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Summary

He thought he was born Rylan Marshall...until he found out he wasn’t.

Rylan was attacked, his young son murdered, his baby daughter taken. But his assailant left him with two gifts: the gift of magic...and an oath to darkness.

Gil Archer is the son of a legend and one of the most powerful battle mages in the Lyceum. He is sent on a mission to recover Rylan, but ends up on a far more dangerous path.

And war is coming for them both.

Will Rylan use his newfound power to make a stand, or will his oath to darkness guide him to the enemy? And will Gil live up to the legacy of his father, or will his fate lead him to a much darker destiny?

If you love grimdark fantasy filled with vivid realism, brutal warfare, and raw emotion, this new adventure is just for you.

©2019 ML Spencer (P)2020 Podium Publishing

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Better than the Arc, adding a gravitas to Grimdark.

I read the Arc and even more impressively found the audio version added an extra punch. The Rhenwars series often gets compared (rightly) with WOT, but this time starts with a nasty twist and ends after several twist and boots to the goolies.

I keep tormenting myself with this series by never reading it through and jumping between books in the series. The Rhenwars series isn't necessary - but you'll pick far more nods and winks and continuation through the backstory.

Rylan is an interesting character, quite normal until the rabbit warren bites him in the goolies, swallows him up and spits him into hellish misery. The other characters (Archer the younger in particular) are equally thrown out of their death as they approach an epic siege of jerusalemlike proportions from multiple story arcs.

If familiar with Rhenwars you'll see the nod to WOT with the cyclical nature of characters in roles, with the resonance of namesakes and positions and the continuation of some old faces emulating Gandalf in wisdom and the powerlessness of nudging fate and not controlling it without giving too much away.

It is a pacy and well rounded story. Brutal and unforgiving and not one for someone looking for unicorns and fluffy Elves. It is a solid evolution on the earlier series and spreads out across the globe for new enemies, yet clever in keeping the conflict local and focused. Merciless in driving characters beyond torment. That focus pulls in and spits out the characters and centralises the storyarcs.

If I have any gripes it's minor things. Rylan's relationship seems to occur somewhat sudden considering the circumstances - but there's a couple of driving forces behind it and essential for the climax and conclusion. Here's boomtime by the way... and damn nice to see mages being allowed to run around and be glass cannons.
My second is the focus around the siege. There are a couple of lulls that seem to jar with the race to save the city. I'd expect Naia to be doing more at this time, but I appreciate the POV of the main characters would limit citywide events.

It is a damn fine start to a continuing series and M.L. Spencer continues to be implacably consistent with every release and I enjoyed this one more than her other work. Well worth picking up, but she needs to be careful... There is an outfitting scene and while the Robert Jordan comparisons will continue, it is brief and does not take up several pages and allow a breath for the savagery.

Just buy the thing if you aren’t squeamish. If you are, worry - to what depths will the author’s mind sink to next?

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  • C.T.
  • 29-06-20

Awesome follow up to the Rhenwars Saga

I've always been fond of fantasy that picks up years, decades, or even centuries after the events of a previous book story. It's why I'm fond of the old Star Wars Legends universe and the current sequel trilogy (even if both had flaws). My favorite "popcorn fantasy" in the Dragonlance novels did an excellent series based around the Heroes of the Lance and their successors up until the events of Dragons of a Summer Flame. Indeed, my love of "what happens next" inspired me to write Wraith Knight and Lucifer's Star (books that are sequels to universes similar to the ones I grew up reading about).

Chains of Blood is the start of a sequel series to the popular indie fantasy series, The Rhenwars Saga. The Rhenwars Saga doesn't have to be read to start this book series but I highly recommend it. It is the story of a ragtag group of heroes who fail to save the world and then their successors who make things so much worse by trying to apply high fantasy logic to a more complex world. I read the entire series as it came out and reviewed each of the books.

The sequel picks up about thirty or so years after the events of the original novels. The world's peoples are at peace-ish and the threat of magic ending is abated. However, poor Rylan Marshall opens with his son being murdered and his daughter kidnapped. He's also forced to swear his soul to the Devil-equivalent right before being given amazing magical powers. Sworn to secrecy, Rylan is soon adopted by the mages of the setting and revealed to be heir to great power. Rylan will do anything to get his daughter back and the discovery of his twisted heritage won't change that.

I enjoyed Rylan's complicated emotional journey over one of the often-overlooked elements of fantasy that one man's hero is often another man's villain. Part of what made Rhenwars Saga so great is that it showed multiple perspectives of your typical fantasy protagonist. Sauron's human allies (and orcs for that matter) would have viewed Gandalf as a religious extremist and terrorist. Aragorn would have been viewed as a foreign national exerting ancient territorial claims as part of an attempt to legitimize his rule. In Rylan's case, he grew up vilifying a character only to find out not only is he related but many people view said character as a hero.

There are other characters that are caught up in the confusion that followed the previous war with no one really writing a single "narrative" about it. Some people believe the forces of evil triumphed and are eager to get some revenge. Others believe it was a wickedly complex thing with no good guys or bad guys. A few think that a bunch of heroes saved the day and everyone should be friends now. The complicated nature of politics mixed with storytelling and how we remember history (even recent history) is a set of themes that resonate with me.

In addition to all these complicated issues, there's a lot of action and sorcery as well solid character development. While this book is best read after the Rhenwars Saga, it's also something you can just pick up and enjoy on its own. Having finished this one, I'm already ready to pick up the sequel. Love the narration too! Great work!

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  • alton Styron
  • 02-05-20

Average at best

Ignoring the enemy feels oddly familiar...*cough* "The Wheel of Time" series... too much emotional dribble from reluctant heroes that are supposed to be battle mages. I personally found the endless introspection taxing on my patience and it only further fueled my dislike for both "heroes". Subsequently, I found myself abusing the 30 second skip a little too often to get through this one.

Not the worst story. Good narrator. Average at best.