18715830In the court of every city in the lands of Ro, a sorceress sits. And in the minds of that city’s people, each sorceress weaves a song.

She and her sisters sing of the liberation of the land, the taming of the highland tribes, and the birth of a precious new race: the children of a dead god.

Of course, they do not sing of the death of young Prince Christophe at the hands of that god. Particularly as his replacement dances so well to their tune. Yet all songs have an end. An ending speeded when the assassin Rham Jas Rami accepts a commission from Bromvy Black Guard, traitor duke of Canarn.

The rebellion of Ro has begun.

Source Format Pages Publisher Publication Date
Amazon ebook 513 Head of Zeus July 3rd, 2014

NoteThe Dark Blood is book #2 in The Long War series by A.J. Smith. Book #1, The Black GuardΒ [my review] is where you’ll want to start reading this series and just a word of warning here- you’ll be hooked, the series is out fully (4 books), so prepare wisely, take some time off work and have an epic reading marathon! Warning #2- this series is not about princes and princesses and swooning and romance. It’s about fighting axe-wielding men, assassins, trolls, and dirty bastards. Are you ready for it?

The Dark Blood continues on a strong streak and I am ever so grateful for being introduced to the series because I am just, simply put, loving this!

However, if you expect a summary of book #2, you’ve come to the wrong place because I couldn’t even begin to give you a brief overview even though , as I said in my review for book #1- everything is simple and easy to grasp in this character loaded series. I fail in trying to summarize the plot because there’s so much happening, in so many places and I’d rather you just read the book for the real deal. Fact of the matter is- the fullness of the plot works for the series not against it.

This is the Long War and battles on many fronts is what you shall receive! And you know what the beauty of this book is? It delivers all of the battles and fight scenes in the most gripping, visual and easy to follow manner. Have you ever read an action scene in a book and felt completely lost, thinking, who’s kicking who again, and sorry-what-what? Simple is best and Smith executes on setting the scenes to a T. Often I found myself admiring a sentence here and there, that just put the cherry on top of the whole delivery. Logical, yet unexpected little touches added to character behaviors that made a setting just perfect. It was beautiful, says she with a tear in her eye! I see gems of genius in this writing and if I was a cat I would be purring my content during reading.

‘Don’t run,’ growled Oleff, ‘we wanna be friends.’ He punctuated the last word by burying his axe in the skull of one of the feeling men.

That’s right! In this fantasy book (series) men don’t fight by waving magic wands, they fight with axes and swords and fists. OK, maybe there is a bit of ‘magic’ but it’s mostly close combat and when you’ve come to care about the characters, you’re standing there with them, splitting heads and roaring defiance, rebel and loyalty to their land and people. So much blood was spilled and so many battles were had and, here’s another great thing about this book, NONE of what happened felt like it wasn’t necessary in the plot. None. It was all necessary, following the logical progress of the Long War and I got to go to new places and meet some new characters.

Anywhooo… now that the cat is out of the bag as to what the Seven Sisters are planning, our main characters find themselves separated across the lands fighting different forces towards the same goal. The outlook is bleak to say the least- the Seven Sisters are really good at doing what they do. I mean, they have kings and clerics drooling at their feet like hungry puppies. Luckily though, some of my favorite characters are meant for bigger things. They are exemplars. They are unique and they have a role to play in the Long War. And I’ll be damned if some of them die in this series, I’ll be major pissed! hehehe…

The Dark BloodΒ will have you fight side by side with Utha the Ghost, Al Hasim and the Wraiths, admire the resilience and certain powers of Rham Jas, feel loyalty towards Halla the Summer Wolf. The book will make you feel victorious and saddened, it will make you want to ‘high five’ Fallon and Vladimir. It will make you wish you were Alahan as he witnesses Timon the berserker ‘communicate’ with trolls. The Dokkalfar, forest-dwellers, culture is expanded on nicely as well and I still find them so completely fascinating. So, basically, you’ll not only get an action-packed, fully gripping tale, you’ll also get different cultures, people and beliefs. Any fantasy fan could appreciate that.

Throughout the war and death and hardships, The Dark BloodΒ doesn’t forget that it needs to give more than just testosterone-filled pissing contests and, you know, fighting the evil. The companionships and banter in between our most loved characters continue.

‘Okay, I’m still afraid of you,’ the forger reluctantly conceded.

‘Excellent,’ said Rham Jas, with a wide grin. ‘All is right in the world again.’

‘Fuck you, Rham Jas,’ spat the man of Leith. ‘I’m going to sleep. Wake me up when you’re less of an arsehole.’

‘You’ll be an old man, Kale,’ replied Rham Jas, with a boyish chuckle.

What really made me happy was the fact that some character development saw a few of the men truly question the foundations of their beliefs. Sure, it plays into progressing the plot, but when twists are delivered at the right time, they hardly seem like the author is trying to ‘save where this is going‘.

And- you know how we love characters and we hate characters? It took me reading The Dark Blood to realize that love&hate have been such shallow feelings I have felt for characters in the past. Reading this book opened me to a new feeling I can have towards a character: respect.

It’s easy to dole out love with sympathy. It’s easy to feel hate and disgust. But respect? Like in real life, it has to be earned and somehow, Smith managed to get it just right. Maybe it’s the consistency that shows in the characters, or maybe it’s the fact that there’s no ‘yeah, but- no, but‘ easy way out when it came to making decisions… I know that Rham Jas is a cheeky fecker, I know that Utha can be a grumpy pain, but they had principles! And, if there is one thing I value most, it’s bloody principles.

Randall could just make out the bastards laughing as they hurriedly left the roadway, but the last sound he heard before he passed out was Utha saying, ‘You die when I die, not a second before.’

Overall– the ugliness of war is in full swing in this book, with the customary gruesome acts. It’s tough and it’ll grate against the nerve but a thousand something pages into the series, one could say, I have taken residence in this world and intend to stick it with the characters until the end. Oh… just stop, like, I’m shivering here trying to imagine how book #3 is going to deliver. All those new little storylines breaking fresh glimpses into lands yet unexplored while at the same time challenging beliefs and solidly helping along with some character development. Excitement times infinity would be an understatement.