The Blood King by Gail Z. Martin

March 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm (Gail Z. Martin, Reviews)

Warning: contains spoilers for The Summoner.

Gail Z. Martin - The Blood KingI’ve been getting lazy about writing up entries lately. That’s what comes from finishing books on Fridays. When I fist finish them, I’m brimming with opinions and can’t wait to sit down and type them all out. But when it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m not going to have time to write them up until Monday, well, those few days really sap my enthusiasm. So here we are, three weeks later, finally getting some thoughts down about The Blood King.

The Blood King picks up right where The Summoner leaves off, and though it’s only the second book in Gail Z. Martin’s Chronicles of the Necromancer series, it aims to finish off the Matris vs. Jared storyline. So Tris and his crew are now the guests of King Staden of Dhasson (at least I think – that’s the trouble with late reviews; plenty of time to forget the little details like names), who has promised to buy him an army in aid to reclaim Margolan.

The first half of the book is slow moving. While Matris Drayke heads off the complete his magic training, Vahanian, Soterius and handful of others work out their strategies for the coming campaign. Basically, the highlight of The Summoner, its marvelous pacing, is completely destroyed for the sequel.

While at first it looked to be a book that would be primarily a military campaign, which I can get excited about, it ended up focusing on a lot of mundane encounters and training exercises. Honestly, it felt like Gail Martin was trying to stretch the story a bit.

In The Summoner, Gail Z. Martin used a number of basic fantasy archetypes and clichés, making it a pretty unoriginal story. This time around, instead of merely repeating basic formula, she’s repeating herself, reusing a number of plot devices from the first book, recapping character descriptions, even repeating event descriptions between one chapter and the next. It’s no longer the same old story told in a new voice (which redeemed the book to an extent), but now the same old story told in the same old voice.

The prose itself is marginally cleaner, but that’s only to be expected. Characters were all more fleshed out, offering the back stories of Vahanian, Soterius and Carroway, along with adding more screen time for Gabriel and Mikhail, Tris’s vayash moru allies. And she added some inner-conflict for Tris to deal with – the possibility that he may have to sacrifice Kiara and his other friends in order to defeat Arontala – which is something that I was complaining about on The Summoner. But on the down side, the “love stories” were played up significantly, much to my irritation. I enjoyed her approach to this in The Summoner, when everyone was too busy running for their lives and distrusting one another so that there was no time to get all emotional. But this time… well, I’m sure there are plenty of people who will appreciate a more romantic bent, but I’m not one of them.

About halfway through, just when I’m sure that this is going to drag on to another book, she finally gets to the point, and the story becomes readable again. Mostly.

I thought that she did a good job of portraying the decay and oppression that has permeated the kingdom of Margolan in the few months since Jared took over. Of course, Jared is probably the most incompetent leader I have ever read. I’m sure that she wanted to make him a poor king, somebody completely evil that the reader can’t find any sympathy for, but he ended up as stupid and unbelievable. He’s was a prince right? Surely he must have been training his entire life to eventually be king, but he seems to be just making it up as he goes. So how can he let things get this bad? Well, he’s the bad guy, and that’s what bad guys do. I probably wasn’t supposed to think too far into it.

Despite some complaints along the way, I found the ending to be quite satisfying. Everything was properly foreshadowed, and even with a clever twist, it still felt natural in the context of her world. The only problem is that she may have wrapped things up a little too neatly, not leaving much room for the next book in the series. She’s obviously come up with something, but I’m not sure that I can be bothered to care.

So there it is. I probably would have had much more to say (and been able to say it better) had I done this three weeks ago. But I didn’t, so this is what we’re stuck with.

Overall Impression: Okay.

Final Thoughts: Gail Z. Martin does a decent job of wrapping up the story, but The Blood King fails to be quite so engaging as its predecessor.


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