In my library I have many shelves, upon which are placed the hundreds of fantasy books that I own. In my library, much pomp and circumstance is given to author’s such as Steven Erikson and Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson and Robin Hobb. This is all as it should be, of course, given the nature of their writing and my love of their stories.
However, over the past couple of years, a shelf has been evolving, to when it is now filled with authors I consider the ‘new breed’ – authors who have begun to fill out the ranks of fantasy’s best authors, writing quietly while all the world focused on the names above, but writing brilliantly nonetheless.
Names like Brian McClellan, Michael J. Sullivan, Anthony Ryan, Django Wexler, and Sebastien de Castell, author of The Greatcoats series.
Third in that series, and recently released, is Saint’s Blood, which continues the story of Falcio, Kest, Brasti, and their exploits to secure Aline’s throne and bring peace to Tristia. Saint’s Blood also serves to cement de Castell as one of those new names in fantasy that deserve to be counted among my ‘new breed’, proving that his first two books weren’t just flukes, and that the growth shown in Knight’s Shadow was no mistake.
--When all's said and done, I am and always will be a sucker for fantasy books with sword-fighting as an important plot point – such as in The Greatcoats, where fencing is part and parcel of a Greatcoat’s job. de Castell takes it even further, however, including now two competing points of view as to the best weapon available – Brasti with the bow, and a new character with a staff. And then there is Kest, whose progression through this story is hidden, somewhat, until the end. de Castell, an able swordsman himself, brings to life the passion for one’s chosen style, and brings the reader into the fight like few other writers are able.
The overall story continues apace, with everything seeming to go to hell in a handbasket every time Falcio turns around. However, in this way de Castell is able to do with his characters something he could not have managed if everything was going swimmingly. By the end of the book, even though at times it legitimately looked like turning tail and running was the only way anyone could survive, Falcio and his friends (except Brasti) are forced to confront truths they maybe wish they didn’t have to, but are better for it nonetheless.
First among these truths is the brilliant manner in which de Castell handles Falcio and Ethalia’s relationship. What starts out as nothing much more than a sex-fuelled romance, devolves nearly-entirely before reforming into something solid, with room to grow. It was a tremendous story arc for the two characters, one I’m glad they took, even though at times I was concerned for their future – I am, at heart, a sappy romantic.
Saint’s Blood is a joyful romp through a world devastated by the selfish-evil of those in power, forcing Falcio and the other Greatcoats to extreme lengths to try and find some semblance of safety by the end. And that safety is shown to be momentary, but they nevertheless are able to celebrate and take stock before it all goes to hell again. Sebastien de Castell is definitely on his way to becoming a fan favourite, and I can’t wait for more of The Greatcoats.
Review by Joshua S Hill
7/10 from 1 reviews
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