The Blood of Whisperers (The Vengeance Trilogy Book 1) by Devin Madson Book Review

Write on: Sat, 19 May 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 3426


Non-Medieval fantasy is something which remains as rare as rooster teeth. Despite the fact we love samurai, kung fu heroes, and ninjas--the simple fact is we mostly set our stories in the High Middle Ages rather than deviate from that practice much. Steampunk and urban fantasy have somewhat alleviated it but we're still dominated by stuff which takes place in variations of Europe. This isn't bad, mind you, but it's nice when someone breaks the patterns and sets a story in mythological China. Well, what seems to be a mythological China which conquered Europe as there's a lot of mashup going on.

I was actually surprised by the discovery  THE BLOOD OF WHISPERERS was set in a fantasy China because the name and cover didn't communicate that to me. Thankfully, the story quickly corrects this apprehension. It's not entirely fantasy China as there's some elements of Western as well as Japanese influence but it's about as close as one of my favorite video games, Jade Empire, and that was to the book's credit.

The premise is a bit Games of Thrones-esque but perfectly fitting in the wuxia tradition with a usurper named Kin having overthrown the "rightful" Emperor. "Rightful" is in quotes because everyone is in agreement he was kind of a scumbag. Well, everyone except his children. Prince Takehiko Otako, under the name Edymion, Princess Hana Otako, and Lord Darius Laroth are the three main characters. An unknowing Prince with sorceress powers, a princess turned bandit, and a scheming chancellor with the realm as his seeming greatest concern.

The fantasy concepts on display here are all fairly well trodden roads but I found the characters interesting despite it and the fact it wasn't a lengthy read was also to the book's credit. It was tightly paced fantasy where progress is made on all the various characters' arcs. It also sets up the central conflict for the next book akin to the way A New Hope set up The Empire Strikes Back.

My favorite character of the books is probably Emperor Kin. He's by no means a good guy but he's not nearly as bad as his enemies portray. He usurped the throne because the previous Emperor was poorly-equipped for it and has ruled efficiently ever since. He is aware his act of usurpation has weakened the stability of the empire as a whole, however.

I also was a big fan of Princess Hana a.k.a Regent who has lived as a man for years, becoming a bloodthirsty killer along the way. It makes her ill-suited for the life of a courtly princess and her time at the court exposes her to the fact she's not even sure why she wants the Crimson Throne, other than it was hers by right. It's a nice little combination of Arya and Daenerys' arcs that makes her a complicated entertaining character.

If the book has any flaws, I would say it doesn't go quite far enough in making itself feel different. The rebellious princess archetype, scheming chancellor, and secret royal are things which have been done thousands of times over the years. However, both of these have enough differences to be entertaining. I also think the book could have gone further into the history of the past couple of generations. I wanted to know more about what the people thought of the past two Emperors.

In conclusion, I recommend reading this book if you want a decent fantasy story which takes a few twists on classic formula in a non-Western setting. The book could have gone a bit further in establishing its difference from typical fantasy fair by accenting its Chinese and Japanese elements but made it very clear its roots. The book was fun and the characters entertaining with the action exciting. Really, is there anything else we should ask of it?

Available here

Last modified on Saturday, 25 September 2021 04:53
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.