Blood of Winterhold by Stephen Almekinder

Blood of Winterhold is the follow-up novel to Almekinder’s debut, Winterhold. If you haven’t read the first book, there is some spoiler information in this review, so be forewarned. Some of the characters from the first volume don’t make it this second part of the Winterhold saga. In his first novel, Almekinder seemed to focus quite a bit on the details of the world, at times this slowed the story down a bit. However, in the sequel, he has focused more on the story and the characters, which overall, allows him to tell a better, seamless story.

As a result of her lover Gerred’s death in the previous volume, the Queen/Lady is a more dedicated and devoted ruler. Her only solace is in the garden she has created within the Hold, it is truly the only place that is her own. The current King/Lord’s health is severely deteriorating and those of the Keep try to determine the right of succession. Thrust into this situation is the young Interpreter, the official who communicates between the Keep and the Hold.

The true identity of the Interpreter is hidden from the Queen and King, but as we read on it is not too difficult to figure out how he fits into the picture. Again, while I had a strong feeling on this character true relationship and significance to the overall story, the manner in which Almekinder revealed this was very good.

In this second volume, Almekinder sheds more light on the relationship between Cilyn, the Queen’s bodyguard and the Queen/Lady Alisande. Their relationship is one of both friendship and ritual. Some of the strongest scenes in the book were when the two friends would argue about what is right, in living within the rituals and what the Queen/Lady wanted to do. The Queen/Lady constantly needed reminding from Cilyn that she must adhere to the traditions and the Rituals.

One of the more interesting underlying stories is the succession of Sebaste, living history of the court. We see how the succession of this important character is continues through the generations. The new Sebaste assumes the memories of ALL the previous Sebastes. Almekinder imbues more depth to this character, more vitality to this character-which may turn out to be the most important character in this saga.

Throughout this sequel, a revolution builds, enwraps vital characters and comes to a rather satisfying resolution by novels end. Almekinder shows his skill in bringing these characters together, for good or ill. As the saying goes, the journey is sometimes more important than the destination-Almekinder brought them together in a believable, plausible manner.

While the dialogue was still a bit choppy and the names were still a bit of a reading hurdle, Stephen Almekinder’s writing skills have grown and improved since the first book. The focus was not so much on the details and laying out the world of Winterhold in this novel, Almekinder was able to focus more on his storytelling and characterization skills, which is what made Blood of Winterhold, an overall better novel than his first.

Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford

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