Bradley P. Beaulieu wrote the excellent fantasy novel The Twelve Kings of Sharakhai which we previously reviewed. However, as noted in our review there were a few shaky series’ beginning issues with this fictional work. So how does With Blood Upon the Sand compare as a fantasy sequel?
With Blood Upon the Sand continues to develop the fantasy setting of Sharakhai and its surrounding world. Sharakhai is a mystical and magical city that dominates the sands, yet is a source of conflict and history in the world. The twelve kings who rule it are each responsible for a different aspect of this world. Their responsibilities ranging from managing the cursed zombie-esque creatures who roam the desert, to keeping an eye upon the future. Here, in With Blood Upon the Sand, Çeda trains under the kings as one of their warriors. Yet, the novel focuses on her quest to seek a way to dispose of the kings by finding the secret weakness of their gods-given abilities and immortality.
This novel expands upon the involvement of the gods in the world that Sharakhai is part of. It becomes clear that each god gave the twelve kings some mystical item as a gift. This appeared to grant each king power over the people of Sharakhai. In addition, the blade maidens each have unique ebon blades, while the maidens themselves have enhanced abilities from the flower thorns and petals that they have ingested.
Aside from this, the inhabitants of this world ride sandships across the desert surface. Readers may have to remind themselves that the ships here are surfing across the sand on the high-speed wind at times, due to the fantasy setting of the novel. Further, this narrative focuses on defining other mystical beings such as blood mages and devilish creatures which are not dissimilar to djinn.
The one minor complaint to make about this novel is the use of love-scenes. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in modern fantasy that is not handled particularly well in the eyes of this reviewer. Rather than these scenes feeling realistic, loving, or character-driven/driving, they promote the opposite feelings. The number-one question in this reviewer’s eyes is ‘Did they need to be there?’ And the answer to this question is a resounding: no. They did not add any character-building elements or story-driving force because they were so explicitly described. Regardless, they are so sparse in the narrative. Therefore, this becomes a minor element that could be skipped by the reader with ease.
Must read fantasy?
Bestfantasybooks.com feature this novel as their fifth-best fantasy work of 2017 (so far) over on their website. Most readers (including this reviewer) are more anxious to explore the fantasy works of Oathbringer or Tower of Dawn. However, With Blood Upon the Sand is a novel worthy of all reader’s attention. It contains mystery, magic, action, and suspense in equal measures. This is a must-read novel for readers of G.R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson. The pace is evenly maintained from the beginning and this creates an excellent narrative. Therefore, With Blood Upon the Sand or Twelve Kings is our tip for a must-read fantasy work in 2017.