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Monday, November 13, 2023

Grievar's Blood by Alexander Darwin (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Grievar's Blood by Alexander Darwin

Grievar's Blood by Alexander Darwin book cover

Official Author Website

Buy Grievar's Blood HERE

Read Shazzie's review of The Combat Codes HERE
Read Caitlin's review of The Combat Codes HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Alexander Darwin is an author living near Boston with his wife and three daughters. Outside of writing, he teaches and trains martial arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). He’s inspired by old-school Hong Kong action flicks, jRPGs, underdog stories and bibimbap bowls.

Outside of writing fiction, Alexander has written for publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine and SF Signal. His latest piece - "The Lost Diary of Anthony Bourdain" - was a featured piece in Rolling Stone’s January 2022 issue.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The second book in an action-packed science fiction trilogy set on a far future world where the fate of nations is determined by battle-hardened warriors who are trained to compete in brutal single combat.

In a world where single combat determines the fate of nations, the Grievar fight in the Circles so that the rest can remain at peace. But given the stakes, things are never so simple. The Daimyo govern from the shadows and plot to gain an edge by unnaturally enhancing their Grievar Knights.

Cego and his team return to the world’s most prestigious combat school, The Lyceum. Though he'd like to focus on his martial studies, Cego feels the pull of his mysterious past and two missing brothers.
Solara Halberd, daughter of the fighting legend, embarks on her own quest to bury the past. She must utilize every lesson her father taught her to explore unknown lands where evil lurks in the shadows.

FORMAT/INFO: Grievar's Blood is the second book in The Combat Codes series. It was self-published by the author in 2021 and will be re-launched by Orbit books in the U.S. on 5th December 2023 and in the U.K. on 7th December 2023 and contains 432 pages.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Combat Codes started with a young boy from the Underground fighting pits and evolved into a gritty story set in a world where nations uses Grievar's to settle disputes in single combat. It had some familiar fantasy tropes but was well paced and structured.  In this book, Alexander Darwin builds on the solid base he created to bring the story into its own in a remarkable manner.

This book retains all the strengths in the previous entry. Fast-paced, with tons of action, character development, as well as a lot more insight into the world and Cego's past. As expected, each chapter is preceded by excerpts from the combat codes, which serve to highlight the grim reality of the Grievars' existence.

While early chapters in the first book gave it a fantasy feel, this fleshes out the technology that the Grievar and the Damyo use, without diving into too much detail. The martial art bouts make for some excellent thrills, and are all the more realistic because of the acknowledgement of the training that goes into cultivating the necessary skills. As someone interested in athletic pursuits, I really enjoyed how the characters have to work hard, and nothing is handed to them on a silver platter. They have weaknesses, learn, and there is a constant emphasis on the usage of the right technique. There aren't as many fight scenes in this book, but surely are written well enough to please even the most hardcore action fans. 

There are more familiar tropes being used in this book that might be familiar to epic fantasy readers, but the ambitious expansion of the world and character arcs is anything but. Like I stated before, Cego's PoV is in the minority page-length here, but what this ambitious book does to his arc is definitely worth the payoff. As for the new characters, their addition helps expand the world, and what started out as a fight school coming-of-age story has now exploded into one with political strife.

CONCLUSION: I applaud the author for not restricting this book to one of action sequences and familiar settings. This is a more ambitious, polished book that offers more peeks at the world and power hierarchy, and is a fantastically structured, well paced story that embraces the potential promised by The Combat Codes. An easy recommend from me.



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