Review: Blood of the King by Bruce Blake

Blurb:

A kingdom torn by war. A curse whispered by dying lips. A hero born against his will.

Khirro never wanted to be anything more than the farmer he was born to be, but a Shaman’s curse binds him to the fallen king and his life changes forever.

Driven by the Shaman’s dying words, Khirro’s journey pits him against an army of the dead, sends him through haunted lands, and thrusts him into the jaws of beasts he wouldn’t have believed existed. In one hand he carries the Shaman’s enchanted sword, a weapon he can barely use; in the other he holds a vial of the king’s blood, the hope of the kingdom. His destination: the Necromancer’s keep in the cursed land of Lakesh. Only the mysterious outlaw magician can raise the king from the dead to save them all from the undead invasion, but can Khirro live long enough to deliver the vial?

Can a coward save a kingdom?

Review:

Blood of the King is a riveting story filled with twists and turns. It has a little bit of everything that makes high fantasy great- kings and knights; loyalty and betrayal; magic in various forms: curses, necromancy, illusion, blood magic, shape-shifting; monsters: undead soldiers, giants, dragons; prophetic dreams; even a cursed land filled with dangers at every turn. The story follows the epic tradition- a hero is called to action, there is a time when he resists but eventually, he sets out on a quest in order to bestow a boon on his fellow man. In this case, it is a journey to restore the king and end a bloody war. Along the journey he is aided by mystical forces, he encounters a temptress, he has to atone for his past sins… seriously, this tale hits every marker of the epic hero cycle.

The main character is the unexpected hero, a simple farmer forced into military service during a time of war. He receives training but he still considers himself a farmer, not a soldier. When a monumental task is left to him, he is forced into a role he doesn’t understand but fortunately the magic surrounding his precious cargo helps him discover his true strength. Like any true hero, he isn’t alone on his journey. He manages to accumulate an entourage of misfits each with a set of talents that can help him achieve his goal. I liked the way Blake crafted the characters. None of them are perfect, but their imperfections are what make their addition to the quest, perfect. Of course, no one is truly what they seem and every action brings up questions but it’s great because the story never gets stale.

While the main focus of the tale centers on Khirro’s journey, there are occasional glimpses to another player- one who has orchestrated events that led to the fall of the king. These scenes help you remember that there is so much more going on in the world. Life isn’t on hold–there is still a war to fight and the people need leadership. No one outside Khirro’s band really knows what became of the king–his whereabouts and fate are a mystery–but the enemy still exists and men are still dying in service to their absent ruler.

There is a lot of violence in the book. Gruesome descriptions of battle scenes as well as murders in the name of profit litter the pages so don’t expect, a light and fluffy fantasy story. Also, there is some sexual content. While it is not graphic in the terms I usually think–erotica type wording and such–there are some pretty graphic scenes involving sexual acts in conjuncture with violence, so readers beware. The writing is extremely descriptive but it fits well with the material. It is gritty and raw–definitely not for the faint of heart or for those that crave a HEA.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

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