Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 December 2021
You can find all of our reviews at Black Dragon Books
It’s been a while since I read Of Blood and Fire, in fact, I’ve neglected many reviews for months due to being so busy launching my website, but it stuck in my mind. I first came across Of Blood and Fire by chance on Twitter. The artwork on the cover caught my eye. I checked out the author’s website and ended up purchasing the numbered hardback edition, which came with some lovely extras.
Before we get on to the review, a quick shout out to Ryan’s brother, Aron, who is the artist behind the amazing imagery of Ryan’s world. His work is truly stunning. Go check it out!
"I didn’t want this. I certainly didn’t ask for it, but it is what fate has given me, and I will not walk away."
Of Blood and Fire is tropey, there is no denying the impact of classical fantasy on Ryan’s work, particularly in the earlier stages of Of Blood and Fire. If you like classical fantasy, then you are in for a treat. If not, I’d still urge you to give this book a go as Ryan brings much more of his own style and the world to the forefront as we progress. And, this series, The Bound and the Broken is set to be a five-book series, so there is a lot of scope for Ryan to work with. Also, having read The Fall, the prequel novella, to Of Blood and Fire, I can tell you I am confident that this series will be epic and well worth your time.
Of Blood and Fire takes place in Ryan’s world, Epheria, centuries after the fall of The Order (this is what The Fall is about, and I recommend reading it first). It begins in a small village, following Calen and his friends, Rist and Dann, as they prepare for, and complete, The Proving: a test to prove their transition from boys to men.
Following The Proving and its events the boys, men, travel to a nearby town on an errand for Calen’s father, who is the local Blacksmith. It is here where events begin to unfold and take a dramatic turn changing their lives forever. They are thrown into the middle of a war that has been ongoing for centuries. They find themselves in the company of rebellion leaders; a very interesting group to be sure, which includes a Rakina (broken), elf, and giant, among others.
Calen is the main POV throughout the book, though his sister Ella has her own story ARC too, and she becomes increasingly interesting (especially in book 2, Of Darkness and Light). She finds herself accompanied by Faenir, a large wolfpine who is her protector. I’m an animal lover so a bit of a sucker for animal companions. Of which, is there a better companion than a Dragon? Dragons and their riders, Draleid, develop intense emotional and physical bonds. I assume this is where the name of the series comes from. The Bound (dragons and their Draleid) and the Broken (those who have lost their dragon to the void, Rakina).
"Death could not be beautiful, but sometimes, it was necessary."
I found Of Blood and Fire to essentially be in three parts, which helps the pacing. The first third of the book is essentially about introducing the unassuming boys, their families, their quiet village, and their journey through The Proving. It’s the classic ‘coming of age’ we are used to.
Part two follows the classic tropes of ‘the chosen one’ and ‘the reluctant hero’. These are the events that take place after the boys find themselves in the company of rebellion leaders. Their shock at what the world is like beyond their village. The story kicks up a gear at this stage and you start to see more of Ryan’s own stamp as he takes these classical tropes and runs with them.
Throughout the first two-thirds of the book, Ryan does a great job of worldbuilding, introducing lore, and developing the personalities and relationships of its main characters. This series is slated to be five books so there is definitely a need to lay down strong foundations, and this is done well. Epheria is a complex world and there are many players.
The last third of the book increases another gear, something happens, which is ultra-cool, and the pace quickens. The rebellion begins to kick into gear and the cogs start whirling in your mind about the possibilities.
There are a few terms here and there that are a little overused but nothing to cause a major gripe
Overall, I enjoyed Of Blood and Fire, and as I mentioned, I’ve already read book two having received an ARC. This is definitely a series I am invested in an I am looking forward to Ryan’s second novella, The Exile, and book three!
"May The Mother embrace you, and The Father protect you.
May The Warrior guide your hand, and The Maiden guide your mind.
May The Smith keep your blade sharp, and The Sailor see you to safe shores. "