Blood and Iron
By: Jon Sprunk
Publish Date: March 11, 2014
Format: Print, 424pgs 6"x9"
Series: 1st book in The Black Earth series.
Recommendation: The start of a new magic series with an Epic Fantasy feel to the writing and world.
Set in a richly-imagined world, this action-heavy fantasy epic and series opener is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus.
It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn't even begin to understand.
Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn't last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen's court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire's caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.
Lightning split the night sky above the masts of the Bantu Ray.
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** I read this book for my own enjoyment.
My Thoughts and Summary:
Horace wakes in a home of strangers speaking a language quite different from any he's ever heard after being washed off the deck of the ship he worked on. Horace is in his countries enemy land, and learns the magic that lays within him when a frightening chaos storm of green lightning rolls in while he's chained with other slaves heading to a temple. Horace meets Jirom, a champion fighter and mercenary captured into slavery months ago. A keen friendship is quickly made when both men see how strong the other is, and not simply muscle strength. While in the grace of the Queen Byleth, Horace meets Alyra. Alyra is a strong slave to the Queen and yet so much more in the world. Horace grows in this town of constant danger and political games.
Jon has produced a story with a strong epic fantasy feel. The story moves along with major event after another with great descriptions of the town, buildings, rooms, and people as we go. I can see some thinking this slows the pace of the story as it stretches the events longer in reading, but it's part of what draws the epic fantasy picture. The world building of the culture Horace comes into and the magic that is cherished here is powerful.
There are three main characters we follow, yet possibly five. First we meet Horace. He's a simple man. He seems to be of a passive personality, not wanting much from the world or life as he's lost what was dear to him before. Yet he survives through the tortures the world puts on him. Horace even ends in a stronger sense than when he started. And he learns of a magic awakened in him. Cool. And I have so many questions about how he's different too. I'm curious of the potential he shows and where it will go.
We then meet Jirom. I have my eye on this man. I seem to love a good mercenary in fantasy and a man with a firm direction.
Then we have Alyra. Alyra caught my attention right off and held it. Her purpose in life and her whereabouts are fully active. I'm curious of her surroundings, even how cruel it can be. I love her determination and will for what she is here to do. She is in the perfect position for what she has to do.
The other two characters we see more of are Queen Byleth and Lord Mulcibar. Mmm, the Queen. I love her. Maybe it's the evil in me, but I enjoyed reading her. She's cunning, powerful, and smart. She knows she's being cornered and will do anything to keep herself safe. And even her people. Lord Mulibar is a likeable character as well. Though there was a few moments I wasn't sure I should trust him. (Yes I'm a suspicious one.) He is the teacher to Horace for the new magic he has found within himself. Mulibar is the way we learn of the magic in this part of the world, and it's interesting to learn with Horace.
There is a question of who is the lesser of two evils present in this book. Which is the worst to rule the city and land? It's a political game to get on top, and keep it.
I'm looking forward to the next three books of the series to see where our characters go and what happens in this city. And there is one that is thought to be an ally that may be something else, but we will see how that plays out in the coming books.