Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen
*Please note that this is a same day cross-post of a tour review. The original post with tour information can be found here.
Ashlords Duology Book Two
by Scott Reintgen
Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
I was granted complimentary ARC access at Blood Sworn via NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour for this title with TBR & Beyond, but when I discovered that my review date for the tour was slightly after publication and I had a couple of long reads right before this date on my tour posting schedule, I elected to wait and use an Audible credit to let the narrators read it to me after release day. Thank you to all involved in granting me access to the ARC anyway! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
When I received the email inviting me to apply for this tour, I didn’t know anything about Scott Reintgen or the Ashlords duology, but I saw a gorgeous Friesian-looking horse and a genre label of fantasy and had to check it out. I was hesitant to apply knowing it was a second book and that the tour would not be providing the first, but fortunately a library I have access to through Libby had both ebook and audiobook licenses of Ashlords, the first book, available. I flew through my listening experience of Ashlords, rated it 5 stars with a rave review, and shamelessly begged to be granted a spot on the tour on whatever date was available in the comment box at the end of the application form. I had to know how this story concluded, and as a book blogger, I wanted to share my love for this story with a wide audience. Now that I have experienced Blood Sworn I can confidently say that I am not disappointed in the least, Reintgen has does it again, and I give the whole duilogy 5 stars!
If you have not yet read book one, Ashlords, keep in mind that I cannot possibly give an adequate review of Blood Sworn without mentioning things that could be considered spoilers for Ashlords. If you don’t want Ashlords spoiler for you, stop at this paragraph and know that I highly recommend this duology to all fans of high fantasy, fantasy adventure, YA overthrow the dystopia storylines, or “anything with frequent horses.”
(My review of book one can be read here.)
Blood Sworn picks up right where Ashlords left off and continues with the three POVs: Pippa, Imelda, and Adrian. Imelda and Adrian POV chapters continue to be presented in third-person and Pippa’s in second-person. In the audiobook edition, the same narrators who voice these characters in Ashlords have reprised their roles. In short: Everything to do with narrative voice and literal narration remains unchanged from book one. Overall very good choices there, why change what worked so well? My only potential critique is that by making just one POV written in second person the reader is forced into that role, forced to be from the Ashlord society, and by this point in the story we’re already quite sympathetic to the other factions, so this POV trick doesn’t hold the same weight anymore. Either way, I’m used to it by now and I barely took notice when Pippa’s parts switched from she to you.
Adrian is reunited with his father and takes his intended place leading their army against the Ashlords. Imelda’s newfound tribe of rebels wastes no time in joining in on the battle, while not necessarily joining up. Pippa takes up the helm as a general for the Ashlords. The god who had a hand in changing fortunes during the race is still here too, and still working to tip the scales in favour of whoever promises the best sacrifices. Early on in this new war, however, the god’s meddling begins to have the unintended effect of bringing Pippa and Adrian together in more, uh, “friendly” means, and all three young leaders begin to spend time in the underworld. What awaits them there is a long-forgotten secret about the nature of the Ashlord gods, and with this answer comes the potential for a lasting end to war in their world if they can set their sights on their true enemy.
This book is full of surprises! Every time you figure something out, something you weren’t even watching for pops up and presents a new puzzle. Just like the first book, Blood Sworn was absolutely impossible to put down. This is a thrilling magical adventure that demands to be read in one sitting, so prepare to devote your whole day to this book or prepare for distraction as your count the hours until you can get back to it.
One thing I very much appreciate about Reintgen’s writing style is that there’s just enough description to know what’s going on, but the description gets out of the way and lets the plot march on. Not a single paragraph is dull or dry. There are no signs of world-builder’s disease here. We can picture a desert-like country as the setting, we understand that the phoenixes look like normal horses, but work like mythical phoenixes with nightly rebirths, we get to know as much as we need to know about the alchemy of blending minerals into phoenix ashes to influence what the next phoenix looks or acts like, and we have broad strokes descriptions for our three main characters. That’s really all we need to know. There isn’t so little description that we end up with talking heads or generic horses running through nothingness, but the reader is left to imagine a lot of the finer details, and that’s how I like to read. Inspire my mind’s eye director, but let me do the mental casting.
I do like the resolution this book comes to, though I feel like the way the winning side establishes their new rules for society was handled a little too quickly and with a slightly rosy tint. It’s a very appropriate YA ending, but this story had the potential to go in so many directions I guess I was hoping for either a grittier ending or one that left some strings untied. I would also like to say that while this works extremely well as a self-contained duology and I’m not going to sit here and pointlessly wish for a continuation of the series, I would be absolutely delighted to get a short story, article, novella, whatever deep-diving on these phoenix horses. I want the history, I want training tips, I want anecdotes about famous phoenixes, and I want to know more about how having access to a magical beast of burdon affects the development of a society. That’s really the only aspect of these books that I felt needed more description, more world-builder’s info dumps, and I expect most horse lovers in the audience will too.
Overall both this book and the duology as a set have been an absolute pleasure to experience, and I’ll definitely return to these for re-reads just for fun in the future. They’re new favourites, and I want everyone to know that they’re absolutely worth reading!