Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel
Rebecca L. Frencl
Commonwealth Books, 278 pages

Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel
Rebecca L. Frencl
Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel is Rebecca L. Frencl's first book.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Commonwealth Publishing, a Canadian publishing house, is new to the field of science fiction and fantasy. Although they haven't been aggresively pursuing the market, they have already released several novels in both genres. One of these is the first novel, Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel by Rebecca Frencl.

Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel begins with the appearance of a typical story which would appear in one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Rae and Daro are trained assassins sent to carry out a sentence of death on the usurper queen, Morgan. Frencl quickly lets us know that as a child Rae had suffered from Morgan's attrocities which pulled her from her family. The title of the novel is enough of a clue that Rae will be pushed together with her family again before the novel is finished.

The Assassin's Guild to which Rae and Daro belong seems to be a legitimate guild, almost an autonomous nation. Although we are given hints to their workings, the people must hire their services, Frencl never really tries to explain their place in society. Villagers seem to be able to instantly spot the assassins and are more than willing to discuss tyrant's excesses with them. There seems to be no fear of reprisal for speaking against their rulers.

Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel is a first novel, written, I'm told, when the author was very young. As a first novel, the book is good, although it does suffer from a seeming lack of ability to plot. The story is told as a series of vignettes, which do not appear to have an over-riding goal. Although this is the way real life works, it tends to work less well within the confines of literature.

Many of the relationships seem to be reasonably ill-defined. Although there is a close bond (possibly love) between Daro and Rae, the two main character assassins who have been partnered for two years when the novel opens, they seem to have little understanding for how each other thinks and frequently fail to know the most basic background information on their partner.

Perhaps the biggest relationship problem in the book is the strange relationship between Rae and her eldest brother, Michael. Although Michael has believed Rae to be dead since she was a toddler, when he rediscovers her he instantly takes ownership of her, trying to force her into the mold of what he believes she should be. Similarly, Rae takes the same stance with regard to him and her other brothers. There is no attempt for any of the siblings to get to know each other. In many ways, Michael has the potential for being an even more interesting character than Rae or Daro, but he is merely used as a foil.

Despite these problems, Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel is an enjoyable book. In fact, the biggest problem with the book has absolutely nothing to do with Frencl's writing. I would hope that as Commonwealth becomes a more established publishing house, they'll pay more attention to proof-reading and copy-editing their books. Enough mis-spellings and dropped words appear in Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel to be very noticeable and, in some cases, effected the enjoyment of the novel.

Frencl has written some interesting characters in Bonds of Blood, Bonds of Steel and has begun to examine some interesting ideas. Many of the assassins/villains as hero books which have been released recently (Mary Gentle's Grunts or Eve Forward's Villains by Necessity) take a (failed) humorous look at the idea. Frencl successfully treats it in a serious manner.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide