Since The Order fell, the Lorian Empire has tightened its grip on Epheria over the centuries. The Order’s dragon-riding draleids have long been replaced by the Dragonguard; traitors behind The Fall.
When Calen Bryer undertook the Proving, a rigorous trial to mark the passage from boyhood to adulthood, he never expected to soon become the centre of a centuries-old conflict.
Unfortunately for Calen, there are no prophecies foretelling his coming and he’s not really a hero yet, but there are many powerful foes who are now coming for him.
There are many things to love about this first instalment of Ryan Cahill’s The Bound and the Broken series. Topping that list is Cahill’s prose, which glides between brutally epic and elegant, with a playful tone that at times reads like a sassy John Gwynne. It is a series being crafted by someone who loves the fantasy genre and is fully adept at making it sing.
The illustrations and overall make-up of the book are stunning. As this is an indie title you can see the attention to detail in the production, editing and typesetting in realising Cahill’s vision for the book. It elevated this above many other books in my collection as a result.
I realised that I was hooked around the time I was gritting my teeth through the Proving scene early on, which set up main character Calen and his companions Dann (fave character) and Rist. Their experience is harsh and it’s unfair (damn you, Fritz!) but it’s incredibly well-told.
Right from the start, what I enjoyed most about this book was the constant underlying threat the characters faced while on their journeys. Matt Colville recorded a video in his “Running the Game” YouTube series where he talked about using the tactic of ‘Orcs attack!’ to keep up the pace of a story. Cahill adopts this approach to storytelling in OB&F which means his characters never seem safe whether they’re camping in a forest or touring an impenetrable dwarven-built city. It makes for perfect pacing and a high stakes feel at all times.
The magic system is a steady aspect of the world. Pulling threads of magic from the Spark has a nice D&D meets Avatar: The Last Airbender feel to it with Cahill’s familiar but still fresh approach. I also liked the draleids, those soul-bound with dragons, and felt Calen’s dragon Viserys grow in power over the course of the plot in a believable way. It’s this element that understandably draws Eragon comparisons but I think Of Blood and Fire does more than enough not to suffer these. I enjoyed the book’s prequel of sorts, The Fall, and while there are nods to the events of the novella, those who haven’t read it will still get a good feel for the lore and world of Epheria.
To summarise, Of Blood and Fire is seriously bloody good. It’s a deep and nostalgic page turner and with book two of the series mooted for a late December release, it’s the perfect time for picking up this title.
- Just a final note on this one that has nothing to do with my review. I liked to say “Of Blood and Fire!” to the tune of “Encore une fois” by Sash whenever I picked it up to read. Now you just did it too. You are welcome.