Review: Grievar’s Blood (The Combat Codes Saga #2) by Alexander Darwin

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Rating: 8.25/10

Synopsis

In a world where single combat determines the fate of nations, the Grievar fight in the Circles so that the rest can remain at peace. But given the stakes, things are never so simple. The Daimyo govern from the shadows and plot to gain an edge by unnaturally enhancing their Grievar Knights.

Cego and his team enter year two at the world’s most prestigious combat school, the Lyceum. Though he’d like to focus on his martial studies, Cego feels the pull of his mysterious past and two missing brothers.

Solara Halberd, daughter of the fighting legend, embarks on her own quest to bury the past. She must utilize every lesson her father taught her to explore unknown lands where evil lurks in the shadows.

Review

Thanks to the author for a listening copy of The Combat Codes for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Grievar’s Blood took what I so much enjoyed in The Combat Codes and ratcheted up the stakes. This is a worthy sequel that builds upon all the ideas introduced in the previous installment without ever having that “middle book” syndrome. Darwin shows a ton of promise here and I cannot wait to see how he brings the series to a close in Blacklight Born.

Darwin decided to broaden the scope of the series by introducing multiple POVs this go round instead of giving us the primary scope of Cego. While I admit that Cego’s timeline is still my favorite of the bunch, it was cool to see the author crack his knuckles and attempt something new. This is a world that I wanted to know more about after reading Book 1, and Darwin succeeds in fleshing it out more to fit the bill.

Solara’s storyline, while intriguing, just didn’t have the same flair as Cego’s or The Slayer’s. I feel like her adventure could’ve been maybe The Combat Codes #1.5 instead of being encapsulated in Book 2, but it didn’t really take away from the enjoyment of the overall story. The last quarter or so of the novel really brought the heat and saw all storylines converging into what I can say is one of the more breath-taking climaxes I’ve read.

The combat takes a little bit of a backseat this go round, but the scenes in which combat is at the forefront feel more necessary and gritty to further the storyline. Political machinations are starting to unfold and the way in which the characters are getting caught up in the power grabs really gives you a sense of emotional bonding with them.

This series is really enjoyable and Darwin’s originality mixed with familiar tropes gives us readers something we’ve never really seen before.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Darwin fairs in the Self Published Science Fiction Competition this year. If being a finalist in SPFBO 6 is any indication, we could have a legit winner on our hands.

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