When offered a copy of this novel I really couldn’t resist. I’ve really enjoyed this author’s short stories, and this one sounded all kinds of interesting, with the whole Mongolian berzerker vibe.
So, I got a free copy of this novel, and in exchange, here is my honest review of it. 🙂
To kill an heir is to claim their power. But at what cost?
As the khan’s fiercest headhunters, brothers Subei and Bataar are feared across the steppe. When they’re struck by lightning from a freak storm, however, they awake to find unnatural powers growing within them. And what’s more, they’re not alone.
All across the land other “heirs of the ancestors” have been imbued with these powers. Some call it a gift. Others, a curse. The khan calls it opportunity.
Under the tutelage of two infamous women – one a conqueror, the other a monk – the brothers are sent to the lands of the mighty Zhong empire to hunt heirs and consume their power for the good of the khanate.
With each kill, their powers grow. But so too does something else, boiling beneath the surface until it breaks free in uncontrollable fits of violence. As these so called bloodrages grow stronger and last longer, Subei and Bataar must weigh their duty, and their honor, against the unnatural madness growing within.
“Are you well, hunter?” she asked with a slight nod.
Not exactly having my best week. Struck by lightning, beaten senseless by an old woman, and possessed by some uncontrollable rage, he wanted to say.
“I am well,” he said, returning the traditional greeting.
This story takes place in what feels like an alternate Mongol Empire. It’s told from the point of view of Subei, who is one of two men who are struck by lightning, and subsequently gain berserker powers from it at the beginning of this story. Well, actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. The Khan’s unknowably old advisor, the current holder of the bloodrage powers has died, and when he did, his unknowable bloodrage advisor powers are dispersed among several people, and they each have to master their powers, and themselves really, because the powers come along with a pretty significant side effect – the uh, the whole bloodrage thing. It gets pretty intense, actually. It would make a good manga or anime.
Subei has two brothers, Kashi and Bataar. Only Bataar and Subei were struck by lightning, but Kashi comes along with them on their quest to hunt down all the other heirs of this bloodrage power so they can gain trancendence themselves and be all that they can be, for the Khan. So, Subei and his brothers (who are actually brothers from other mothers, but very close regardless), along with the monk, Mahtma and renowned warrior, Ghula training them both martially and mentally, go on an adventure into the kingdom of Zhong, the khanate’s biggest enemy nation.
There are all kinds of cool action sequences in this book. Subei and co. get up to a lot of fighting on their journey, as they meet heirs along the way. I wasn’t kidding when I said this book would make a good anime. There would be all kinds of glowy bloodrage orb throwing, and it would translate well to the medium.
Subei grows a lot throughout this book, and I really liked how that was handled. He realizes some things about himself, and about the bloodrage, and he does a lot of soul searching to figure out who he ultimately wants to be. I thought that it was very well written, as a whole. Bataar and Subei both have shit choices, and they make them as they see fit as the people they are. They’re also influenced somewhat by their advisors, who also seem to have vastly different ideas about what the bloodrage is and what it is good for. So, the brothers end up going down different paths.
The ending left me wanting more, but without being a cliffhanger. I’m excited to find out where this story leads in the next book!
A really well written story, this. I can mentally put characters more or less from Berserk together and have them throw Kamehamehas at each other all day long, yet this story didn’t feel stale or rehashed. It had some really fun references in it, too.
It gets a solid 4.5/stars from me! 🙂