A Time of Blood by John Gwynne (Book Review)
‘“We live our lives by Truth and Courage. Love and loyalty, friendship and honour are our guiding lights.”’
John Gwynne must be a sorcerer because A Time of Blood is one hell of a monumental book. This sequel leaps straight into the action, and begins directly after the climax of the first book, A Time of Dread. Immediately there is plenty of tension and some more bloody and amazing battles which continue throughout. I was literally glued to this book and didn’t want it to end. All I want to do is shout GO READ THIS!
Gwynne makes it harder to define good vs evil in this instalment. Both sides have done malicious acts, and therefore we cannot help but query the motives and the decisions made by both the Ben-Elim and the Kadoshim. I admire how Gwynne took the fantasy theme of good vs evil, twisted it and in turn blurred the lines of what is right and what is wrong; which made the reader feel conflicted. This is exactly what I look for in my fantasy books, where everything is so morally grey.
“‘War makes monsters of us all,’ Fritha said. ’And the trouble with war is that it follows you. Sometimes there is no escaping it. Sometimes the only choice is to choose which side you stand on.’”
There was much journeying in this book, as characters travelled through the Banished Lands to warn of the Kadoshim’s threat, or other characters who serve the Kadoshim try to prevent this from occurring. However, this never became tedious. The pace didn’t really slow as the four main characters faced betrayals, hardship, warfare, and even a variety of monstrous creatures along the way. There was always something happening to hold my intrigue. In fact, my heart was racing throughout the whole book, fearing for all my favourites! Gwynne‘s novels definitely should come with a health warning!
As well as physical journeying, there was plenty of character exploration too. Once again Drem was my favourite. He was portrayed as vulnerable, and overwhelmed, as his previous sheltered life is torn away and he is suddenly catapulted into a dangerous quest. Drem displayed many characteristics of Autism, and through him is represented some of the difficulties Autistic people face. Despite these difficulties, at no point did his character ever give up or lose hope. He did what needed to be done even when it was completely out of his comfort zone. It made my heart so happy to see a type of disability finally portrayed in a positive way. This was definitely refreshing.
Drem’s companions Keld, Cullen, and not forgetting my favourite animal characters Hammer and Rab, were all so entertaining. I adore the way Gwynne portrays friendship of humans and animals in all of his books, and I always look forward to seeing the bonds that they form. To cut through the dark themes of the book, these characters provided much banter and humour; especially Cullen, who was often completely insane! Again, this is something I love to see.
Riv, a character quick to anger, extremely stubborn and often immature; and Bleda, an emotionally guarded young warrior, grew on me so much more in this book. As the lies unfold and they both learn hard truths, their whole world is revealed to be not as black and white as they previously believed. Even though Riv retains her fiery spirit, she slowly begins to mature, and through her close friendship with Bleda, we see her gentle side.
‘Each small step taken for the greater good, and then before you know it, you have walked a thousand leagues from where you used to be. And how do you return to that place, return to the person you were?’
What captivated me the most in this book was the way Gwynne built up the tension, the immense threat and created such a dark atmosphere throughout. All sides were preparing for war; dark fantastical creatures were coming into existence, hatred and the need for vengeance was spreading. Then in the last 100 pages of the book, BANG, everything exploded into complete chaos. This made for the most intense thrilling scenes.
The whole book felt as though it was building to a truly epic conclusion, and I’m scared, but also very much looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.
Arc provided by Tor UK (Pan Macmillan) in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from the arc, and are subject to change upon publication.
A Time of Blood is out now!