In Review: Blood of the Four

Outstanding characters with surprising twists and turns make this a page turner.

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Published by Harper Voyager on March 6, 2018. hardcover of 470 pages at $24.99 and EBook at $11.99.

The cover: A tremendous castle sits towering over a ship that’s about to enter a port that lies under a bridge. Looking down at the bottom one can see how tiny the ship is in comparison to this monstrous structure. This illustration is by Tyler Edlin and the design of the jacket is by Richard L. Aquan. I don’t know if this image was created for this book, but it works well to give the reader a tease of the seat of power in Quandis. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the front cover flap, “In the great kingdom of Quandis, everyone is a slave. Some are slaves to the gods. Most are slaves to everyone else. Blessed by the gods with lives of comfort and splendor, the royal elite routinely perform their duties, yet some chafe at their role. A young woman of stunning ambition, Princess Phela refuses to allow a few obstacles — including her mother the queen and her brother the heir apparent — stand in the way of her claiming ultimate power and glory for herself. Far below the royals are the Bajumen. Poor and oppressed, members of this wretched caste have but two paths out of servitude: the priesthood…or death. Because magic has been kept at bay in Quandis, royals and Bajumen have lived together in an uneasy peace for centuries. But Princess Phela’s desire for power will disrupt the realm’s order, setting into motion a series of events that will end with her becoming a goddess in her own right…or ultimately destroying Quandis and all its inhabitants.” This is a very general premise. It doesn’t touch on any specific characters save Phela. I like that some characters are obviously being held back, but I would like a bit more. Having read this premise after finishing the book, this summary does not do the story justice. It gives history, but not plot. A bit of the story would probably help a potential reader, and buyer, to get the book. Overall grade: B-

The characters: There are several characters in this book, but like the title implies, four are the most important: Phela, Blane, Demos Kallistrate, and Admiral Daria Hallarte. Phela starts the book in a secret passage so she may watch her mother’s escapades with Linos Kallistrate. From the get-go, Phela is a sneaky character. That she coveted power was obvious, but she quickly becomes consumed with assuming and keeping power. She underwent the greatest changes in this book and they were major. Blane is a slave, one of the Bajumen, and will never be free. His sister was murdered by a freeman and he wants to save his people. He currently works to be a priest at the Temple of Four. As a slave, he’s abused by the priests as he tries to find a path in his life. Why he’s staying with the priests is extremely interesting and what he does at the temple is outstanding. He was one of the most enjoyable characters of the novel and he, too, changes dramatically. Blane was the character that held the greatest interest for me. Demos Kallistrate is son of Linos, who, when his family is outed as traitors to the crown, is made a slave, one of the Bajumen. He will never retain his status in Quandis again. The justification for why he is purchased is never specifically stated, but several possibilities are stated. This bothered me that he was obsessed with why he was bought, but he never finds out. True, it becomes moot, but it kept nagging at me every time he appeared. He is the youthful, buff fighter of the novel that the reader wants to see regain power. Last is Admiral Daria Hallarte. She commands part of the royal fleet and is incredibly entertaining. She has a secret that causes disruption among her men. These four characters all connect with one another and come into conflict with each other at certain points. A supporting character is Lysandra, Phela’s mother, the queen. At the opening of the book she starts the disaster that falls upon the land. Her physical form is described fantastically. The other major character of note is Shome of the Silent. She is a loyal member of the secretive guard that protects the queen that have taken a vow of silence. She is incredibly strong and dominated whenever she appeared. Her involvement with the plot is crucial. I loved all these characters, and ones I have not mentioned. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Castles and smaller towns were what I expected and I got those. The palace is as lush and lavish as I expected. It was filled with secret passages and rooms, which I also expected. The small towns that are briefly visited also fell into the realm of expectation. However, these locations don’t have much time spent at them, and that’s why the settings are successful. The Temple of Four is a fantastic place. It’s where Blane spends much of his time and where people train to join the priesthood. But it’s not just this, it has many secrets within it and below it. To go into detail would spoil much, suffice to say this is an incredible setting and every time the book went to this locale I was thrilled. The port that Daria first lands at is also an incredible setting. If one is a fan of pirates, one will be impressed. This setting was wonderful. The descriptions and characters of this location are just perfection. In fact, I wanted to spend more time exploring this place, but the plot dictated otherwise. I really like that the expected settings are done well, while the original settings are fantastic. Overall grade: A-

The action: The book begins with political intrigue and the hint that there’s magic in this universe. The fighting between the throne and its people is good, but there’s always an underlying hint that magic lurks close by. When the magic does appear it’s very slight. As the book progresses it becomes a major element that is to be feared. I loved this. There’s plenty of swordplay and raw strength in the fighting, but the addition of magic is a game changer for everyone. The action of the book increased with each chapter and I love books that do this. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: The climax of the novel is good. It’s epic. The conclusion was just too quick for me. It wrapped up too much too quickly in six pages. There are still some differences of opinion among the survivors, but they are getting along too well. It didn’t seem as real as the rest of the book. Overall grade: B-

The final line: The return of magic to a land results in chaos and schemes for power. Outstanding characters with surprising twists and turns make this a page turner. The ending wrapped up a bit too quickly, but that’s only six pages out of 470. I would hope that Golden and Lebbon team up again to write more stories, with a sequel to this book up first. Overall grade: A-

To order a print copy of this book go to http://www.harpervoyagerbooks.com/book/9780062641380/the-blood-of-the-four-2/

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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