Lots of readers can relate to many of the group’s toils and troubles which is a hard thing to nurture in such a short period of time, but Eames makes it feel natural, pouring his fierce imagination and sentimental heart onto the page. If you are looking for a fight that is as badass as it is soulful, with as much heart as violence, with heroes, villains and creatures battling for their share of eternity, then Bloody Rose is for you. If you love a read with character, personality and meaning alongside bold and seriously cool elements then you are in for a treat.
That just leaves the important question. Is Bloody Rose better than Kings Of The Wyld? I am probably in a minority but in my opinion, it isn’t. KOTW is a masterpiece, I was overwhelmed when it finished and was nursing a book hangover that lasted days. Bloody Rose is a phenomenal read but without that drive that was present in the first book, it struggle a little from the start. That is just my thoughts on which is better. I cannot wait to see what Eames has in store for the next novel. It is a slight mystery who it will feature next, unlike KOTW which set up Bloody Rose nicely, but I am sure it will be unbelievably awesome in its own way.
About Nicholas Eames
Nicholas Eames was born to parents of infinite patience and unstinting support in Wingham, Ontario. Though he attended college for theatre arts, he gave up acting to pursue the infinitely more attainable profession of ‘epic fantasy novelist’. Kings of the Wyld is his first novel. Nicholas loves black coffee, neat whiskey, the month of October and video games. He currently lives in Ontario, Canada, and is probably writing at this very moment.