Book Review: Bloody Rose – by Nicholas Eames

The Band #2

Fantasy, Epic

Orbit Books; August 28, 2018

510 pages (PB)

4.5 / 5 ✪

Bloody Rose actually made me tear up three times—twice in the first three chapters. But while mostly a triumph of plotting, engineering and design, the story stumbles somewhat in its second half, so much so that I was actually considering putting it aside before reaching the exciting conclusion.

Good thing I didn’t, eh?

Bloody Rose is the story of Fable—or specifically Rose, daughter of Golden Gabe, the band’s frontman—one of the Heartwyld’s most famous bands. Told through the eyes of Tam (daughter of a pair of bandmates), as she is hired on as Fable’s bard in the first few chapters. From here, Bloody Rose attempts to tell two stories: one of Fable’s swan song, and another of the Heartwyld itself. It’s basically the same thing that Kings of the Wyld did before it, albeit with Saga. And like Kings of the Wyld, it basically succeeds.

Tam Hashford is the daughter of a pair of bandmates, now retired. She lives with her father, an overprotective parent following the death of Tam’s mother. But Tam has grown up on stories from uncle, also from a band, about her mother and father and various others. And so when Fable rolls into town in search of a new bard, Tam jumps at the opportunity, and soon is off touring the Heartwyld in search of fame and fortune. And adventure.

The real story begins years before Tam’s arrival however, stemming from the first crew of Fable and their fabled end in Castia. The band that Tam greets is a very different bunch. Quite different but at once the very same. The following adventure encompasses both at once, following Fable through the years.

Now there’ll definitely be people who tell you that they loved both books. That they were completely without flaw and great in every way. But for me… I mean, yeah, that’s generally true. The only glaring fault I found was in the transition between tales. Kings of the Wyld actually did it better, I think, weaving the two together with expert precision. In Bloody Rose it’s one and the other. At first, it tells the story of the band, with each character arc getting its own share of the tale before giving way to the overarching one of the Heartwyld. And the transition between these two created a… gap in the text. A place where very little was driving the tale, it was just limping along. This stretch of ~40-50 pages is the biggest struggle any reader’s likely to face, however.

Otherwise, I thought Bloody Rose built upon so many of Kings’ failings. Not that Kings’ had many, of course. Gone are the convenient escapes from peril, the places where the story skips ahead when it doesn’t doesn’t have any answers. Gone is the skin-deep narrative, as the Heartwyld is now rendered in vivid detail. Gone are the decent if not deep characters, as Fable’s are as human as any of us.

As for the adventure, the action, the thrills—it’s all tremendous. An amazing sophomore effort, setting the Heartwyld up for a blockbuster finale. While not the triumph that it could have been, Bloody Rose is a bloody marvel, a thrilling and emotional adventure that not only redeems the Heartwyld from its initial black-and-white rendering, but also promises a more intricate, more complex world in the future.

No release date yet on #3, which is also as yet untitled. I’m hoping 2020, though.

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