Bershad stands apart from the world, the most legendary dragonslayer in history, both revered and reviled.
Once, he was Lord Silas Bershad, but after a disastrous failure on the battlefield, he was stripped of his titles and sentenced to one violent, perilous hunt after another. Now he lives only to stalk dragons, slaughter them, collect their precious oil, and head back into the treacherous wilds once more. For years, death was his only chance to escape. But that is about to change.
The king who sentenced Bershad to his fate has just given him an unprecedented chance at redemption. Kill a foreign emperor and walk free forever.
The journey will take him across dragon-infested mountains, through a seedy criminal underworld, and into a forbidden city guarded by deadly technology.
But the links of fate bind us all.
Blood of an Exile is a refreshing, gritty and dragon-packed novel that carves its own path within the genre. It’s got magic, mayhem, warring factions, dragons, dragons and more dragons – a fed up, dragon-slaying legend, his forsaken shield and a beloved donkey. Oh, and a princess love‐interest that carries a secret linked to dragons that hasn’t been uncovered for hundreds of years. What more could you ask for? I thoroughly enjoyed Naslund’s debut. It delivers on its premise in a big way and throws up more than one surprise.
The story, in short, follows Silas Bershad, his Forsaken Shield, Rowan, and their donkey companion on a journey that starts in Exile; for the massacre of a mercenary group against the King’s wishes, Bershad was branded a dragon slayer and stripped of his family and land. His punishment is to roam the land, killing the dragons … which is a death sentence in itself. Usually. Only, Bershad is into the sixties with dead dragons left in his wake and counting. King Hertzog suddenly calls him back from exile to end it, which is unprecedented, if only he kills the Emperor of Balaria, a closed, clock-worshipping nation. Now, the plot had me at hello. The idea that being a dragon slayer is a punishment kind of took that old dragon-slaying badass trope and flipped it on its head. I mean, Bershad is a badass still. The story itself seems to sail along nicely, there’s no point I really found reading the book a chore, and certainly threw up interesting points; a lot of it reminded me of stories like we find in Game of Thrones purely from all the factions who seem to bite at the heels of the king. Warring factions with different noble families is not a trope I get tired of though, I do enjoy a bit of infighting within the same nation.
Of most intrigue to me was the science behind the dragons and the extent at which Naslund went to explaining this. In Blood of an Exile, dragons are not treated as mythical creatures at the seat of some greater magical or godly power, they are treated as a beast. As an animal that’s part of a larger animal kingdom – and how the fauna all interact on a zoological level. Which was far, far and away the most refreshing and original take on dragons that I’ve read in a long while. I tend to get bored now as soon as there’s some dragon deity that’s worshipped. So, to see dragons in differing species which all have their differing mating, eating, young-rearing and behavioural patterns, and who all take part in some great migration and whose environment doesn’t really work without them, was super cool. There’s not really a stone left unturned, Naslund even delves into the flora that grows within the ‘dragon warrens’ where they grow and live. It was all very interesting from a world-building perspective. And very believable.
Bershad himself is a voice to follow; I like the way that he’s so duty-bound and at the same time so fed-up of everything. He’s strong, but we see him get beat down quite a few times – some in a very bad way; he’s caring, and will do anything for his friends, but also doesn’t like a lot of people and doesn’t like to have a lot of friends; he slays dragons because he has to, but loves them as a creature and hates the job. He’s just well-rounded and very human. There are points of intrigue surrounding what he is and what he can do, which I won’t spoil. Yes, it involves dragons and dragon-slaying. All characters in the book are believable but not because of what they can do, or what they achieve, but because of their flaws. And that makes them human, and followable.
Overall, if you love dragons, warring families, huge battles, magic and don’t mind a cry, then Blood of an Exile is definitely one I’d recommend you picking up.