Title: Steel, Blood & Fire
Author: Allan Batchelder
Review: Steel, Blood, & Fire by Allan Batchelder is an engaging epic fantasy novel that incorporates immortality, magic, and the nature of courage and war. There are many elements to keep track of, but it is a gripping tale. The opening pages to this novel where absolutely amazing, they caught me by the throat and kept me riveted to the pages. Each sentences evoked a new emotion; fear, anger, hated even. Not many novels can do this, and this makes Steel Blood & Fire an amazing novel to read.
The paranormal elements worked well for me as well as the action scenes, they added more suspense and depth to the plot and characters. I also enjoyed the interaction between Vykers and Burner. And the first chapter was really gripping with loads of action but I did find the multiple P.O.V’s great but the time skipping confused me a little, jumping from the present to the past and back again but hopefully this will be made clear as the novel progresses. I also really enjoyed the fact this book is written from multiple points of view. I personally like this because I feel action novels told from a singular perspective can become stale and not boring but it feels like its dragging out very early on, so this is a big plus for me.
I loved the friendship and comradery between Long and Short, but I was very stunned when one of them dies very early on (I’m not telling you which one because that would be a spoiler!) I also like the fact my the P.O.V changes the author tells you who is speaking and in what time frame they are speaking for example Aoife, some of her chapters are written from her prespective as a child and other are divided between present tense and present tense while remembering events of the past. Aoife story is one of the most appealing to me along with that of Vykers, and I am really intrigued to find out more about these characters.
The book kind of reminds me of a cross between the Hunger Games and 300. The world and society remind me of the Hunger Games because of the division of the people and how they fit in and yet are isolated for the grander society. And it reminds me of 300 because they is a small force (Vykers/Spartans) going up against a far larger and more deadly force (End of all things/Persians). I think this is a very nice balance between the action feel and the dystopian feel. But the magicial elements add something entirely different to this novel, making it reminicant of other books I’ve read yet extremely unique and engrossing. I loved the dynamic relationships detailed throughout the novel, especially the humour and sometimes tense relationship between Vykers and Arune.
The Virgin Queen is also an excellently written character, she is hard, slightly cruel but she still feels human. My main fear was this book was that Anders who is the antagonist would be another boring reproduction of every other book villian in fantasy novels. But I was extremely surprised as we get a lot of back story on him and his sister Aoife, well before we meet him as a murderous, rampaging adult.
By the beginning of chapter 4 things start slowly coming together. Vykers and Arune have been sent after Anders and Long & Co have enlisted in the Queen’s Army for the ever coming war. I have a feeling even though many of the characters have never met they are about too. I really loved the entwining story lines and characters and trying to figure out whose going to win and who the secondary characters are going to side with. I also like how the history plays a huge role in how the future is going to play out.
I enjoyed all the dramatic twists, particularlly in Aoife’s story especially the story surrounding her mysterious and other worldly pregnancies/children and what it means within the bounds of the novel. I also really like the way the book is written and the language used, the characters’ personalities and how we the readers stick with them not only through their trails but through their goals, and their ultimate life fails – I’m looking at you Long. Another thing I like was that nothing is too far feached in the novel and you believe that in this world all of these things can happen.
As we head towards the halfway point in the novel a lot of tension and suspense start to build as we are bouncing back and forth more quickly that before, gearing us up for the final battle and the ensuing aftermath. I also like how Allan Batchelder added a light-hearted (sometimes) romance in amid all the action and violence.
At the halfway point in the novel you are glad for the speeding up of the pace but you are still very aware than you have another 300 pages to go, so I was struggling a bit by the point but I really wanted to finish the book. Also being aware that this is book 1 in a series I wanted to finish it so bad so I could read the next book in the series because after this massive book I am 100% invested in these characters and their stories I want to read all the book and find out what happens next. I loved learning more about Long and Vykers and how they dealt with different trials. As we hurdle towards to the ending we can see both armies viciously trying to wipe as many of the others before the final battle but each time we see Vykers winning a little and Anders losing a little.
I also like the fact some soliders and generals from the Queen’s army have been forced into the service of End of All Things aka Anders D’Kem and Sprik for a start, but they have mamanged to escape but Long and a pregnant Mardine remained trapped in End’s inner circle. We are now only a 100 or so pages away from the end of the book and I am literally dying to find out what happens to everyone and what kind of ending Allan Batchelder leaves for the reader.
As the final battle begins we are obviosuly cheering on the protagonists but we also feel some measure of pity and empathy for Anders although we are still unclear on why he peruses this destructive endevour.
The ending of this book tied up most of the loose ends very nicely but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered, like what happens to Long will he recover his voice, what of Long and Mardine’s baby, and finally what happens to Shere’s son who Anders altered? But the cliffhanger was great and I really hope I get to read the second book soon.
This book was sent to me for review by the author
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