ARC provided by the publisher—Pan Macmillan—in exchange for an honest review.
Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Dragons of Terra (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 416 pages (Hardcover edition)
Published: August 8th, 2019 by Tor (UK) & August 6th, 2019 by Tor (US)
Blood of an Exile has dragons and dragonslayer, if you love a great fantasy debut with dragons, I doubt you’ll be reading the rest of this review.
And yet I will still write one. Blood of an Exile is Brian Naslund’s debut. It’s the first book in the Dragons of Terra trilogy. The story follows the Silas Bershad the Flawless, an exile who was supposed to die after he was caught trying to assassinate a noble. Bershad, the most famous and successful dragonslayer in the world, receive a task from the man who exiled him in the first place. The mission is to kill a king and save an innocent child in captive, only then he’ll be pardoned from his crime. With that kind of nickname, the premise led me to believe that this would be an ultimate Gary-Stu story but what I got was something more in-depth and empathizing. Without giving spoilers, there’s a rule to Bershad’s rumored “immortality” and “strength”; he’s not always immortal and full of strength 24 hours, and I found the mystery behind his power to be one of the main driving force of the narrative.
“Heroes and villains morphing out of the same people based on rumors and reputations and the simple passage of time.
The five perspective characters have a distinctive voice to their narration. Although the majority of the story was told from Bershad’s perspective, Naslund did a great job in making sure that every POV has its own charm and internal struggles. Bershad’s POV involved an A to B travel section by nature. However, as far as travel sections go, Naslun successfully made sure that the section was used to build the characters’ relationship, fleshed out the world-building. Reading how each character’s fate eventually intertwined with each other was enjoyable; the characters and Naslun’s accessible writing style immerse me into the world he has crafted with ease. Honestly, if you love a book filled with a group of outcast banding together and unlikely friendships being formed, Blood of an Exile is full of that.
“Now that it had arrived, Bershad didn’t feel any different. No sudden and warm feelings of relief flooding his conscience. That’s what made life such a bastard—guilt rode on your back heavy and hard and relentless. Redemption was light as a feather. Easy to forget entirely.”
I never felt bogged down by the world-building, which was frankly one of my favorite parts of the book. Blood of an Exile has a world that has dragons—many of them—and I loved how the existence of the creatures itself, in one way or another, affected the lifestyle, biology, and environment of Terra. It gave a refreshing feeling to my reading experience; the dragons were written efficiently and effectively. To make things even better, other creatures and the importance of alchemy made the world-building felt rich. It needs to be noted that Naslund’s action scenes were incredibly vivid and brutal at times. Bershad’s bloodthirst felt palpable and each activation of his rage mode sparked a thrilling sensation to the scenes; making the action sequences gripping.
“Everyone’s a critic of the nobles until they become one and have to actually make decisions.”
As for minor issues, I’m personally not a fan of reading too much literal shit happening; in this book, there were a bit too much shitting and walking through literal shithole for my reading preferences. The word orgy which was used several times, even though I knew it’s supposed to mean ceremonial rites in context, also felt distracting to my immersion. Overall though, these are minor issues and personal pet peeves of mine that didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the book.
Blood of an Exile was an exhilarating and action-packed debut that never neglects the crucial characterizations necessary to heighten the character’s struggle. The novel concluded in a stand-alone manner and it seems like the sequel will focus more on the dragons and magic, and I’m all up for it. Overall, this was definitely a commendable debut and an exciting start to a trilogy, one that I’ll recommend to readers who love dragons and in need of a refreshing take on it.
Official release date: August 8th, 2019 (UK) and August 6th, 2019 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.