Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Blood King
Gail Z. Martin
Solaris, 623 pages

The Blood King
Gail Z. Martin
Gail Z. Martin discovered her passion for science fiction, fantasy, and ghost stories in elementary school. The first story she wrote -- at age five -- was about a vampire. Her favorite TV show as a preschooler was Dark Shadows. At age 14, she decided to become a writer. She enjoys attending science fiction/fantasy conventions, Renaissance fairs, and living history sites. She is married and has three children, a Himalayan cat, and a golden retriever.

Gail Z. Martin's Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Summoner

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

The Winter Kingdoms are in turmoil. In Margolan, Prince Jared has brutally seized the throne, and now troops loyal to him wreak havoc and spread terror throughout the land, crushing all those who dare oppose him. His advisor, the undead mage Foor Arontala, continues to feed souls to a dark artifact, all in the hopes of resurrecting the dread Obsidian King by the time of the Hawthorn Moon, which approaches swiftly. Creatures born of magic stalk the borders of neighboring kingdoms, and the restless spirits of the unjustly dead cry out for revenge.

All hope lies in the hands of a small group of people who have thus far escaped Jared's clutches. Chief among them is Prince Martris Drayke, his half-brother, who's just come into his powers as a Summoner, capable of speaking with, banishing, or appeasing the dead. The feisty warrior-princess Kiara of Isencroft rides at his side, determined to be with Tris no matter what happens. The healer Carina, the mercenary Jonmarc Vahanian, the bard Carroway, the soldier Ban Soterius, and the vampiric Gabriel make up the rest of Tris' core allies, and together, they plan for war. For they'll have to raise an army, make their way back to the Margolan palace, defeat Jared, destroy Foor Arantala, and prevent the rise of the Obsidian King, and it'll all hinge upon Tris mastering his powers and honing his newfound skills in time. But even the training might be enough to kill him...

The Blood King is the sequel to The Necromancer, continuing the saga of an exiled prince and his companions as they struggle to survive in a world filled with spirits and chaos. Gail Z. Martin paints a bleak picture of lands caught in a web of madness and oppression, as she chronicles the various journeys and paths taken by Tris and his assorted allies, making for a fairly dark story, the only real points of light being found in brief moments of hope and the growing relationships between some of the characters. It's an interesting world, with the dead playing a huge part, not just in the current action, but in all aspects of life. It's clear that the living and the dead are intertwined, with the vampiric vayash moru falling somewhere in the middle, and thanks to Tris' powers and role as the Summoner, we see just how these pieces all fit together.

This is a fairly complex story, with a whole lot going on between the different characters and their various missions, but Gail Z. Martin is pretty good at keeping things from getting out of hand. The characters are all different enough, and their voices strong enough, that it's easy to remember who's who, and what's what.

My main complaint about this book is that it's huge, and drawn-out, and it feels it, like a movie that goes on for an extra thirty minutes. Frankly, I think there may be too much attention paid to the various miseries brought down upon Margolan -- after all, how many times do we need to be told about destroyed villages, people being killed, conscripted, or used for nefarious purposes, and restless spirits, before we get the idea? But we keep getting the same stories, from different faceless extras, even as our heroes see these things for themselves. It's well-told and descriptive, but repetitive and redundant after a while. This book could have been trimmed without ruining any of the plot progression, buildup, or inevitable climax. Either that, or it could have been made into two books, given how many side missions our heroes participate in before they're ready for the grand finale.

I'm also disappointed in the villains. Jared himself is a nasty, despicable, disgusting, unredeemable waste of humanity with no mitigating qualities whatsoever. He's Evil for the sake of being Evil, raping whatever women he sees and tossing their bodies down the garderobe, or making art out of people impaled on stakes. It's hard to take him seriously when he does everything but twirl a moustache and throw kittens out of windows to show just how bad off the land is with him as king. Of course we're going to root for Tris, but wouldn't it be nice if Jared had something to humanize him? Of course, he's just an obstacle on the way to the real Big Bad, Foor Arantala. Who's pretty much your average megalomaniacal sociopath who wants to summon something far worse for the sake of being powerful and evil. I can't help but feel let down by the bad guys, and since the hero is often defined by the things he fights, it diminishes the quality of Tris' success. Honestly? Our heroes had it easy come time for the end. All the help they needed was right there as they needed it, with allies around every corner and people begging to join up against Jared's tyranny. There were only a few moments where I worried for any of the main characters as a result.

As epic dark fantasy goes, The Blood King was entertaining and satisfactory, but not outstanding. Martin's strengths lie in worldbuilding and the big picture, but there are still places where things could have been improved. I felt like I was struggling to get to the end of this book, given the length and occasional slow pacing. I'll be interested in seeing what Martin does next, as I believe she has a lot of potential.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

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