Book Review: Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Title: Bloody Rose

Author: Nicholas Eames

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date:  August 28, 2018

Genres: Epic Fantasy

Shelves: Female-fronted

Reading last year’s Kings of the Wyld was like stumbling across a small, half-empty club on a Saturday night and discovering Paul Di’Anno singing for some band called Iron Maiden. At the end of the night your jaw is hanging open, you’re grinning from ear-to-ear, and you’re air-drumming on the way to the car, anxious for The Band to release their first album.

With Bloody Rose, it’s more like pushing into the crowd at a packed stadium, ready to rock out with Iron Maiden a second time, only with Bruce Dickinson as the front-man instead. You know the tunes, you’ve listened to the album, and you’re already banging your head as you tune up your air guitar. Expectations are high, but so is the energy, and you know damned well The Band is going to blow the roof off.

Nicholas Eames’ sophomore effort pretty much encapsulates that feeling. It’s an album (or book) that sounds different, with a different voice at the forefront. It’s off-putting in the early listening (or reading). It’s not the comfortable return to a familiar sound you might be expecting, but an evolution, a next chapter in a career. You need to find that one song (or chapter) that hooks you, that makes you feel like you did back in that small club, and suddenly it all comes alive.

I did stumble a bit in the early going, finding this to be a darker, more melancholy sort of tale than the first, with characters who weren’t as immediately endearing. Don’t get me wrong, there was never a moment where I doubted my enjoyment, but I did feel like I was waiting for something, worried I might not find that hook perhaps. For me, the ah-ha moment came at the halfway mark, with a mid-book climax that absolutely blew me away. There is a seventeen-second countdown of an epic battle, with more action packed into the brief paragraphs between seconds than should be possible, creating an air of tension, anticipation, and excitement that is some of the best storytelling I have encountered in a very long time. It’s one of those rare instances where I finished the chapter, closed the book, and just said, “Damn!”

Now, every reader is going to have their favorite character, and Eames does such an incredible job of building personalities and backstories that any character would be a fair choice, but it is Cura who made the book for me. First off, she’s just damned cool, a self-inked woman who can summon incredible monsters of smoke and magic from her tattoos. Second, she’s got a wit that’s as razor-sharp as her emotions, making her a dangerous friend (or lover). Most importantly, she has a very dark history, a story behind those tattoos that is heart-breaking once you learn of it, and it drives an amazing sacrifice as her story comes full circle. Rose and Tam have great story arcs as well, and Rose’s sacrifice is arguably even more significant, but it is Cura who sticks with me.

One area where Eames tops himself in Bloody Rose is with the action, the monsters, and the conflicts. The monsters are bigger and badder than ever, including a freakin’ dragon-eater, and the use of necromancy is one of the coolest things I have read in ages. I like armies of the dead, but this was something else. Tied up in those monsters is an evolution of the mythology introduced in Kings of the Wyld, with some surprising ties to the Heartwyld Horde that aren’t immediately apparent, but which serve to further connect the two books.

As cool as the first book was, and it was Number of the Beast worthy, the world-building here is at a whole other level, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son epic concept album worthy.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

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