BLOOD OF AN EXILE by Brian Naslund (Book Review)
“You can have black deeds and mistakes in your past without being rotten down to the core. You can keep moving through this world, even if there is no redemption for the things you left behind you.”
Blood of An Exile is the debut novel by Brian Naslund, and is the first book in the Dragons of Terra trilogy. This novel first caught my eye on Twitter, when the gorgeous UK edition of the cover was revealed, and then when it was recommended for fans of John Gwynne, Andrzej Sapkowski and Joe Abercrombie, who are some of my most favourite authors, I knew I needed to read it… like right now!
The story begins with Silas Bershad the Flawless, a perceived traitor who is exiled by the King. In the world of Terra, exiles are forced into becoming dragonslayers; basically a form of death sentence as few survive the ordeal. However, Bershad is somewhat unique: after 14 years of being a dragonslayer he has managed to survive. Given this infamous status Bershad has acquired, the King calls him back to the castle in Floodhaven and propositions him with the task of killing the emperor in Burz-al-dun and helping to rescue the king’s kidnapped daughter, all in exchange for his freedom.
One of the main aspects of the book that charmed me right from the outset was the cast of characters. There are five central points of view, and each perspective is distinct and well fleshed out. Naslund skilfully intertwines their narratives with one another as the story progresses, which was brilliant to see.
I have always had a fondness towards books where groups of outcasts are banded together to journey on a quest, and Naslund certainly delivered on this account. There is a fair bit of travelling in this book; the majority of this comes from Bershad’s story arc as he and his shield-man Rowan, a convicted thief, Felgor, and an assassin, Vera, all travel together to Balaria. However, Naslund never allows these scenes to become tedious. We see the band of misfits bicker, then slowly begin to form friendships, to tell each other about their lives, and to begin caring about one another. All this is enriched with a good healthy dose of banter, and of course an adorable donkey named Alfonso, who I cannot forget to mention! They all made me laugh out loud on so many occasions, and I especially loved those campfire conversations which were some of my most favourite scenes.Trust me, you’ll just grow to love these characters so much by the end.
“Leave the animal and let’s go!” Yonmar hissed.
Bershad grabbed Yonmar by the front of his shirt and yanked him close.
“Listen to me very carefully, Grealor. Hertzog and your father can’t protect you out here. And I don’t care if you’ve got a flying fucking carpet that’ll spirit us across the Balarian border, I will cut your lungs out of your chest if you threaten my donkey again.”
The second element that I found so compelling was the world building. From the poisonous snails and the Jaguars of the Deepdale jungle, to the clockwork mechanisms and modernism found in Burz-al-dun, Naslund has undoubtedly created a vivid land full of culture. However, for me personally, it is the majestic dragons that really steal the show. Not only are they fearsome and deadly, but they also play a key role in the survival of the world of Terra. As the story progresses we learn how the various dragon species are pivotal to the ecosystem in the world, and upsetting this natural order by reducing the dragon population could be dire. I loved this part so much; not only does it mirror many of our own environmental issues present today, but it also makes us question how much more we could and should do to preserve our own natural inhabitants.
Lastly, I appreciated that the dragons also served the purpose of being the catalyst for the magic system within the realms of Terra. They are the key to unlocking a wealth of power, and judging by the ending of this book, I’m certain this will be explored more thoroughly in the sequel – which already has me filled with anticipation!
Okay, definitely lastly this time, but I must also note how fantastic the action sequences were written. Whether fighting against a dragon, or savages, or trained soldiers, the various characters all had different fighting styles, but they all proved to be just as brutal.This constructed such a lovely cinematic prose.
To conclude, this book is not your typical dragonslayer story. At its heart, Blood of An Exile is the story of progression versus nature; it’s a tale of unlikely friendships, and a quest to fight for those you love. I commend Naslund on this debut, because simply put, it’s a magical, action-packed read.
Arc provided by Tor UK (Pan Macmillan) in exchange for an honest review.