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.
May The Mother embrace you, and The Father protect you.
May The Warrior guide your hand, and The Maiden guide your mind.
May The Smith keep your blade sharp, and The Sailor see you to safe shores.
Of Blood and Fire is a sheer triumph of a debut. Cahill takes the classic fantasy tropes we all grew up with and spins them with his own flare, creating a breath-taking story with memorable characters, expansive world-building, and of course, DRAGONS. His is a name to watch out for in the years to come.
We will start off with a fairly normal spiel. I had seen this title scouring its way across the interwebs for quite a while, and it had been garnering some pretty heavy praise from people I put full faith in when it comes to books. So, like any book lover/collector out there, I ordered a hardcover (GORGEOUS btw), and jumped into the story like a kid on Christmas morning.
Like I stated in my blurb, Cahill uses the tropes typical of classic fantasy: coming of age, chosen one, the powerful artifact, etc. The great news is that, if you are like me and don’t read classic fantasy like it is going out of style, tropes like these never lose their edge. To be honest, tropes can be a ton of fun if done correctly and not verbatim of past works.
Calen is an easy character to root for, especially after the trials he is put through throughout the first half of the story. He is fairly reserved, quite reluctant, but has a charm about him that makes him readily likeable and shown as a true hero. There is a smattering of secondary characters that Cahill introduces and, while some are merely window dressing, a majority that are given a larger on-screen appearance continue to crop up throughout the story and along Calen’s ever-expanding journey.
The magic system itself is interesting, though not mind-blowing, but the world-building is where Cahill really shines. You feel every hoofbeat, smell every pine needle, and taste every piece of rabbit eaten along the path which helps to fully immerse you into the story. It helps that prose is sharp and concise, which can be rare for debut authors in fantasy. The best thing about that is, even though the book is over 500 pages long, it never feels like a slog. The pages whip by as Cahill introduces suspense, emotion, surprises, etc. It is a quick-paced read that you can nail down in a smattering of days.
If you enjoy classic fantasy like Tolkien or Jordan, or maybe more recent authors like Gwynne, Of Blood and Fire is a must-have on your shelf. Highly recommended.