- Bloody Rose (The Band #2).
- Nicholas Eames.
- 544 pages.
- Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.
When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants-and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE A WALK ON THE WYLD SIDE
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit that I started Bloody Rose with a degree of slight trepidation. You all know how much I loved Kings of the Wyld (KoTW), it was my book of the year for 2017 and with it, Eames caught lightning in a bottle. Due to this, Bloody Rose was my most anticipated read for 2018 and I had to wonder (sorry Nicholas) if Eames would turn out to be a one hit wonder and if Bloody Rose would even come close to the brilliance that was KoTW.
Well……I shouldn’t have worried as sometimes when you start a new book you just know within the first few pages that you are going to be in for a treat and that was the case with Bloody Rose. I was hooked from the start and loved it from the beginning. Brimming with heart and packed with action Bloody Rose is a roller-coaster of a wyld ride.
Bloody Rose, for me, is better in every aspect than KoTW, which, believe me, is not something that I lightly write. If you like fantasy then just buy this book, it is that good and you won’t regret it! Hell, if you don’t like fantasy then still buy this book as it could well be the one to change your mind! You will laugh with, fight with, cry for (and believe me, Poison had it right when they sang “just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song, every rose has its thorn” as Eames had me emotional for the first time by page 40 and it wasn’t the last time either. I’ll hand in my macho card as my eyes welled up many times throughout the course of reading Bloody Rose) and care about the characters that Eames has created as you follow them on their epic action-filled journey.
Bloody Rose isn’t a journey that is simply epic either, oh no, Bloody Rose is rock n’ fantasy cranked up even further to a whole new level of EPIC!
Occasionally when writing (well, trying to) a review words fail me and they have again with Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames. Honestly, I have no words to do the majesty of this book justice! My words, poetic as at times I can be pail in comparison to the awe-inspiring work of fun-filled escapist wonder that Eames has crafted with Bloody Rose.
Though Bloody Rose is the sequel to KoTW it can easily be read as a standalone with no prior knowledge of the previous book needed. However, firstly, KoTW is, itself, awesome and I’m sure that you have already read it anyway, if not then hang your head in shame and rectify this grave injustice right now. Secondly, if you read Bloody Rose first and then decide to read KoTW be warned that Bloody Rose does spoil many of the events and most of the story told in KoTW. Due to this, it is definitely best to start with KoTW, though, saying that, reading snippets about the characters and events from the previous book whilst reading Bloody Rose might just make you eager to read KoTW so I guess that’s not a bad thing. And, thirdly, if you have read KoTW then you will be privy to and get many additional extra little mark out moments that will have you smirking, thinking “fuck yeah” and knowingly nodding in Bloody Rose due to references to the events of the previous book and the appearances by KoTW luminaries.
KoTW featuring Saga its grizzled, legendary and past its heyday band is one of my all-time favourite books and I will continue to shout its praises for all to hear. Now, however, I will equally shout the praises of Bloody Rose and its raucous and rowdy band Fable too.
There is a monstrous Horde (partly built from the remnants of the Heartwyld Horde from KoTW) led by the giant, Brontide out in the Brumal Wastes and subsequently dubbed the “Brumal Horde” intent on invading Grandual but Bloody Rose and Fable aren’t interested. Fable has prior touring commitments that they will see through and instead of joining up with most other bands and heading off to face the Horde in a blaze of glory Fable venture off in the opposite direction to finish their tour dates and complete their contract in Diremarch.
Before this, however, Fable roll up in Ardburg for a gig and in need of a new bard. Seventeen-year-old Tam Hashford is a decent girl and not a “youth gone wild” (Skid Row song title) who lives in Ardburg and works in a bar. Tam isn’t “working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” (Don’t You Want Me by Human League song lyric) but she is working in a bar with dreams of escaping the boring and repetitive monotony of serving drink for the rest of her life. Cue an impromptu audition and one song later Fable have their new bard and Tam has a new life touring on the road with Bloody Rose and her famous band.
After Fable complete their tour and the contract in Diremarch things really turn to shit and ultimately, they end up facing the Horde with the fate of all of Grandual and everyone’s lives be they monster or human on the line. And that’s all that you are getting regarding the story from me, trust me, you don’t want me to spoil anything as it’s a voyage that you want to discover for yourself.
For those unfamiliar with KoTW, there is a musical influence that runs through Eames work. Mercenaries aren’t called groups, instead, they are called bands and they tour arenas taking gigs and fighting monsters. Some, like Fable, also take on contracts to hunt monsters out in the wild but most prefer to make their living touring the arenas of Grandual either as support acts or headliners (depending on how famous they are).
Many bands travel in an Argosy which is similar to a tour bus (you’ve got to have somewhere for the drunken debauchery to occur) and Fable’s own is named The Rebel’s Redoubt. Fable is a superstar band, the most famous in Grandual and they even have a group of fans (groupies) The Outlaw Nation that follow them when they are on tour.
Music references (and the occasional film and video game references too) are in plentiful supply being liberally sprinkled throughout Bloody Rose and it’s a winning formula. I was reading names like “Coverdale” (the surname of the lead singer of Whitesnake) and smirking and near the start when one of the characters says “welcome to the jungle” (Guns N’ Roses song) I was grinning away like a crazy fool. KoTW itself had many musical references and was influenced by the music and bands of the 1970’s and with Bloody Rose, it is influenced by the music and bands of the 1980’s. You only have to look at the tagline for the book “girls just want to have fun” which is a 1983 Cyndi Lauper hit and it is bloody brilliant for it.
Fable lead the way for the new generation of bands, striving for greatness, trying to eclipse the legacy of the older generation and wanting to step out from the shadow of legends to leave their own mark and go down in history as one of the all-time greats. They consist of the Shaman Brune (who can change into a Bear), the druin Freecloud (a rabbit-eared warrior from an ancient long-living race), the Inkwitch Cura (a summoner who summons the horrific creatures tattooed onto her body to fight alongside Fable) and their frontwoman, Bloody Rose (who is a badass with some sweet weaponry in ‘Thistle and Thorn’ her duo of scimitars). Along with their booker, Roderick (who is hilarious) who is akin to a manager and books their arena gigs, tours and handles their contracts.
Each one of Fable (including Tam who really comes into her own and finds herself after joining the band and Roderick) are individual characters who are all unique in their own way. You will really come to care about them and their fate (which is so important in a fantasy book) as Eames takes you on an emotional journey alongside the band. The banter, the camaraderie, the various flaws that each member has, the snark, the humour, the dynamics and relationships between the bandmates, how each one of them brings something different to the band and to the fight, how they all play off and compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, simply put, they are just a wonderful creation and group.
For those looking for LGBT characters in books Tam is a lesbian, it isn’t a trait that defines her, it is simply part of who she is. Factor in Cura and Rose and the women in Fable are “nobody’s fool” (Cinderella song) and with them Eames has written a trio of strong female characters.
I love the world that Eames has created. Mercenaries that tour as bands, a land populated by a myriad assortment of weird and wonderful grotesque monsters (and owlbears), a variety of well-depicted locations and plenty of history. For those of us that have read KoTW Eames doesn’t repeat what we already know about the world. Bloody Rose delves deeper with more history and lore being revealed featuring some great world-building and making it a book that is accessible to both old and new readers of Eames work.
With his writing, Eames shred some sweet licks and can go from laughing out loud hilarity to headbanging riffage (action) to lighters in the air balladry (emotion) to quiet reflection and back again in the span of a page and he seamlessly transitions between the different aspects sublimely well. There are many stellar sentences, paragraphs and passages in Bloody Rose that evoke emotion in the reader, be it making you laugh, hitting you in the feels or getting you excited and pumped up for the coming combat. One example that really comes to mind is a speech by Rose fairly late on in the book that really pours on the emotion and is the epitome of profound. It’s not grandiose or full of pomp and she speaks plainly but it is from the heart, full of feeling and poignant as she talks about why people join bands, that your bandmates become more than just a group, that they become family and people for whom you would willingly die for and it serves to really highlight the power of the written word in the hands of Eames truly showing what a tremendous storyteller he is.
There was plenty of great action sequences in KoTW and there is again in Bloody Rose but this time around they are even better, far more breathtaking and vivid. There is a fight around halfway through the book against a gargantuan adversary or if you prefer a BFM (big fucking monster) that is bold, bombastic, jaw-dropping and over the top in nature. It is brilliant for it and you will find yourself hanging on every word of the fight! The build-up to the finale, “the final countdown” (Europe song), the actual city-wide and destructive battle, the climax, the question over whether or not Fable will go out in a “blaze of glory” (Bon Jovi song) and the aftermath are all also both outstanding and spectacular with Eames giving Bloody Rose’s final track near a hundred pages to bring the conclusion and his vision to life packing plenty of action-packed and emotive gut punches along the way.
I’m not the fastest reader though I can on occasion fly through some books, Bloody Rose wasn’t one of them. I rationed my reading of it out over as many days as possible simply due to the fact that I wanted to savour every page and I didn’t want it to end! Though sadly it has and there are no more pages. Damn you, Eames, I am bereft now that I have finished Bloody Rose! I’ll gladly admit that after I turned the final page I sat reflecting on what I’d just finished reading and I realised that I had read something that was very special.
As AC/DC sang:
“for those about to rock, we salute you”.
Well, firstly, I say, Nicholas Eames, for writing Bloody Rose I salute you!
And, secondly, I say, for those about to read, I salute you as Bloody Rose is bloody brilliant! It is a book that will make you remember why you fell in love with reading in the first place and from one reader to another I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Bloody Rose solidifies what was first shown with Kings of the Wyld and proves without a shadow of a doubt that Nicholas Eames is one of the best in the new generation of modern fantasy writers.
Pre-order Bloody Rose (The Band #2) released August 28th US and August 30th UK.
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