Book Review: Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund

Title: Blood of an Exile

Author: Brian Naslund

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: Aug 6, 2019

Genres: Epic Fantasy

Shelves: Female-fronted

One of the perks of being a book reviewer is having books thrust into your hands that you might have otherwise missed. Blood of an Exile came my way last year, and while it wasn’t an immediate must-read, there was enough appeal to keep it in my review pile. Fast forward to this summer’s release of Sorcery of a Queen, the second Dragons of Terra book, and I suddenly felt compelled to catch up.

As debuts go, Blood of an Exile is a book I would happily put on the same shelf as Kings of the Wyld in that it does something new within the genre while also hearkening back to more adventurous times. It has elements of sword-and-sorcery fantasy, set in a grimdark fantasy world, but with some dark humor and a social awareness that makes it stand apart. In a genre that so often ends with celebrating the heroic exploits of dragonslayers, Brian Naslund does a super job of exploring the consequences of removing the top predator from the food chain. Sure, your neighbor’s sheep may not be snatched up in the night, but you and everyone you know are likely going to die from famine, and that’s if plague doesn’t get them first.

I’ll admit, it took me a few chapters, but once I warmed up to Bershad (dragonslayer), Rowan (sidekick), and Alfonso (donkey), I was interested in their story . . . and Ashlyn (would-be queen) quickly thrust me from interested to wholly invested. As for the characters we meet along the way, I was prepared to dismiss Vera (assassin) and Felgor (thief) as expendable secondary characters, but I loved the way Naslund slowly brought them to the forefront. As for Kira (damsel in distress), I had my suspicions about her situation, but she still embodies some very nice twists there on the genre.

Overall, Blood of an Exile had great pacing, with just enough quiet moments to explore the deeper facets of the characters, and more than enough action and adventure – dragon slaying, epic journeys, quests, sieges, rescues, assassinations, betrayals, and more. It’s grimdark in that it’s full of darkness, decay, death, and dread, but it’s also epic in that it’s significant, full of dragons and magic and the fate of an entire land is at stake. Often violent and sometimes gross, it’s also darkly humorous when it needs to be, with the character’s camaraderie feeding those guilty smirks. There’s a lot going on, several plot threads that clearly extend beyond this first volume, and the fact that many aren’t clear until the final pages was a pleasant surprise, with several twists and revelations, none of which feel like a cheat.

I may have only read Blood of an Exile to prepare me for Sorcery of a Queen, but I’m glad I did, and I’m extraordinarily pleased that there is more story to come.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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