I recently read Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and couldn’t wait to read the sequel, Bloody Rose. While Bloody Rose could be read as a standalone, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series with Kings of the Wyld. Partly because it’s bloody brilliant, but also because it sets up the world and the characters, some of whom make an appearance in the sequel.
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
I said in my review of Kings of the Wyld that I felt that it was a little male-dominated. I thought that it was necessary to the story, but also that I expected a better balance in Bloody Rose, particularly given that the titular character is female. I was right. There were more women in this novel that were part of the main storyline, and we get to see these ladies wielding knives, swords, bows, and magic and generally kicking ass alongside their male counterparts. I love that there are no damsels in distress here – some women are stronger, or fight better than others, and not all are cut out for it, but there are no victims here, and it’s a pleasure to read about women who are as capable as the guys.
Bloody Rose is told from the perspective of Tam Hashford. Initially taken on as a bard to Rose’s mercenary band, she has no experience of travelling as part of a band, but is desperately seeking adventure away from the humdrum life that her father intends for her. For Tam, I felt that this was a coming of age novel, and I enjoyed seeing her character grow and develop as the story progressed. Young, and perhaps a little naïve at the beginning, she has plenty of chances to prove herself, and very quickly moves away from the bard’s standard position of watching the action, unable to resist taking part when the opportunity calls for it, with mixed results. She throws herself into it, heart and soul, and becomes an integral part of Rose’s band in no time.
Rose’s character wasn’t quite what I expected. Pitched as being the fearless leader of the best mercenary band around, she has an unsurprisingly tough persona. As Tam gets to know her, however, both Tam – who is more than a little in awe of Rose – and the reader get to see another side of her, and realise that maybe she isn’t quite the person the tales make her out to be. I loved the exploration of what it is to grow up in your parent’s shadow, with Rose wanting to be something – anything – other than just Golden Gabe’s daughter. Like all of Eames’ characters, Rose is incredibly complex, and I love the exploration of what it is to try and find your own way in life against the expectations of others.
Bloody Rose features some familiar characters (including Lady Jain who is one of my personal favourites) and a whole cast of new ones. Eames does character brilliantly, and while none are perfect, there are definitely a selection of good guys to root for. Overall, I think that I preferred Bloody Rose to Kings of the Wyld. There’s an element of being familiar with the world, but I think that I enjoyed the characters and the storyline more in the sequel. But I have questions! I really hope that there will be another instalment in the series because there are definitely characters whose tales haven’t yet been concluded.
Bloody Rose is published by Orbit, and is available in paperback and digital formats.