I recently read The Fire Prince – see my review here – and immediately found myself connecting with the storyline and vivid characters so that by the time I reached the end, I vowed to treat myself to getting hold of The Blood Curse in the New Year. But the very next time I went to the library, there was the book on the shelves…
A curse is ravaging the Seven Kingdoms. Fugitive Osgaardan prince, Harkeld, is the one person who can destroy it. Guarded by Sentinel mages, pursued by Fithian assassins, he begins the final – and most dangerous – stage of his quest: entering the cursed kingdom of Sault, where drinking even one drop of water means madness and death. But the mages aren’t the only travellers heading east. Princess Brigitta, abducted by the Fithians, is also bound for Sault – unless she can escape. And in close pursuit is her loyal armsman, Karel. Young orphan, Jaumé, is also headed for Sault – where he will be forced to make decisions that will change the fate of the Seven Kingdoms forever.
It was a real stroke of luck to encounter this book when the story was still singing inside my head, so I immediately opened it up and sank back into the world with a sigh of pleasure. Gee is very good at delivering the multiple storylines experienced by her group of protagonists without any jarring sudden switches or sense of dislocation – which is a lot harder than she makes it look. Each character has developed and changed throughout the trilogy and I have enjoyed watching each one travel on an arc – those that haven’t been killed off, that it… Gee hasn’t quite got the ruthlessness of George R.R. Martin, but throughout the series, I’ve been a tad winded at times after a skirmish that has offed yet another poor soul I expected would play a major role in the rest of the book. So I have genuinely been reading the fight scenes holding my breath in case another strong likeable character met an untimely end.
The worldbuilding is solid and well depicted without holding up any of the narrative pace and I have also appreciated having a ringside seat with the antagonists, especially Bennick, who spends time and attention looking after Jaumé. It is part of the strength of her writing that Gee doesn’t tell us that law and order is breaking down, but shows us that Jaumé’s only option is to stick with the Fithian assassins, even when he realises what they intend to do, because there is nowhere else a small orphan boy can go.
So, after three books, does Gee bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, tying up all the loose ends? Oh, for sure. In addition to the anticipated closure of the main storyline, there are a couple of other major plots that need tidying up and she ensures they are also sorted out. All in all, a real treat over the Christmas holidays – but whatever you do, don’t start with this book, instead track down The Sentinel Mage – see my review here. It would be a crying shame not to appreciate this excellent series from the beginning.