Today I am delighted to be reviewing Of Blood and Fire, the debut from Ryan Cahill and the first book in The Bound and the Broken series as part of the Love Books Tour.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
Born in fire. Tempered in blood.
Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the south squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.
In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving—a test of courage and skill that not all survive.
But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.
There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.
He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.
Firstly, I have to say that this is a beautiful book. I love monochrome colours, and there was something about the cover for Of Blood and Fire that caught my eye immediately and had me wanting to read the book even before I’d read the summary (which only added to that desire). Then there is a map – am I predictable enough yet? – I love maps, and while they are by no means essential it’s an immediate bonus point for me. There are also illustrated chapter headers, and a couple of other illustrations as well, and all to all, it is a beautifully presented book.
Of Blood and Fire also managed to scratch the itch I have for almost classic adventure fantasy at the moment, with a group of friends setting out on the road (queue Bilbo running down the garden path) on an adventure. It also has dragons which while my reading has diversified massively in recent years, it is Dragons that originally brought me into fantasy and whenever I read them in a book it is like being wrapped up in a blanket of nostalgia (that I loved how Cahill wrote the dragon aspect only adds to that feeling). Those elements, paired with the fact that we are drawn into a world with magic, elves, dwarves and more, really build on that classic fantasy feeling, while the author adds his own unique twist onto those traditional features.
The book did suffer a little from being the first book because it has to do a lot of the legwork for the entire series as well as for the book itself. This meant that particularly towards the beginning the pacing was a little slow as the world and the characters were being established, and while for the most part that worked and is a necessary part of establishing the world, there were a couple of places where it did feel as though the information could have been condensed or spread out to keep the pacing going. There are also a lot of names and places mentioned – which I personally loved – but can be a little overwhelming. That said, I devoured this book within the space of a couple of days, and once the foundation is there, Of Blood and Fire really hit its stride and swept me along, and I feel that this will continue to be the case in the future books.
The world-building was well done, and I felt that Cahill did an excellent job of bringing Epheria with its conflicts and history and differing cultures to life, and I certainly enjoyed my time spent in the world (and eagerly look forward to returning). The magic system was interesting, although I do feel that we’ve only just scratched the surface of its full potential, and I look forward to seeing it expanded on in the future. It’s a system that nestles between soft and hard, although leaning a little more towards the latter, which is a balance I quite enjoy.
The characters were a major part of the book, and I really liked the dynamic between the three main characters Calen, Dann and Rist, and their friendship was definitely a strong thread throughout the entire book, while still allowing them to shine as individuals. You got the feeling of a grounded adventuring party, with banter and interactions based on a strong core of shared experiences and friendship – which again is something I love about quest/adventure fantasy – and was beautifully done here. Outside the main three I also really enjoyed reading about Dahlen, although I would like to know more about him.
The writing was fluid and carried the story, and Cahill certainly has a talent for storytelling, from gripping action scenes to the quieter character moments, and did an excellent job of building the tension and pacing particularly in the second half of the book. A strong debut and the start to a new fantasy series. I had a great time reading Of Blood and Fire, and I was disappointed when I reached the end, and I will be looking out for the rest of the series and anything else that Cahill does in the future.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.