Series: The Erebus Sequence #2
Cover artist: Alejandro Colucci
Published on/by: January 29th 2015, Gollancz
This edition: Paperback (416 pages)
Notes: I received this copy ahead of publication from the author, which makes him a fine gent indeed. *Tips hat* Also, as this review is of the second book in a series, please note that it will contain spoilers for the first.
Dino’s hero is long gone. His fellow Orfano, Lucien, left the vast castle of Demesne ten years before when Dino was only a child. And the world has changed since.
There is a new queen and she is promising a new democracy. But the aristocratic families of Landfall want the status quo. And there are other, older and darker, powers ranged against the queen.
A queen Dino has sworn to protect with his life. A queen he would even kill for.
But in this new world, childish fancies of heroism and love will be quickly tainted. The boy who weeps blood must tread a bloody path to heroism and self-belief.
Den Patrick’s richly imagined fantasy world of Landfall is a realm of betrayals and secrets. A world where idealism is fragile. And precious.
Den Patrick’s done it again.
The Boy With The Porcelain Blade was one of my favourite fantasy books of last year, and for very good reasons. Following this, The Boy Who Wept Blood had quite a lot to live up to. Having now read it, I can say this much – it doesn’t live up to the first book in this series. It surpasses it.
The damn thing made me cry, people.
In a well-played switch of character POV, there is (mostly) no sign of Lucien this time around. Instead, as the title and the synopsis suggest, this story belongs to Dino, who was just a boy the last time we saw him. Here, he’s doing a lot of growing up. This means having to deal with a lot of what Lucien had to, in a way. As Demesne’s new master swordsman and bodyguard to its new queen (Araneae/Anea), he has a great deal of responsibility. It also means he’s got a whole world of problems, as indicated by the scene upon which the book opens – someone’s trying to kill her. Cue swordfighting and snark – two of my favourite things, and written here delightfully well. As standards set for the rest of the book go, this is a pretty good one, and it only gets better.
In other less swordfighty areas, the kind of growing up that Dino has to do involves, shall we say, appropriately adult activities, and this is where the real emotional punch of this story swings from. I can’t and indeed won’t give too much away there, but the matter of Dino’s struggles with self-belief and the unavoidable nature of his feelings for a certain someone (I will leave the name out lest I get spoilery) is handled in a way that’s both frank with the facts, yet carefully, thoughtfully done. It’s a hit for me, and an important one, so well done there. (That said, I suspect it’s going to be a good long while before I can look at roses without getting teary-eyed.)
I mentioned that Lucien is largely absent from this chapter of the tale, and while this is true, I find it intriguing to think that he still maintains a sort of presence in Demesne. For much of this book, as with the first, his importance in Dino’s life is undeniable. He may not be there to be looked up to anymore, but nonetheless he permeates the book as a ghost of sorts. He might have gotten out of the hell he grew up in, but I spent much of this book suspecting that there were some people he left behind who still consider him (and what he did) to be dangerous, even as Dino still admires him. It was interesting food for thought, even if it’s only on my own part…
But, we were talking about Dino, weren’t we? As with the previous book, there is not much here to be happy about, generally speaking. There is still plenty of danger lurking, and nobody is safe from it. This is an idea that Den Patrick apparently takes quite seriously, and while it’s one that can turn me off if it’s overused (looking at you, Game of Thrones), it’s also one that I find immensely satisfying when it’s done right, and by that I mean remembering that little thing called balance. There might not be a happy ending, exactly, but there is always hope.
I might be emotionally ruined, but damn it, I’m still hooked. Maybe February is early days for saying this, but to hell with it. I just found one of my favourite fantasy books of 2015.