Bloodseek – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney
Reviewers: Penelope Adams / Chinyere Etufugh
Son of a barbarian sellsword who is raised by the Margrave of Francovia after his father is killed in His Majesty’s service, Riven kan Ingan is, by his own admission, a heretic, who doesn’t believe in the existence of either magic or religion. Though he rises through the ranks under his own power, he’s never allowed to forget his foreign ancestry, and schemes to marry the Margrave’s daughter and become a true member of the Royal House, but the gods of Arcanis, insulted by his denial of their existence, have other plans for the young skeptic.
When Aleza is abducted by the soldiers of Mahldimir Djaan-Baih, a follower of Drel, god of Death, and Riven is wounded in her defense, he swears a Bloodseek oath to rescue her. Accompanied by Bar-Bara, a barbarian slave girl, his search takes him to the desert country of Izhmir. There, in the City of the Sunrise–where the sorcerer practices his black arts and his people live in fear of becoming sacrifices to Drel–Riven seeks the aid of a reluctant rebel in freeing Aleza.
Saving the princess, however, does not end the story, for there’s no Happily Ever After for the Margrave’s young soldier. Riven’s punishment is only beginning as the gods make him fall in love with a woman he can’t have. When he loses her to another man, there’s nothing he can do to claim her and nothing he can do to forget her, because the gods aren’t finished with him yet!
Penelope Adams – she said:
The lone survivor of a horrible battle that resulted in the princess Aleza of Aljansur being kidnapped, warrior Riven kan Ingan swears to get his revenge and bring his princess home to her father, the Margrave. After a year of enduring a painful healing process, Riven declares himself able to undertake a rescue. His best friend begs him to wait until after the snows have melted to enter the land of the Snow King, but Riven is determined, after all the B’akshir braved the snows to kidnap Aleza, why should he not brave them to rescue her?
Twelve brave knights accompany Riven on his journey and once again, only Riven survives the journey. Determined, he carries on across the dessert, alone with his trusted war horse and his two loyal weir hounds. Baked by the sun, questioning his own sanity and cursing his liege, his love and his own barbarian father for becoming the Margraves most trusted sell sword, Riven finally approaches a farmstead where he can obtain food and water when he hears a woman’s scream. With sword in hand he comes upon a scene of carnage, the farmhouse aflame, the bodies of a man and woman on the ground and a boy being held by a B’akshir marauder. With no hesitation, Riven attacks, killing the marauder and causing another that he had not known was there to flee.
The boy, who had been knocked unconscious during the fight, is revived by Riven, only to come up fighting. Riven soon discovers the golden haired child was made a slave by none other than Mahldimir Djaan-Baih, the one who kidnapped Aleza. The child tells him the two soldiers were taking him to Ak-Madesh, to await his master’s pleasure. After much negotiation the child convinces Riven to take him along as his squire. Along the journey Riven learns the child’s name is Llanginfiar – much too difficult to pronounce so Riven uses the name the child’s captors used – Bar-Bara, which translates to The Barbarian.
Thus a warrior and child undertake the perilous journey through land even the Gods have forsaken, each determined to exact their own revenge. Each will have their own beliefs and strengths tested time and again by the Gods. The Gods that Riven swears do not exist and the Gods that Bar-Bara believes in with heart and soul.
Bloodseek is the first book in the Chronicles of Riven The Heretic, and is a tale of loyalty and love woven in a way that only Ms. Sweeney is capable of doing. She cleverly tells her tale alternately by the Weaver of Lives in the heavens and by Riven and young Bar-Bara. We see the Gods as they enter the Weaver’s cavern to watch her as she adds strands to her loom, each with a hand in how Riven and Bar-Bara’s lives will play out.
I absolutely loved each time we visited the heavens and got to the see the Gods interact in our hero’s lives. Riven is a sworn heretic so watching them manipulate his life was fun, while Bar-Bara is a fervent believer and we get to watch that belief be rewarded.
Riven is a big strong ferocious warrior, he stands out in a crowd, has very little patience and lives his life by the warrior code. He is totally taken aback by this young child that he rescues and their interactions make for some of the best parts of the story. I alternately loved and hated Riven, according to which side of himself he was showing at the time. The man could be as stubborn as a mule and then turn around and be just a big ole tender teddy bear toward Bar-Bara.
Bar-Bara was a brave child, determined to have revenge for being taken as a slave and would not let anything stand in the way of getting that revenge. For such a small child, Bar-Bara packed a huge punch and despite all that had happened, showed a bit of a sense of humor. You couldn’t have asked for two more different characters to be paired together and they played well off each other.
I actually read this book after I read the follow up series, so I had an idea where it was going and knew my way around the landscape of Arcanis and the lives of the characters. This may have been an advantage for me, because the world that Ms. Sweeney builds might be confusing to the first time reader, but after the first chapter it does get easier to understand.
There is just about everything in this book a reader of fantasy would enjoy, there are some pretty intense fight scenes, some love scenes that are not YA but not too graphic, some mystical interaction with the Gods and a laugh or two.
Review by Penelope Adams
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Chinyere Etufugh – said:
This story is about Riven Kan Ingan, a Francovian soldier, who was cursed by the gods. He was a mighty hero, but he was also a heretic. Riven did not acknowledge the god Ildred All Father and so Ildred commanded the Weaver to weave Riven’s life with a fabric fashioned in pain and suffering. He would find love and then lose it as punishment. The gods intended to bring Riven to his knees.
The story begins with Riven recovering from wounds that he sustained in a battle with his nemesis, sorcerer Mahldimir Djaan-Baih. The sorcerer kidnapped Riven’s love, the Francovian Princess Aleza during his siege. So Riven vowed revenge against his foe and set off to rescue his future wife Aleza.
Though the town healer told Riven that his wounds had not fully healed, he set off to the distant land OfIzhmir to regain all that was taken from him. Along his journey he rescued a “barbarian” who had been a slave to Mahldimir Djaan-Baih and thus gained a travel companion. Together with the companion whom Riven called “Bar-bara”, Riven continues on this quest to rescue Aleza from the clutches of his enemy. However, this companion Bar-bara begins to challenge the “truths” that Riven had held onto for so long. Was his destiny really with Aleza, was there really a high power, and what his real destiny was. This quest to find Aleza became a journey of self-discovery for Riven.
The story developed well, but it started to lose some steam for me in the second half of the book. I would have liked a faster resolution. I didn’t connect with the hero, but I liked the two heroines. I am really glad that the author didn’t take the easy way out and make one of the heroines a villain, thus removing the choice. I didn’t like that such a mouthy hero got all silent when words would have really counted. The author did a good job showing the hero’s angst as he had to make some life altering choices.
In the end, the story was a good read and a good building block for the rest of this series. Fans of the series like Dark Hunters will like this book. It is wrought with scheming by the deities on high. A nice touch of fantasy and romance.
Review by Chinyere Etufugh
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…
Here we are once again in our comfy little dual review room and this time I’m joined by Chinyere Etufugh, welcome Chinyere thank you for joining me, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. I have to start out by saying I’ve cheated a little in that I’ve actually read the first three books in the followup series to this one (and loved them) so I sort of had a head’s up on the world we were entering. I noticed in your review you said you found the second half of the book started to lose steam. I felt the first half was sort of background material letting us get to know Riven and Bar-Bara and the second half was where we saw their true personalities. You said you would have liked a quicker resolution, without giving away any spoilers, is it possible to hint at what you felt was dragging the story down in the second half?
I thought it took awhile for Riven to go fight for what he wanted. He is a warrior by nature, and kind of a taker (Me see, me want, me take). Why not take now? Especially something he wanted to bad. I wanted his evolution or enlightenment to be faster. I loved Bar-bara. She was a woman of honor, her word and she was a giving person. She is a good mate for Riven. I even liked the princess, even though Riven and her didn’t get married. She was honest about not loving him anymore and I like that she went out going for what she wanted.
What changes did you notice about Riven in the beginning, and Riven at the end of the book?
Hmmm, interesting question. I’m sitting here thinking back about the book and wondering if there were any changes in Riven. I like your description of a type of caveman mentality, I’m not sure he ever lost that and I have to admit, that was kind of what I liked about him. I think he was pretty much a man of his times, if you look at the other male characters in the book, they are all pretty much the same way. I think the biggest change in Riven had to have been his feelings about the Gods (trying not give away any spoilers here). As far as why he waited in the second half, I think he was actually trying to do the noble thing, he was always about his service to his country coming first. I’ve read the follow-up series to this one and have fallen in love with the world that Ms. Sweeney has built, what did you think of it?
I liked the authenticity of the times. The characters were true to the time period. In the beginning, Riven was haughty and arrogant. Love humbled him. Love made him plead, beg and pray. It hurt so bad that he actually called out to the gods. That was the evolution I saw. He was about glory of war, all the accolades etc.
As I said, Bar’bara showed that she was realistic, practical and thoughtful. It must have been hard for her to make some of the sacrifices that she made. She was the one who truly made this story for me.
It looks like while we had a slightly different take, we both enjoyed this offering from Ms. Sweeney. Thank you for joining me in our little dual room, don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave.
Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:
Since this is book one of the series, do you know how many books you have planned?
There are 5 books in the series. Four (Bloodseek, Blood Curse, A Singing in the Blood, Barbarian Blood Royal) have been written. The fifth, The Man from Cymene, will be a “prequel,” telling the story of Riven’s father and why he came to Francovia.
Follow up to question one, this book did not have one of the dreaded cliffhangers (thank you for that) at the end and seemed to pretty much wrap up the story, could you give us a hint as to what the second book might contain?
Bloodseek was originally a single standalone, but some time after it was written, the questions started trickling in. What happens to a man who’s been such an irreverent womanizer, drunkard, and ruthless soldier when he suddenly falls in love and gets married? How is Riven’s childlessness going to affect his and Barbara’s lives? Are the gods really finished with him? So I had to answer.
I will add that when Book 3 rolls around, there are probably going to be some cries of dismay and disbelief, but I have to write these stories as they play out and what happens in A Singing in the Blood seemed to be the natural progression of things, though I wasn’t particularly happy at the way it turned out, either.
I hesitate to assign genres to books but we must, so I called this a fantasy. I’ve noticed my partner in crime in this dual considered it Urban Fantasy. What are your thoughts on genres and this one in particular?
There has to be some differentiation in types of stories, besides just “book” or “short story,” etc. Bloodseek is a fantasy, but I personally wouldn’t call it Urban. I classify “Urban fantasy” as a fantasy set in contemporary times. When I originally wrote Bloodseek, the movie Conan the Barbarian had just been released (the Schwartzenegger version). That tells you how long ago it was written. Bloodseek was my answer to that. Since the term “Sword and Sorcery” is now no longer used, though at the time Bloodseek was written, it was still in vogue, I’d have to call it a medieval fantasy. I believe that’s how the publisher has it classified.
Did the gods take an interest in Bar-bara like they did Riven?
I’m afraid that Bar-Bara, like most of the other women in the series are just a means to an end, as far as the gods are concerned. Riven’s world is a chauvinistic one, and Riven’s the one they’ve homed in on. I can’t really say more without throwing in a handful of Spoilers.
Riven didn’t believe, what was Bar-bara’s transgression? Will Bar-bara’s womb be opened now that her heart has been opened?
Here, again, I can’t really give a full answer without giving a Spoiler. Let’s just say that Riven and Bar-Bara are meant for each other, no matter who else has been in their lives, and Bar-Bara’s womb was never really closed. It’s just waiting for the right man….and if that man thinks he can’t have children…well, that might lead to the events of Book 2.
What of Bar-bara’s people? Will she go back?
More Spoilers! Bar-bara will never go back to Ghermia, but Riven, and others of their family, including a certain spoiled Prince called Aric, will definitely visit there. In fact, that’s where Aric’s family home, Lindenscraig is located. And, if you’ll remember, Kim, the Ambassador to the Fringes, has his home there also.
Thank you again Ms Sweeney for chatting and allowing us to review your books…