When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town , led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants — and adventure she gets as the crew embarks on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.
Nicholas Eames’ Bloody Rose is a textbook example of a coming of age fantasy novel. Except where in my youth the tone was much more positive, this keeps in line with current fantasy trends and is grimmer and does not use the standard tropes. The story follows Tam Hashford, a girl who wants to join a band of adventurers and live the life of the famous. Her parents were both adventurers, so you might say it is in her blood. She is very much a fan when joining the company of Bloody Rose and is starstruck as hell. We follow their adventures from her point of view and see her turning from a teenager into a competent adventuring adult.
This may sound like it has been done before, but Nicholas Eames turns many tropes on its head when it comes to his world building. We find out that adventurers have become glorified gladiators, fighting monsters in arenas. The wilds have been tamed, no more adventures are to be had there. This dungeons-and-dragons-like world has not many things left to do for them save for touring the towns, performing in the arena and drink in between. The overall feel of the world was a very believable RPG-campaign setting. For anyone familiar with fantasy, most monsters are recognisable and the workings of the world come as no surprise.
The characters of the band of Bloody Rose are a motley crew of misfits, good for nothing but adventuring. Tam does not stay starstruck for long, as the hardships of the road soon take the shine off of most of her fellows. Rose seems hellbent on glory or death—having committed them to a suicidal mission, using drugs to pep herself for a fight (and let’s not talk about her daddy issues). The Ink witch is disturbing to say the least and their resident shaman cannot control his shape-shift. But as we find out more about each of them, they become well-build characters of their own. All in all it is a well-constructed novel that entertains and follows a good story arc that ends in a grand finale, fitting of the good setup.
Yet for all these good points the novel did not resonate with me on a level that I wish it would have. For me the grimness of the novel was a bit at odds with the humorous tone of the interactions. As stated, I grew up with more positive-toned novels of this type, so that could be my age showing. Some other things bothered me as well, but that could be because this is the second standalone book in the same world, so I might miss the references. Sadly I feel like I am nit-picking to justify my slight disappointment; I guess I am just hard to please. Bloody Rose is a good book and I would recommend it to a friend.
Wiebe van der Salm
This book was provided for review by the publisher.