Tor, February 2013
Hardcover, 528 pp
Shattered Kingdoms, Volume 1
E-Arc courtesy of the publisher, Tor Books
The Dead Ones arrived, seemingly, without warning on the backs of great flying beasts out of nightmare. These creatures with the white almost translucent skin enslaved the Shadari. Fearing the future, the leaders of the Shadari, a sect of monkish magicians, committed mass suicide, leaving the Shadari with no hope for salvation. Fast forward a few years and the narrative picks up focusing on the life in the slave-torn nation of the Shadari as the enslaved struggle against their captors, love attempts to grow and blossom, and a new life is on the horizon.
One of the main characters is the enslaved last king of the Shadari Daryan while other characters populating the novel include the king who acts like a commoner and The Mongrel, a giant one-eyed warrior of two bloodlines. Many of the characters with greater power are women in this novel, they drive the novel’s plot and have the strength to carry much of the heavy lifting of the novel’s narrative.
Manieri has created an interesting world that seems to have parts of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders novels (the Dead Ones/Norlanders ride the equivalent of dragons) and parts of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt (a forming rebellion amongst those under the heel of repressive overlords). The Norlanders also communicate with each other through telepathy, for the most part. While the world is constructed fairly well, the plot seemed a bit uneven throughout the novel. What I found the most confounding about the relationship between the Norlander overlords and their slave Shadari was a lack of fear. Outside of the initial devastating attack the Norlanders made on the Shadari, I didn’t get a sense that there were very high stakes should the Shadari just stand up for themselves. The slave life didn’t come across as a particular hardship, aside from forced physical labor. The threat of the Norlanders did not seem to be a driving force in the novel. If anything, there’s a fear the Norlanders have of the Shadari for if the Norlanders touch the Shadari, it sends shockwaves of pain to the oppressors. This is just a logic leap away from the aliens in the film Signs having water as their kryptonite.
I also felt the novel was not a cohesive sum of its parts. The uprising of the Shadari, the forbidden love Daryan holds, Eofar’s familial spat with her sister Isa over the titular sword Blood’s Pride, the looming power of the Mongrel, these things did not come together in the novel from my perspective and once the captivating prologue passed, my connection to the novel waned as it progressed away from the prologue.
Blood’s Pride is a novel populated by female characters with strong foundations in a world that has possibilities for good stories. Unfortunately, Blood’s Pride suffered from inconsistencies throughout the novel and a clear vision of what kind of story it wanted to tell, whilst the stakes did not come across to me as high or fearful. If the novel were able to maintain the tension and intrigue of the prologue, I feel I would have enjoyed it a great deal more than I did. Unfortunately, the novel for me was more of unreached possibilities.
© 2013 Rob H. Bedford
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