Kindle Edition, 442 pages
Published April 2016 by Amazon Digital Services (first published December 1st, 2015)
“Hours after the mental onslaught by Edward, Mòrag is still trying to piece things together. She trains daily with Colonel Tesso, in an attempt to bring her physical skills up to the standard of her mental ones.
Brax continues to struggle with visions of his master and fears his presence will put Mòrag in danger as his mental chains are pulled tighter and his grip on reality begins to loosen.
The Spymaster’s daughter struggles to deal with her abusive father, hiding a secret she is prepared to take to the grave; while John, who’s life has been a lie, discovers the truth about himself through Ava. Brought together by a chance encounter, they work together to break the chains of blood and steel that imprison them.“
Don’t you love it when a sequel is actually better than the original instead of (what’s usually the case) worse? While I was complaining about the strange mixture of dystopian fantasy in my review of the first book in the series, the world building made a lot more sense to me in Chains of Blood and Steel. It might’ve been due to Karen trying to educate me on the matter, but I also honestly think that things are just way more balanced in this book. I’m even going as far as to say this could be a stand alone.
Many of the characters we’ve come to know in For King and Country are still present. Mòrag takes up a lot less of the stage and makes way for Ava, who becomes the protagonist in this story. I thought it was a nice twist to swap the roles of the main characters. Bold, because we all know what meddling with those main characters can do to some readers (there was a massive hatefest going on towards Sarah J. Maas last week due to a decision she made in her latest Throne of Glass book), yet fascinating to be able to read from a different point of view this time. The change was well executed in this book.
One thing that surprised me, though, was the transition of the Spymaster, General Marcs, from being a tough yet fair kind of guy, and a loving parent, to a horrible tyrant who abuses his daughter in every way he can. As I’ve already said before in some of my other reviews, I’m not a big fan of overdoing the violence just to make a point of the character being evil. When Marcs broke Ava’s bones, it was already way past the notion of him being a (really) bad person. I don’t mind graphic violence in general (unless there are some hideous rape scenes involved) but only if it serves a purpose. So yes, I would’ve appreciated it being toned down a notch when it came to this particular abusive father-daughter relationship.
The mythical creatures are still present, yet with a lot less emphasis on horses. I have to admit that I don’t feel any massive love towards horses but that’s mainly because I was never around any when I grew up. I rode a pony once when I was little, yet riding it would be a big overstatement since it didn’t want to move a single step when I was on it. Anyhow, I’m digressing (as usual)! For those of you who told me the first book was alright but the involvement of horses was a bit too much for you: this book is way less horse focussed, yet still has the fabulous mythical creatures in it. There was even a bear familiar in this one! An evil one at that!While it started off slow, once the pace picked up, I flew through this book in a matter of mere hours. I wanted to know what would happen to Ava and John. When someone would put a bloody sword through General Marcs…How the side storylines would turn out. If there would be any more martial art fights, using katanas and skilful kung-fu moves. Who would live and who would die. You know, generally, all the stuff which makes you enjoy reading in the first place!
I’m curious to see where book three picks up and if there’s a trend going on when it comes to the story getting better by the book. I’m also hoping there will be more of Rannoch, who still looks like this in my brain…
…(even though he doesn’t have any wings and should look more like a stallion/lion hybrid instead) in book three.
I’m giving this book four brownies because I enjoyed reading it and it held my attention until the end, even while I was suffering from a reading slump at the time!
A big thank you to Karen Gray for providing me with a copy of her book(s) in exchange for an honest opinion!
If this sounds like something you’d like to read as well, you’re in luck! For the next 15 days, Karen will be putting up the first three books in the series for FREE on Amazon. Each book will be available for 5 consecutive days:
For King and Country will be free from today until the 2nd of September @ https://t.co/VnKvi6vTVK
Chains of Blood and Steel will be free on the 3rd September until the 7th @ http://amzn.to/1TuLFtm
Battle of the Bannockburn will be free from the 8th September until the 12th @ http://amzn.to/1VuCVmZ
For more information, read Karen’s own post about this promo @ https://thistleyroses.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/for-king-and-country-free-from-amazon-29th-aug-2nd-sept/
(Other) Links to the book: