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Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
3.5
Book Name: Blood of the Four
Author: Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Publisher(s): Harper Voyager
Formatt: Hardcover / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: March 6, 2018

In the great kingdom of Quandis, everyone is a slave. Some are slaves to the gods. Most are slaves to everyone else.

Blessed by the gods with lives of comfort and splendor, the royal elite routinely perform their duties, yet some chafe at their role. A young woman of stunning ambition, Princess Phela refuses to allow a few obstacles—including her mother the queen and her brother, the heir apparent—stand in the way of claiming ultimate power and glory for herself.

Far below the royals are the Bajuman. Poor and oppressed, members of this wretched caste have but two paths out of servitude: the priesthood . . . or death.

Because magic has been kept at bay in Quandis, royals and Bajuman have lived together in an uneasy peace for centuries. But Princess Phela’s desire for power will disrupt the realm’s order, setting into motion a series of events that will end with her becoming a goddess in her own right . . . or ultimately destroying Quandis and all its inhabitants.

When picking up the Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon readers are promised a sprawling epic fantasy tale that delivers everything a fan could want in a single volume. No long series that requires 20 plus hours of reading, no waiting years for successive books to come out…or not come out, just a one off explosion of a book to satisfy the taste buds. Does it succeed? Let’s see. Oh and this review is not entirely spoiler free because a gargantuan amount of story progression takes place and to avoid it entirely would be impossible.

At the beginning of Blood of the Four I was in awe of how the story managed to maintain an astonishing pace whilst introducing to us some engaging characters that stayed firmly at the forefront of my mind. There are four or five POVs that quickly build and flesh out the medieval world they live in, giving us the social structures, the level of technology, the status of religion, presence of Gods and more. The kingdom of Quandis immediately caught my interest and I wanted to discover more.

In terms of characters Princess Phela is an amazing piece of work and the central protagonist. She is the youngest daughter of the royal family with her mother ruling as Queen, her spoiled and precious brother being a shit and her elder sister Myrinne, whose boyfriend’s father is shagging the Queen, being the lone voice of reason in her life. She starts by playing her game of Whispers, which involve her creeping through the deepest darkest parts of the castle and gathering the secrets of those around her. As she descends into unknown pathways the likelihood of her dying without witnesses in some dead end as the dirt and rocks slowly tighten around her increases. It scared the living crap out me because tight spaces are my Arghhhh thing so I found her courage enviable and her indomitable spirit easy to admire. It is during one of her jaunts that she hears her mother speaking drug-induced heresies to her lover and her world turns upside down…or right way up depending on whose side you take.

A lot happens in the next 400 pages to satisfy fans of the genre. You want betrayal? Try asking the innocent man being executed for his last words knowing you’ve ordered his tongue cut out. You want questions of identity and an ancient prophecy? Here’s Blane a slave turned novice priest wondering if he should tear down the system or stay loyal to those now shielding him from persecution. You want a bard? Well tough because Nicholas Eames killed them all. Golden and Lebbon tread a fine line but do it well in terms of embracing some tropes and leaving others far behind. They are a satisfying bunch of characters and the events that unfold and the circumstances that surround their individual quests will seem familiar to fans of the genre but not boringly so.

One of the few downsides of Blood of the Four was that every character goes through an extreme arc that is at times too much too stomach.

SPOILERS

Phela goes from being a plotting princess to a mad queen, Demos falls from the top of the Kallistrate clan to the marketplace slave auctions and then up to leader of a revolution, Blane from humble Bauman to wizard, Daira from slave to Admiral of a fleet.

END SPOILERS

It all happens very quickly, too quickly, and it is a direct consequence of trying to deliver on the single volume epic fantasy promise. There are even a few moments where characters go from being completely lost to turning and running up the original stairs the came down without any mention of how they found their way out. In other words this one could easily have been given more time to develop and become two books instead of one.

Overall Blood of the Four is a good book. It will scratch a particular itch for a fantasy fan looking for something to read and forget. In a world of trilogies and unfinished masterpieces this certainly holds some value and knowing I didn’t have to store any knowledge for a later date allowed me a certain freedom when it came to moving through the book. This is handy because, often to its detriment, it moves at an astonishing pace rarely letting the reader take a breath.

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