Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk

Title: Blood and Iron (The Book of the Black Earth #1)
Author: Jon Sprunk
Source: Amazon Vine
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

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.

Welcome to the Crusades - only a little different. Horace is a ship's carpenter and finds himself shipwrecked on the shores of the heretics - the Akeshians. Horace seems to be the main player in the story as he discovers he has a magical ability not seen in ages. Because of this ability, he is offered a place at court where he meets Alyna. Alyna's role in the story is that of a spy for another country. Through her we see some of the inner workings of the Akeshian court that we may not have realized was going on. Our third player is Jirom, a slave-fighter that helps Horace at the beginning, but I'm not quite sure what his role long term is going to be.

There is a lot going on throughout this story. There is political and religious strife and conflict that the story is built around. Horace is lost as he tries to navigate this deadly set up and there are times he makes critical errors that come back to haunt him. You must like the political and religous intrigue/strife storylines to enjoy this story. While there is some good old fashioned sword and sorcery fighting, much of the tension and build up doesn't involve actual fighting.

I thought the author did a great job keeping the story on track (with the exception of Jirom - I still don't understand his part long run, but maybe book two will explain more). There were a handful of times that I thought the story moved a little too slowly, but never to the point that it became burdensome. This is a great read for fantasy lovers that like a little more of the politics in their story than you traditionally see.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

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