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Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler - Review

You can read a review of Ashes of the Sun HERE.  

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Django Wexler is the author of flintlock fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns, middle grade fantasy The Forbidden Library, and YA fantasy The Wells of Sorcery.  His latest is epic fantasy Ashes of the Sun. In his former life as a software engineer, he worked on AI research and programming languages. He currently lives near Seattle with his wife, two cats, and a teetering mountain of books. When not writing, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.

FORMAT/INFO: Blood of the Chosen was published by Orbit Books on October 5th, 2021. It is 415 pages split over 23 chapters and an epilogue. It is told in third person from Gyre and Maya's points of view. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook format.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Gyre Silvereye may not have found what he was looking for in the Leviathan’s Womb, but it’s given him an idea for another way to destroy the centrarchs and their hold over the Republic. Gyre plans to arm a rebel faction in the southern city of Khirkhaz with banned arcana items so they can overthrow the Republic’s tenuous hold and establish a foothold against the Twilight Order. But the only way to get sufficient arcana is to convince the ghouls to aid him, and the ghouls would rather kill a human than trust them. Meanwhile Gyre’s sister, the centrarch Maya Burningblade, has recovered from her confrontation with her brother just in time to be assigned a new task: travel to a plaguespawn infested region to access a Chosen archive. One of the senior centrarchs has discovered a new arcana device they think may be key to fighting back against the plaguespawn and their masters. Maya’s all to eager to find answers about the mysterious new plaguespawn that have appeared, but she’s also increasingly aware that there are traitors within the Twilight Order. If she manages to discover what this device does, who will she even tell?

Blood of the Chosen is another excellent adventure in this fantasy/sci-fi hybrid world. Its setting is a change from previous book, Ashes of the Sun, which spent much of its time in more urban areas like Deepreach. This outing is much more about journeys to the remote areas of the continent, beyond the borders of the Republic. This results in more episodic adventures than the first book as our two heroes travel to their respective destinations, encountering even weirder plaguespawn and new pockets of humanity. While I miss the rebellious city adventures of Deepreach, I liked seeing how the rest of the world has adapted to plaguespawn in the last few hundred years, including repurposing arcana our heroes have never encountered before.

I also really enjoyed the two very different views Gyre and Maya have about the Twilight Order. Gyre sees the powerful warriors as lording over the land, ruling only because of the magic in their blood and taking whatever they please in the name of defending humanity. Maya, on the other hand, having had an actually morally decent teacher, sees the Order as a force of good who only interferes where necessary. Even as she acknowledges the insidious corruption that has wormed its way into the organization, she still believes the Order is necessary to keep the world safe. It makes for some rather emotionally charged moments when Maya and Gyre face each other once more, each desperate to convince the other to give up their fight, lest they have to kill a sibling in the process of achieving their goals.

Whenever I review or talk about the Burningblade & Silvereye series, I’ve tried to avoid mentioning the obvious parallels to Star Wars. I hate doing comps that make it appear as if the author just copied and pasted a story, which is not remotely the case here. Burningblade & Silvereye has its own mythology and stands on its own. But what became increasingly clear to me in Blood of the Chosen is that this is a series very much in conversation with Star Wars and the idea of the Jedi Order. (And that was before I found this piece Django Wexler wrote that flat out explains how Star Wars gave him the idea for this story). Burningblade & Silvereye isn’t ripping off Star Wars, it’s examining the ideas put forth in that story in a new context. By and large, Jedi are beloved by fans as noble defenders of good in the galaxy. By creating a new super-powered caste of warriors in a new setting, Wexler forces readers to take another look at the concept they buy into in Star Wars: how would you really feel about magical warrior monks who could tear you apart with but a thought? When they get to enforce their own views of right or wrong on the world without input from anyone else? Turns out, you really can’t read Burningblade & Silvereye without considering Star Wars and I kind of love the books even more for that.

Suffice to say, if you enjoyed Ashes of the Sun, you’ll find more to enjoy in Blood of the Chosen and it is largely a highly successful adventure. That said, there were a few minor things that bugged me this time around. Kit, who had been a favorite character last time out, is back in a new form after the ending of the last book. Unfortunately, while her new form is endlessly useful, the character herself is largely reduced to complaining how bored she is about staying out of sight and bemoaning that she can’t have sex any more. I also struggled with an end beat that I saw coming a mile away; it was still a well done moment, but being so far ahead of the characters took a little bite out of the scene.

Conclusion: All that aside, I am still absolutely in love with this series and will be counting down the days until the final book in the trilogy is released, particularly with the stakes the author set up in the final moments. I also want to shout out the extra steps the author took to make it easy for readers to come back to this series; the opening of the book features a cast of characters (including their fates by the end of book one) and a summary of Ashes of the Sun. The glossary in back not only defines objects or locations, but reminds you of where in the plot that item was important. These features are just the cherry on top of an already fantastic book, and I recommend jumping on board before the final book in the trilogy.

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