Born in fire. Tempered in blood.
Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the south squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.
In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving—a test of courage and skill that not all survive.
But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.
There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.
He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.
Of Blood and Fire was one of those spur of the moment purchases I made after seeing it regularly posted on social media. I went one step further and even bought a special numbered edition with zero knowledge of whether I’d enjoy the book. Boy, am I now glad I did all that! Firstly, the book arrived in absolutely gorgeous packaging, with some extra goodies and a personalised message inside the cover. At minimum, I had a beautiful book lying in front of me. Yep, the cover was also hugely appealing and the map/drawings inside clearly had a lot of care taken into creating them. The excitement started – would this book live up to my expectations?
And…yep! It most certainly did! Of Blood and Fire opens up with a bit of a question mark and then introduces us to the main characters Calen and his friends Rist and Dann, just days away from The Proving. All three characters were extremely likeable and well fleshed out, growing up in what appears to be a Viking themed world, with elements of Tolkienesque fantasy. Yes there are some tropes such as the farm boy and some of the races, but nothing that hindered my enjoyment. If anything Cahill made his fantasy world feel special and unique. The world-building in this book is definitely one of the highlights due to the sheer size and history. Epheria is massive and really draws you into its multitude of races, cities and culture. What I especially liked was that Cahill doesn’t bog down the reader with the history but instead slides it into interactions between the characters or environments they interact with; like small perfect little snippets. I think this also created more intrigue as I actually wanted to know more, but knew I would have to continue reading to find out. The world these boys have grown up in is most definitely a dangerous one, which becomes quite obvious once they receive some visitors in their pleasant little village.
I briefly spoke about the main characters in the book, but I also wanted to highlight the supporting cast, who were also very well fleshed out and brought in some intriguing back story. What also shone was the interaction between the characters; there were even some funny moments particularly between the main cast (they actually felt like best friends). The character development, although tropey at times, was enjoyable and felt realistic. By the end Calen and his friends came a long way from their sleepy little village and it didn’t feel like they just “Mary Sue’d” it through the story.
In terms of the plot it does start a bit slow at the beginning as it is a coming of age story, but unlike other novels I really enjoyed this one, partially because the characters were so likeable, but also because it felt new and exciting and gave me waves of nostalgia. Once the plot picks up the pace a bit there is never a boring or slow moment, which may be the reason I devoured the last 400 pages in just two days. There are some interesting multiple points of view, but this never hindered the plot and there was still that focus on Calen and his band.
The writing was absolutely suburb in this book and was the perfect mix between descriptive and well paced. It was the first time in a long time that the descriptions really transported me into the world. Can I also say that Cahill REALLY knows how to describe the perfect tavern; to the point where I wanted to be sitting in that tavern, drinking mead and listening to that elf’s stories. I also particularly liked the action scenes, which really had me imagining the danger and desperation the characters were in.
Obviously I recommend this book highly. It’s rare to find a new fantasy series that gives such a feeling of nostalgia. This is also the first time in a while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a new fantasy series and been properly transported into the world – really to the point where I forgot from where I was actually reading the book!