ARC provided by the publisher—Pan Macmillan— in exchange for an honest review.
A Time of Blood earned my absolutely undying praise for its impeccable, top-notch quality.
Currently, there are only three fantasy authors in the world who can compel me to drop every book in my reading plan and start their newest published work instead; John Gwynne is one of them. There will never be a shortage of praises I can give towards Gwynne’s books. I’m serious, I have insanely high expectations towards his books and yet somehow each of his newest works never fail to not only meet but also exceed my expectations. If you believe in my recommendations and somehow you still haven’t read any of Gwynne’s books, you need to redeem yourself immediately. A Time of Blood was such an incredible and riveting reading experience that I finished it in less than 24 hours; it made me totally ignore reality.
“There is much in life that is beyond our control, events that sweep us up and along, actions that wrap us tight in their consequences. Stop raging about the things you cannot change. Just be true to yourself and do what you can do. Love those worth loving, and to the Otherworld with the rest of it. That is all any of us can do.”
A Time of Blood is the second book in John Gwynne’s Of Blood and Bone trilogy and the story picks only a few days after A Time of Dread ends. Remember the wonderful pacing of Valor? That is exactly what you’re getting here: chapters ending in a cliffhanger, cinematic scenes being built up, and terrific action scenes written with sniper precision. Even when there was a respite from all the chaos, the story never stopped being interesting because these portions were used effectively to build the character development and relationships. The first book was mostly setup, and Gwynne phenomenally built upon the foundation he established to execute a fast-paced and brutal sequel full of dramatic revelations, engaging dialogues, and bloody warfare. Fans of The Faithful and the Fallen or A Time of Dread have nothing to worry about here; this installment doesn’t suffer the infamous middle book syndrome. Gwynne smartly used this book as a platform to prepare the story for the concluding third and final book while making sure this book doesn’t feel at all like filler.
“Each small step taken for a greater good, and then before you know it, you have walked a thousand leagues from where you used to be. And how do you return to that place, return to the person you were? Or if you cannot do that, how do you become the person that you wish to be?”
Just like my reviews for The Faithful and the Fallen, I’ll refrain from mentioning character names from the second book and so on in order to make my review as spoiler-free as possible. If you’re familiar with Gwynne’s work, you should know by now that he’s brutal with his characters and he’s not afraid to torture or kill them off. This is also why I utterly LOVE Gwynne’s books. Because of the horrible things he’s not afraid to put his characters through, a melody of dread seems to accompany these characters; I felt a healthy dose of fear for their fates as I turned every page. Their hatred, sorrow, and moral complexity were superbly written and they helped in developing the characters even more. However, it is once again their friendship, loyalty, and love for each other that made me truly care. The rise and fall of heroes and villains in the Banished Lands have always been something that feels personal to me, because Gwynne’s characters always feel so real, and A Time of Blood continued that tradition with finesse. The shifting of emotions that the characters felt were exceptionally portrayed and the characters’ motivations for their actions felt realistic. Because the characters were extremely well-written, the atmosphere of danger in the battle scenes became even more palpable.
“A person is made by their heart and their wits.’ He touched his one hand to his chest and then to his temple. ‘And by the deeds that they do. Their choices. Not whether they have pale skin or dark skin, wings or no wings. One hand or two.”
The scintillating quality of the action scenes in Gwynne’s books has always been a crucial factor that totally enhanced my reading experience and A Time of Blood displayed a lot of breathtaking battle scenes. Tension-packed chase, fatal archery, stunning airborne battle, deadly ancient magic, marvelous swordcraft/dance, magnificent duel, and savage beasts’ wrath; they’re all here. Even though A Time of Blood is not the last book of the trilogy, the action scenes—especially the final 100 pages which I blazed through in one sitting—could’ve easily worked as a final battle in your usual epic fantasy series. Mayhem and madness exploded as humans, ferals, giant, warriors of the Order, acolytes, wyrms, draigs, angels, and demons all fought in one epic battle. In this installment, Gwynne is back once again to show fantasy readers that he’s still the conqueror of close-quarter battle sequences. I’ve read more than two hundred fantasy books, and in my opinion there are less than five authors who can measure up to Gwynne’s unchallenged skill when it comes to writing vivid and heart-pounding close-quarter combat scenes. As the Kadoshim rises with explosive malice and the Ben Elim descend with their bloody justice, the Order of the Bright-Star must stand their ground with iron-forged determination in order to counter the tsunami of a bloodbath brought by the newly erupting war in the Banished Lands. I can’t emphasize enough the palpable thrill of reading the pulse-pounding climax sequences that were filled with a maelstrom of blood and the clashing steel of devastation in this book. The cinematic action scenes were absolutely fantastic and the heart-hammering climax sequences were completely world-class.
I mentioned this in my A Time of Dread review but it still holds true so I’ll say it again: EVERY single book by Gwynne is on my ‘favorite books of all time’ shelf. So far, no other author has ever achieved this kind of constant greatness for me. Not even some of my top favorite authors like Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, or Joe Abercrombie have this kind of consistency. During my time reading A Time of Blood, I was an avatar of iron and the structure of the words written inside this book was a large-scale crimson magnetic field that compelled me to never stop reading. Every word in the book was brilliantly crafted to amaze readers with its superlative quality, and I consider myself blessed to have read this book.
Continuing the legacy left behind by legendary authors like J.R.R Tolkien, who rose to fame with his epic fantasies of light waging war against darkness, Gwynne steers the battle between good and evil in modern fantasy towards a perennially promising future. Brimming with astonishing plot, excellent characterizations, unputdownable pacing, vividly engaging prose, and full-throttle exhilarating action in a fully realized world; A Time of Blood is an irresistible jaw-dropping sequel that shows the importance of Gwynne’s role as an ever-burning bright star in modern fantasy. Fantasy fans, trust me when I say just pre-order or buy this book and read it as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. You’re missing out on one of the greatest books and series that fantasy has to offer if you should choose not to read it. The stage for the grand conclusion has been set, and I absolutely can’t wait to read how it all concludes in the final book of the trilogy, which I envision will solidify Of Blood and Bone as one of my favorite trilogies of all time. Thank you very much to John Gwynne for delivering another stupendous escapism experience!
“We live our lives by Truth and Courage. Love and loyalty, friendship and honor are our guiding lights.”
Official release date: April 18th (UK) and 16th (US), 2019
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.