Barbarian Blood Royal Book Cover Barbarian Blood Royal
The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic #4
Toni V. Sweeney
Double Dragon Publishing
April 2011

Dual Review

Barbarian Blood Royal – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney

Reviewers: Penelope Adams / Chinyere Etufugh

With their parents’ deaths during the Genocide Wars, the five sons of Riven kan Ingan and his beloved Barbara flee to separate countries to escape the Margrave’s injustice. Growing to adulthood in foreign lands, Val becomes second in command to the leader of a barbarian tribe, Ilke a priest among the desert dwellers, the twins cutpurses in far-off Chaleit, young Merigan a warlord–each learning to live by his wits or his skill with the sword, as he waits for the day of their revenge. When that time comes, they have homes of their own, and friends they don’t want to leave behind, but they answer their elder brother’s call to return to their homeland and avenge themselves upon Morling, king of Francovia. In doing so, they fulfilled the Drune priest’s prophecy given to their grandfather three generations before, and bring into being a new dynasty to rule the planet of Arcanis.

Penelope Adams – she said:

Devastated by the death of their parents and forced to flee their home, the five sons of Riven kan Ingan and his warrior wife Barbara must each go in separate directions in hopes of escaping the grasp of the Margrave. They agree to come together again when they receive the call from their eldest brother, Val. They will all face trials that will test their strength and become comfortable in the lives they eventually settle into, until the day they receive the call from Val and return to their homeland. They will fulfill a prophecy made long ago by a Drune priest to their grandfather and a new dynasty will rule Arcanis.

Ms. Sweeney brings an end to her Barbarian series with the twists and turns we’ve come to expect. Not allowing a rest from the emotional roller coaster of the first three books, she once again pulls us into this distant time and place and squeezes every ounce of tears and sweat she can from us. The children of Riven and Barbara have come into their own, as one with expect from children raised by these two dynamic people they have all grown to strong adults, some gentle, some cruel but all determined to get their revenge.

The eldest son, Val, had to watch his love and his son ride away, hoping they will survive he fears he will never see them again and knows it will be on his shoulders to lead his siblings in the future. Never a gentle young man, Val will go on to become the second in command to the leader of a Barbarian tribe. He earns this position and with the scars he received during his escape making him look savage and his obsessive need for revenge, he is probably the most like his father and grandfather.

Second son, gentle Ilke becomes a priest and healer among dessert dwellers. He will have to reconcile his calling of a priest for his feelings for a woman; he will also have to decide if he can heed his brother’s call and perform the acts required for revenge. The twins, Shael and Hroric will stumble upon a tribe of gypsy like people and become respected members of the tribe. They will never lose their fun loving ways, but when called upon they will stand and fight.

Young Merigan – the red headed fox kit – will become a warlord; a strong man feared by many he will surprise everyone with his loyalty and strength of will.   The only daughter of Riven and Barbara, Llani will face trials of her own and she too will show her heritage.

This book is a little darker than all the rest in this series. The sons of Riven show that while they may have been raised in luxury, in their souls they are barbarian.   There are times that it was hard to watch Val become the man he became, his was the most difficult story to read. Of all the children, he showed his heritage the most, he was cruel at times but there was never any doubt of his loyalty to his homeland, his parents and his siblings.

The rest of the sons also exhibit pieces of their barbarian heritage, even gentle priest Ilke has moments of blood lust. Each of the boys has their own story and we get to know more about their personalities than we have in the past. They each built lives for themselves separate from their family but when called to leave those lives behind, they all proved where their loyalty lay.

More characters are introduced as we see each of their lives, some will come and go, some will continue in the sibling’s lives. The nasty, evil, very mental Margrave Morling is once again brought into the story and without giving away any spoilers, let me say the meeting between him and Val was extreme and a little gory. Morling’s daughter Erda is introduce, who thankfully, did not inherit his personality. Erda is a strong, smart, beautiful, willful, gentle young woman.   She has to not only attempt to overcome her father’s legacy but hold her own against the kan Ingans. I think the kan Ingan boys took on a little more than they realized when they sought their revenge and met her.

I loved this series. I’ve read the series that comes after (actually read the latter series first) and you can most definitely see Ms. Sweeney’s growth in each book. This last book was not easy to read, there are some very unsettling scenes of graphic violence and as always with Ms. Sweeney some highly emotionally charged scenes. I was sad to see the journey come to an end but know that this is not the last we will see from this family.

Review by Penelope Adams

Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team

Chinyere Etufugh – said:

This book was the “Next Generation” stepping up to carry on the kan Ingan’s legacy. This book picks right up after the Margrave came to suppress Riven and his clan. The confrontation with the Margrave’s army left them orphans. Each child fearing for their lives fled for to distant lands. Each son promising to come back to Francovia and reclaim what was taken from them, from their lands to their loved ones. It was an emotional goodbye as Riven’s sons separated. They didn’t know when and if they would return to their homes alive. While they vowed to do just that, one didn’t know the future.

During their exile, each son underwent a test of their fortitude, but in the end, they learned the necessary skills, both physically and emotionally to prepare them for return. Val and Ilke forged a connection together that healed some of Val’s old wounds regarding his father’s relationship with Ilke and his mother and also healed IIke’s feelings of being an outsider.

I thought in the prior books that IIke would be most like Riven, but it was Val that was his father’s son. His boldness, his arrogance, his strategic intellect etc. He was an appropriate heir to his Riven’s legacy. I liked IIke the best though. He seemed to have an emotional depth that all the other children lacked. He inherited Bar-Bara’s heart because he reminded me of her thoughtfulness, her consideration for all involved etc. I am glad that his journey led him down a path where love was possible for him.

It was really pleasant to see the role those two played in aiding the other’s struggle with their hearts’ desire and the call of Blood Song. Shael and Hroric, the younger sons, also maintained their closeness and their plight helped mold them into warriors just as Riven’s plight made him the warrior he had been.

Led by Val, their eldest brother, the sons of Riven and Bar-bara began their quest for retribution. Their ultimate victory concluded with the melding of the kan Ingan house with the Margrave Morlingl’s house. Thus, uniting the two most powerful forces in the land, but obviously it is the kan Ingan’s story that will live on.

This installment wasn’t a quick and easy read. I believe that I enjoyed this book less than the others, because most of it was spent “on the run” and there was so much going on in all of their lives. I was frustrated with the constant trials and tribulations. It got a little hectic and tedious. There were some elements of paranormal activity that were hinted at, but I didn’t feel like there were made integral parts of this story. So I am not sure where the author was going with that angle.  A “trimming” of the plot would help the cohesion because everything would flow much smoother.

There was some evolution of the characters from pampered young boys into battle tested warriors. But my same complaints about the writing, connectivity of storylines and character development persisted in this book. There needs to be more expansion of the character’s emotion and the character’s thought processes through out their journey. While there was a lot of action and adventure, there were a lot of emotional opportunities to really endear the characters to the readers. I would like to see the author draw us in more and make us feel their pain more.

I was pleased to have a happy ending as it always cushions some the pitfalls, and allows the book to end on a high note. Riven and Bar-bara would be proud of the family coming together to finally attain societal standing and acceptance in Francovia.

Review by Chinyere Etufugh

Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…

Once again Ezi joins me to discuss a book in Toni Sweeney’s Heretic series, we have come to the end of the series with this book – Barbarian Blood Royal. Thanks for joining me Ezi, boy do we have a lot to discuss. I enjoyed this series and felt the final book brought it to a fitting end. For me, this was a darker book than the other three, at times the sons of Riven and Barbara showed signs of being just as barbaric as their grandfather and father and it wasn’t always easy to read but again, for me, it fit the characters. I noticed in your review you said you would have liked the author to have trimmed the plot, but you also said you would have liked her to expand the character’s emotions and thoughts processes? I’m a little confused by this since I can’t see how the author could have done both without either making the book longer or splitting it into two books. Without giving away any spoilers, is it possible for you to tell us what you felt could have been trimmed?

Great question!

It is hard without giving away spoilers what I would have deleted but I will give one scene which was at the beginning. I would have just had Val be discovered wounded by the wolf shifting people and left the Tamara angle off. Ultimately, I don’t feel that those chapters really added much value to the overall story. Once Val got to Samric’s camp, he was given a woman and soldiers to train with. Instead, I would have liked to have had more scenes where the sons reminisced about Riven & Bar-bara, just like the scene with his “heart” medication. Those kinds of scenes showed insight to what the sons were feeling and thinking of, as they remembered their dad. Then I would use that scene to fuel more desire to go back. I enjoyed reading about that.I hope that makes sense.

Of Riven’s sons, whose journey entertained and/or moved you the most? I thought Rory & Shael’s adventures were the most entertaining. I would describe them as mischievous pranksters–Clearly less “adult” and “warrior-like” that Merigan’s plight. Ilke moved me the most of course. I have always liked him as he is the most rational to me.

Hmm, I know the scene but I wonder were that scene deleted would the wolf tribe have taken Val in if their leader hadn’t recognized what he was wearing? I’m thinking they didn’t take well to strangers and would have just killed him. The scene set up his introduction and explained the leader’s acceptance of him. As far as reminiscent scenes, I think it was pretty obvious the sons wanted revenge and any of those scenes were just vehicles for Ms. Sweeney to catch up any readers who might not have read the previous books. Frankly, I tend to skip them since I did read the other books. As far as which of the son’s journeys entertained or moved me the most, that would be difficult to choose. Each had their own different feel and each helped me to see how they were molded into the men they became. I felt Val’s was probably the most telling as to how he became the hard man he did.

Another thought about your review comes to mind. You mentioned that there was a small paranormal element that you would have liked to have been an integral part of the story. While there were a few small references throughout the series, I’ve never looked at it as a paranormal series. I see it as more fantasy and as such there is always a little mystical flavor, which is in almost all fantasy books. You questioned where the author was going by adding these elements and I think she was not thinking paranormal as much as fantasy, although I know she does write traditional paranormal so I could be wrong.

You are right. This series was definitely a fantasy series. I do see your point about Val needing some kind of “calling card” in order to gain acceptance (the Tamara’s cloak). Val really did have wolf tendencies as he can be so aggressive and brutal at times!

While this book may have brought up more questions than answers I can say it has certainly been a ride and I can’t wait to see what Ms. Sweeney has up her sleeve next.

Thank you for joining me in reading this series Ezi, and don’t forget to turn the light out on your way out.

Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:

This last book obviously is going to be about Riven the Heretic’s children. Which one or ones have “weaved” their tale to you?

They all did. Llani, of course, is thought to be “safely” married to Hraeth so she isn’t mentioned until the latter part of the book but the stories of the brothers more or less came one after the other…where they went, what happened to each, and which one was to become the first kan Ingan Margrave. (If you’ve gotten far enough into the kan Ingan Archives, you already know the answer to that.)

Are all the hardships in the series caused by Riven’s original disbelief in the gods, or is there some other cause?  Did the Blood Curse and the Blood Song cause any of it, kind of like a genetic curse passed from father to son?  Why were Riven’s children told never to name any of their children after him?

Let’s see…First of all, the Blood Curse was the one put on Riven when he thought he’d killed Barbara.  He was sent to find the person placing the curse on him and once he realized he was hunting for himself, and repented what he’d done to her because she was completely innocent of any crime, that curse was lifted. So it’s out of the picture.  The Blood Curse and the Blood Song shouldn’t be confused.  The Singing (Blood Song) is an inherited condition, which later, more civilized generations come to be ashamed of.  It doesn’t hit every generation and is only passed to the males.  It’s not a call to vengeance although it helps to be in the grips of it if you’re planning on killing the man who killed your father.  It’s just bloodlust, plain and simple, kind of like the Berserkers used to have.  Once someone sees blood and hears the Song, they lose complete control.  That’s why, in Book 2, the warriors drink Ischa before a battle, so they won’t feel pain and can fight as long as the bloodlust grips them or until they’re killed.

Riven’s problems came about simply because he was arrogant and disbelieving.  Once he began to show faith, his life changed for the better.  However (as will be explained in Book 5), the fate of everyone in the bloodline of Trygare kan Ingan is influenced by the threads woven by the Weaver when Trygare is born.   From then on, though Riven has his own little fight with the gods, the over-all picture has already been more or less planned.  SPOILER ALERT:  Ildred-Allfather tells the Weaver that he’s giving her enough thread for three thousand years and that’s it.  Corvus’ telling Val that there must never be another Riven, after Llani’s son Riven is born, is a warning but it’s kind of like God telling Adam not to eat the Forbidden Fruit.  Once the idea is planted, you know sooner or later someone’s going to name his kid “Riven.”  Care to guess who?

This book was much darker than the previous 3 in the series. Did you know the children’s plight from the beginning or did they evolve as the series progressed?

Actually, Book 4 was originally part of Book 3.  Then I realized it was too long and also begun a new story, so I ended it where Val rides his horse through the mountain pass and looks back to see the hawk flag burning.  The next chapter became the first chapter of the second book.

When I originally wrote the story, since it was a continuing part of A Singing in the Blood, I took it to what I considered a logical conclusion:  5 brothers hide from their father’s enemy, then grow up and return to avenge him.  Then the questions started:  What would 5 children do in such a case?  When the oldest is only around 19 and the youngest is about 8?  Where would they go?  Who would take care of the little one?  How could children that young survive without parental guidance?  How will they resolve their internal feuds?  Who’s going to fight the king and will he also become king after him?  Did he really want to be king or did he just want revenge?  If so, where would the new king come from?

Lots of questions, plenty of answers.

I know you are writing a sort of prequel about this series addressing Riven’s father’s story, is this series the last we will hear from this generation?

I think when Trygare’s story is finished, all that needs to be said about the beginning of the kan Ingan dynasty will have been said.  It’s proving a difficult story to write because the ending is a foregone conclusion and it’d difficult when you know for sure the way the story’s going to end.   But…darn it!…Aric has started wriggling back into my subconscious, dragging Miles with him, and wanting to know if I’d like to hear what happened —ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!!!—when Miles convinces him to take his kids and head up the Security Unit on that planetoid at the other end of the Emeraunt.  I keep telling him I don’t want to know but he’s pretty insistent.  I need to be twins so I could do more than one book at a time!