Orphans of Tarnalin (Bloodline Magic, #1)by John McDonell Published 03 Jun 2016
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Three young orphans, living on the streets of Tarnalin find themselves fleeing for their lives after pulling off a perfect heist. Forced to flee on a ship, they find their adventure has only just begun. Little do they know that the incidental theft has triggered a series of events that will lead them across a vast wilderness, where they must combat the elements and face the intrepid beings known as Leks. They gain allies who reveal that all is not as it seems in their world nor, indeed, with themselves. Tragedy and loss plague them as they fight for their very survival; all while echoes of war are brewing to the south.
Forbidden magic, lost heritage and ultimate sacrifice are instrumental threads in Orphans of Tarnalin, creating a fortune-twisting, tale like no other. In a world on the brink; one of them holds the key to everything. A key that comes at a fierce cost.
"Orphans of Tarnalin (Bloodline Magic, #1)" Reviews
3.5 stars! Review soon up!
Orphans of Tarnalin caught my eye with that fantastically thrilling cover (look at the exploding boat! Exploding boat!!!) and is a slow-build fantasy with vivid world-building, characters and plot. I'm going to break my review down into world, characters, plot and overall impressions.
World: Really fantastic - yes, some of the names were confusing at first (the case with most fantasy novel anyway), but I felt like I was there. The dark, gritty side of Tarnalin, the loneliness of the plains and forests, the fear on the river. I loved it a lot and I would say the complexity of the world the author has created is the best part of this book. Even more so, as the book really sets up the story for the future novels and a lot of the hints will come to fruition further along in the series. The magic system and mythology is well established with room for growth and development moving forward in the series. The Leks were... a little confusing to me, but as more was revealed and explained, it made better sense. I'm still a little perplexed, but I think that they'll become more relevant (and therefore, better explained) later on in the series.
Characters: Okay, so, I really liked the leads - Daern (hope I spelt that right), Savia and Petrius - they were awesome. Tight-knit, sassy, a little funny, thoughtful and most importantly, realistic - when stuff got weird, they responded deeply and I could relate to it. The secondary characters were great too, but then I get to my one pet peeve with this book - the POV's. So many. Cutting and changing all the time, it super confused me and sometimes I had to go back to check what was happening. Generally I don't mind lots of POV's, but when they shift mid-chapter, it confuses me. One second the reader is with Daern, then suddenly we are with the guard??? Huh???? I also think some of the POV's were unnecessary. If they changed by chapter and had a core, I don't know, even six, I wouldn't mind as much, but it just felt choppy to me. Also, generally the first novel in a fantasy series will focus on the main characters, then add other POV's in the next books, because that is way less confusing for the reader as there is a touchstone of familiarity. Once again, just my opinion.
Plot: As I mentioned before, the plot is very interesting and definitely a slow-build. The action happens right towards the end and the climax - so great! I wish I had the next book right now. The set-up for the general story arc across novels is wonderful - a lot of thought has been put into it and as a reader, I appreciate it. My only issue was that I did find that it lagged at times, especially during the travelling section in the middle - I found it harder to get into the book when it was just walking and preparing shelters for the night. Once that passed though, the book picked right back up and I enjoyed it immensely. The romance was dealt with well and I liked it - though I found that Daern and Petrius thinking that Savia was beautiful, all the time when they described her, a little annoying, but that was mainly at the start, then disappeared. They can say it at first, but every single time makes me feel that that is all they are interested in.
Overall: I liked it. For the few annoyances mentioned, this book misses out on that one star, but this is a great, immersive fantasy novel with intriguing characters, magic, action, drama and a little romance dashed in to really spice it up. I would certainly recommend this if you are looking for an interesting fantasy read!
*Thank-you to the author, John McDonell for providing me with an ARC. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review*
This was a surprising read and what initially seemed like a really successful heist and promised riches for three petty thieves in a prosperous city, it turned into a nonstop series of unfortunate events that befell all three of the odd heros of sorts.
The book starts in a rather inconspicious note. A merchant that owes money to a troublesome gangster due to poor financial decisions has successfully obtained 40 gold coins from the government as a loan. Knowing that his silk shipment was due to arrive, he was certain that he could easily repay the king. It was the gangster that he was worried about. And his poor luck was not on his side today. Three clever teenage orphans managed to steal his booty without realizing the series of unfortunate events that would happen afterwards.
Assuming they were only going to get a handful of bronze coins, the teenagers were initially elated with the heist. And then dread dawned on their defacto leader Dearn that they had to flee the city immediately because of the sheer amount of stolen money. After some convincing, Savia an attractive young woman with a good heart and the cheerful Petrius grudgingly accept Dearn's insane decision. However, they first had to visit a certain gangster to pay an extortion fee to afoid getting into unwanted problems named Mordray (who just happens to be the man that loan sharked gold to the merchant). They manage to fool the man by giving him a smaller fraction of the loot, but the man's sex slave Marissa gives Dearn a secret message to flee on a boat called "The Black Rose". The hero shrugs it off assuming it was going to be a trap.
After purchasing urgent supplies, fate has it that the only boat leaving to a regional capital called Baz that day happened to be the aformentioned boat. It is here that they meet a strange young woman (it seems like the book hints she's in her 20's) named Apria who is secretly a magician apprentice. After being attacked by pirates, the four characters and a shipmate named Khale barely escape unscathed and are forced to flee on foot through the vast wilderness. When things seemed to turn in their favor, they are attacked by three humanoid beasts that are physically stronger than humans named Lex and Khale is killed during an initial ambush. The group kill two of them but a third one who is determined to at least capture one alive manages to capture Petrius and both were presumed to have died when the raft the Lex built falls off a waterfall. Mourning the death of their friend and inadvertedly discovering that Dearn comes from a powerful merchant family without ever realizing it, they continue their quest to reach Baz presuming their friend was killed.
And Petrius probably would have preferred that but this dark story had a worse fate in store for him. Captured and enslaved by the Lex, he is humilliated, exhausted, starving and wounded. After a fruitless attempt to attack his captor, the Lex chuckled as he easily subdued the poor sap and forces him to carry his travel sack occasionally pulling on his crude restraints to enjoy seeing him fall during the grueling month trip to the Lex village. Tossed in a prison cage with no hopes of escape, Petrius encounters and eventually befriends a dazed female prisoner named Devout that is a practicing nun that has lived in captivity for 5 years. Awed at her mental fortitude and dazed by her beauty, he struggles to avoid falling in love with her due to her religious vows while at the same time trying to convince her to flee with him.
Meanwhile, Mordray discovers something that causes him fury. The merchant stumbles into his presence and confesses that his gold was stolen. After showing him a reciept from the government, the gangster forcibly coerces the poor man to accompany him and his servants to Baz to locate the thieves at all costs.
The other group manages to find a friend of Apria named Zelma. She confesses to Dearn that he is a magician as well even though he had never realized it before and tries to coax him into allowing her to train him.
After reading a few chapters, there were several things that stroke me about this novel. For starters, it reminds me a lot of The Thieves of Stonewood. You have orphaned characters that lived their whole lives in a large city comitting petty theft that forcibly pay tribute and respect the gangsters that run the place. The characters are common criminals but they are good natured people that do it out of necessity. You then have a bunch of wackos that follow a demonic worshipping cult causing havoc whose purpose is to resurrect a powerful demon that will destroy the world. Both books are on later thought sufficiently different to stand on their own, but I was massively surprised by the similarities.
The other thing is that this is not a book for younger readers. Sex slavery is rampant in the story. Marissa isn't who she seems to be at first sight but she voluntarily allows Mordray to abuse her and keeps her imprisoned in his estate under constant vigilance by his goons. The things that Petrius endures during his capture was pretty gritty. The S*** word is used in a chapter. I usually don't like swearing too much in books that at least attempt to be for teenagers but the word was used with so much humor that it was arguably my favorite one liner of the book.
As an Epic Fantasy tale, the chapters are divided by the POVs of a handful of recurring characters. We meet most of the cast fairly early in the story so it's very easy to get close to them and ultimately like them, but I didn't enjoy the chapters featuring Prince Aspen as much. I just feel like his character was introduced in the story very late and it doesn't allow you to get to know and like him. I will give a lot of credit to the author for the great and clear descriptions during the military battles.
The book was longer than I thought, but overall it was a very entertaining read and it seems like we'll be forcibly hanging with a lot of unanswered questions because the second novel hasn't been released yet.
I received this book as a giveaway through Goodreads.
The story is original and the first book left me wanting to know what happens in the world, however, there were some issues that I had with the writing. The grammar was a bit off for me (including using the wrong word - gate vs. gait). I also don't think that the author spent enough time developing the characters and it felt more like reading a list of events in a story rather than becoming a part of the story and becoming attached to the characters - it could have been a bit longer in that regard if the author spent more time world building.
McDonnell merges elements of classic fantasy (a hero with newfound powers he's struggling to understand; wizards; etc.) with a fast-paced, grimdark style. Heartwarming friendships grow in an exceptionally brutal world; this mix of hope and despair give the story a well-balanced and mature tone.
Book two is scheduled for release this year. I look forward to it!
First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. I really enjoy the authors writing style, he pulls you into the book from the very beginning and you don't want to put the book down. It kept me on the edge of my seat reading from cover to cover.
The author makes you feel as if this is all happening to you or at least someone very close to you. A lot of thought has been put into this book. And in turn made it so I liked this book very much. It is a great fantasy novel with the most intriguing characters. All the characters are so very well portrayed thought out. The magic, the action, and the drama along with the touch of romance that has been added in to really spice up this story. When you are finished you wish you weren't. I would certainly recommend this book if you are looking for an interesting fantasy to read!
This is a book that I will be sure to read over and over and a must for anyone's library.