Genre | Fantasy
Page #s | 544
Publishing Date | August 2018
Live fast, die young.
Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.
When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.
It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.
Kings of the Wyld, Eames’ first book, is one of my favorites, but it’s a book about old men reliving their adventuring glory days, and I can’t really justify reviewing it for my queer blog. The sequel, though? Well, Bloody Rose has three women in the main cast of five, and two of them are queer. It’s everything I wanted from his D&D-inspired fantasy world full of humor, creativity, and heart, and it works perfectly well as a standalone story, so start reading it now!
Tam joins the legendary band (the term in Eames’ books given to adventuring parties, as they are treated like rock stars within the world) Fable as a bard to record the tales of their accomplishments. This is strange, as Fable claims to have a gig that’s in the exact opposite direction of the monstrous horde that threatens the world and has every other band eager to fight for glory. Turns out, it’s all connected, and the five members of Fable will be pushed to their limits to conquer personal demons and literal monsters with a little help from their friends. I love a story where defeating the big bad only serves to help the bigger bad.
In this world, monster hunters have transitioned from a more legitimate “saving helpless townsfolk from marauding creatures” role to a lucrative career of touring stadiums to defeat captured “monsters” – and no one wants to look too closely at whether these creatures are truly evil. It’s uncomfortable to read sometimes, which is the point. As a character says later in the story, “We are the ones going bump in the night.” We never QUITE get the Justice for Monsters storyline that I craved, but I look forward to seeing how the world has shifted in this regard in future books.
As excellent as the plot is, it is the characters that truly sell this story. Tam is great everywoman protagonist, and it’s a joy to watch her grow, both physically and emotionally. Rose and Freecloud are the stars in an epic romance that is all the more fun for seeing it from the side. Cura is a gothic bisexual inkwitch who summons terrifying beings from tattoos that she gave herself to memorialize, and relive, her trauma. I wrote her off as a stereotypical male-gazey manic pixie sex girl at first, but the arc of her story was probably the most meaningful of all to me. And Brune is a giant barbarian of a man, sweet and coarse, and with a family-based storyline that was really engaging and left me wanting more.
I was impressed by how diverse and complex the women in this book are. Whether they are going through a classic coming-of-age storyline (Tam), struggling to balance personal glory with motherhood (Rose) or healing from a traumatic past (Cura), each woman is fully realized and awesomely gifted and flawed. This is also the only fantasy book I’ve read that includes an offhanded comment about women dealing with their periods in between epic battles. I love it!
Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
If you love classic fantasy with a lovingly snarky twist, Bloody Rose will delight and entertain!