Of Blood and Bone #2
Orbit Books; April 16, 2019
463 pages (PB)
3.9 / 5 ✪
Contains spoilers for A Time of Dread and possible spoilers for the Faithful and the Fallen series!
The second Of Blood and Bone, A Time of Blood shares much the the successes of its predecessors. Both A Time of Dread and the Faithful and the Fallen quartet instilled in us a sense of wonder, of noble deeds and nobler warriors, of truth, courage, and loyalty. All classic fantasy components. And yet where tFatF soared high, OB&B seems a little too nostalgic, and a little too straightforward.
Again, the story leans heavily on its 4 POVs: Bleda, Riv, Drem & Fritha. These POVs tell two separate stories—one of revenge and blood feud, and the other of… revenge and blood-feud. In fact, A Time of Blood reads pretty much like a “How to” for blood-feud. I mean, there’s still a good story underneath, but it all boils down to the same message.
A Time of Feud
In the north, Drem and his companions flee Fritha and the Kadoshim. Following the loss of Sig, they are shaken and desperate to get away from their pursuit. But the Bone Fells are wintry and wild, the Desolation barren and vast, and even with Drem cutting their path, the group is only just managing to outpace their pursuers. Meanwhile, Fritha and her revenants are frantic to catch them, not ready for the secret of the Kadoshim to come out. But as Drem and the others start to pull away, Fritha and her ilk happen upon a few unexpected prizes that might just make up for their failure.
In Forn Forest, Riv and Bleda lead the Ben Elim on a merry chase of their own. But outmatched, outnumbered, they are caught and returned to Drassil. Here Riv is held and awaits her death. But Kol, an upstart Ben Elim, has other plans. Instead of killing her, he plans on using Riv to further his own agenda, make his play for High Captain, and establish permanent Ben-Elim-human relationships. Bleda, meanwhile, is torn. Reunited with his intended—Jin—he can only think about Riv. Her face, her spirit, her lips. And torn as he is, it’s just a matter of time before he does something reckless.
The fate of the Banished Lands is once again in question. And the final battle for them looms large.
‘ This world is one blood feud or another, an endless cycle. ‘
– A Time of Blood, pg. 449
Where the original series was a beautiful coming of age story, a redemption song, and a harrowing battle between good and evil all rolled into one—Of Blood and Bone is starting to feel a lot like one entire blood-feud. While I liked the first book, A Time of Dread, but felt it lacked somewhat compared to the story the original series put out. I enjoyed this second book, but it sure left a sour taste in my mouth after finishing it. It told of much the same battle between good and evil, but with a twist. Each of the two sets of POVs—Drem and Fritha, Riv and Bleda—all have reason to hate each other. After the events of A Time of Blood, they hate one another even more.
As always, John Gwynne weaves an intricate and compelling story—despite all the blood-feud. His world-building is top-notch and his Banished Lands continue to improve in their detail. I only regret that we haven’t fully explored them yet. Nor have we reached Ardain in this trilogy. The short of it is that his world is always well-built, always breathtaking, always lovely in its detail—and A Time of Blood is no different.
AToB is by no means bad, though I have a lot of trouble not comparing it to the Faithful and the Fallen series before it. And it compares badly. It lacks the same charm, the same appeal. The same plot intricacies. A Time of Blood is a well-written, entertaining, straightforward tale of good vs. evil. An enjoyable ride of battles, courage and betrayal. A bitter path of blood-feud and the means taken to achieve it. But little more. It’s certainly entertaining and interesting—but seriously, it can’t compare to what comes before it.
The Faithful and the Fallen is one of my favorite series of all time. Of Blood and Bone is a pale comparison. A Time of Blood is an entertaining read set in a well-built, well-written world. The plot began as a straightforward struggle between good and evil—a sequel to the war between Kadoshim and Ben Elim spelled out in Gwynne’s previous quartet. But this continuation quickly devolves into feud. While the story is still an interesting back and forth revenge tale, it’s nothing that the books before it were. I’m… on the fence about recommending it. If you’ve read tFatF—I’d say, yeah, probably. If you haven’t, I’d definitely start with that series first.
The series concludes with A Time of Courage, due out April 2, 2020.