With Blood Upon the Sand: Draws one deeper into an already good story

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With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu fantasy book reviewsWith Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu fantasy book reviewsWith Blood Upon the Sand
by Bradley P. Beaulieu

With Blood Upon the Sand (2017) is the second in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series, following up on the excellent Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. The sequel didn’t grab me quite as fully as its predecessor, but it’s quite nearly as good and certainly has me eager to continue reading the series.

So as to avoid spoilers for the first book, I’m going to offer up a relatively brief, vague plot summary. Though I will need to reference characters, so unavoidably you’ll know those folks survived book one. Read on at your own risk…

The sequel picks up shortly after the events of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and continues Çeda’s dangerous struggle to overthrow the kings from within in her role as a Blade Maiden. She plays that dual role throughout, which becomes harder and harder to do she enters further into the inner circles and machinations of several of the kings, whose world is both deepened and expanded for readers through a king’s POV. Meanwhile, Çeda’s childhood friend Emre is our entryway into what’s going on with the rebel alliance, er, group — The Moonless Host; and a pair of other POVs offer up their own storylines but also bring a third major power into the fray — Hamzakiir, a blood mage with his own agenda.

Theme, plotting, and characterization are all strong points in the novel. As one might imagine from that very skimpy overview and far-from exhaustive mention of characters, With Blood Upon the Sand is a sprawling, complicated bit of storytelling, especially as it also repeats the flashback pattern of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, sending us back into Çeda’s youth. The structural complexity and the narrative/plotting complexity are nicely mirrored thematically with a host of ethical/moral questions raised. Even better, these questions aren’t simply abstract, or dropped into the mix via exposition or an omniscient narrator; instead they bubble through dialogue and interior monologues, driving and influencing character, character growth, and relationships among characters as each has to ask themselves (and others) just how far they are willing to go to further their cause. And, intentionally or not, there’s a nice working of how fantasy can make the metaphoric literal, as Çeda is at times literally at war with herself, which parallels her less-literal struggle with ends and means and her actions.

I had a bit more trouble with pacing in With Blood Upon the Sand than I did in the first book, with a few areas that seemed to lag, and the book overall felt just a little longer than necessary. The prose was smooth throughout, and vivid in places, though for some reason the setting felt a bit less evocative here, unlike in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, where it really stood out in terms of atmosphere. I wanted more of a sense of place here, mostly because the setting is so relatively rare in contemporary fantasy. But these were niggling concerns. Overall I was drawn into the intrigues and politics and thoroughly enjoyed our deeper exploration of the Kings, Maidens, and Rebels, as well as the slow pulling back on long ago events. All of which left me impatient for book three, always a good sign.

Publication date: February 7, 2017. With Blood Upon the Sand is the second book in the Song of Shattered Sands epic fantasy trilogy. 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 their chains unbreakable. Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades. When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. 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…

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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2 comments

  1. It’s very clear that I have to read this series.

    • A good start might be the short-story collection “Of Sand and Malice Made,” since it gives a good introduction to the world and characters without requiring an investment into hundreds of pages of text. Or jump right into Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, if you’re feeling adventurous!

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