Publication Date – 10 July 2018
Sensational fantasy author Nicholas Eames follows up his exceptional debut with the five-star novel Bloody Rose, featuring an epic quest storyline which takes its protagonists through a series of wild adventures in a spectacular and large-scale fantasy landscape.
In the human lands of Grandual, mercenary bands hold a celebrity status among the people. Originally formed to help protect against the horrors of the world, most bands now spend their days touring from city to city, fighting monsters in arenas in order to gain fame, glory and money. The most famous of these bands is Fable, led by the notorious Bloody Rose, daughter of the land’s greatest hero, Golden Gabe. Years after her father led a mercenary army to rescue her from a horde of monsters, Rose has reformed Fable with the druin Freecloud, the shaman Brune, the Inkwitch Cura and their booker, the waggish satyr Roderick. With a massive chip on her shoulder, Rose is determined to take on the toughest jobs and challenges that she can find.
In the city of Ardburg, Tam Hasford is sick of her job slinging drinks at the local pub to the famous mercenaries passing through. As the daughter of two mercenaries herself, Tam craves adventure, and when Fable rolls into town looking for a new bard, Tam jumps at the opportunity to travel with Bloody Rose and her band. Gaining a well-deserved reputation for her singing and an accidental reputation as a fighter, Tam receives the moniker ‘The Bard’ and a crash course in the mercenary lifestyle of drinking, gambling, fighting and good times.
But while Tam is having fun in her new role, there is still work to be done. A massive monster horde has once again left the wilds and is threatening several human cities. All of Grandual’s mercenary bands are gathering to meet them, all except Fable. Rose is leading her band in the opposite direction and appears unconcerned with the potential devastation the monsters could cause. Has Bloody Rose lost her nerve or does she have a far more dangerous quest in mind? While Fable’s plan to become legends may prove to be successful, they will have far more destructive consequences than anyone could ever predict.
Bloody Rose is the incredible sequel to Eames’s 2017 debut, Kings of the Wyld, and forms the second book in Eames’s The Band series. Set several years after the events of the first book, Eames switches up the story, focusing on the adventures of Rose and her band of mercenaries, while telling the narrative through the eyes of new point-of-view character Tam. While there are many tie-ins with the first book, including several of the main characters, Eames has mostly shifted the focus onto a new generation of characters.
Although Bloody Rose is the second instalment in this series, curious readers can easily start their adventure with this book. This book’s point-of-view character, Tam, never directly experienced the battles of the first entry in the series, and she ends up having quite a few conversations that describe or dramatise the events of the previous novel. As a result, new readers who start with Bloody Rose will not experience any confusion and will be able to enjoy this story right off the bat. That being said, readers who start with this book will probably get a hankering to read Kings of the Wyld due to how amazing Bloody Rose is.
This is a substantial piece of fantasy literature with a powerful story that is guaranteed to draw the reader in from the first page. The huge scope of this story is just remarkable, as what begins as a simple adventure story transforms into an epic battle for the survival of all life in the world. Much of this scope is the result of the significant number of secondary characters and antagonists that are introduced throughout the book. It is a testimony to Eames’s skill as a writer that all these characters don’t overwhelm the story, and the reader finds themselves interested in seeing how each these characters ends up. The use of a brand new point-of-view character to tell this story is a clever move from Eames as it allows a fresh insight into this world of mercenary bands and monsters, moving on from the old veterans that were the focus of Kings of the Wyld.
The author has infused his narrative with a huge amount of humour, most of it quite adult and over the top in nature. This humorous tone infects quite a lot of the way that the book is told and makes it a very fun read. There are some extremely funny scenes through the book, from debates about fake cockatrices, to the antics of a drunken satyr, to discussions about the dietary requirements of minotaurs. While this humour is a key and overwhelmingly fun part of the story, Eames does get deadly serious in several parts of the book when the protagonists encounter dark days. These darker scenes are felt particularly hard by the reader, mainly due to the sudden shift away from the lighter tone of the rest of the book. While there are several examples of this throughout the story, I found that the final scenes of this book were particularly intense and had me absolutely captivated. This clever combination of the outstanding comedy overtones and the gripping dramatic moments works exceedingly well and turns Bloody Rose’s story into one of the best fantasy narratives I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
In addition to the great use of comedy, drama and story, Eames has also packed this book with a significant amount of action and adventure. The protagonists of this story essentially fight everyone as they adventure across the land, and participate in all sorts of combat, including arena battles with monsters, fights with titanic creatures, large-scale battles and even a few tavern brawls. All these action sequences work well with the book’s other elements. Not only do these battles result in some devastating moments but Eames also includes some comedy in these fight scenes, which can prove to be very entertaining. Readers should also keep an eye out for the fun and inventive combat tactics used throughout this book, which are not only destructive but creative. Never has red hair been used in battle so effectively. With as much conflict and combat as you’ll ever need in a book, this is a perfect read those looking for those looking for their next injection of thrilling action and adventure.
Eames has also created a vast world to be the setting for this story, filled with a huge number of fantasy creatures and massive amount of world building lore. Having such a large and well-established world is essential for a story of this magnitude. The protagonists do a substantial amount of travel from one end of Grandual to the other, exploring large cities, small towns, barren wastes, massive battlefields and dangerous forested areas. The author has also filled this story with every classic fantasy and mythological creature one could think of, as well as a few unique creatures from his own imagination. All these creatures are a great addition to the story, resulting in some very fun battle sequences throughout the book, especially when their a huge number of these creatures in action. One of the more intriguing races is the druin, the rabbit-eared humanoids created by Eames which used to rule all the humans and monsters of this fantasy world. There is some fascinating history around the druin which has some significant impacts on the story, as well as gifting these creatures with some cool abilities that come into play in a variety of great ways.
The author has also spent time developing a fantastic band of main characters for the reader to follow on their adventure. Using his new narrator, Tam, to full effect, the reader is given an introduction to every member of Fable and learns their history and motivations in significant and interesting detail. A decent amount of time is spent looking at all of the members of Fable and the reader is given a deep understanding of each of them. Each member of the band is a fairly unique fighter and character in their own right, but together they form a fun team. Eames really hammers home how close these band members become throughout the book, and the reader becomes attached to the characters as they grow closer together. This makes any potential harm or trauma they experience particularly hard for the reader to experience, and really adds to the books emotional depth.
With the follow-up to his epic debut, Eames has once again demonstrated why he is one of the freshest and most exciting new voices in fantasy fiction. This exceptional story is an action-packed bonanza that sees several compelling characters engage in a heroic quest across an impressive fantasy landscape. With the perfect blend of comedic adventure, epic fantasy storytelling and some dramatic character moments, Bloody Rose is an exceptional and excellent read that is guaranteed to become your new favourite story.