I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Oh man. I wish time travel was a thing so I could dart into the future and get my hands on the last book of this trilogy. I need the final installment immediately.
“We live our lives by Truth and Courage. Love and loyalty, friendship and honour are our guiding lights.”
I absolutely adored The Faithful and the Fallen. The entire quartet was insanely epic, and each book was better than the last. I was crazy excited to get my hands on A Time of Dread, the first book of Gwynne’s followup series Of Blood and Bone. As much as I enjoyed it, that book had more of a grimdark feel to it than the original series, which saddened me and kept me from loving it to quite the same extent, though I see now that it was a necessary writing decision. A Time of Blood more than made up for that. While still dark and definitely bloody, this second installment had more of the optimism that made TFatF so wonderful, shining a light into the darkness and fighting to overcome it. I was ecstatic to feel the return of that hopefulness even in the midst of dark and terrible times. Something that Gwynne does wonderfully well is balance sorrow with hope. We should mourn and avenge our fallen, but we should also preserve our memories of them and honor them by living life to the fullest.
“Life is harsh, and complicated…To survive each day and be with the ones you love, that is becoming enough for me.”
One of my favorite elements of TFatF was Gwynne’s inclusion of animal characters, and how he gave them loads of personality. The close ties between man and beast in the Banished Lands has proven incredibly moving, and I very much appreciate the crows and bears and wolven-hounds as they’ve been showcased. Not only do these animals seem like important characters in their own right, but their loyalty to and friendship with their humans is absolutely beautiful. When one of these animals dies, they are mourned just like any other fallen comrade. There’s a special place in my heart for Gwynne’s crows, the only animal characters with speaking lines. I love how very crow-like their dialogue reads, managing to convey thought and personality without ever seeming human.
“Moments like that, when you act when there is no room for thought, they show the truth of a person.”
Another element of TFatF that I absolutely loved that was carried into Of Blood and Bone is the almost Judeo-Christian feel of the war between good and evil. The Ben-Elim appear very angelic, and the Kadoshim are their malevolent counterparts. However, they are not so cut and dried as that. As we come to see in A Time of Dread and A Time of Blood, the Ben-Elim have flaws of their own, despite their apparent moral superiority and lovely white-feathered wings. Especially in A Time of Blood, we see how the Ben-Elim have not practiced what they preached, and have kept certain darker parts of themselves hidden. These darker parts are now coming to light, and suddenly they don’t seem all that different from their demonic rivals. In fact, through the eyes of one of our perspective characters, we see a loyalty to the Kadoshim that seems to be missing from the Ben-Elim. I love the spiritual warfare feel that this story brings, but I love even more that things aren’t as straightforward as they appear.
“War makes monsters of us all.”
Speaking of that perspective character, Gwynne did a great job crafting a disturbingly evil individual whose backstory nearly justifies their actions. As I always choose to do when reviewing Gwynne’s work, I won’t be naming names, but that character is among the most twisted sympathetic characters I’ve ever encountered. I found them demented and misguided and brilliant, and I truly felt for them and could see the reasoning behind their decisions even as I was horrified by them.
“Sometimes, dark deeds must be done to accomplish great ends.”
As always, Gwynne did a brilliant job of crafting his battle scenes. They were easy to follow and completely consuming. He does a wonderful job of conveying the emotions flowing through his characters in the midst of battle, and showing how those emotions must be dealt with quickly so that the characters can focus on the matter at hand. We see characters push through fear and rage and physical pain to continue fighting for what they believe in, and I have immense respect for that.
“Fear is not the enemy, it is the herald of danger, and that is only wisdom.”
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that left me this desperate for the next book, with no word of when that book will be published. The third installment of this trilogy is a book that I will be eagerly awaiting and will start reading as soon as I can get a copy. Everything else will have to wait. There was nothing about A Time of Blood that I would change. Not a single solitary thing. Gwynne has become on of those rare authors whose books I will immediately preorder as soon as they’re available. If he writes it, I’ll read it, no matter what it is. I don’t think I can give an author higher praise than that.
Truth and Courage!
All quotations are taken from the advance copy and are subject to change upon publication.
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