by Evie Manierie
Book 1 in the Shattered Kingdoms Trilogy
Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.
Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?
This thrilling new epic fantasy is set in a quasi-Medieval Mediterranean region, drawing together the warrior culture of Vikings, the wanderlust of desert nomads, and the oracles of ancient Greece. Blood's Pride is an intricate, lush book full of taut action, gut-wrenching betrayal, and soaring romance.
My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of so many fantasy series, so at least to review this one, I got an e-galley, which takes up a lot less space. The book is a wonderful, gripping tale full of secrets and revelations that you just have to keep reading wondering what will be the next secret to be revealed.
The book is narrated by a few different characters throughout so at first it was a bit hard to keep track of who was who, but once you got into the rhythm of the story, it was a lot easier to follow. Like with any fantasy novel, its success depends largely on the author's world building, and that wasn't a problem here. I loved learning about the different cultures: the Norlanders who are pale and white-haired, from a land that never sees the sun, and in fact the sun is dangerous to them. Blood's Pride is the name of a sword, each Norlander names their sword on their seventeenth birthday and it is considered a matter of honour to do so.
We also have the Shadari, the desert people who have their own gods and prophecies, and I loved the fact that it was considered a sin for any but the priests to read and all their prayers are written in the sand for the gods to see before being scrubbed out so the normal folk can't read it. Then we have the Nomas, a wandering tribe of nomads, the men wander the desert and the women go to sea for six months at a time. Each culture was well-defined with their own traditions and superstitions, along with the struggles between them.
The book grips you right from the prologue when the Norlanders first invade the Shadar desert and their priests, the ashas, commit suicide by jumping into the sea. The rest of the Shadari are enslaved to the Norlanders, but they never give up hope of one day overthrowing their masters.
Blood's Pride encompasses nearly every emotion and experience; love, death, birth, pride, betrayal, forbidden love and more. But what makes this book stand out along with other great books is the characters' stories whose tale this is: Daryan, one of the slaves and next in line to be one of the Shadari priests; Lady Isa, the governor's youngest daughter stuck in the desert with the rest of her family, Lord Eofar the governor's son and his secret lover, Harotha, one of the Shadari slaves. Not to mention, the mercenary, the Mongrel, she too has secrets of her own and Jachad, king of the Nomas.
It's a tightly plotted, engrossing book that takes you away from the everyday and lands you in a wonderful, thought-provoking adventure.
A great read for any fantasy fan.