A thoroughly engaging Asian-inspired fantasy and a super underrated debut.
I’m a man of habit; I usually always plan my TBR. But Devin Madson’s books shot up my TBR and ruined my plans immediately the moment I finished her award-winning novella, In Shadows We Fall, three weeks ago. From the moment I finished the novella, I knew I simply needed to read more set in this world and I’m damn pleased I followed that notion.
The Blood of Whisperers is Devin Madson’s debut and the first book in her Vengeance Trilogy. This book was also entered into SPFBO #3, in which I was a judge. It’s such a shame that this book wasn’t in my list of entries to consider because, if it was, I would’ve chosen to send this book to the final round of the competition; I strongly believe it deserved to be there. I guess this goes to show, once again, just how large a role luck played in the first round of SPFBO competition. But enough about that, on to the review of the book.
The storyline of The Blood of Whisperers is at its core a revenge story, revolving around the fight and struggle for the Crimson Throne. Emperor Kin, nicknamed the Usurper, is a man of common blood and he currently sits on the throne after killing the last emperor more than a decade ago. Madson stated in the acknowledgments section that the initial inspiration for The Vengeance Trilogy came from two sayings. The first was the Confucian saying:
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
And the other was a Chinese proverb:
“When two tigers fight, one walks away terribly wounded; the other is dead.”
There are of course other interpretations but in my opinion, the first one means that, by having vengeance as your main motivation for living, you’ll lose yourself and everything in the process; the two graves are for your enemy and yourself. The second proverb refers to the fact that, when rivals fight, neither of them come out unscathed. In the vein of these two sayings, I really think that Madson nailed down what she strived to achieve within her debut (and hopefully her trilogy) wonderfully.
The characters played central roles in this book gaining my affection. The story was told from three POV: Endymion, Darius, and Hana. All of them were told in a first person narrative and were ridiculously addictive to read. I’m serious, I had a difficult time of picking a favorite POV because they were all equally hard to put down. These characters aren’t your typical good or bad characters; none of them fit easily into these categories. Every single character in this book, the side characters included, was morally grey. The characterizations were very well done and their behaviors were unpredictable. I love this kind of characters as they truly made the story more engaging and gripping. Not only were the characterizations really good, the pacing was incredible; there was never a dull moment. Every single page hooked me.
The world that Devin has created is heavily imbued with Asian inspiration, mostly Japanese, and I absolutely loved it. The magic, the settings, the histories, the weapons, and the actions scenes were all vividly described through her lovely prose. I also found Madson to be a highly efficient writer. She didn’t need to say a lot of things to get her point across; there were just a few bits here and there of self-contemplation. The rest of the necessary information was given in the form of compelling dialogues, but somehow, that was more than enough to achieve fabulous results. In a way, this was reminiscent of Bloodsounder’s Arc by Jeff Salyards, which also utilized compelling dialogues to progress the story.
For a self-published debut, there were only a few minor typos and none of them were distracting enough for me to lower my rating. To be honest, reading her 2013 publication debut after reading her award-winning novella which was published in late 2017 was worrisome; I was scared that her debut wouldn’t live up to the standard she set in her novella, but my worry was unfounded. This debut only made me realize Madson’s talent even more, because reading the novella prior to reading this book only add to the reader’s understanding of the world and story. However, the same thing can also be said if the reader decides to read the debut prior to reading the novella.
I truly believe I have stumbled upon a hidden gem here. I’ve read two of Devin’s books and I rated both of them 4.5/5 stars, which is very high coming from me. The Blood of Whisperers was an impressive debut, one that I think deserves more recognition. I will continue immediately to the next book because I just can’t stop now; I need to read more about these characters and their story.
You can buy the book HERE!