Review: BLOODY ROSE by Nicholas Eames

Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 544
Release Date: August 30th, 2018
Series: THE BAND, Book 2 (Standalone Sequel)
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Loved It

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for book one, KINGS OF THE WYLD.  You can check out a review for that book here!

35052265._sy475_Tam Hashford is tired of her life working at a tavern, watching famed mercenaries come and go on their lives of adventure.  The daughter of a bard, she aspires to follow in her mother’s footsteps and join a band of her own.  So when she has the chance to join Fable, led by the famous Bloody Rose, Tam hardly thinks twice. But life on the road isn’t quite as glamorous as Tam thought it would be, and she’s more than a little confused why Fable isn’t racing with all the other bands to defend the land from a new horde that’s encroaching into human territory.  Instead, they’re striking north for a mysterious contract, one that will either cement Fable’s reputation as one of the greatest mercenary bands of all time, or leave them all dead. It’s Tam’s job to witness Fable’s exploits and record them in song for posterity, but as events in the five kingdoms unfold, Tam will have to decide if standing on the sidelines is truly what she wants in life.

Let’s just get the headline out of the way: BLOODY ROSE is a fantastic read, and if you loved the world of KINGS OF THE WYLD, you won’t be disappointed.  The climactic battle sequence alone is worth the price of admission, and that’s on top of the big, expletive-causing reveal at the halfway point. What’s more, BLOODY ROSE works as a standalone sequel; there’s plenty of callbacks to the first book to reward readers, but Eames does a good job of getting newcomers up to speed on any critical mythology. (Case in point, I have a friend who has only read BLOODY ROSE and they love the book immensely.)  Some familiar faces return, but the focus is on an entirely new set of characters.

If you’re new to the series, the main premise is thus: mercenaries in these lands operate as “bands” and go on tour.  Decades ago, going on tour meant you traveled the land in search of contracts, fighting monsters from the dangerous HeartWyld forest, saving princesses, thwarting bandits.  These days, bands just travel to arenas, where monsters are bred to provide gladiator-style entertainment for the masses. The band Fable plays a few of these arenas as they travel north, and it’s in these early fights we get to meet our cast and get a taste of their skills.  Brune’s a shaman who can shape-change into a bear; Cura summons creatures from the tattoos on her skin; Freecloud is a druin, one of the last of a dying race with the gift to see things a few moments before they happen; and Bloody Rose is just an average human with a gift for killing, who also happens to be the daughter of Golden Gabe, perhaps the most famous mercenary who ever lived.

Freshening things up for the second outing into the Wyld, our POV character this time around is a bard.  Tam’s whole job is to observe and record, one of the few times (if ever) that I’ve read a book with a character whose job is to NOT participate.  The result was double-edged.  On the one hand, I sometimes felt I wasn’t as close with the members of Fable as I was with the members of Saga.  But on the other hand, I loved that this POV was a different approach from KINGS OF THE WYLD.  Tam is not Clay Cooper (POV character for KOTW), experienced mercenary who sees his bandmates as just people. Tam is a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old girl who sees the Bands as flawless legends first, and it takes her a while to see past the glory and the supposedly glamorous and realize how much her bandmates are just barely holding themselves together.

Like its predecessor, BLOODY ROSE will make you laugh, cry, and clutch your heart. It’s incredibly cinematic, not just in the battles, but in those quiet moments between.  One of my favorite images is always going to be Tam playing “Together” the night before the final battle. This is a series that gets camaraderie and how it can get you through the toughest times.  The fact that it understands that bond is what makes the action sing, why you care so damn much for what happens to these people.  I’m new to the world of the Wyld, but you can bet it’s staying in my heart for a very long time.

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