Petrodor by Joel Shepherd

Rating 9.0/10
The interpersonal relationships between the characters are really what make this book come alive.

Thank the Good Lord of green pastures for a good book over the holidays, because I was beginning to go crazy. It’s not surprising that when December hits, my supply of reading material dwindles, so I had to go looking through my shelves for a series I hadn’t finished.

Which is what made me pick up Petrodor by Joel Shepherd.

I read the first book in Shepherd’s ‘A Trial of Blood and Steel’ quartet back in 2009, and the book – Sasha – received 77 out of a hundred in my scoring system. The book was, in reality, one of my favourites of that year, and I look on the characters – particular the titular character – with great fondness.

I had tried to jump into the second book, Petrodor, but to no avail. Why? Mainly because I think I wasn’t in the mood for such a book. It might rank as ‘fantasy’ but there is very little fantastical to it, which makes for a wonderful change, but you have to be wanting a change.

But when I picked up Petrodor this time, I was hooked from the get-go. All the things I was afraid of – the new characters, the whiny royalty – were imaginary concerns that I had placed on the book.

The book tells the story of Sasha, rogue princess, in the city of Petrodor. It is a city where merchants rule and knives solve problems. Sasha is there with her mentor, and together with the Nasi-Keth and the serrin try to stop the ruling class from bringing a war against the serrin.

There is a lot going on, a lot of political wrangling and sneaking about, but Shepherd is obviously a master craftsman when it comes to these sorts of things. His battles are intricate without being boring, and his ability to portray the lives and the megalomania of the richest few is really quite fascinating to read.

And though there is a lot of this book that takes place in conversations and backroom talks, it is by no means the majority.

The majority lends its support to the fight scenes which, in this book, are city-wide and beautifully crafted. Petrodor is twice struck by civil war in one form or another, the first of which is preluded by many smaller attacks on people which add a real growing sense of tension to the book that I’ve rarely found in other reads.

The interpersonal relationships between the characters are really what make this book come alive though. Friends turn to enemies, and enemies … well, they pretty much stay that way. I doubt that Shepherd could write a two-dimensional character if he tried, though by saying that I’m restricting what he is capable of doing and, in reality, I don’t think I want to say that either.

Yes, you need to read Sasha before you read Petrodor. Will you be disappointed? Definitely not. Both books are different in ways that make reading them back to back enjoyable, but leave you with a story that you just must follow. Definitely pick up these two books, because you’ll be missing out on some of the most fantastic writing.

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