The story of the Norlanders and the Shadari is that of conquest. Two decades ago, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadari homelands, killing their strongest people and enslaving the rest. Nearby, the desert people, the Nomas, watched in silence, despite Shadari calls for aid. Now, Lord Eonar rules over the Norlanders still far from home, while his three grown children squabble amongst themselves for power. But the Shadari aren’t as subdued as they might seem, and it will soon be time for all three of Eonar’s children to grow up and face the people that they have lived with for their entire lives.
This book hit me at just the right time, when I was completely ready to read an immersive fantasy novel, and though I didn’t fall in love with it, I really liked it. All of the components fell together neatly and I really liked what the author did with the story.
The Norlanders, who reminded me of fantasy-Vikings with their often pale coloring and actual cold skin and blood, are very typical conquerers, reigning over a much larger popular of darker skinned “natives”, the Shadari, who have a king and culture of their own. The Shadari can hardly bear to touch Norlanders, and the language that Norlanders speak is actually impossible for Shadari to hear or understand, though the Norlanders can speak the Shadari language.
What I liked about this book, in part at least, is how well it demonstrated the way that conquerers can integrate into the societies completely by accident. Eonar’s children have grown up with the Shadari, in very close contact, and as a result see this supposedly conquered people as, well, people, rather than the “Other” their parents’ generation easily attacked. Many of the Norlanders who were later transplants don’t integrate quite the same way, and the learning process is still going on by the end of the book. There are examples of “good” and “bad” characters in both and the plot revolves around their machinations, rather than any external events.
With this in mind, I found myself caught up in the plot and wondering what was going to happen next. Manieri also includes a number of stronger female characters, though this is still largely a world where men dominate the highest leadership positions. There are a few worthy characters that had me rooting for them and I really liked where the author took the story. This is the first of a trilogy, I believe, but I thought the ending would have been quite satisfactory even if it wasn’t. Most things wrap up fairly well, with just enough still happening to keep readers ready for the next installment.
Blood’s Pride is a fantasy novel that I enjoyed greatly – and if you like character-driven fantasy, you might want to try it too.
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