Reviewed by: E & Marlene
E: Over the past two years Marlene and I have reviewed the previous installments in Lindsey’s Bloodbound series with mixed feelings. We really enjoyed The Bloodbound, book 1 but struggled with The Bloodforged, book 2. As a result I approached The Bloodsworn with a significant amount of trepidation. I will say that I found this final installment better than the middle book but it fell short of what I expected after reading the first. There will be some spoilers from earlier in the series in this review.
Marlene: I had such high hopes for this series after The Bloodbound, only to have those hopes dashed to the ground in The Bloodforged. So I approached also approached this book with a lot of reservations. While I did want to see how the series wrapped up, and whether it redeemed itself, I also suffered from a lot of approach/avoidance syndrome. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know quite badly enough to go through it. In the end, The Bloodsworn wasn’t nearly as bad as the second book, but also not nearly as good as the first one. Mixed feelings remain mixed.
E: Lindsey did set some pretty high stakes. The efforts to gain support from other countries to help against Oridia failed miserably and the drastic event Alix initiated despite warnings also had some unexpected repercussions. In addition to trying to save the country from a brutal war of attrition, Alix, Liam, and Rig were struggling to protect/save their King from their very enemies and dealing with relationship issues of their own which was one of the areas I had problems with. I found myself struggling with the relationships because the internal conflict between the individuals involved never really seemed resolved just perhaps swept under the rug. I have the impression the next time there is a stressful event or a difference of opinions the same conflicts will come up and given the monumental task of rebuilding/recovering stress won’t be in short supply.
Marlene: One of the things that made the first book so good was the way that the author dealt with the incipient love-triangle between Erik, Alix and Liam. At that time, the issue felt resolved, and I applauded the way that it was dealt with and not dragged on. However, the damn thing keeps rearing its ugly head in the subsequent books. While it was clear in this one that the real problem is Liam’s general insecurity and not truly his lack of faith in Alix, having this be the wedge inserted and this particular element of immature angst wasn’t needed. The situation is so dire all the way around that there is plenty of mature and justified angst to deal with.
E: I did think over the course of the series most of the characters exhibited internal growth as they faced challenging situations. I thought Liam and Alix grew the most when they were apart and even Rig really lived up to the family name. Erik showed a lot of promise in the beginning but as events occurred, he became more of a plot point/source of conflict and less of an individual character, which I found disappointing. I was rather fascinated by Alix’s spy as a character and I wanted to see/learn about him than I did about some of the other more prominent cast members. I also ended up appreciating Chancellor Highmount because as much as I didn’t really like him as a person he was probably the most stable individual in the entire series.
Marlene: Erik, who was a vital character in the first book, is essentially “fridged” in this one. While it is a nice twist to have a male character fridged instead of a female, it still does leave him out of a lot of the action. Liam and Alix definitely do a lot of growing and changing in this story. I also agree with my friend E that just a little bit more about Saxon the spy would have been fascinating. His character is a tease, and I would love to know more about him. The person we learn most about is Alix’ brother Rig, and he’s also the one I felt the most for by the end. His arc is both successful and very sad at the same time. He wins, only to lose everything. At some point I’d love to know more about what the warleader does in peacetime, because I bet it would make for a hell of a story.
E: While the action was intense there were times when I felt like I was reading a very pointed message about the dangers, moral, and ethical implications of taking an ability/technology to its extreme. I also got the feeling I was being lectured on the dangers of both blind loyalty and acting on one’s temper. In each case I was dumped out of Lindsey’s world and had to work my way back in. While I think these are all points to consider I would have appreciated a more subtle way so I could have stayed within the world while subconsciously pondering.
Marlene: There was definitely a very pointed lecture in here about whether or not virtuous ends justify absolutely soul-destroying means. Along with a dose of warning that giving up what makes us better to defeat a terrible enemy is worse than defeat. To me, there was an echo in there of Ben Franklin’s “anyone who gives up a little liberty for a little security deserves neither.” I paraphrase but hopefully the point is made. This is an argument that is had all too often recently in real life, and continues. While it isn’t a bad argument to have in the context of this particular story, I didn’t appreciate having it hit with a sledgehammer.
E: I appreciated how The Bloodsworn didn’t end with everything magically fixed and perfect. With everything Lindsey put her characters and the country though I was relieved to see the lingering price. Erik was left haunted by what happened to him and his actions which I have hopes will make him a better king. However, my issues with the relationships, which started developing in book 2, became stronger in this installment especially as unrequited love started to become more prevalent. Overall I did think The Bloodsworn ended the series on a higher note then I felt after I finished the middle book but on the whole I don’t think it lived up to the initial promise.
I give The Bloodsworn a C-
Marlene: It felt as if this epic fantasy boiled down to its relationships, friend and enemy, requited and not. As a consequence, once the central relationship problem was solved at about the 75% mark, the rest of the action felt a bit anticlimactic, even though the evil had not yet been defeated. The defeat of the enemy warleader became very secondary. Still necessary, but secondary. Once they get Erik out of the fridge, nothing else had the same urgency.
The bittersweet ending of the story felt right. Good triumphs, but the price is very, very high, both in lives lost and in lives irrevocably changed. Erik, when forced to choose between being a good man and being a good king, found a method that didn’t sacrifice too much of his soul. Alix and Liam still have fences to mend between them, but are getting there. Rig is alone, and not sure where his next purpose lies. Saxon watches everything, and waits. But for what? Life goes on in its altered course.
At the end, it felt like this was the close of a chapter, but that there were more stories to tell here. Which is good but also gives this reader pause. I’d like to read those stories, but only if they come back up to the promise shown in The Bloodforged. And we are far from there.
I give The Bloodsworn a C.