Genre: Fantasy — Epic
Series: The Children Trilogy #2
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (May 31, 2016)
Length: 448 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Ben Peek’s The Children Trilogy is a richly detailed, intricately plotted epic fantasy filled with magic, mystery, political machinations, world-wide conflicts, and complex, diverse characters. The immensity of the setting for this sweeping story hard to capture in a brief sentence or two, as the ancient history of this place – with its dead gods and immortal “god-touched” people – is just too prodigious; this vividly alive world with its many societies needing to be experienced to truly understand. Leviathan’s Blood a second book which refuses to be a mere placeholder for the concluding volume of a trilogy, but rather expands upon its predecessor, The Godless, adding new layers, new characters, new threats, new lands, and new wonders – even as it changes the familiar faces which you believed you already knew.
As book one, The Godless, ended, the city of Mireea has been destroyed by the armies of the Leeran, who fight for their new child god. The refugees from the destruction fleeing to the city of Yelfam, where they are not especially welcomed, but viewed with deep suspicion.
Among the Mireea refugees are two familiar characters: Ayae and Zaifyr. Each finding themselves in stressful situations. Ayae has been given the tantalizing possibility of acceptance, since the Yelfam are ruled by the Keepers (god-touched people like herself), but, even though the Mireeans do not love her, Ayae’s loyalties are still strong toward her adopted people, and she finds herself wary of the companionable words of the Yelfam and their Keepers. Zaifyr, on the other hand, arrives to the city as a prisoner, having allegedly killed two Keepers, and must await trial; his position complicated by his history as one of the original god-touched of this world: those beings who built empires and waged war across the whole of the land millennia ago before being defeated and rehabilitated – supposedly.
Also returning to the story are Heast, Captain of the Spire and Buerelan the mercenary. Heast is the battle-scarred, world-weary soldier who finally finds himself freed from his oaths as protector of the Mireeans but cannot extract himself from the ongoing conflicts. Buerelan is a mercenary sent by the Mireeans to spy on the new child god; the failure of his mission and the death of his blood-brother sending him back to his former homeland with a bottle filled with the soul of his comrade.
Each of these returning characters are caught up in a world wide event, which is spreading outward from its epicenter. New people and places disturbed by its shock waves. The true outcome of the rising of a new god not yet fully understood, but being determined day-by-day by the people who fight for and against the rising tide of events.
There are lots of wonder elements to Leviathan’s Blood, but at the top of my list is Ben Peek’s deft and creative rendering of a sweeping, diverse fantasy setting. The world he has written into existence feeling real, functioning in a realistic way. The overarching theme of the narrative a seeming desire to demonstrate that even in an epic fantasy world people’s choices have consequences on the world around them; they do affect society as a whole; and they are not always made with the most enlightened motive in mind – even by the supposed heroes.
This theme, or idea, is perfectly illustrated by the numerous characters. Each of these people the very embodiment of realistic character construction with strengths, flaws, and biases. Their decisions the driving force of the narrative, even as numerous, interconnected plots branch out before them. Readers constantly befuddled by many of their (seemingly) poor decisions. But the head-scratching nature of what these people do is what makes them so easy to visualize living beside, because they behave as if they are in our own real world. You know, the place where not all a person’s choices are made solely on the basis of what is right or wrong. Where societal biases and prejudices do play rolls in decision making. Where companion and family ties pull people one way or another. Where feelings in critical moments play a roll in the greatest of choices. And in Mr. Peeks writing, he isn’t afraid to embrace that, showcase these very human frailties, integrated them into the world, and by doing so turn this place into a real society.
But every coin has two sides to it. For every strength there is a corresponding weakness. And in Leviathan’s Blood, the great complexity of the narrative is the cause of its very weakness. Because complexity takes time. Lots of it, in fact. And that means, the biggest criticism I have of this novel is its pacing: It reads slow. All the minute details and carefully crafted characterization taking up immense page time. Mr. Peek’s tendency to break the story down into short chapters, which shift back and forth between the numerous main characters, exacerbating the problem rather than alleviating it, as no real momentum can be built in the different plots before another shift takes place. All of this causing Leviathan’s Blood to really bog down at times, making it a real chore to stay focused through these slow periods.
Realism. Diversity. Complexity. Socio-political upheavals. Leviathan’s Blood is built upon each and every one of these mantras. Ben Peek creating a soaring epic of immense proportions, one which demands your complete attention to finish but rewards you in return with a unique reading experience that you will not forget. The Children’s Trilogy shaping up to become one for the fantasy ages.
I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank him for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.