Review: With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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Beautiful!

I’ll be honest, the only thing that stopped me from immediately starting this one after finishing Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was that this audiobook is 30 hours long and Twelve Kings was 25 hours long and I thought that I would burn myself out on it if I shotgunned both one after the other. It happens. Even with stuff I love.

Couldn’t stay away for too long though. And it showed, because I listened to damn near half of it in one day. Got lots of work done. Thanks, audiobook!

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find the yokes around their necks unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After the victory won by the Moonless Host in the Wandering King’s palace, the kings are hungry for blood. They scour the city, ruthless in their quest for revenge. Unrest spreads like a plague, a thing Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to exploit, but with the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades, there is little hope of doing so.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage, Hamzakiir, they sail across the desert to learn the truth, and a devastating secret is revealed, one that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. They plot quickly to take advantage of it, but it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her.

She might not be able to see them, but she could sense them, the asirim. Like flaming brands felt but not seen, they bounded over the desert, pacing the ship, tireless, wailing their pain, their hunger, their sorrow.

Oh Çeda. I missed you! But… and I feel a little bad for this, I missed Emre more (<3). But they’re back, and are both in pretty deep with their respective factions. Things are really starting to come to light in this volume, especially regarding the various magics and magical beings of this world. Blood mages are described in more detail here, as are the asirim, the kings, and the gods of this world.

I’m not going to spoil this one for you, and I’m even trying to not spoil the previous one for anyone reading this who hasn’t read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (read it though, it’s awesome). Let me just say that this was, plot wise, a very thrilling addition to the series. It’s told from several points of view, but mainly from the POVs of Çeda (obviously), Emre, and Ramahd, and all kinds of craziness happens between the three of them. Lots of intrigue and plotting and sailing across the desert.

The world itself is so richly described, I felt that I could clearly imagine myself in this vast desert with Çeda and company. Yet again, just like in the first book, I got legitimately misty-eyed here a few times, as emotional things took place. This book, as the one before it, has such intense feeling, and I don’t know that I can describe that in a way that does it justice. I got very, very emotionally invested in these characters, and this lead to quite a thrilling listen, for me. This sort of investment in a fictional character is not super common for me, but it’s common enough that there are a few other books this year (I can think of 4, out of 90) that have also elicited this reaction from me. When I am this invested in a character, the relationship I hope for them going sideways and then up and down and round and round, wrenches my poor little heartstrings. When thrilling things happen to Çeda and Emre, I am also thrilled. When Çeda gets upset, I get upset. It’s not exactly a bad thing (though it can admittedly be a bit exhausting), but most of all, getting me this invested says a lot for the character development here.

Sarah Coomes once again completely nails the narration here. There were times I totally chided myself for waiting even a second between these books, nevermind two entire months. My bad! 🙂 She puts so much emotion into her narration, that my emotional reactions just might be enhanced because of it. Sarah Coomes uses emotion. It’s super effective! Kristen bursts into ugly tears at goddamn work. You’d think that I’d just shrug it off, because all my coworkers have to be used to this shit by now. Really there is a certain amount of… risk in listening to audiobooks like this at your place of employment. I will happily take that risk any day. 🙂

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I imagine Sharakhai differently every time I try and visualize it, but I end up finding all kinds of great art trying (click on the pic for the source).

This was such a great follow-up to Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. I was expecting a 30 hour long audiobook to take me 2 weeks to listen to but it took 4 days because I couldn’t stop listening to it. 5/5 stars! I cannot wait for the next volume in the series! I’ll make sure my office has a good supply of kleenex. 😀

You can see this book on goodreads here, grab a print copy of it here, or audiobook here.

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