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Monday, April 23, 2007

"Bloodmind" by Liz Williams


Buy "Bloodmind" HERE via PanMacmillan

Looking back at “Darkland” by author Liz Williams, one major detail that the cover fails to mention is that the book is NOT a standalone story, and instead continues uninterrupted with its direct sequel “Bloodmind”. So, if you’re planning on reading “Darkland”, then please be aware of this before starting, and also please note that “Darkland” SPOILERS will be present in the following review of “Bloodmind” since the novels are so closely related.

When we last left Vali Hallsdottir at the end of “Darkland”, she had just returned from a successful operation on the planet Mondhile to find that her friend, mentor and Skald leader had been assassinated. “Bloodmind” picks up immediately from this tragic event and soon introduces the Morrighanu, harbingers of war between the continents of Reach and Darkland, which was foreshadowed at the end of “Darkland” along with the women of Nhem, the Selk, and a mysterious woman briefly glimpsed in the Darkland forests who all play a role in “Bloodmind”. From here, Vali gets caught up in a relentless mission that will reacquaint her with a familiar face, vitki Thorn Eld, forge unlikely alliances with the likes of Morrighanu commander Rhi Glyn Apt & the Selk, take her deeper into Darkland as well as a return to the planet Mondhile, and force Vali to face her greatest challenge yet.

Obviously Vali remains a central character in “Bloodmind” with new first-person perspectives provided by Mondhaith Sedra whose narrative follows her journey in search of Eresthahan (the afterlife), and Hunan of the planet Nhem, where we get to learn more about the breeding programs designed to create non-sentient females, those women who were able to regain their self-awareness and start a new life, and the resistance who hopes to liberate all of Nhem. And lastly, but definitely not least, is Skadi, or Skinning Knife, a living weapon who possesses ties to all three planets (Muspell, Nhem & Mondhile) and is the key to the entire story. Not surprisingly, at some point in “Bloodmind” all of the storylines come together and that’s when the real fireworks begin.

Story-wise, “Bloodmind” revisits themes and concepts that were introduced in “Darkland”, and expands upon them, specifically issues dealing with sentience and women’s roles. Regarding the latter, there is a definite pronounced feministic vibe throughout “Bloodmind”, reinforced not only by the cast of characters who are mainly female, with the exception of Thorn Eld, but also the different womens' societies that play an important part in the plot, including the Skald, the Morrighanu and the valkyrie, who are all variations of one another, as well as the Nhemish women and the Mondhaiths. From here, genetic manipulation is a prevailing aspect, as all of the females seem to have been altered in some way – the technologically enhanced Morrighanu, valkyrie who are the female version of the vikti, the Mondhaiths and their hereditary ability of ‘bloodmind’, etc. This then leads to sentience, which essentially ties everything together since it seems like the whole purpose of the Darkland sects (vitki, Morrighanu, valkyrie) is to create a weapon with the ability to turn on/off a creature’s self-awareness, with the Selk, the Nhemish and the Mondhaiths all part of their research & experimentation. How Skadi, Vali, Sedra, Hunan, Thorn Eld and Glyn Apt fit into this picture is part of what makes “Bloodmind” such a compelling read since Ms. Williams does an excellent job of managing the various plotlines and tying everything neatly together, including threads leftover from “Darkland”. Ms. Williams also does an admirable job of infusing each of the narratives with the character’s own distinctive voice, despite them all being from a first-person point-of-view. In fact, the writing as a whole is once again riveting and accomplished, and the book would not work nearly as well if the prose was anything less.

Overall, I have to say that “Bloodmind” is a much more cerebral read than its predecessor. That’s not to say there’s no action or excitement in “Bloodmind”, just that it’s done on a more emotional & intellectual level. Also, it doesn’t mean that the book is any less enjoyable. On the contrary, I enjoyed “Bloodmind” just as much, if not more than “Darkland”, but for very different reasons. As far as the ending, this time around events are satisfactorily concluded with enough interesting threads like the Nhemish resistance and Vali’s future left unresolved that Ms. Williams would be justified in returning to this universe if she so chose. Finally, I must reiterate my recommendation in checking out Ms. Williams’ work if you haven’t yet already, since I feel that she’s one of the more talented and underrated SF authors that I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to recently…

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