Blood Curse Book Cover Blood Curse
The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic #2
Toni V. Sweeney
Double Dragon Publishing
February 2009

Dual Review

Blood Curse – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney

Reviewers: Penelope Adams / Chinyere Etufugh

During the Ancient Time, before the Kingdom of Francovia was ripped asunder by a madman’s fury, the Mother Planet was a world of wonder, albeit a savage one. In those days, when the Day’s-Eye rose from its sleeping-place within the Great Ocean, it shone upon a land still innocent and vital.

Its awakening rays would touch the peaks of Francovia’s Blue Mountains, shining on a castle built upon the gorge at the lower slope where it flattened into forest and meadow. The first faint rays brushed windows curtained against the light, but at one room, set apart from the others, it fell upon a balcony and a doorway always open to the morning, the bright beams casting a pattern upon the floor of the chamber where the Giarl of Lindenscraig lay with his lady-wife.

For all the years he lived there, ’twas his custom to rise early to watch the sun come up over the land where, by the Margrave’s Grace, he was sole Lord and Magister, again to see the dark forests and meadows slowly illumined by a new day’s light. For that space, as he stood silhouetted in its glow, feeling the warm fingers of sunlight upon his face, he would once more marvel that he, the son of a barbarian sell-sword, was now a Noble of the Realm.

Sometimes, he felt that, from their first meeting, the gods had planned her for him–or, perhaps, it had been the other way around.

He had no way of knowing that he was totally correct, or, as the Father of the Gods had stated on the day Riven kan won his Barbara, that the gods weren’t finished with him, yet..

Penelope Adams – she said:

In the second book of The Chronicles of Riven The Heretic series, Blood Curse, Riven kan Ingan has finally admitted that he has fallen completely in love with his little barbarian, and decides that despite all obstacles in their way he must marry her. Having left her in the hands of another in the first book, Bloodseek.

He realizes that she is his life and living without her is not an option. Knowing that as a warrior, Riven is not allowed to marry and will have to give up his position, Barbara is hesitant to go with him to ask permission to marry but, like him, she cannot imagine their lives apart, so she bravely agrees. Once back in Francovia, Barbara will enchant the entire court, and both she and Riven will be tested almost beyond their limits. Surviving one disaster after another, the couple is finally able to leave court and go live in the country estate where Riven has been made the Giarl of Lindenscraig. Life will not become the sedate country life that they desire and the Gods will once more test both Riven and Barbara’s faith and love.

Ms. Sweeney once again takes us by the hand and leads us into her world of Lords and Ladies, warriors and barbarians, love and hate. When we met Riven and Barbara, we fell in love and in this book Ms. Sweeney tests that love time and again. Again we get a glimpse of the Weaver, as she weaves Riven and Barbara’s story using the threads the All-Father bids her to, even questioning him at times. Filled with a varied cast of characters and lands, we travel into Barbara’s home land of Ghermia and meet the people there.

Riven isn’t always a likeable man, while he loves Barbara, his own barbaric heritage is never far from the surface, causing him to not easily trust and to be quick to judge. Time and again, Barbara is forced to prove her loyalty to him, and yet he still questions it. Had I not fallen so totally for him in Bloodseek, I may well have decided to give up on him myself, thankfully I didn’t and was rewarded for it in the end.

Barbara gets to see a side of Riven that is not pleasant, that of the Black Sword, warrior for the Margrave. She somehow manages to see beyond the mask, and gentles Riven with her love and more than a little bit of backbone. How she managed to not hate him is beyond me, for such a small woman she has the soul of a warrior and is a great match for Riven.

This book centered greatly on Riven’s quest to find out who he was, and at times, was actually difficult to read. Ms. Sweeney has the ability to write scenes that squeeze the reader’s heart to just about it’s limit. I’m not ashamed to admit, there were more than a few times I had tears streaming down my face. Like the weaver, I would beg the All-Father to give Riven and Barbara a little time of peace.

The series just keeps getting better with each book, this book like the first does have some violence, it takes place in a time when might was right after all. There are some scenes that might make the reader a little uncomfortable, but only because Ms. Sweeney writes them so well that you forget you are reading a book. I can’t wait to see what Riven and Barbara have in store for us next.

Review by Penelope Adams

Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

Chinyere Etufugh – said:

This book picks right up where book one left off, and what a wild ride! Riven Kan Ingan had just followed his heart to find Barbara and they were reunited. Book 2 begins as Riven and Barbara travel back to Francovia. They were both excited and anxious to begin their lives as husband and wife. The excitement was because they wanted to explore the feelings that have made their hearts so full. The anxiety was because Barbara was a foreigner and they don’t know how she would be received by his King or even into his society.

Riven decided to forgo his position as soldier, and accept a position as a nobleman in court. That would allow him the opportunity to be home more, and keep Barbara away from fellow soldiers who have resented the favoritism the King had shown him over the years.

At one point, Riven finds Barbara in a position he never anticipated, and he feels betrayed. Would Riven survive this blood curse, or will he be able to purge himself of the curse and find peace at long last?

This installment was definitely more engaging than book 1. The writing, the cohesion of plot, and the twists were so much more exciting. The author definitely took her writing up a notch. I don’t want to expound on what happened, because you need to read it to find out. But I can tell you that I was just riveted at how Riven and Barbara were going to cope with the “betrayal”. What I enjoyed about this book, was that the author did a great job of showing Riven’s vulnerability, but still kept him very alpha male. It was clear that he loved and would die for his wife, but he was still overbearing at times. The plot twists kept the story from being  predictable.

This book was a humbling experience for a haughty Riven. He underestimated his enemies, and he underestimated his wife. All those things came back to haunt him in a very big way. We met some new characters, who will obviously play a bigger role in the lives of the hero and heroine. The gods are taking Riven on a journey and it is clear that they are not finished with him yet. I cannot wait to read the next book.

Review by Chinyere Etufugh

Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team

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

Once again I’m joined by Guest Dueler and PRG Reviewer Eziwayni Etufugh, this time to discuss Tony Sweeney’s second book in The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic series, Blood Curse. Thank you for joining me Ezi, now let’s get to the good stuff. I noticed in your review, you liked the book, but since you gave it 3.5 stars there must have been some issues. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us if there was anything specific that was a red flag for you?

I liked this book better than Book 1, but it still had character development issues as well as flow/transition issues. It needs more fleshing out of the plot and more lead in, before certain things happen. I prefer authors to give us information about a character, and let us decide if the character is evil, as opposed to the author just stating that the character was evil. Character and plot development are really important to me in series such as this. I am hoping Book 3 will be even better than the previous books. I believe the author’s writing showed some improvement. In determining my rating for a book, I ask myself if I would read a book again, and if there are certain chapters/events I just have to read over and over. That defines my top echelon books (4-5 star rating). Without giving spoilers, who did you weep for? How do you feel about  Barbara?

Thank you for that explanation. Who would I weep for? That one is easy, Barbara. From the very beginning of her meeting Riven, through to this chapter in their lives, she has shown nothing but loyalty to Riven and to her principles. She is not treated well by Riven at times in this book; Riven jumps to conclusions and doesn’t give her a chance to tell her side of the story. Even given how she has been treated, she still manages to hold on to not only her principles, but her deep abiding love for one man, Riven. Given the same set of circumstances, I don’t think I would be able to forgive my love, even if I loved him so soul deep he would always be the only one for me. How about you, any tears for you?

Barbara! She was the glue that kept their marriage, their family, and the entire household running smoothly. She was the bridge between Riven and his children, Riven and his god, Riven and his heart. She had a lot of strength because she could have left him, but she was willing to fight for him and their love. I don’t think her love for him ever wavers, even when he is being a stubborn jerk. But I also weep for the old lady. She looks at Riven and sees Barbara as what she wished he had been to Riven’s father. Barbara got the entire enchilada from the warrior that everyone hopes for. If she had a son by the man she loved, Riven wouldn’t be the recipient of her tongue lashing everyday.

Has the presence of the weaver and the Al-father added anything to this story for you?

I love the little glimpses we get of the weaver, we get little hints of what is to come from her conversations with the All-Father and I enjoy the little interludes that allow us to catch our breath. I think they were pivotal characters in the first book but just fun to have around now.

While we may not have agreed in our ratings of this book, I think we can both honestly say we are enjoying this series and I’m looking forward to reading and discussing A Singing in the Blood, the third book in this series. See you later and don’t forget to turn out the lights on your way out.

Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:

Considering that Riven wasn’t born in Francovia, could he be accepted fully as a nobleman in court? I realize that the King has a soft spot for him, but he is a soldier at heart and a “foreign born” citizen at that.

Somewhere, in one of the books, it may be the first one, it’s stated that Trygare kan Ingan married a king’s daughter. They were distantly related, so he was already part of the royal family of Cymene. Therefore, even though a sellsword, Riven’s father was a noble, both by marriage and by birth. If Riven had married Aleza as planned, the Margrave would’ve bestowed a title on him because he was his daughter’s husband. He does that anyway, in Book 2, making his adopted son one of the most powerful men in the country.

Besides, Riven has so many people who like him, especially among the military and the young men of the nobility, like his friend, Hraeth, that the few who don’t barely count.

The two sons born to Riven reminds me a little of an Isaac & Ishmael type of story…will these two be the main subject of book 3?

I’m assuming you mean Valriven and Ilkessen. (SPOILER to look forward to:  They aren’t the only children Riven has.) A good portion of Book 3 and all of Book 4 are concerned with the children, especially Riven’s relationship with these two sons who are so different and how he’s like every father when it comes to dealing with his own children. He may be a good soldier and a good master but as a father, he’s out of his depth. And he doesn’t have the example of his own father to fall back on. The Margrave apparently just indulged him and let him do as he pleased.

How long has Torghan held Barbara in such “high esteem” and is there something more that will develop in book 3?

Torghan will always hold Barbara in “high esteem” as his Lord’s wife. It’s only when he dared disobey Riven and save her that any other relationship develops, but I never actually answer the question: is it merely gratitude on Barbara’s part or does she actually love him. Those precognitive dreams Riven has of the (to him) unknown young man and young woman, were my way of telling what happened but they never give a definite answer to the relationship. Torghan has enough sense to realize it can’t ever become more with Riven once more in the picture.

I noticed the country Barbara is from is spelled close to Germany and Riven’s adopted land close to France. Is that what they are based on?

Originally, it was intended that way, Francovia is France, Ghermia is Germany and Chaleit is China.  Cymene would, of course,  be the British Isles.  The desert of Izhmir is patterned after the Southwest, however, so the geography is eventually a mixture of the entire world.

The scene in the garden with Barbara was hard to read. When you write these scenes, are you able to disconnect from them when you are done, or do they live with you?

As with any scene involving violence, it was difficult for me to write.  After all, Barbara’s the heroine of the piece and to have that horrendous act happen to my heroine… Originally, I was going to end the scene by having help arrive in the nick of time, then realized letting it go on to its unsavory conclusion opened more opportunities for character evolution. How does Riven react too this? Barbara? After all, she’s been assaulted before. And Arden Eby… Alluding to Book 3 of The kan Ingan Archives…this is the reason Armin Eby hates Aric and the kan Ingans so. Besides, this gave a good excuse for Riven to accept a title even though he didn’t want one, and to take Barbara from court, so I let it stand as written.

Wow, I love Aric and now that explains so  much. Thank you Ms Sweeney for your time. As always it is a pleasure to see you.