Book Review: Blood Fiend’s Bane by William Stacey

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Netgalley Synopsis: Some treasures are best left buried.

Sentenced to five-years’ service as a soldier for a violent crime, Owen Toscovar now serves the noble Dain family as a man-at-arms. Because he is large and powerful, most deridingly refer to the young man as “Horse-Boy,” believing him to be little more than a quick-tempered brute, a tool for violence. But Owen is far cleverer than most suspect, and he bristles under his forced servitude, wishing to experience adventure and see the world beyond his northern Duchy. Owen is about to get his desire.

 

The Dains, a once proud royal family, have fallen into disfavor, but their fortunes change when a deathbed confession reveals a shocking secret — the location of the mythical longsword Sight-Bringer. The magical sword was long believed destroyed in an apocalyptic battle fifty years ago that killed the terrifying Vampire Queen, Serina Greywynne. Now, Owen will accompany the new young Dain lord and his sister on an expedition to retrieve the holy relic. They will journey across an ocean and through a monster-filled swamp to the ruins of an abandoned fortress long believed haunted by the ghost of Serina herself.

But the legends are built on lies, and evil stirs in the catacombs beneath the fortress. In the slaughter that follows, Owen must somehow protect the Dain bloodline from an unholy evil, because if he fails, everyone he loves will die.

Author: William Stacey

Title: Blood Fiend’s Bane

Publisher: Bastard Sword Press

Date: 2016

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I’m always dubious when novels fall into the Vampire category, never certain as to which way it is going to go. Blood Fiend’s Bane, however, has all the violence and blood-lust we associate with the Dracula-style vampires and provided a real threat to the characters.

No risk of sparkling, vegetarian vampires here!

Blood Fiend’s Bane attracted my attention because it has a similar set up compared to historical fiction set in the Roman times. The soldiers’ way of life, their interactions with each other and their reasons for fighting reflects those of the Roman era. Only this time, a supernatural element was added in: it wasn’t soldiers they were fighting, but large tics deadly to men and a witch who should have been dead for hundreds of years. This combination worked for me: fantasy and historical fiction combined.

Idwal drew his arrow back, but suddenly the ceiling attacked them, falling upon them in a storm of wings and wild shrieks.

The characters were well-defined. I instantly liked Owen, a large man who must endure the comments and nick-names from his comrades, none of whom notice his intelligence. Owen isn’t prepared to follow orders blindly – he wants to do the right thing, regardless of the cost. Owen must accept what he is capable of, and what he is worth.

Dilan is also likeable – it didn’t take me long to warm to him. Owen remained my favourite though. The way Dilan takes charge at the end is admirable, but I couldn’t see the spark of heroism in him the way I could with Owen.

Throughout the novel, the reader knows the main characters are being double-crossed, which sometimes led to frustration that the characters themselves couldn’t see it. Although Owen never trusted Modwyn, nothing was done about it until too late. Modwyn made me shudder; his introduction revealed his lust for Lady Danika and his sleazy nature. His characterisation set him up as the villain from the start, despite his true treachery not being revealed until later. Modwyn only then wants to serve his mistress.

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There was one side-story that I never understood. Characters were introduced, motives were given and their movements brought them in-line with the main characters. But nothing ever happened with them. The novel did end on a cliff-hanger, however, so I am hoping their story progresses in the second book because they did not add anything to this one other than confusion.

The pace of the novel is steady throughout, with enough danger in enough places that the tension remains high. I read Blood Fiend’s Bane in one sitting; despite the violence and mature themes, it is a relatively easy read.

Although I enjoyed Stacey’s writing, when it came to writing the review, I realised I hadn’t highlighted many passages at all that stuck out for me. I never got to the point where I was anxiously turning pages, wanting to find out what happened.

I enjoyed this book, but didn’t love it. There were some tense scenes and the fights were written in a clear manner. It ticked all the right boxes, but didn’t make my heart race.

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