Wild Wolf Publishing, 392pp & 359pp, both
large format paperbacks, £9.99 each (cover price)
Reviewed by R A Bardy [@mangozoid]
As a first novel, The Tyranny of the Blood tells a brilliant, captivating story – Lord Corvan is the head of ‘The Family’, the all-powerful, superhuman rulers of an inbred society obsessed with maintaining the purity of their Blood in order to breed a child who will eventually be able to control time. This hereditary madness is driven by personal power and greed alone, and any child born into this environment that is deemed weak or otherwise unworthy, is summarily put to death. Rendail is born into this bizarre universe, and looks destined to succeed his father and continue the same rigid, tyrannical, almost orgiastic pursuit of blood purity.
The first book, Tyranny, is told from a first person perspective, and as we climb into Rendail’s shoes and follow his story, we are carried along by his intense, well-crafted, and at times totally enthralling voice – the autobiographical edge to the story is really quite magical, and by turns clever, dark, witty, menacing, and yet totally absorbing. We are held agog by Rendail’s despotic viewpoint, and join him as revelations and events transpire to educate him in a smarter, better way of achieving his goals – we welcome the chance to be a part of this journey, and are dragged along kicking and screaming toward what looks like an inevitable personal fail.
There’s a sense of isolated malice that pervades the story, invoking miserably grim images of a feudal society gone mad, and my hat goes off to the author, Jo Reed, who has managed to put together an excellent début full of believable characters, a realistic history of its own, and a strong underlying directional plot. Tyranny of the Blood is quite the spectacle, a tour de force of psychological obsession that demands your attention, and categorically beats it round the head until you’re transfixed.
Alas, the second book in the Blood Dancers series, A Child of the Blood, was a massive disappointment for me. Gone is the unique crazed voice of a smart despot in Rendail, and instead we are doomed to suffer what reads like an extended explanation of all that has gone before. I’ll be honest, I struggled even to reach the end of this, and put it aside at least twice, wondering if I’d bother returning. I did of course, but I wasn’t happy about it – it felt like Jo’s editor or publisher had demanded that she somehow qualify and/or justify the original, clarify and expand it by bringing it into the modern world. I didn’t like this second book at all, and although I’m curious to see what the third book may bring, Malim’s Legacy, the sheer majesty and sparkling brilliance of Tyranny has been sullied, in my opinion.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society website here