Summary: Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes. The Races are over. War has begun. Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death. Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods. Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Blood Sworn is the sequel to Ashlord (which I reviewed here.) In this book, we follow the same three characters, Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. The way the first book ended left me wanting to know more. I wanted to know so much more about this world, the gods, and where the story is going. I got everything that I wanted from this book. Once again, the story is told in first person for Imelda and Adrian, but Pippa’s story is told in second person. I think Pippa’s story being told in this way was such a creative choice and it really does something to the story. Pippa’s chapters were absolutely my favorite parts of this book. She has the most growth and change in this series. She starts off so loyal to her people, the Ashlords, but slowly she realizes that everything isn’t as it seems. She finally learns the truth from one of the gods and that’s where this story gets really interesting. I think Pippa is so incredibly smart. I am awed by the plans that her brain manages to create. I think she’s an incredible character and I loved her. I also really enjoyed the way that Pippa’s relationship with Adrian changed over time. Adrian was an interesting character as well. But I feel like he sort of just went along with Pippa’s plans. I know this isn’t the case, but we didn’t actually see Adrian and Pippa make their plans so, it’s not hard to assume that Pippa (the master strategist) is the one that came up with the majority of their plans. I liked that Adrian did his part to show the Longhands that things could be different if everyone worked together to make a change. Finally, Imelda. I wanted more phoenix horse stuff, but we got enough that I wasn’t terribly upset about it. I like that Imelda is also super smart, but in different ways than what we see from Pippa. I think Imelda’s part of the story was interesting because the Dividian’s are the underrepresented group of the story, despite having a large population. I liked following Imelda because with Pippa and Adrian working together, their stories were similar, but Imelda’s path is so different from the others. She stumbles into something she doesn’t totally understand, but manages to find herself working toward the same goals as Pippa and Adrian. Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I loved this duology. I will recommend this series forever. Phoenix horses, political drama, characters that are complex and loveable, and a fascinating world and interesting gods, there is everything you could possibly want in a fantasy story.
Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.
Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged.
In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat? Review:
Let’s start off with a huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting my wish for this book. I was provided an eARC of Ashlords in exchange for an honest review.
Honestly, all I needed to know about this book was ‘Phoenix Horses’ and I was all in. I was hooked right from the start. We follow three characters, a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Imelda Beru is our scholarship winner. She’s also known as The Alchemist. I loved her. She saw through the ruse that is the scholarship for Dividians. She was my favorite of the three characters. The other two focused on their goal of winning the race but Imelda has different priorities. I think the next book is going to be even better for her storyline.
Next is Adrian. The Longhand. He’s the son of a prominent leader and has come to win the races. I liked that he was dedicated to his family, but was even more interested when that dedication wavered. I wish that had been explored more. I loved his confidence and his kind heart. I have a feeling that he and Imelda are going to meet in the next book and I am more than here for it.
Finally, Pippa. Her chapters were interesting. They’re written in the second person, but also clearly about Pippa and not the reader. They still had her personality. I thought this was a really interesting way for Pippa to tell her story. I liked her, she was the child of two previous race winners and planned to become one herself. She doesn’t depend on her parent’s success though. She works hard and that work shows. She is the best and has proven it time and time again. The only part I didn’t like about Pippa was her dreams about Bravos. She focuses on boys instead of winning and that was her first mistake.
The world was incredible. The politics and drama was very interesting. I liked all the different dynamics. But the Ashlord Gods were the most compelling of all. I wish they had been a bigger part of the story. They have the potential to really shake things up and they did a bit of shaking in this book. I’m dying to know more about them and the history of this world.
Overall, this story was incredible. I absolutely adored and will be silently dying inside while I wait for the next book that isn’t even written yet because Ashlords hasn’t even been released yet.
“Afraid of the dark? The dark is all I’ve ever known.”
“The war we start will cost everything. The world will burn. We have to be brave enough to put the torch to it.”
“Their need to be first place is a weakness. Their desire for you—or your mother—to be less so that they look like more is a weakness. You realize they’re afraid of you.”
“Ashlords are not superior to us. They’re not faster or stronger or wise. All they have that we do not is the gods. And that can change. Morning comes and revolution is on its heels.”
“They forget that dark clouds and strong winds only mean lightning’s about to strike. You know they’ll want back in when you’re illuminating the whole damn sky, but you will not forget and you will not forgive.”