Paperback: 515 pages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Bloody Rose is a kick-ass fantasy that’s filled to the brim with amazing characters and heartfelt moments, all with the rock and roll flair that’s quickly made Nicholas Eames a fantasy icon. This is one of my favorite books ever.
Thanks to Orbit for my review copy of the ebook and audiobook, and thanks to my wife for being just as passionate as I am and buying the paperback too. 🙂
When I read Kings of the Wyld last year, I was opened up to a new take fantasy that was unlike anything I’d read before. Five washed up old buddies “get the band back together” to save their frontman’s daughter from a horde of monsters. Along the way I grew to love the characters and the immersive and fun world they toured through, from one geriatric peril to the next. As I read, I was setting a pedestal in my mind with Kings of the Wyld shining gold atop it. Could Eames’s sophomore effort be as good as Kings of the Wyld, especially featuring a whole new band and cast of characters? That’s one mighty tall order to fill.
“You’re a legend now, girl, and legends are like rolling stones: Once they get going, it’s best to stay out of their way.”
Like a rocker smashing her guitar after a show, Bloody Rose smashed all of my expectations. Somehow, almost impossibly, I enjoyed it even more than Kings of the Wyld. Bloody Rose ripped my heart out, stomped on it, gave it a kiss and stuck it back in my chest. Eames’s writing hits like a freight train. Bloody Rose is just as much “Edge of Seventeen” as it is “Bat Out of Hell”, a bittersweet mix of triumph and sorrow that build on each other and only get more interesting and fun as you read.
Set in the same world six years after the events of Kings of the Wyld, Bloody Rose is about Rose’s band, Fable, and their newest bard, Tam Hashford. Fable is known the world over, a motley crew (har har, yes this was used in the book) full of wonderful characters. Rose is trying to get out from under her father’s shadow and struggling with her role as a mother. Freecloud, Rose’s druin husband, is aching to be a father but feels obligated to be by Rose’s side in the band. The huge shaman, Brune, is the biggest and cuddliest member of the band, but is at odds with his own identity with a complicated family (pack?) situation. Cura, the inkwitch, is a loner and is perfectly happy with it, thank you very much. She carries the scars of her past on her skin in the form of her tattoos, and she wears them like armor in more ways than one.
“Some people knew how to kill a conversation. Cura, on the other hand, could make it wish it had never been born.”
Finally, Tam Hashford our main character. The daughter Lily Hashford, of one of the most famous bards there’s ever been, Tam is slinging drinks at her local tavern while dealing with her father, Tuck, who wants to keep her “wyld heart” cooped up and safe. When Fable comes to town for drinks at her bar, a series of events occur that wind up with Rose herself asking Tam to join the band as their bard. Her father wants her to stay safe and secluded, but even he knows her wyld heart can’t be contained forever.
Despite a new horde of monsters stirring up trouble, Bloody Rose has Fable contracted on their final tour and one last, mysterious contract with an unknown individual. On tour, Tam begins to realize that she, and maybe Rose herself, have gotten in over their heads.
“We slept beside them, fought beside them, bled beside them. We trusted them to watch our backs and save our asses – which they did, time and time again. And somewhere out there, between one gig and the next, something changed. We woke up one day and realized that home was no longer behind us. That our families were with us all along. We looked around at these miscreants, these motley crews, and knew in our hearts there was nowhere we’d rather be than by their side.”
I love Fable’s friendship. I love how unique and decidedly different they all are, but they all care for each other more than they do for themselves. I love how Eames portrays their interdependencies in such an engaging and realistic way, and how well Tam in particular rounded out the band. They each have their own scars, and some of them struggle to find their identity in the world, but they always have their family of the road to fight for them.
Another thing I loved about Bloody Rose was their actual tour! You get some glimpses at what it looks like for a band to tour in Kings of the Wyld, but in that book Saga isn’t really touring – they’re on a mission to save Rose. The tour was a fun part of the book for me and was great for getting to know the characters. Suffice it to say, just about everything you’d expect from a band going on tour happens. Rocking shows, drunken riots, missing limbs, naked people, walks of shame, and then some.
Nicholas Eames has really come into his own as a writer. “One-hit wonder” and “sophomore slump” are two phrases that are seriously not in his vocabulary. The battle scenes in this book were fantastically done, from one action-packed sentence to the next. The signature hilarious moments were there in spades, from Roderick or Brune or other fellas. The emotional payoffs were deep, hard-hitting, and sweet.
Bloody Rose is a beautiful rock anthem of a story. It’ll make your heart happy. Go read it!
Review by Griffin