By Brian Ruckley
I'm a big fan of fantasy, especially epic fantasy, so it was inevitable that I would get to Ruckley's The Godless World books in due time. And am I glad I have. Not only have the first two novels established a rich, rough and dark new world, but they are woven with a subtle, seemingly effortless style that sucks you in when you don't think anything is happening.
It's a godless world, because the races the gods created have rebelled, so they've been left to their own fates. The ones that play primary roles here are:
Huanin - these are the humans, represented by the various bloods, or clans, and centering around two factions: the Black Road and the True Bloods.
Kyrinin - a race similar to humans but more bird-like and fluid in their movements with strong ties to the land. Like the Huanin, they associate in clans and the storyline revolves primarily around members of the Fox and White Owls, who are historic enemies.
Na'kyrin - known as the half-bloods as they are born of mixed Huanin and Kyrinin parentage. They are linked through an ability to connect to the Shared and though persecuted over the ages, are positioned to play an important role in the evolving conflict.
Whereas Winterbirth set the stage with the brutal northern Black Road breaking a long-standing detante with the True Bloods by making surprising moves into its rival's lands, Bloodheir follows on the stunning progression of that invasion, focusing on those in or coming to power, especially those thrust unwillingly into those roles.
By tradition, the Bloodheir in the heir to a Thane, who is the undisputed leader. The story builds around six primary characters, all of whom have significant roles in the ongoing conflict.
Aewult nan Haig is the tempestuous heir to the Haig True Bloods, son of Thane of Thanes Gryvan oc Haig, who charged with leading the army to sent to quell the Black Road incursion in the north.
Mordyn Jerain is the Chancellor of the Haig Blood and also known as the Shadowhand for his role in manipulating activities and events from afar. Mordyn is thrust into the midst of the conflict and, while a key figure in this book, is set up to become even more in the conclusion.
Roaric nan Kilkry-Haig is the heir to the Kilkry-Haig Blood, who is thrust into leadership through unfortunate circumstances, and caught between duty to True Bloods, conflict with Aewult and the encroaching forces of the Black Road.
Orisian oc Lannis-Haig is now Thane of the Lannis-Haig Blood, seeking to find truth, answers and revenge for murder of his family and the near obliteration of his clan by the Black Road and infighting among the True Bloods.
Kanin oc Horin-Gyre started the incursion into Lannis-Haig lands, but with the death of his father he is now Thane of the Horin-Gyre Blood, and thrust into a growing tumult as leader of the Black Road forces as they swell with each bloody and surprising victory.
Aeglyss is the wild card in all this. As a Na'kyrim he is an outsider in every sense, but he is also turning into something more - something frightening, powerful and at the center of everything. Safe to say that underestimating him, his role or his capabilities is perilous.
But by no means does the cast of characters stop there. Wain and Anyara, the sisters of Kanin and Orisian, play critical parts in the fate of their respective sides of the conflict. Essyyr and Varryn, are instrumental in keeping Orisian alive and providing the reader with insight into the unusual lives of the Kyrinin. The warrior-caste of the Black Road are the Inkallim, who play a pivotal role in pushing the incursion further, faster, and more successfully than any expect. And Taim Narran, the Captain of what remains of the Lannis-Haig Blood, is a focal point for many of the battle scenes in this story.
Since this is second book of a trilogy, there are many unresolved storylines at the conclusion of Bloodheir. But if you enjoy a well-paced, character-driven, multi-viewpoint and conflict-centered storyline, I think you'll enjoy this one.
My Rating: Thumbs Up!
Here's a clip showing Brian Ruckley reading from Bloodheir. Enjoy!
Cheers! - Jason