This review is based on a beta copy I received from the author.
Following on from the author’s Rhenwars saga, Chains of Blood picks up long after the conclusion of that series. At first, detailing some of the changes that have happened in the intervening years, the characters are soon plunged into a new war when the Turan Khar invade, intent on capturing as many of the new mages as they can.
Similar to the preceding series, Chains of Blood has a primarily turnabout chapter setup; alternately following the two main characters. Both are new characters and, at first glance, quite dissimilar. Gil is one of the new generation of mages, powerful and, unfortunately, somewhat arrogant with it. However, as the Turan Khar gain more ground, he is forced to recognize his limitations and comes out the wiser for it. By comparison, Rylan is a simple farmer and former soldier with no knowledge of magic beyond stories of what it had done to his homeland. His growth throughout the book is possibly even greater than Gil’s. Some of the supporting characters carry over from the previous series although, while they are important to the ongoing narrative, the focus is primarily on the new characters.
It isn’t necessary to have read the previous series to understand and enjoy this novel, enough background is given without being overwhelming or distracting for the story. Having said that, those that have will find many little details that have greater impact.
The novel also continues the dark themes common to the author’s work. Two particularly harrowing moments stick out for me. The first is the opening chapter so new readers will soon get a sense of what awaits. The second is later in the novel where Gil confronts a friend who has been captured and ‘turned’ to service of the Turan Khar. Even once freed from their influence, the mage is broken, wanting nothing more than to go back to them and disconsolate about their loss.
Chains of Blood is a marvellous expansion of Spencer’s existing world and one that offers both a continuing pleasure for existing readers and a great starting point for new ones.
5 out of 5 chained mages.