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Joint Review – The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

bloodbound by erin lindseyPublisher: Ace
Publish Date: Out Now
How we got this book: eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.
Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honour made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.
But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

This blurb came from http://erin-lindsey.com

E: I considered this story several times because I was worried about the love triangle aspect before deciding I loved the thought of the rest of the blurb too much to pass it up. I will also admit while reading I got worried a bit over the love triangle but then secrets were revealed, characters matured, and I stopped worrying. I ended up really enjoying this story and I hope Lindsey continues writing in this world.

Marlene: Like E, I also considered, unconsidered and reconsidered this book. On the one hand, epic fantasy with romance is right in my wheelhouse. And on the other, ooh, dreaded love triangle. Thankfully, this book is not about Alix angsting between two lovers. It’s more about a group of young people thrust into a terrible situation and growing up.

E: Lindsey’s world is rather complex but built on a mostly feudal type system. It is a series of kingdoms with varying alliances and agreements. Alix lived in one of the larger more prosperous kingdoms who through treaties had been at peace for a few generations but now with a young unmarried heirless king ruling, the Oridians backed by their religious leaders decided to launch a serious attack. During one of the battles she realized the reinforcements under command of the King’s brother were standing by and not moving forward allowing the King’s forces to become overrun. Loyal to the crown, she disobeyed her orders as a lightly armored scout, and managed to save the King. As a reward or punishment she was made the King’s bodyguard. And he didn’t like listening to what she said because he refused to accept his new reality as a disposed king who was a target to everyone allied with his brother.

Marlene: First, I love that we have a quasi-medieval setting where women are expected to serve in the military, just like men. While their roles are generally different, it seems clear that what separates them are truly innate physical characteristics. In other words, women make better scouts and archers because they are generally smaller and have more dexterity than men, not just because it’s “their place”. Some women are infantry and some men are scouts and archers. In the end, it’s about their qualifications more than gender. (Not that there aren’t some less enlightened folks, but they are labeled as less enlightened) Also that women aren’t expected to get raped and rescued every time they venture out.

Something about the world that kept niggling; the great houses are all named for colors, and so are the members of the house. While it was nice not to have to deal with jawbreaker names, I was expecting a bit more variety, or something that made me think “not our world”.

E: The three main characters were all ones I liked which, is what caused some of my personal angst when I figured out the triangle was between them and how badly people could be emotionally hurt. As events unfolded I enjoyed watching all three grow and mature under pressure as the reality of their situation set in and it didn’t seem like things were going to get better anytime soon. Each went through their own crucible along the way as they learned some harsh lessons. Some from very unexpected people and others from life events, and the requirement to grow or die a gruesome death. I really liked how Lindsey planted the seeds to clear up the triangle from the beginning but let them unfold naturally over time. She didn’t provide an insta-solution so I was able to buy into the results.

Marlene: Alix, Erik and Liam are all likable characters, and they all grow up in the course of fighting the war. Erik is even looking back on his own younger self and resolving not to make the same mistakes, and also to rectify his earlier ones. There’s a sense that he is learning harsh lessons as we watch.

The triangle between the three of them is handled well. Not just because there isn’t too much angst, but because the reasons that things fall out the way they do are organic to the story as a whole. There is a sacrifice, but it makes sense, both in the context of Erik’s past and Alix’ and Liam’s present.

E: In addition to the character growth and noticeable maturity I also appreciated how the action was handled. The action included force on force, stealth guerrilla like quick encounters, assassins, psychological warfare, and magic. Each was nicely fleshed out and not only covered the events during the action but had follow-on effects. The attention paid to the details really kept everything together and moving smoothly. I liked how each person had something they brought with them to the story, which fleshed out the world and provided me with several individuals I hope to see again. Unfortunately the action also brought losses which helped cement the world even though the soft part of my heart would have preferred for everyone whose name I learned lived. The good aspect to my wishes meant none of them were throwaway characters and I stayed emotionally invested in the story.

Marlene: While this isn’t Game of Thrones (thank goodness), it’s true that important people that the reader has come to know and value (not necessarily like) die. It’s not egregious (I still think the butcher’s bill in the final battle in Harry Potter was way too high) but it is necessary. The country is being attacked, and there is a total war on every front. Some good and brave people have to throw themselves in the front lines so that the country can go on. Dammit!

E: I am glad I decided to pick this up because it was a great epic fantasy novel with a strong yet flawed heroine and equally strong and flawed main characters. The dynamics between them were complicated and yet fit together nicely. The world as they knew it was destroyed and as they rebuilt it into something they grew as characters and came up with inventive ways to regain control of their homelands. I really hope Lindsey continues to write in this world because I can’t wait to revisit it.

I give The Bloodbound an A-

Marlene: I enjoyed The Bloodbound a lot, but I often had the feeling that I’d read it, or at least salient parts of it, before. Also played some of it before; there were key plot points that reminded me all too much of Dragon Age: Origins. (That’s not necessarily a bad comparison, I LOVE that game) It also reminded me a bit of Amy Raby’s Hearts and Thrones series, which I also love.

One of the things I enjoyed most about The Bloodbound is that it is a heroine’s journey, and not a hero’s journey. Not that Erik and Liam don’t grow as characters, but the primary mover and shaker of this story is Alix Black, noblewoman, military scout, and Captain of the King’s Guard. The traditional path would have been to make this Erik’s story as king, but the world is different, and more intriguing, from Alix’ point of view. Especially since she gets to go out and do things while Erik is stuck in relatively safety in some castle.

I give The Bloodbound a B+

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By Marlene

Marlene is a librarian, ebook advocate, science fiction fan, and RPG fan who lives in Atlanta. She and her husband are owned by three cats, just ask them. She's a geek and a nerd and proud of it. She's also an avid reader of everything, including the back of the cereal box, and has been blogging since April 2011 at Reading Reality and is a reviewer at Library Journal as well as active on Goodreads.

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