Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 30 August 2018
Page count: 510 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free for Bloody Rose, but may contain some spoilers for Kings of the Wyld. You can read my review for the first book here.
Kings of the Wyld was one of my favourite books this year. It is so funny and filled with heart — it’s the perfect kind of book for me. I knew that it would be a tough act to follow, but when I realised the sequel, Bloody Rose, was coming out I knew I had to read it. Bloody Rose is a very different book from Kings of the Wyld, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
Live fast, die young.
Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.
When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.
It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.
I feel like in a lot of ways I’m still processing this book. There was a lot that I loved, some things I loved a little less, and some character arcs that are worthy of a bit more pondering. Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of Bloody Rose. It still has that humor I loved so much in the first book, although there was a lot less of it, and it deals with some of the heavier themes that were touched upon in Kings of the Wyld. Tam is our POV character and because she’s new to the mercenary life she sees things a little differently from her companions. I really liked that Eames digs deeper into some heavier themes in Bloody Rose thought Tam’s eyes. Most notably were the question of what makes a monster monstrous — characters like Roderick are a great addition to the book in this sense — and what happens when the arena lifestyle collapses when there are no more monsters to fight. He explores these ideas in particular without going too deep, which was a little disappointing for me but that is strictly personal taste. Kings of the Wyld scratches the surface of these questions, but doesn’t do more than that, and I was really happy to see Bloody Rose expand on these themes.
Bloody Rose has a rich cast of characters, but some are stronger than others. Bloody Rose takes place six years after the events of Kings of the Wyld — Rose is in her mid-twenties and a very different person from the girl we saw at the Battle of Castia. What’s strange for me is that Rose wasn’t the strongest character in the book, which is obviously named after her. We only get a strong sense of who she is in the last 200 pages or so. Part of that is obviously the choice to have a different character, Tam, as our POV character rather than Rose herself. However, I really liked the fact that Eames made this decision — I think having a complete stranger narrate the story added to its strength. What a conundrum.
The characters I loved? Brune and Freecloud, which is funny given that I was so excited to get female leads in this book. The two of them get the strongest back stories and have such wonderful story arcs — it is an absolute joy to watch them interact with their band mates and the other characters they meet. They are the ones that really leapt off the page at me. I also really liked Tam, which is understandable given that we spend the most time with her. The fact that she’s a character who has no experience on the road means that we get to learn about mercenary life alongside her as she fights her own ideas of what life on the road means. I particularly liked how it all ties in with her beloved mother, and how she follows in her footsteps.
I really liked Bloody Rose, but it was hard to separate it from Kings of the Wyld. I prefer Kings — that style of humor is so rare in fantasy and I just had the absolute best time reading it, but I very much appreciate the heavier themes and higher stakes of Bloody Rose. I have no idea where the series might go next, but I am eagerly awaiting the third installment.
CW: self harm, mentions of suicide, substance abuse, general fantasy gore
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Have you read Bloody Rose or Kings of the Wyld? What did you think? Are they in your TBR? Let me know