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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Grievar's Blood by Alexander Darwin (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo & Lukasz Przywoski)

Official author website

Order Grievar's Blood over here: USA/UK
Order The Combat Codes over here: USA/UK
Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Alexander Darwin


ABOUT ALEXANDER: Alexander Darwin is a science fiction author with an unabashed reverence for combat sports. He spends his days getting humbled on the mats, staring at the unwritten pages of his next novel, and questioning the dumb luck that landed him such a beautiful wife and daughter.

FORMAT/INFO: Self-Published on January 28, 2020. Page count: 338 pages (paperback). Cover art by Felix Ortiz. Cover Design by Shawn T. King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (LUKASZ): I picked Grievar’s Blood immediately after finishing The Combat Codes. As a sequel, it delivered everything I wanted from this story: a fast-paced adventure, more character development, and surprising reveals about the world and Cego‘s past.   

Darwin introduced new POV characters. I especially enjoyed Solara Halberd‘s chapters. The ending of The Combat Codes turned her life upside down and left her in pain. I won’t spoil it, but her arc provides more than just action - it follows her path of coming to terms with grief and loss. At this stage, we know she’s a great fighter, but can she also navigate politics and use her cunning instead of fists?

Initially, the book focuses mainly on Sol; Cego’s arc gains momentum later in the book, and the payoff is great. Darwin ties all storylines in a satisfying conclusion that whetted my appetite for the final book. The inclusion of new POV characters allowed him to provide a large-scale narrative and to tackle themes of politics, justice, and revenge. There are fewer fight sequences, but all of them serve something and are a pleasure to read (if you don’t know, Alexander Darwin teaches martial arts and translates his expertise and passion into his writing).

Besides thrilling action, we learn more about the world and its politics. The political strife between factions (and nations) is a tricky one and the ending suggests the revolution is coming. What started as a smaller-scale story turns into a multi-arc tale of revolution and I'm more than ok with it :)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (MIHIR): Grievar’s Blood is a sequel that really takes all the positives of The Combat Codes and exponentially makes them even stronger. The story is set two years after the events of the preceding title and this time around we not only get Cego’s POV but two brand new ones.

The plot is set in the military academy wherein Cego has gained entry at the end of The Combat Codes. Things seem to be going well but there’s newer things to be learned. Also with the addition of a new POV of Solara, this really helps with one of the complaints of the first book about the lack of a female protagonist. Solara is an accomplished fighter and there’s a reason why she’s extra motivated. The third POV character is another incredible fighter but I’m not going to reveal who that is.

The story while being a middle volume does a lot to escape its pitfalls, we don’t get any unnecessary cliffhangers, we don’t get a lot of unresolved scenarios and there’s plenty of worldbuilding expansion. All in all this sequel is definitely an improvement in every aspect over its predecessor.

Lastly all three POVs converge strongly towards the end and we get a fantastic climax. The book conveniently gives us lot of action, camaraderie and intense anxiety about the characters and the scenarios they have to overcome. I would say this book moves this book and series further in the SF camp and the pace is one that never relents. For me there weren’t any negatives about this book, I read it because I liked The Combat Codes a lot and Grievar’s Blood has solidified this series as one to watch out for.

CONCLUSION (LUKASZ): I appreciate the author took a more ambitious route and developed his series instead of focusing on more fights and more of Cego’s insane skills. It resulted in an immersive and clever story that’s entertaining, easy to read, and addictive. I can't wait to read the third book!

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