A Rose to the Torch by Bartholomew Lander

Incredible world building

I can completely understand why people have a “Marmite” reaction to this (i.e. they either love it or hate it): if I hadn’t read the prequel to this, All Bleeds Through (ABT), then I believe that I would have been somewhat confused, too.

ABT lays out the basics of the universe, with tales set inside it that eventually all link together. This brings nearly all of those loose threads together, and shows how much each individual and story really are connected. When I realised this, I had to go back and check, and I was wowed.

Not only that, the mythology is set up brilliantly. We not only have the Hemomancers and Humans, and how they are affected by events and each other, we also have a whole background of religious mythology with such amazing depth to it, that it’s completely believable that it could be our world and not just an alternate universe.

As for the story itself, here we have Coral, and Gavin, alongside other characters who were introduced to us in ABT. It is primarily Coral and Gavin’s histories which are revealed here as being important to the story as a whole, neither of whom actually truly knew about their background and the true meaning of it.

Coral goes from being a scared, ambivalent teenager, to a strong wildcard contender. She’s supposed to be a “nought”, one with the blood type O Negative, who has no control over the blood of others. Yet there is a huge fight over her blood; in the hunt to kill noughts over the years, Coral is now perhaps the only one left, the only one who can save an evil lord whose blood was poisoned years ago in order to end the slaughter.

But, this is where it gets complicated for Coral: who is the real monster in this story? The lord who has tried to control all other hemomancers for more than a century? Or those willing to sacrifice Coral for the greater good?

Can Coral not only prevail but find a way to fight back? It’s not until the very end that she finds out who are true friends are, but by that time, will it be too late?

I must admit, my rating hovered back and forth on this, mostly due to the characterisation. But it all came together wonderfully, as the characters and the story developed. Most of all, towards the end, it was possible to understand the characters and their reasonings better. The ending was a total shock, but shouldn’t have been so surprising, really. No one is safe and what can go wrong, will go wrong, etc. So, along with all of the above, I just have to rate it highly, just like the prequel.

The final lines leave hope, despite the devastation. A nice way to make way for the sequel.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Avoiding the Abyss by A.C. Ward

Too much abuse

This book starts straight off the bat with Aubrey getting a beating by her mother. It is given under the guise of “training”, because Aubrey is a bad fighter, but it is very clear that her mother detests her. Yet, Aubrey remains throughout her staunch defender.

Others amongst the rebels pity her, but do very little to defend her, because her mother is the “hero”, the one who rules the rebels and is renowned as the best fighter.

Everything is turned on its head when she is captured by government, yet not at all in the ways that she expects. She keeps on supporting her mother, even secretly, right up to the last. Even when she does find out the truth, can she keep supporting someone who her entire life has seen her as useless until it’s discovered she has powers?

The ending, or perhaps more late middle to end, were the only redeeming parts of this book. The way the abuse is treated just appalled me that I nearly stopped reading after the opening scene. The latter parts made the universe interesting, enough that I want to continue the series, but I can’t ignore that beginning.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK.

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

All Bleeds Through: Ten Stories of Hemomancy and the World It Shaped by Bartholomew Lander

Dark, vermillion arts

This book is a compilation of linked stories. In it we see the very “human” side of Hemomancers (those born with the ability to control blood). It shows fear, jealousy, revenge, as well as stigmatisation and the effects of being ostracised from society, from mere bullying to being hunted down and killed. These are people who are both feared and reviled, sometimes correctly, other times less so (the hunting of Hemomancer children is seen to be as just as if they were fully-fledged adults, the fear is so great).

This is a book full of well-filled arguments, from both sides of the coin, from the Human side and the Hemomancer side, and how each action affects the other. We have murderers, thieves, but also scientists and defenders. In this book, through the stories, you come to truly understand what it is like to be a Hemomancer, or a Human living in fear of them. Never have I read a story that links different POVs to truly allow such understanding.

At the beginning, I wasn’t so endeavoured with the story, after reading the first part. But, by the end, as all parts started to link through, I was wowed. The end links into the beginning, to create a round circle that allows everything within this book to make sense. Each character has their own attributes, to allow you to live with them. The pain, the fear, the anger, the determination, it all shines through.

Quite a remarkable collection of stories that I definitely want to continue with.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Devils Glen by Matthew Speak

Darkness descends

I took my time getting around to this book, so long in fact that Kindle Scout has now died and gone. But, no matter, I still own a copy of the book, so I have to read and review it at some point, don’t I…?

Anyway, this book was darker than I normally like to get in to. I was lucky that I didn’t have nightmares afterwards! But, I plodded on.

The beginning almost made me want to throw it at the wall, as it was so so boring!! The chapters were disjointed and unrelated. Some of the prologue material was repeated in the first couple of chapters. But then came glimmers of brilliance, that started to make the story interesting, so I persevered further. Plenty of creepy stuff to be had, but the main gore of the story didn’t happen until towards the end, like it came out of nowhere! Suddenly, blatant blood and gore, like the book is catching up or something for missing out on it sooner!

And, as it so happens, just around the point of the major bloody action is when the book was starting to get really interesting and it started pulling all together. Although there are still a heap of unanswered questions. Maybe the next book will resolve that, but I’m tentative as to whether I should pick it up or not.

My rating for this flew between two and five stars, depending on how the book was running, so I think I’ve chosen a fairly nice middle ground.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via the, now defunct, Kindle Scout program, and am voluntarily leaving a review.*