So, it's with some reluctance that I state I don't think Bloody Rose lives up to the example of its predecessor. It's not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination and is even quite entertaining but it lacks a number of things which made its predecessor great. Switching from its previous protagonists to an entirely new "band" was always going to be controversial but, sadly, I worry the third book in the trilogy will not fill me with the same level of excitement as this one.
Before we get into that, though, let's talk about what's good in the book. Nicholas Eames has an amazing grasp of making Dungeons and Dragons fantasy awesome. The mercenary bands of his world are an awesome collection of wandering bards, fighters, wizards, elves, and satyrs. Okay, there's dwarves missing but no one is perfect.
The action is great, the stakes heavy, and we have a good villain built up from the previous book. Most of all, I appreciate Bloody Rose's moral dilemma. The previous book had her as Rose, a young woman who was eager to get out of the shadow of her father before getting in over her head. Instead of learning her lesson, Nicholas Eames nicely deduces this would only make her bitter and more determined to prove herself.
The protagonist of the story isn't Rose herself, though. Instead, it is a young lesbian farm girl who has dreams of living up to the memory of her departed mother. Tam Hashford serves as our "outsider's perspective in" on the band known as Fable. She's a classic take on an archetype and works reasonably well as we see her own desire contrasted against Rose's. She swiftly falls in love with one of the band but finds said woman's PTSD is too hard to cope with. I actually liked this element as love, especially when it starts as an infatuation, doesn't always make things better.
I really loved the fact her father's lack of support is semi-justified as Fable isn't a heroic band of do-gooders, quite the opposite--they're gladiators who murder monsters in an arena and Kings of the Wyld talked about how shameful a profession that was. Of course, our heroes are ready and willing to actually do something heroic but that's more because Bloody Rose wants to leave her mark before she retires and hasn't even approached her father's glory. One of the best moments is where she confronts her old man and asks why he judges her, assuming he was fighting for glory like her--only to find out he became a mercenary because a local girl was kidnapped.
So, what's wrong with the book? Well, the problem boils down to the fact that it's more or less lost a lot of the heavy metal/hard rock parody that made the original so good. Fable doesn't really parody any sort of band the way the Kings of the Wyld did and instead just comes off as a more or less typical high fantasy adventuring party. I feel like the story would have benefited from them being an all-girl band or having a story related to music through the eyes of mercenary work. Instead, we get a more or less typical story of an evil Lich trying to destroy the world. I feel like the ending was also a little too pat and Tam's relationship with the characters fell flat.
In conclusion, Bloody Rose is a fine fantasy novel. However, it just didn't scratch the same itch as its predecessor. I felt like I came for a combination of rock and fantasy, like so many album covers I love ala Blind Guardian, but just got fantasy.