I’m a huge fan of Gav Thorpe’s Black Library work so when I finally received a copy of The Crown of the Blood, I couldn’t wait for some free time to dig into this monster. The setting for Crown of the Blood is my forte; I love this genre of epic fantasy: a young leader, such as Ullsaard, thrown into a conflicted and hostile world of warring nations, internal intrigue, and a bit of dark magic.
The initial start of the book wasn’t exactly an info drop, but when Ullsaard’s best friend Noran arrives bearing an important message involving the wellbeing of the heir to The Crown of Blood (which sets everything in motion, I might add), their trip back to Askh is filled with all the tidbits about the lands and people the under Askhsan rule. So for me this beginning was a tad slow. It also takes a moment to gather in all of the characters and keep track of them and there is a ton of interesting individuals of all varying races and backgrounds. I enjoyed the mindset of Ullsaard, the ideals by which he rules, and how each of his three wives serves completely different purposes to him; it was a very foreign concept for my thought process to comprehend but very Askhan.
Thorpe writes the majority of the novel from the view point of Ullsaard as he commands his vast legions across the hot and cold lands, orchestrating his masterful plans of conquest. Occasionally we get a glimpses of different views from inside The Brotherhood, the secretive sect that seems to control everything in Askh; Noran, Ullsard’s friend; Anglhan – debt-owner-turned-rebel-turned much, much more, and Gelthius – debter-turned-rebel-turned legionnaire. The grasp Thorpe has on this world is mindboggling, especially considering the enormity of everything that is encompassed story-wise within The Crown of the Blood.
Ullsaard’s desires quickly become apparent early on and Thorpe throws him through a nearly impassible gauntlet of obstacles that most wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. In the end it boils down to how much Ullsaard is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve victory and at the finale we still aren’t sure of the ultimate cost. I was surprised at some of the depths to which he actually sunk and how quickly Ullsaard rid himself of a few of those around him I thought were potentially key players.
Some of the graphic scenes with The Brotherhood left me with chills and I definitely want to see more of them in the next installment in the trilogy along with the inhuman Nemurians. The final dual between Ullsaard and an unnamed individual is most assuredly my favorite along with the closing scene of the book. The Crown of the Blood doesn’t end here thankfully and there are another two whole books in the series waiting for me on my bookshelf! My only true regret is that I hadn’t read this one sooner. 8 out of 10 Liams. If this has been one of those books you are on the edge about getting, don’t think twice about grabbing a copy the next time you see it on a shelf, you won’t be disappointed.
Kudos to my Fiance for winning this copy from Gav Thorpe’s contest !