Book Review: Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Last year I read and fell in love with Kings of the Wyld, Eames’ novel which created a fantasy world of monsters and magic. In that world the mercenaries who fight the monsters are the rock stars of their world.

The first book dealt with legendary band Saga reforming to save a beseiged city where one of the group’s daughters was fighting. That daughter, Rose and her own band, Fable, take centre stage here.

We see the world through the eyes of Tam, who works at a bar. The daughter of two mercenaries, she has been sheltered by an overprotective father broken by grief for his wife. Her uncle suggests her as a possible bard for Fable and Tam sets off for adventure with a warrior she idolises.

On the road she comes to know Bloody Rose and her band of misfits, and to realise the gulf between the songs and real life. A world of messy, bloody fights that is light on heroism and where the motives are questionable.

Every other band is heading toward a vast, monstrous horde but Rose leads her group the opposite way to fulfil a mysterious contract. What are they going to face? And why does a glory hunter like Rose seem reluctant to join an epic battle?

As with the first book what really works here is the fantastically vivid, amusing and energetic way that Eames writes. It’s a book shot through with wit and humour, but also delivers an emotional punch or two along the way.

The back of the book features comparisons to Terry Pratchett and George R. R. Martin, and they fit. There’s the wit of Pratchett and the idea of creating a fantasy world with parodies or versions of real world trends and phenomena. Similarly, he has Martin’s knack for grounding the fantasy elements with realistic characters, and focuses on life down in the mud. The fights have a brutal edge, a sloppiness at times that is worlds away from the sterile, glory of old school fantasy wars.

The mercs are a mix of chancers, thugs and outcasts. But Eames finds the quiet moments and heroism in their lives.

The plot unfolds nicely, slowly revealing more about the members of Fable and Tam’s shifting perspective. The big bad is held back for much of the book, but is a strong villain, with decent, if warped, motivations and a connection to Kings without stopping this being Rose and Tam’s story.

You can spot a few plot points coming before they arrive, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. The story is entirely gripping and the characters are engaging and likeable. Fable are very different from the old, tired legends of Saga, but the similarity is that Eames nails the camaraderie of the group.

Eames is a phenomenal writer and I’m already eagerly awaiting a return to this world again. An absolute cracker.

Verdict: 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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