Monday, March 4, 2019

Book Review: A TIME OF BLOOD by John Gwynne


Title: A Time of Blood

Author: John Gwynne

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publication Date: April 18, 2019

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Let me preface this review by stating that I have never given a John Gwynne book anything less than five stars.  If you are doing the math, that's five books in total that all were pretty damn perfect in my opinion.  Along with Tad Williams and Robin Hobb, Gwynne is one of the very few authors who literally makes me block out any outside stimuli when I'm reading one of his books, I'm that focused on them.  His preceding series The Faithful and the Fallen is in my top 10 fantasy series of all-time and I'm actually planning on doing a reread of that one very soon.  It's reasonable then to assume that I was more than a little excited to receive an advance copy of book two in John's Of Blood and Bone series A TIME OF BLOOD from the publisher Pan Macmillan.  For those who follow my blog, you are already aware that the first book in this new series A Time of Dread was my #1 read of 2018.  So now that my cards are all out on the table, here are my thoughts on A TIME OF BLOOD.

We pick up the story of A TIME OF BLOOD pretty much immediately after the events of the first book in the series A Time of Dread.  Book one described a land torn apart by the war that took place over a century previous between the demonic Kadoshim and the angelic Ben-Elim.  The last vestiges of the Kadoshim, appearing to have been mostly eradicated by the Ben-Elim and their allies, were being hunted in every secluded corner in and around The Banished Lands.  Yet rumors still abounded of a group of Kadoshim holdouts who may or may not be growing in strength and numbers.  The end of A Time of Dread was one of the more thrilling I have experienced and definitely set up the events in this second book tantalizingly well.  Book two brings us back to The Banished Lands and the four main character viewpoints that are prevalent in this new series.  The action in A TIME OF BLOOD has been ratcheted up considerably and the battles that the characters must endure, both physical and emotional, are just vintage John Gwynne.  We continue to struggle with the Ben-Elim as "heroes" when often times their motives seem self-serving and they can tend to be rather ruthless in their supposed protection of their human beneficiaries.  As in book one, we see that the Kadoshim are still ever present across the land and the threat that they pose is no longer whispered at but is gradually becoming a reality.  Throughout the book, Drem and the other characters embark on an attempt to warn each city about the impending danger that may be coming.  When ultimately a large force of the demon horde amasses at the foot of the Ben-Elim stronghold, war is all but certain again, but this time victory for the Ben-Elim may not be so easily won.  You see,the Kadoshim have learned from their previous defeat and coupled with a new leader, may have discovered some secrets that could tip the balance in a potential new clash with the mighty Ben-Elim.  If that final battle does come, who wins and who loses will be a question of who has enough strength, courage, and faith to throw back a faithless foe bent on nothing but death, subjugation, and destruction.  What will be the ultimate result?  You just have to pick up this series and read it from the beginning because I promise you that it will be an experience you will not soon forget..

I am continually impressed with John Gwynne's ability to deliver one top-notch brilliant fantasy book after another.  A TIME OF BLOOD takes the Of Blood and Bone series to dizzying heights indeed.  John has taken all of the fantastic elements from the first book and carried that into an action-packed second offering filled with battles and treachery aplenty.  As with any John Gwynne book you also know there will be some heartache.  The guy really knows how to get you emotionally invested in a character and then proceeds to put them in extreme mortal peril the entire time.  That's where I believe A TIME OF BLOOD really stands above the majority of fantasy fiction today.  The amount of distress I was put in as the reader (and believe me this isn't a bad thing at all in my opinion) was such that I almost turned every page with my eyes half-closed.  Tell me how many books can achieve that?   So many times I read books where you have no doubt that nothing bad will happen to the "good-guys".  Everything works out way too perfectly and there's always an ending that is happy and neatly tied up in a bow.  Well to be honest I can't stand books that don't put any of the characters in any real danger and even perish the thought, kill some off.  It's exactly the reason why George RR Martin's books are so popular with the public and also critically acclaimed.  You read his books never knowing if your favorite character will be dead by the next page.  Gwynne has this knack and talent as well.  Getting back to a TIME OF BLOOD, it was simply an amazing journey of a book.  An added aspect that I found compelling and original is the Ben-Elim continue to be both protectors and almost semi-villains at the same time.  The gray area that they occupy in so far as their motives go and the way they have been somewhat corrupted by their earlier success over the Kadoshim is a fascinating character study.  We have all seen in real life where governments or leaders who claim to have the good of the people at heart actually end up being tainted and their biggest oppressors.  To be able to write a book where even the protagonists may not be the saviors that they appear, is just a testament to the greatness of this book and of John Gwynne's writing as a whole.  I also loved that the book was a seamless continuation of A Time of Dread and ended with so much up in the air in anticipation for book three.  In closing, A TIME OF BLOOD is possibly one of the best fantasy books I have ever read and I full-throatedly recommend this and all of John's books in this continuing saga.  I actually read the last 30 pages in three days because I simply did not want to turn the final page.  You know that you've just read a magnificent book when that happens.  A TIME OF BLOOD is due to be released next month on April 18, 2019, so do whatever you have to do to secure a copy whether that be preorder, running to a physical bookstore on publication day, whatever it takes just GET IT!   It's a shining example of the very best that fantasy literature can offer when in the hands of a true master.  

4 comments:

  1. If you list him next to Tad Williams and Robin Hobb, Husby needs all his books immediately. Thanks for the review!

    (If this comment appears twice, that's because Blogger still lives in 1993 and requires Netscape Navigator to work correctly...)

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  2. Thanks for the comment Bjorn! He definitely belongs up there with those two legends. I haven't read fantasy writing like this in a long time. Highly recommend you grab his Faithful and the Fallen series and then just continue on to th enew series.

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  3. Brilliant review! I’ve seen a few for this now, but this has certainly convinced me to give the Author a go!

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  4. Thanks Cassandra! That is very kind of you. Definitely check his books out. One of the best fantasy series in recent memory.

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