Book Review: Winterbirth, by Brian Ruckley

Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Do you like Epic Fantasy? If so, why haven’t you read Winterbirth?

Before I get into things I should put the jacket blurb, right? Man, there’s a lot of question marks in this post.

From the publisher:

AWinterbirthn uneasy truce exists between the thanes of the True Bloods. Now, as another winter approaches, the armies of the Black Road march south, from their exile beyond the Vale of Stones.
For some, war will bring a swift and violent death. Others will not hear the clash of swords or see the corpses strewn over the fields. Instead, they will see an opportunity to advance their own ambitions.

But soon, all will fall under the shadow that is descending. For while the storm of battle rages, one man is following a path that will awaken a terrible power in him — and his legacy will be written in blood.

I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible. Better get my review pants on.

Winterbirth is the first book in the Godless World Trilogy, and tells the story of a kingdom on the cusp of war, and change. In the place of kings we have Thanes. Of course, there’s a Thane of Thanes, or one guy ruling all the kingdoms. There are naturally alliances and political squabbling. To be honest, the first 100 pages is hard to get through. It’s slow and sometimes confusing because readers are trying to get a handle on back story, characters, and plot. I was lost more than once but was intrigued enough to read on.

When things get good, they get really good. Mr. Ruckley’s action scenes are second to none. If the scene calls for blood, he gives you blood. He also doesn’t shy away from killing off characters, which I’m very fond of.

After page 115 I was sold, whole heartedly. And that’s the only drawback of this book. Asking readers to slog through 115 pages in today’s book market is a huge gamble. Most won’t. But I’m glad I did.

This book follows multiple points of view. The main character, I would say, is Orisian, a prince if you will. He’s young and inexperienced but that soon changes when his father’s kingdom is invaded in a surprise attack. I enjoyed reading about his character and found myself looking forward to his sections, or sections where he’s around. I also love the fact that he isn’t the “chosen one” and he has trouble handling a sword. He isn’t a superhero, but a teenager learning his place in the world.

We get to see this war from every side. I liked that. We’re even treated to a bigger picture with the Kyrinin (I would compare them to Native Americans in the US), and their na’ kyrim (half human and half Kyrinin), offspring who, through the mixing of races, acquire certain mental powers. Throughout history, these half breeds have used their influence to take over kingdoms, murder, and conquer. Today, there are few of them left. Most eek out a peaceful existence in one of two sanctuaries. We get to see how the different races have come to hate and mistrust one another, which only adds to the plot.

Even though the humans mistrust the Kyrinin, the greatest threat is from other humans. Political back-stabbing, secret alliances, and ulterior motives all come into play. After the political storyline gets going, it’s mostly enjoyable. It enhances the scope of the story and gives readers an inside look at why things are happening.

Have I confused you yet? No? Good. Let’s continue!

What I liked:

  • The action is top-notch
  • Learning about the different species as they’re forced to interact.
  • The political espionage.
  • The lore, even if I didn’t understand all of it.
  • How big Mr. Ruckley’s world felt.
  • The female characters aren’t clichéd and feel just as real as their male counterparts.
  • The characters in general were all interesting and not over the top superheroes.
  • How Mr. Ruckley effortlessly juggles so many plot pieces.
  • The ending leaves you wanting more.

What I didn’t like:

  • It starts off slow.
  • The lore can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially in the beginning.
  • The ending didn’t feel like an ending, but a to be continued.

Overall: I’d give Winterbirth four out of five stars. I would recommend this book to Fantasy lovers and fans of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series of books. If you can make it through the beginning, you’ll be in for a treat. The slow beginning is also why I couldn’t give this book five stars. I’m hoping the sequel, Bloodheir, is even better.

You can find out more about this book and the author, by clicking the following links:

Brian Ruckley’s official website can be found here.

An interview with Brian about Winterbirth can be found here.

Learn more about the Godless world by following this link.

Purchase Winterbirth here.

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