I am sorry I have been so slow with the reviews this month, there has been a lot to get through and talk about. August has been a hard month for a fantasy book to stand out in, simply because of how many good things have come out. There have been over nine books I was highly anticipating that have released in about a 5 week stint, and getting to them all is proving difficult – but worthwhile. Up today we have Blood of the Gods, by David Mealing. Blood is the sequel to Mealing’s debut book, Soul of the World, which you can find a review of here, and an interview about the book here. The long story short is that Soul of the World was a batshit crazy book, filled to the brim with batshit crazy magic, that embraced its batshit crazy and confusing nature to tell a great story. With the sequel I was intensely curious to see what direction Mealing would take the story, and I was impressed and engrossed with the result.
Blood of the Gods picks up right where Soul of the World left off, but talking about the plot is difficult, as a large part of their charm is slowly understanding what is going on. So, if I can’t tell you about the plot what can I tell you about? Well, I can tell you that you should read these books. Our story still follows the same three characters from book one: Sarine, an artist street urchin with a magical pet dragon; Arak’jur, a guardian of the one of the native tribes with powerful animal and elemental magic; and Erris, a high ranking military officer with magic bound to leylines through the land. They are joined by a new fourth POV, Tigai, who has an entirely new school of magic and whose story initially seems completely unrelated to our original trio. All four of the characters remain in great form and bring a lot of different personality to the story. In addition, I think it says a lot about the quality of character writing that I still remembered (fondly) the full range of support characters as I went into Blood of the Gods.
What is most interesting about Blood of the Gods is that the story starts to make a lot of concrete sense. Seemingly random powers and events from both book one and two start to be understandable, and slowly the puzzle of what is going on in the world will click in place. When Mealing first put out Soul of the World I thought that the book was somewhat chaotic because he had decided to embrace ridiculousness and was focusing more on telling an imaginative story than on one that was polished and streamlined. After reading Blood of the Gods I have realized that he was playing a long con, and that he is actually somehow doing both.
However, the real core of these books is their magic. Back when I reviewed Soul of the World, I commented on the fact that the number of magics in the book was frankly absurd. The characters of the story have a ridiculous number of powers, and by the end of the book I was just starting to get a handle on the 30 some powers I was trying to keep track of. I was looking forward to continuing to familiarize myself with these powers in book two, which was an incredibly naive thought that I imagine David would laugh at if he ever reads this review. Book two doubles down, and by that I mean he pretty much doubles the number of magics in the book. If this sounds insane, well you aren’t wrong, but as I briefly talked about in the last review – it works because Mealing knows what he is doing as an author. The powers are never used as a deus ex machina, and despite being insanely numerous, are fairly well-defined. Instead, Mealing has created a world where our protagonists are constantly meeting new people, friend and foe, that they have to assess and work with/around as they figure out their magic. It makes you excited to keep reading and see what new magical person will be on the next page. Mealing also has an impressive imagination, and despite being up to 40 some powers by the end of Soul of the World, the magics remained fun and inventive with little overlap.
I can only imagine how much planning must have gone into a storyboard and world of this scope. While the first book took place in a set of colonies who had thrown off their parent country American revolution style, the second book expands the scope massively to the full globe. We spend a significant amount of time on other continents and learning about a number of other culture and people. The worldbuilding is functional but slightly uninspired. Most of the people and places you will see are fairly obvious fantasy adaptations of our various real world peoples (Native Americans, American Colonies, Europe, Asia, etc.). There is nothing wrong with it, but it lacks the imaginative brilliance of Mealing’s magic systems. In addition, the plot mostly continued at a fast and exciting speed; however, the book is long and it did feel like it flagged a little around the 80% mark as it built to a climax. There was a prolonged battle scene involving Erris near the end of the book that felt slightly unnecessary to an already long book. At the end of the day though, this book was a fantastic read and these flaws did not do much to dampen my enthusiasm as I systematically tore through it.
Mealing has managed to get me to reassess his skill as an author with his second book, Blood of the Gods. While I initially thought he was a crazy imaginative author who might need a little polish; now I think he is a crazy imaginative author who clearly knows what he is doing. Mealing is an author with incredible potential, and if you can handle not knowing what is going on for a massive payoff, I highly recommend you check out both Soul of the World and Blood if the Gods. I just hope that at some point in the future Mealing releases an appendix of all the powers he has introduced in his story.
Rating: Blood of the Gods – 9.0/10