A generation has passed since the Norlanders' great ships bore down on Shadar, and the Dead Ones slashed and burned the city into submission, enslaving the Shadari people. Now the Norlander governor is dying and, as his three alienated children struggle against the crushing isolation of their lives, the Shadari rebels spot their opening and summon the Mongrel, a mysterious mercenary warrior who has never yet lost a battle. But her terms are unsettling: she will name her price only after the Norlanders have been defeated. A single question is left for the Shadari: is there any price too high for freedom?
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of falling headfirst into a book. Pitching down a literary rabbit hole to find yourself wandering a world a million miles from your own is one of the many exhilarations of reading. With Evie Manieri’s debut novel Blood’s Pride, you don’t ‘fall’ so much as get thrown down head first. It’s a bold and bolshy debut that knocks the wind out of you from the very first paragraph and offers scarce few opportunities to recover.
Blood’s Pride proffers a deceptively straightforward plot in which the oppressed Shadari fight for freedom against their conquerors the Norlanders – or ‘Dead Ones’ as they are more commonly called (they possess ice cold, translucent skin, communicate telepathically and burn under the sun). But Manieri is an author fond of complicated plots and it’s definitely on display here. Within the rebellion is a web of politics, deceit and allegiances that ensure foreseeing any kind of outcome is all but impossible.
There’s a wide range of characters on hand that contribute to much boundary breaking, taboo tackling and secret spilling throughout the novel. Indeed, in one pivotal scene where Norlander siblings Eofar, Frea and Isa are exchanging a rather violent difference of opinions, the sheer amount of revelations that spill across the pages could threaten to tip you over the edge. It’s riveting writing that’s testament to Manieri’s superb story-telling style.
One drawback of Manieri’s unrelenting suction in the opening stages of Blood’s Pride is that after a few hundred pages the energy starts to dissipate and the story begins to loosen its grip. What’s more, having such intriguing scenarios so generously decking the opening chapters puts increased pressure on the closing few to outdo them. Perhaps in acknowledgement of this, Manieri chose to segregate the closing events into smaller, personal battles rather than one climatic face off. It’s a different tactic that works well but could’ve worked better, as with so many crucial revelations and events needing to take place, individualising the final scenes fragments the tension built up until that point.
While there is a prologue that offers a basic back story to the three primary races in Manieri’s world, there’s little overall history or wider contextualisation of the civilisation her characters preside in. Questions such as ‘when and why did Jachad leave his people?’ and ‘why didn’t the Nomas come to Shadar’s aid when they were invaded?’ are just a couple of examples. There are plenty more that will need answering in the sequential books if Shattered Kingdoms is to become the series Blood’s Pride suggests it could be.
However, despite some uneven pacing and sporadic character disappearances and reappearances, the story never grows tiresome or releases you from its hold - even if its grip varies. Every character plays a significant part in this complex tale of power, freedom and love that Manieri has unflinchingly committed to paper. It’s a truly exciting debut that suggests this is just the tip of a potential ‘fantasy classic’ iceberg.
Alice Wybrew, 7.7/10
Blood’s Pride is the debut novel of Evie Manieri that has been recently published in the US by Tor. This book is the first installment in the Shattered Kingdoms series. I briefly read the first few pages of this book and I just couldn’t put this book down. Just with the prologue alone Evie Manieri managed to create quite the intricate world in the first few pages. Blood’s pride is a terrific start and holds a lot of promise as a debut.
Blood’s Pride is a very strong character driven story. There are quite a few characters that you get to know as the pages go along. Though with this focus on the characters alone I first thought that the world would be under-represented this is actually not the case, in between the dialogue you still get to learn more than enough of this magnificent world that is created. So what makes this world unique? Evie Manieri says that she is a fan of intricacies and that is hardly to be missed in her debut book. The intricacies are mainly achieved by creating the strong set of characters across several different races. First off all let’s start with the races. There are three so far that you get to know. The Norlanders, the Shadari and the Nomas. The Norlanders (though sometimes it read a bit to easily as Nordlanders) are a bit of a Viking inspired people, highly military and brutal they hale from a different continent and have invaded the Shadari kingdom by shear force. They do not take no for an answer and find themselves more of the elitist among others. The Norlanders are sensitive to sun, have emphasized blue complexions i.e. the lips and blue blood. They commune to each other by talking telepathically. By a happenstance they stumbled upon a unique mixture, combining black ores with blood to make magical swords that give an edge in combat. This is also the reason they invaded the Shadari kingdom to get control over the mines. Next to the Norlanders you have the Shadari, a humble hunter-gather folk that are now being suppressed by the Norlanders. The Norlanders, since their invasion, have banned a lot of what the Shadari are allowed to do. The Shadari cannot read or write, the ability to do so has some other consequences of epic proportions. And last but not least you have the Nomas, a people who stayed neutral during the invasion of the Norlanders, trusted and accepted by neither the Norlanders nor the Shadari they fall a bit in the lines of outcast. Having built a reputation as people who cannot be trusted and considered weak for not helping out. Now these a bit of the backgrounds of the races. What they all more or less have in common in the magical premise. They all have something that make them unique.
As far as the plot goes, it moves pretty quickly. It focuses on the rebellion that the Shadari have set into motion against the Norlanders. As a direct consequence by the rebellion, a lot of wheels are set into motion that all lead up to some nice revelation in the end. All the characters learn more about themselves in the end. The Norlander siblings find out some information written by their father that I think will lead up to a nice sequel. But also the whole history of the Shadari race, the “abandoned” power and of course to top it off the origins of the Mongrel the why’s and how’s again just amazing that it was written so powerfully.
Blood’s pride is a powerful debut from Evie Manieri, for me she really put down an enjoyable read. The races are well thought out the characters even better. I have read some epic fantasy before but Blood’s Pride does make a unique entrance into the genre, giving a high focus on the characters but also managing to not drop the history and the surrounding of where this story takes place. The epilogue already revealed a bit of the way in which the story will steer but on the whole, all what happened in the in the book, I bet there are more twists and turn along the way. I’m also still re-reading the prologue, is this really the beginning? Or is the story being told from another perspective? I’ve already added Fortune’s Blight the second book of the Shattered Kingdoms to my to-read list.
Jasper de Joode, 8.3/10
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