ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Band (Book #2 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Comedy
Pages: 544 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 30th August 2018 by Orbit (UK) & 28th August 2018 by Orbit (US)
Attention avid fantasy readers; it’s time for me to ask for your consideration once again. Nicholas Eames did it again. As of now, I’m calling Bloody Rose one of the best sequels of all time.
Last year, Kings of the Wyld made it into my small “favorite debuts of all-time” list. Since then its sequel, Bloody Rose, has easily become my most anticipated new release of the year. Expectations were high, and a fear of disappointment was certainly there, but as it turns out I needn’t have worried. It is with a heart full of joy that I proclaim Bloody Rose’s tour to be another successful tale; this is truly an excellent sequel to Kings of the Wyld, which was already amazing on its own. Those who follow my reviews should know by now that I’m a devoted series binge reader. When I started a new series to read and review, I usually finish every book available in the series first before moving to a different series or standalone. Bloody Rose however was one of the incredibly rare exceptions where I simply had to drop everything in my TBR pile immediately; it was completely irresistible.
It’s been six years since the climactic battle in Kings of the Wyld and the melodies of life must continue. The main plot this time centers on our new main protagonist, Tam Hashford, who has been living a secluded, repetitive and boring life working at her local pub. This all changes when the current most famous mercenary band, Fable, led by the infamous Bloody Rose herself, arrives and Tam immediately volunteered to be their newest bard.
Picture: Bloody Rose vs Cyclops by Felix Ortiz
Tam’s journey with Fable was a magnificent and marvelous storyline to follow. The story, though still humorous and fun, had a darker tone compared to its predecessor. I feel like I received a lot of poignant and resonating messages from this book that could totally be applied to our society and living life, and I really didn’t expect that. Some of the themes being explored in this book were parenthood, knowing what truly matters in your life, and not getting lost in the pursuit of fame, wealth, and glory. I’ve seen a lot of acquaintances who have lost everything due to this kind of pursuit. One of the main reasons behind this is that we, as individuals, tend to let other people’s judgment of us affect the way we behave. We tend to think that we have some control over their assessment but really, the majority of the time we don’t. This book portrayed these messages beautifully, making Bloody Rose not a simply fun fantasy book but also a book with a lot of good lessons and messages for self-introspection.
“We don’t get to choose what people think of us, Tam. You’re a legend now, girl, and legends are like rolling stones: Once they get going, it’s best to stay out of their way.”
Nick also nailed the importance of factions’ perspectives effortlessly. Bloody Rose integrates the theme of how heroes most of the time will always be a villain from the opposing side and vice versa, which works wonderfully for the depth of the plot.
“You didn’t get to be the villain of one story, she supposed, unless you were the hero of another.”
Like always, characters will make or break any story for me. Without spoiling anything from the first book, some characters from the first book did make some appearances and I thoroughly enjoyed every second I spent with them; it was like having a reunion with my old bandmates again. Clay and the other members of the Kings of the Wyld were a truly fantastic cast, and the premise of legendary bands reuniting for one last tour even when they’re past their prime was just spectacular. Fable at first felt a little different and needed some adjustment. It took a bit of time for me to grow to love these members due to the nature of the storytelling style being more of a slow burn than before; each characters’ background and personality took turns in their unraveling. However, as the book progressed and I reached 30% mark, I realized that once again, I had become fully invested in not only the main character but in literally every single character of the book, not only the members of Fable. It would be extremely hard to top Kings of the Wyld characters but somehow, in a different way, this younger Band of misfits were able to live up to their legend. I mean it, Nick writes a really fantastic set of characters. These characters were all distinctive, well-written, unique, and their relationship dynamics were a delight to read as friendship once again became one of the most well-explored aspects of the series in this installment.
“We slept beside them, fought beside them, bled beside them. We trusted them to watch our backs and save our assess—which they did, time and time again. And somewhere out there, between one gig and the next, something changed. We woke up one day and realized that home was no longer behind us. That our families were with us all along. We looked around at these miscreants, these motley crews, and knew in our hearts there was nowhere we’d rather be than by their side.”
If I have to admit one thing that Nick definitely did better in this installment, it’s the action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, the actions in the first book were superb. But like I said, it could’ve been better if the final battle there received more pages; you have no idea how happy I am that Nick applied that here. The action sequences in this book deliver superlative quality on all fronts: vivid, immersive, cinematic, and extremely well-written. The last battle in Bloody Rose truly elevated the book into the category of epic fantasy; it was almost as if I was reading a battle sequence from the war in Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer. Nick managed to end this book on a high note due to its bloodthirsty actions that are full of turbulent, and immensely gripping emotional content.
The world-building also received great treatment as more lore and revelations were revealed. Plus, Nick did a magnificent job in making sure that this book works absolutely well as a stand-alone; though it will spoil you on the events of the first book, readers don’t have to be afraid of forgetting things and not being able to follow the story. Some of you who follow my reviews should know by now that I’m a huge gamer and Final Fantasy fan. Final Fantasy is one of my favorite gaming franchises. Kings of the Wyld was filled with ubiquitous music references and plenty of Easter Eggs from this franchise and Nick himself is a fan of Final Fantasy. I’m very pleased that he keep this tradition in Bloody Rose, which was written in a way that almost felt like the author had his eyes on me when he was writing these scenes. Other than Yojimbo from Final Fantasy X as an inspiration for Yomina, or Red XIII from Fantasy VII, or maybe even Cactuar, I’m talking about a scene involving one new minor side character named Grudge. If you’re a Final Fantasy fan, you should know already who that character resembles just from the name. Here’s a hint: he’s green, hold a cleaver, and walks really freaking slow. I’m not going to lie, I was internally screaming with joy and had a smile upon my face as wide as the Joker during this cameo scene. The implementation of music and gaming Easter Eggs into the story was seamless. Here’s an example and also one of my favorite gaming references from the book:
“Even when the shadow of the colossus fell upon them, it was enough.”
For those of you who don’t know, Shadow of the Colossus is a video game (a brilliant one at that) that I absolutely loved playing.
Picture: Shadow of the Colossus PS4 cover
Nick proved that his capability as an author wasn’t a one-time thing; he’s not a one-hit wonder like some authors that I’ll refrain from mentioning. In my opinion, Nick has always been the best at changing the rhythm of emotions seamlessly. One moment you’re holding a breath you didn’t realize you were holding (am I doing this famous line correctly?), the next moment you’ll be laughing and then feeling sad. Bloody Rose was entertaining, brilliant, and written with a near automata efficiency, providing another perfect balance of pulse-pounding moments, humor, tension, and wyld adventure. Isn’t it beautiful when a book is capable of making you feel a variety of emotions? Bloody Rose shows the power of written words with excellence. I’ll even give it the highest praises by saying that the talk of music in this book reminds me a lot of The Kingkiller Chronicle. I wish I can show you the number of passages I highlighted but to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, I will let you experience them for yourself.
Bloody Rose proves once again to be another fun escapism at the highest level just like its predecessor. A new dawn of fantasy is on the horizon and at this rate, I have no doubt Nicholas Eames will be one of the new leading authors; in my eyes, he already is. There’s still one more book left in the trilogy but it’s never too soon for me to say that this will most likely become one of my favorite trilogies of all time by its conclusion; it already is.
Kings of the Wyld was honestly one of the books—together with Sanderson’s and Gwynne’s series—that I have recommended the most to every fantasy fan. I have sung and strummed the chord of praises for Kings of the Wyld for more than a year now, and this review shall become my second concert (by that, I mean recommending this book to every fantasy fan) for this stupefying excellent series. Bloody Rose has even emboldened me to claim that this series has become superior to The Gentleman Bastards. Get hyped for the release of this book! Upon finishing the book within 24 hours, I was struck with insomnia due to euphoria and it was totally worth it. If you’re a fantasy reader, you better get some holy water to cleanse yourself of your sin if you’re thinking of not reading Bloody Rose. This is a must read with an infinite exclamation mark!
“The bards tell us that we live so long as there are those alive who remember us. In that case, I think it’s safe to say that Bloody Rose will live forever.”
You know what that passage means? It’s up to the last of us to be the bards of this series, making sure the tales of the Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose live forever. There’s only one book left in The Band trilogy. If the last book ends up being as good or maybe even better than the other books in the series so far, I have zero doubt that The Band will officially become the third trilogy—after Mistborn and First Law—to have every single installment in the trilogy be included in my favorites of all-time list.
One last thing. “Hi, Terry! If you’re reading this while drinking your morning tea, I’m sorry for the super long review. Your son successfully wrote another amazing book! Get him some beer and pat him on the back for me!”
Some readers have messaged me saying thank you for my review on Kings of the Wyld. They told me they bought the book because of my recommendation and the majority of them loved it; friendships were also formed—Hi, Sarah!—and I’m seriously gratified with this result. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to you all for all the support and faith in my reviews! Let me use this space to also clarify this. I always try my best to support authors—especially underrated or new authors—without expecting anything in return; authors don’t owe me anything for my support. That’s why I found it extremely heartwarming to see my name included in the acknowledgment section.
Thank you, Nick. I won’t forget this. It means a lot to me and I can’t wait to talk about video games, books, and cool artworks over that beer you promised.
I read this book in ebook format and I honestly can’t wait to see how the physical copy will turn out in real life. Richard Anderson is one of the best cover artists in the industry and he did a scintillating job with the cover art for this book; in my opinion, it’s even better than the already amazing Kings of the Wyld! Plus, I can’t wait to see the new map put on real pages. I also suggest checking out Felix Ortiz’s Artstation site for more awesome Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose artworks!
Finally, this is currently my second longest review of all time (2.2k words) and there are seven gaming Easter Eggs in it; including the next sentence. Can you catch ‘em all? 😉
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Official release date: August 28th, 2018 (Today!!)
You can pre-order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
Review originally written on June 16th, 2018