(Review:) Daughter of Blood

Daughter of blood 4

Where to start? No seriously where on earth do I start when it comes to reviewing a book so filled with complex twists and elements, most of which have yet to be made clear, that I realise something new every time I read it? I have a short description of the series in my Top Five Fantasy Series so if you’re not familiar with it at all go read that, then read the first two books, then read the third, THEN come back here!

Much like in The Gathering of the Lost, Daughter of Blood follows three main paths that ultimately all converge at the end of the book…..only to diverge again! There are other, splinter paths that join at various times but ultimately the focus is on Malian travelling with Raven towards reclaiming her place in the Derai Alliance, Kalan getting to, and surviving, in the Red Keep and Myr, the Daughter of Blood who has more strength than she, or her family, realises. Her family are a fascinating look at the personalities that make up the whole Derai Alliance and I loved the intricate relationships Lowe displayed between the siblings. I also wanted to kill most of them, but I’m pretty sure that’s how I’m meant to feel! This book was full of the sense that not only is the web tightening, its a much bigger web than we could have ever anticipated.The Darksworn are clearly much more complicated than might have been previously thought, which was hinted at in The Gathering of the Lost but truly highlighted here. Not only that, it is becoming clear that Lowe doesn’t want readers to view the Derai Alliance as the ‘Good’ to their ‘Evil’. There is a long and complex history behind this struggle that exists in the grey of morality. Malian may find that rebuilding the Derai Alliance is not only harder than she could have ever anticipated, it might also reveal dark truths that are hard to face.
Kalan has had a challenging time of it lately and this book was no different. I wonder how hard it was for him to return to the Red Keep disguised as a warrior and wonder if his family hadn’t sent him away, if his powers hadn’t manifested, would this have been truly his life? The suggestions that there is more to his lineage than we might have realised are tantalizing and I was honestly shouting at him to say something to Taly when he realised their connection (if you’re a GOT fan, imagine if in the recent episode where Jon and Sansa reunited, Jon saw her walk in….and then left before she saw him).
Myr frustrates me slightly. Admittedly, because she was only introduced in this book, I don’t have the same strong connection to her that I’ve developed with other characters but there is more to it than just that. At my own admission I find the journey passive characters take to become more assertive, slightly irritating. I say this having struggled with anxiety and self-esteem my whole life and I wonder if the problem is that I actually identify too much with Myr and so find reading her hesitations hard, and her growth as unattainable. But my own niggly emotions towards the character aside, she is a welcome addition to the tale because she further diversifies the story and adds a different personality to the mix of warriors and power-users.
There were so many parts of this book that I loved. The glimpses we got into other Derai Houses were fascinating, especially Sea House and I squealed, yes actually squealed, when Stars appeared. And the fact that at least one of their Blood seems to be a reasonable person makes me so hopeful for Malian’s attempt to reunite the Derai. I also think the priestly houses that have been so dismissed by the Derai warriors will have a pretty big impact in the future despite their weak appearance. Faro’s story has barely been scratched and I feel like, despite the events at the end, he will be an essential part of the story going forward.

Speaking of going forward, there is so much I can’t wait for! I sorely missed Tarathan and Jehane Mor in this book and I hope there’s copious amounts of them in the next to make up for their absence! I also really really hope that we see the Emer characters again and Girvase, Audin, Ali, Ghis and Jarna get to see Kalan in his true aspect, and reassure him that he’s still their friend. I want to know just what IS Asantir’s back story, she has to have one right?? I want the Earl of Night to acknowledge that he does love Malian and support her in her attempts at reunification. I want Stars and Night to heal their ancient rift. I want Raven NOT to die ( I have a very bad feeling about this though). I want Kalan and Malian to stand together with all the friends they have made, including some unexpected ones, and face the Swarm together. I want, I want, I want, I WANT THE NEXT BOOK ALREADY.

An Oops and Some Thoughts.

Well oops. Just like I warned might happen in my first post I slipped down the vortex of reading new books (or re-reading!) and not stopping long enough to write down my thoughts on each book before I moved on. I also hit a little bit of a reading-block if that makes sense to you, if it doesn’t don’t worry because I’m about to explain.

Much like a writer’s block can be an immovable barrier to a writer’s creativity and imagination, a reading block leaves you incapable of focusing on a book or even lacking any desire to read. Different things can lead to a reading block for me; sometimes a period of constant reading can just leave me feeling empty and shrivelled. I can read about 3-4 books a day at the height of my focus and sometimes I just burn out from the intense energy I put into absorbing that many books in quick succession. Things also begin to blur into each other when I’m reading that much and I get more despairing of the common themes and devices that are repeated across the genres I read the most of. Usually I deal pretty well with motifs across literature – just because the story is the same it doesn’t make the writing any less engaging or entertaining and I don’t believe original is a byword for excellence. But when you read the same character for the umpteenth time or begin to foretell the plot for the fourth book in a row things can get frustrating. Genre trends can also create a little bit of a reading block. Usually after the publication of a major hit in a genre you see a spate of books with similar themes and preoccupations. I don’t mean people start copying the winning formula (although that definitely happens too). Publishers see the success this particular theme has and suddenly books that might not have seemed as appealing beforehand could be the next big thing. Often this could mean a book written years before the ‘Big Hit’ will now see the light of day, propelled along publishing line by the appeal of their second cousin twice removed (in book terms of course!) This isn’t necessarily a negative, if it hadn’t been for the success of The Hunger Games would we have seen some of the excellent dystopian novels that emerged? But like the two-faced god Janus so beloved of the fantasy genre there is a downside. The market becomes over-saturated with almost identikit books and any true gems can be buried under the avalanche of mediocre and downright awful novels that appear. When the majority of books being published in a genre at a particular time are all very similar, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to read much, because they all blur together. At the moment I believe fairy-tale retellings are experiencing a surge in YA fantasy, and I’ve read some brilliant books arising from this (The Wrath and the Dawn, Crimson Bound, Sisters Red) but I’m wary of the tide rising.

Another common cause of a reading block for me is when I read a book so devastatingly amazing that it rips a hole in my soul and any book I try to read afterwards is like eating vanilla ice-cream after you’ve had a deep rich berry sorbet. Nothing wrong with vanilla ice-cream, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want, but it can’t reach the depth of flavour the sorbet provided. I didn’t read the Lord of the Rings until I was 12 and it shifted my entire reading compass. North was now the heartache I experienced when I looked up from the last page and realised I didn’t live in Middle-Earth and would never meet these characters, or experience their world other than through the medium of reading. I’ve experienced a similar feeling upon finishing series such as The Wind of Fire by William Nicholson and The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix (OF WHICH A NEW ONE COMES IN OCTOBER AND I AM INCAPABLE OF HIDING MY EXCITEMENT). Most recently, and probably the closest I’ve ever felt to how I did when I finished Lord of the Rings, The Wall of Night series has gripped me tightly in its claws and dug in deep. In fact it is the recent release of the third book of the series that is largely to blame for my blogging absence. I read it. Then I took a week and read it again. Then I took a few more weeks, and read it a third time. I’ve spent the time since trying to figure out how to review a book that makes me cry every time I read it and leaves me so desperately desperate for the next one that I’m considering moving to New Zealand and camping outside Helen Lowe’s house until it is ready. I read it for the fourth time yesterday and I think I finally have enough distance to be able to review it coherently…..for the most part.

So that’s whats coming next! This was just meant as an apology post (but I got a little deeper than planned!) and the next time you hear from me will be with my thoughts on Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe. Hopefully before the end of this week!