Saturday, October 29, 2011

Indie Book Review: Blood of Requiem

I really, really wanted to like Blood of Requiem.  Really.  I respect Daniel Arenson and sort of know him through different online indie writer communities.  His books have gorgeous cover art, and from his comments, I know he's a consummate professional.

Burt, beyond that, Blood of Requiem has weredragons.  Seriously, how cool is that?

So, I was looking forward to this one.  Unfortunately, it really wasn't my cup of tea. I prefer character driven novels with a certain realism to them.  That wasn't Blood of Requiem.

There's a lot of action in Blood of Requiem.  I got about sixty percent of the way through it, and I'm going to guess seventy percent of that is a battle, a chase, or the lead bad guy remembering raping/torturing or actually raping/torturing someone.  Character and plot development are rather thin on the ground.

The lead bad guy, Dies Irae, is EVIL!  And in case we didn't get the idea when we found out he's personally responsible for the almost eradication of an entire species, he's also a serial raping sadist. And we get to spend some time in his head, enjoying the rape and torture of innocents.  They are distinctly uncomfortable scenes.  Very well written scenes, evocative of pure evil, but not exactly comfortable reading.  Not to say that they are especially graphic, this isn't The Human Centipede, but it's still a lot more rape than I want to deal with in my fiction.

I like my bad guys at least vaguely realistic.  In the case of evil overlords, that means the evil overlord has to provide some level of value to his people, or else he doesn't get to be the evil overlord for very long.  Absolute psychopaths can only rule by fear alone for so long (history seems to indicate this is about three years) before someone kills them. Dies Irae has been ruling for ten years, and it doesn't look like he's going anywhere anytime soon. 

Put more plainly: if you want to maintain control, you've got to keep the nobles happy.  Keeping them so afraid that they won't look you in the eye for fear of being eaten alive by baby griffins (No, that's not hyperbole; that scene is in the book.) is unlikely to produce happy nobles.  What it's likely to produce is poison in your cup, a troop of 'loyal' soldiers who put blades in your back, and if that doesn't work, outright insurrection.

Irae came to power through a civil war, which begs another question: how bad were things before?  The 'good guys' were the previous rulers.  They, for obvious reasons, have a very romantic view of their past life, but still, part of running a successful coup involves making sure that your nobles are better off now than they were before.  With constant rape, indiscriminate torture, and years of bloody war, unless things were really bad before, I'm not seeing the nobles going along with this.

I also like it when the characters don't heal up like Wile E. Coyote.  With all the action in this book, obviously people get hurt: often and badly.  But, within a matter of minutes (occasionally hours) they're back up and fighting.  And while I can understand that once or twice in extreme circumstances, this happens over and over.  Maybe, at some point in the book after I stopped reading, we learn that there's a horde of clerics casting healing spells, but as of the point where I stopped, I had to assume that everyone involved had Wolverine-level healing powers, but no one mentions it as out of the ordinary.  The main characters are all Vir Requis (weredragons) so maybe the super healing speed is part of that, but since all but these six Vir Requis were slaughtered in combat, apparently super speedy healing is not a race trait.

So, Blood of Requiem didn't do it for me.  It's well written in a visual sense.  If you want to know what everything looks like, this is a great book.  If you love action-packed books with absolutely despicable villains, this one might be for you.  But by half-way in, I had to give up.  I didn't want to spend anymore time in Dies Irae's head.  It's too dark, too painful a place. I didn't want to go on another chase. I'd already been on more than I could count.  I didn't want to watch another rape.  One would have been more than enough, and I was way past one by sixty percent in.  I skimmed ahead to the end, reading bits and pieces, and saw that the book wasn't going to change.  It wasn't suddenly going to become character driven or realistic. So, I put it aside.


  1. That's too bad. The cover on this one is gorgeous, but like you, the head of that character doesn't sound like somewhere I want to spend a lot of time. That said, it may be someone else's cuppa.

  2. Arenson really does get the most beautiful fantasy covers. I absolutely adore his artists work.

    And I know there are people out there who dig an EVIL tyrant and don't care how he got there or how he's staying there as long as there's a whole lot of action toward getting rid of him. And I think they'd love this book.

    Alas, I'm not one of them.

  3. I've made it a point of avoiding this author after reading two of his books. Your review of this one doesn't challenge my resolve.

    I do love his cover art though - first class.