Blood’s Pride is Evie Manieri’s debut novel, and the first in a proposed series. The Shadari people have been conquered by the Norlanders and are now slaves in their own land, mining ore that the Norlanders use to make magic blades. For twenty years the Shadari have dreamed of freedom while the Norlanders dream of escaping the desert and returning in glory to their homeland. From the sidelines a third people, the Nomas, watch. When the Shadari hire a famous mercenary known as the Mongrel to help overthrow the Norlanders, they get more than they bargained for. For the Mongrel has close ties to all three peoples and her own agenda that has nothing to do with anyone else’s.
A vast array of details
One of the first things you notice when reading Blood’s Pride is the attention to worldbuilding. All of the action takes place in a small city-state called the Shadar. The Shadar is set between the ocean and a soaring cliff face. At the top of the cliff is a desert. Sounds simple, right? Except that there are three distinct peoples living in this area. Each has its own religious beliefs, its own magic, and its own weaknesses. While in Blood’s Pride Manieri only gives us the history of the Shadari, it’s very clear that the Nomas and the Norlanders also have their own complex histories that will influence the series’ plot in books to come.
The characters are also complex and well fleshed out. We have major characters from all three cultures, and they all react to their situation in ways that make sense for someone in each of their positions. However, all of these major characters are in some way breaking away from their society. Sometimes it’s ideology that has made them an outsider, sometimes it’s circumstance, and sometimes it’s growing beyond the bounds of what is acceptable to one of the cultures. However, this makes it a bit harder to understand how each of these societies work because the characters through which you learn about them are busy breaking the molds.
Maybe too many details
Not only is there a large array of major characters, but there are six characters who get point of view. Those points of view are also not neatly separated at chapter breaks, but sometimes change from one paragraph to the next with little transition to help the reader out. On one page I’m following Isa as she walks one way down a hallway, and then suddenly I’m following Rho going the opposite way, and I need to back up to figure out where Isa went and why I’m not with her anymore. I’ve said this before in previous reviews, and I’ll say it again: I hate bouncing in and out of so many characters’ heads. I’m also not a fan of transitions between points of view that aren’t smooth enough that they take the majority of the work away from the reader. I don’t like to have to think about which character’s head I’m in. This may not bother a lot of other readers, but it bothers me. So many details also meant that I was left with a lot of questions about all three cultures. Why do the Norlanders dislike physical deformities? I don’t know. There are a lot of things I don’t know because so many bases had to be covered relatively quickly.
I’d also call the sheer breakneck speed of the plot problematic. The entire 528 page novel takes place over the course of about a week, with the majority of the action taking place over two or three days. No one in the novel has time to take anything in and make a carefully considered decision. There aren’t a lot of relaxed points in the pacing. While those can make a book feel longer, they also provide good stopping points for a book that’s going to take even the fastest reader a bit of time to get through. There’s also not a lot of time for convincing character changes in that small of a period. Instead, the changes that do happen are not the result of the events of the novel but of events that have happened previous to the novel’s opening, which means the reader doesn’t get to really relish those changes.
Why should you read this book?
Blood’s Pride is a strong debut, for all the problems I found with it. Many of my issues with Blood’s Pride stem from the fact that I am a very picky reader, and that I see enough talent in Manieri’s work so far to know that if she puts in the time and the effort she can become the kind of author that we at the Ranting Dragon are avid about. But she’s not there yet. However, with a richly detailed world and a lot of well done action, Blood’s Pride is still an epic fantasy well worth reading.