Book Review: Bloodheir, by Brian Ruckley

I’m sticking with the spoiler free format. Don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it.

BloodheirBloodheir is the second book in the Godless World Trilogy, by Brian Ruckley. I’d like to say this is a stand alone, but it isn’t. If you haven’t read Winterbirth, book one in the Godless World Trilogy, you’ll be lost in the sauce. You’re going to want to start at the beginning, no skipping ahead.

From the publisher:

The world has fallen from its former state. The war between the clans of the Black Road and the True Bloods has spread.

For Orisian, thane of the ruined Lannis Blood, there is no time to grieve the loss of his family, brutally slain by the invading armies. The Black Road must be stopped. However, as more blood is spilled on the battlefields, so each side in the conflict becomes more riven by internal dissent and disunity.

Amidst the mounting chaos, Aeglyss the na’kyrim uses his new-found powers to twist everything and everyone around him to serve his own mad desires.

Meanwhile, the long-dormant Anain are stirring – and when the most potent race the world has ever known returns, the bloodletting may never stop.

Bloodheir picks up right where Winterbirth left off. It was enough of a clilffhanger that as soon as I put Winterbirth down I picked up Bloodheir. I normally don’t read successive books in a trilogy but Mr. Ruckley’s world twisted my arm. That’s one of the many pluses of this book, the atmosphere is dire, dreary, and real. It’s a world in the midst of a war the likes of which hasn’t been seen in hundreds of years. As one would expect, war brings with it different emotions and situations–most of them bad. Whole cities are cut down and put to the torch. Families are broken. Alliances are shattered as easily as bones. Chaos becomes commonplace. Mr. Ruckley does a fantastic job creating a bleak atmosphere. Setting most of these events during winter only adds to the overall effect and is a nice touch. But winter can’t last forever and eventually spring will thaw the cold. You have to believe that something good is on the horizon for book number three.

As with any war, there are casualties. I love how no character is safe from death’s shadow. Minor characters, main characters, it doesn’t matter. Just like in real life, people die. The way in which they die makes sense with the story, and world. I was actually saddened by the death of a main character about three quarters of the way through this book. Up until their death, that particular character had been an integral part of the story. Mr. Ruckley doesn’t play around. I like that.

Each POV character feels like a main character, even though they all aren’t. This adds to the vastness of the story, and world. Readers are treated to a three dimensional story that is only enhanced from seeing things from every possible angle. There isn’t a bland character in the mix. Each has their own motivations, flaws, and emotions. Each believes what they do is righteous. Having such well rounded, and constructed characters only adds to the already huge feeling world. Readers will root for their favorites, and their enemies as well. Mr. Ruckley’s writing skills are that masterful.

The first two books in the Godless World Trilogy are beautifully written. There was no let down between books. One of my few complaints is, as with Winterbirth, there are times where the pacing lags and the reader is given well written, but needless, world details, or character depth. Especially toward the end, there were times when it felt like action should be happening but didn’t.

The ending, as with Winterbirth, isn’t an ending, but a “to be continued.” It literally says “to be continued.” It also didn’t feel like a satisfactory conclusion for this book. It felt abrupt and I was disappointed with where readers are left.

Fans of epic fantasy will enjoy not only this book, but this series. Aside from a few minor gripes, Mr. Ruckley’s writing won’t fail to suck readers into his richly detailed world. There’s plenty to like with top-notch action scenes, political jockeying, racial tension, and women who kick ass. If you’re looking for traditional heroes who always save the day, you might want to look elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for characters who feel real–make the best choices under the given circumstances, then have to deal with the consequences, good or bad–you’ll be pleased with what you find in Bloodheir. I know I was.

What I liked:

  • Mr. Ruckley easily builds upon the quality of Winterbirth, with Bloodheir. If you liked the first book, you’ll like the second.
  • Each character feels as important as the next, even minor ones.
  • There are no token damsels in distress. Women kick just as much ass as the men in Mr. Ruckley’s world. They aren’t just eye candy either, which is a breath of fresh air.
  • The political aspect is just as interesting as the action.
  • A fully realized world makes for an easy read.
  • Mr. Ruckley’s world feels huge, but doesn’t lose the reader.
  • No character is safe from death, which keeps readers on their toes.
  • The overall atmosphere is bleak and appropriate for a wartime setting. The weight of war, and all that comes with it, is heavy on the characters.
  • How easily Mr. Ruckley juggles so many plot pieces then brings them together in a way that makes sense.
  • The Anain. We learn more about this mysterious species, but not too much. I’m intrigued to see what role they’ll play moving forward.

What I didn’t like:

  • The ending was too abrupt and didn’t feel like a satisfactory conclusion to the events in this book.
  • The pacing suffers at points and is bogged down by too much information at times.
  • Some of Aeglyss’ storyline left me scratching my head. He can’t control two people at one time, yet he can influence 20,000 soldiers all at once. The only explanation we get is he’s still uncovering how his talents work. Meh.
  • How certain characters met up at precisely the right time toward the end. It felt too convenient to me.

Overall: I’d give Bloodheir four and a half out of five stars. It gives you more of what you expect and love from a Godless World book. Mr. Ruckley doesn’t disappoint when it comes to building a rich world, filled with even richer characters. Fans of epic fantasy should be more than pleased with what these books bring to the table. Mr. Ruckley’s attention to detail is second to none and his readers reap the reward with a series of books that never fail to deliver the literary goods. I already have the third book in the trilogy and can’t wait to discover how it ends. I highly recommend The Godless World trilogy, especially if you love fantasy books.

Brian Ruckley’s official website can be found here:

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