Steel and Sorrow: Book Two of the Blood and Tears Trilogy
Joshua P. Simon
Trade Paper, $14.95
ebook $3.99 Kindle Nook Smashwords
Joshua P. Simon set himself a high standard with his premier novel, Rise and Fall (reviewed here). He maintains that high standard in his second novel.
I’m going to avoid giving too many details about the story so that I don’t give away either of the twists at the end of the previous book. (They were great twists, too.) The story takes place the next year. The civil war in Cadonia continues, with rebel nobles trying to wrest the throne from Queen Elyse. The Hell Patrol and a few loyal nobles are all that stand between her and the traitors, but the mercenaries have their own wounds to deal with, not all of them physical. On the continent of Hesh, Tobin continues his war of conquest, unaware that a beautiful snake shares his bed.
There’s plenty of intrigue and and betrayal. The battle scenes, and there are several, are complex and exciting. Simon has his soldiers do more than use their swords. The Hell Patrol fights with their brains as much as they do with their bodies. You can smell the blood, hear the screams, and taste the fear.
I appreciate the addition of maps. It helped visualize the geography, which I had gotten wrong on a number of points. The cover art continues to be stark and effective.
The characters grow more complex, and if you’ve read the first book, you know Simon won’t hesitate to kill off major characters, and not always on the battlefield. This adds a level of suspense you don’t always find in this type of novel. Their relationships avoid many of the cliches you find in some fantasy novels. I don’t remember character names well, and I usually have to reacquaint myself with who’s who when I read the second volume of a series, and sometimes when I read the third and fourth. The characters are individuals here, and I had to do very little of that.
Second volumes of trilogies have the reputation of often being filler between the setup in the first volume and the conclusion in the third. That’s not the case here. There is a definite story arc that spans the trilogy, but there are plot lines in this book that are wrapped up nicely. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, though. Such as where is Lord Illyan getting his information and why won’t he reveal his source to Elyse? (I have no idea.) What was Arine trying to tell Elyse about what was happening at home during the final battle? (I suspect Gauge has staged a coup, but I could be wrong. He is my favorite suspect for having sent…never mind.) And I think Krytien will turn out to be the most powerful mage in years. I better stop speculating. Don’t want to give something away unintentionally.
I will say this. I like this series. I like it a lot. Joshua Simon writes solid military fantasy. If you like the Black Company, you should check it out. Steel and Sorrow is a featured book at Adventures Fantastic Books.