I received an advanced review copy of the well sought after Bloody Rose from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Nicholas Eames and Nazia.
Even Eames himself said that the success of Kings of the Wyld was like a guillotine to his neck. Metaphorically of course. With an exceptional, original award-winning debut there will always be doubts about where to go next and if it can be better. I'm happy to say Bloody Rose blows Golden Gabe, Moog, and Slowhand's adventures out of the water!
Rose, Gabe's daughter who he adhered to rescue from the bloody and horrific horde siege of Castia is stepping out of her father's shadow. She is the frontwoman for Fable, the most popular band in the land. She also flaunts two legendary swords. Events commence on their tour starting at Ardburg. The bands here are essentially mercenaries or gangs who join events to pocket a pretty coin by battling drugged droogs in arenas. Originally, the esteemed bands were legendary folks who would traverse the Heartwyld and other grotesque places to put demons, beasts and even dragons to the sword. Like the siege of Castia in Kings of the Wyld there are the rumours of an uprising coming to attack headed by the giant Brontide!
Rose and her untouchable and picturesque companions in Fable decide to fulfill their tour dedications that oppose the oncoming threating invasion from the horde which Rose is all too familiar with, with her incarceration at Castia a few years before. Instead, they have a greater goal. She wants to step out of her father's shadow in a majestic way by taking on and destroying a legendary beast that is infamous for its notoriousness and the fact it is rumoured to be impossible to kill. The last band of warriors who tried lasted only 17 seconds prior to their ultimate demise.
One of the finest elements of Kings of the Wyld was the camaraderie of the band. The closeness, loyalty, friendship, and dedication to each other - so I was surprised when Eames surmised that the second entry in The Band trilogy would feature mostly all new players.
It's written from one point of view perspective. Tam's, who is, in the third person, a wannabe bard. She works as a barmaid at The Cornerstone which is the main establishment where all the bands or warriors in town frequent, drink and fight. They have a rule, as a respectable establishment, there are no fights allowed before 12 o'clock! She had famous parents in the mercenary and band scene and after a potent and exceptional musical performance at the inn she ends up joining Fable and the adventures begin.
The greatest thing about Eames writing is the humour. I laughed my face off a few times but I will acknowledge that this sort of humour in fantasy is not for everyone. Honestly, though, it perfectly fits what I enjoy and I can see why this gentleman won a Gemmell award. When you have lines such as "as crazy as socks on a centipede" you know it is pretty awesome. :)
This is a standalone novel, however, about 20% more enjoyment can be given if you've read The Band #1. A few players return who are as hilarious as ever and OWLBEARS! (Anyone who has read the first book knows that that is a reason to purchase this novel!)
There are so many new amazing colourful and complex characters. The lead ticks the LGBT boxes and is someone who is worth following. The gang incorporates a witch who can summon her tattooed demons into the field of battle, a legendary immortal rabbit-eared warrior and a shapeshifter who can turn into a bear. The first half builds up the amazing relationships and character personalities.
This has an amazing fist-bumping excellent finale but I did have a few negatives. Occasionally I got a little disorientated with the action. Once or twice, scenes during the middle seemed like a slight mess to me but wow, the ending was one of the negatives I had in Kings of the Wyld. In Bloody Rose, the build-up, culmination, and the eventual ending is perfectly composed, performed and written. I've read most of the top new authors in the last few years and Eames is the one to watch who will end up in Rothfuss, Lynch, Martin territory for excellence. Keep up the great work Nick. You've got a huge fan in me. Recommended.
9.0 / 10
Finally, FINALLY, the lights fade. A surge of excitement electrifies the arena as you become acutely aware of the hairs on the back of your neck. Months of waiting for this moment culminate into a blissful grin as the band finally takes the stage. You catch yourself screaming with the rest of the crowd as the opening riffs pulse through the speakers. It’s a feeling that defies description, shared only with those who are here in this moment with you. Complete strangers are forever bonded by this momentary feeling of transcendence. And although you might attend more concerts during the span of your lifetime, tonight is singular. It is unique. This combination of sounds and sights will never strike this exact chord in your soul again. So, you commit yourself fully to this moment, soaking in every detail, absorbing and filing away each new wave of emotion, to be examined and analyzed and cherished later. It is a rare thing to experience art that can raise you so high, that can bring you elation and honesty and joy, or that leaves a lasting impression carved into your psyche. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a handful of these experiences in my lifetime: Daft Punk at Coney Island, Radiohead at MSG Theater, and A Perfect Circle at the Theater of Living Arts. And now my list has grown by one after finishing Nicholas Eames’ brilliant Bloody Rose.
There are so many aspects of this book that appealed to me. What stood out most was the exceptional balance that was struck between humor, action, character growth, and sheer creativity. Nearly every page crackles with something fresh and memorable: clever similes, interesting character origins, a rotating menagerie of monsters, conversations of enlightenment and camaraderie, or a sharp commentary comparing this world to our own. Every chapter connected me further with Tam, Roderick, and the rest of Fable. Emotional moments snuck up on me and hit me hard, though I usually found myself bursting with laughter on the very next page. These characters are flawed, haunted by their past, unsure of their future, yet care deeply about each other. The development of this kinship is one of the central and most compelling themes of the book, and it helped to elevate this story into rare territory.
Like in his debut novel Kings of the Wyld, Eames pays clever homage to some of his favorite pop culture and musical references that may have inspired him throughout his life. I admired how these references never felt like they were shoehorned in for the sake of nostalgic appeal. Instead, their appearances felt natural, and added depth and dimension to the setting. I thought about which song lyrics or video game characters were chosen for this story, and these references often had backstories that intersected with the plot of Bloody Rose. These references, combined with the book’s brilliant sense of humor and genuine pathos of its characters’ plights, felt carefully cultivated and richly rewarding. Some characters only spend a paragraph in the spotlight, while others have exceptional arcs with tragic or glorious endings. Yet each character feels alive and familiar; if you don’t know these people, you know people just like them.
Bloody Rose is many things. It is story of inclusion. It is a tale of loyalty, of finding your passion, of playing to your heart’s strengths. It speaks to the successes and pratfalls of persistence, and dances on the fine line that separates bravery and stupidity. But above all, it is a story of family: those who you are borne into, and those who you choose along the way. This is a beautiful, funny, exciting, hopeful, devastating, and wondrous book. It is something to savor, like the best pieces of art. Though with Eames only starting his publishing career, I have a feeling that the best has yet to come.
Derek from Canada
I'm no wordsmith to explain how much I enjoyed this book, but I have read my fair share of fantasy. This... This was magnificent. I've read many authors from David Gemmell, R.A. Salvatore, Mercedes Lackey and many more, but the joy, sadness and attachment I have to these characters in one book is amazing. I'm 28 books into the Drizzt series and somehow I find myself more familiar and bonded to Tam and Fable than Drizzt and the Companions of the hall. I might just be an emotional guy, but knowing I have no more to read of Tam her newly acquired family of Fable is almost bringing me to tears. I will undoubtedly read this multiple times, and find more joy from each read. A masterpiece that few books have been able to replicate.
9.2/10 from 2 reviews