Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund
Publication date: 08 August 2019
Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
When I first picked up Blood of an Exile, I expected it to be nothing more than a fun fantasy romp. It was indeed a super fun fantasy adventure, but I was delighted to discover that lurking between the pages was a fantastically nuanced, layered story that explores a fantasy world in a fantastic, unique way.
Bershad was supposed to die…
When he was caught trying to assassinate a fellow noble, Flawless Bershad was given a death sentence. Fight monsters so that he would die serving the kingdom. But Beshad can’t die.
He’s never lost a fight, the most successful dragon slayer in history but marked as a doomed man, Bershad stands apart from the world. But that is about to change.
The man who sentenced Bershad to his fate has just given him an out. Kill a king and walk free forever. But Bershad could care less about the fates of kings and kingdoms, until, that is, he discovers he is the only person able to save an innocent child and, possibly, the life of every creature in Terra.
The world building in this book is some of the absolute best I’ve seen in a long time. Naslund doesn’t just present you with the essentials of a fantasy world — the politics, culture, and history — he incorporates the laws of nature and the importance and impact of human actions into his plot and world flawlessly. I was reminded a little of the impact of the mercenary bands on the ecosystem in Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames, but Naslund’s exploration goes even further and I really loved it.
We get several point of view characters in Blood of an Exile — most of which are tied to the immediate plot but others seem a little more separate. My favourite character was, unsurprisingly, Ashlynn — was there any doubt that the butt-kicking, older princess would be my favourite? No, there was not. One of the things I loved most about Ashlynn is the fact that we are told how incredible competent she is and this is backed up by her actions and thought processes. She’s intelligent, shrewd, kind, and puts her role in the royal family above all else. However, she’s also flawed and oh so very human — she makes mistakes and is not perfect. She’s definitely a contender for top female character of the year for me.
Bershand is another great character that is written so incredibly well. Naslund took my expectations of Bershand’s character and flipped them — something I always appreciate, especially with archetypal warrior characters in fantasy. Underneath that grubby, scarred exterior is the heart of a man who still cared despite the horrific things he’s been through. Like Ashlynn, he is complex and flawed, but so very human.
Overall, I really enjoyed Blood of an Exile! It’s a book I expected to like, but I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. Blood of an Exile is a fantastic fantasy debut that is both action-packed and thoughtful, grim but with a sense of hope — fans of both classic and modern adult fantasy will love this book. I can’t wait to see what Brian Naslund has in store for us next.
CW: violence and some gore, animal death, xenophobia
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