Reviewed in the United States on November 29, 2010
Thieves of Blood by Tim Waggoner
Thieves of Blood is the first book in the Blade of the Flame trilogy. The second book is Forge of the Mindslayers and the third book is Sea of Death. The Blade of the Flame trilogy is set in the Eberron setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Tim Waggoner has written one other Eberron novel titled Lady Ruin. He has written a vast amount of other novels. His work includes; a Hyperswarm novel titled Defender, the Godfire series (The Orchard of Dreams and Heart's Wound), the Nekropolis series (Nekropolis, Dead Streets, and Dark War), Last of the Lycans series (Monarch of the Moon), Dying for It, The Harmony of Society, a Dark Ages: Vampire book called Gangrel, Necropolis, an Exalted novel titled A Shadow Over Heaven, Like Death, Darkness Wakes, Pandora Drive, Cross Country, two novels in the Dragonlance: New Adventures series (Temple of the Dragonslayer and Return of the Sorceress), a novel based on Nightmare on Elm Street called Protegé, and a Stargate SG-1 novel titled Valhalla. He has written a vast amount of short stories for various anthologies and magazines, and has two story-collections titled All Too Surreal and Broken Shadows. Thieves of Blood was released in May 2006 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Diran Bastiaan left the life of an assassin behind him and turned to be a priest of the Silver Flame. However, his past catches up to him in the form of his former lover, Makala. After saving Diran and his half-orc companion Ghaji from a changeling, Diran and Makala reflect on old times. However, before they reminiscence for too long, ships appear in the darkening sky line. The Black Fleet has come and they are taking hostages. Unfortunately, Makala is captured. With the help of Ghaji and a friendly elf acrobat named Yvka, Diran goes on a search to find his missing love. What he discovers alarms him. Apparently, the famous adventurer Erdis Cai isn't dead and is leading the Black Fleet. Diran may not be prepared enough for the trials to come.
1) Ghaji/ Yvka. The characters were really great characters, but the budding romance that is developing between them was a problem. It sprang up from almost no where. There was some significant moments between the two, but they didn't seem get the point across. Also, the sudden interest in one another came off awkwardly. There didn't seem to be any real attraction between the two, which was the problem. If you compare Ghaji and Yvka's relationship to Diran and Makala's, you see a huge difference in the amount of time that was used build it up. While Diran and Makala's relationship is important to the overall plot, it would have been nice to see the same time being taken to develop the budding relationship. Otherwise, this just come off as rushed and awkward as possible.
2) Descriptions. A small issue with Thieves of Blood is with the character descriptions. When we first meet Diran and Ghaji, the descriptions of the characters were cut up. For example, we first meet the duo walking down a street with very basic descriptions. Then right after basic description we get some exposition and establishing shots of the city and area. Then two pages later we get a large section describing Diran in more detail. While normally, this wouldn't have been an issue, here it just comes across as awkward. It seems to happen with every character introduced. There are short bursts of description, followed by a page or so of something else, and back into a more detailed description. It's a little jarring and does take you out of the story.
1) Protagonists. The main characters were diverse and interesting. They each added something unique and exciting to the story. Also, there never seemed to be a weak character in the cast, which is surprising. The closest character that could have been considered weak, Yvka, still was very worth while and interesting. The interest with Yvka could be due to her mysterious background, which helped to overpowered her lack of presence. The same could be said about the halfling pirate Hinto, but his condition made up for any set backs. You never knew what Hinto would do in different situations and he really surprised me most of the time. Tresslar, while having the shortest presence in the novel, really seemed like one of the more interesting minor characters. His past really gave the character something special. He came across like you would want to know more about him. The main characters is where this story shines. Diran, Ghaji, and Makala were great characters. Makala was just great. She had some wonderful screens while being held captive that really made you care for her and want things to turn out for the best. Her relationship with Diran never came across as fake or made up, and at times was really touching. With Diran and Ghaji, they worked well together. If they were separated, I don't think either character would have had much of an impact as they did while together. They came across as through they were real friends and really played up the other's strengths. All in all, the protagonists were great.
2) Story. The story was very straightforward, but in a good way. It wasn't bogged down with side quests and stories, which cause it to be a quick and enjoyable read. It kept to the point. This helped out with the feeling of urgency that you should feel with these kinds of stories. It felt like Makala's life, along with the lives of the others who are also captives, were on the line and important. There were some side trips, but they were integral to the plot. Finding out more information about the Black Fleet is a logical step one would take while searching for it. Finding a former member of the crew is yet another logical step. There was one side trip that felt weird, being struck in a mire, but it wasn't dragged out and was resolved rather quickly. When everything is said and done, this is how you want to do a straightforward story.
3) Antagonists. The villains were fantastic. They didn't seem to be cliché while being cliché. A better way to put that is, the villains did have cliché moments, but they were written in a way that they still came across as unique. Onkar, the Black Fleet's first mate, was the more cliché and the weaker of the main villains. He was your usual henchmen type, be evil and do what your told. However, he still was menacing. The main villain, Erdis Cai also was cliché, but still a very good character. He made his clichés work for him, making him all the more memorable and terrifying. Nothing seemed to phase him and he gave off this air of confidence that only villains seem to have. While with most villains it would be kind of silly, Erdis Cai made it terrifying. When he popped up throughout the story, it gave me chills. He took menacing to another level. However, the best villain in Thieves of Blood, and the most frightening, is Jarlain. From her first appearance, she was formidable. You could almost sense that she had hidden power and that you would never have a chance against her. As the story went on, you really start to feel bad about her situation and learn more interesting things about who she is. That's what makes a great villain, and Jarlain pulled it off wonderfully. Overall, the villains were cliché, but they still made a great impact.
1) Editing. There are some very silly editing mistakes that popped up from time to time while reading. The most memorable mistake is having two misspelled words within a page of each other. It kind of detracted from the story, but not for long.
2) Vampire Pirates. What's not to like about vampire pirates? It's as cool as it sounds.
3) Cover Art. The best way to describe the cover art for Thieves of Blood is epic. It's just epic in every way. It's very action heavy, with Diran seemingly rushing at Erdis Cai to save Makala. The colors do a good job in reflecting the dark mood that's in the novel. There are some awesome poses and it helps in adding to overall feeling of the cover. Also, its notable that something akin to this does happen in the story, which I find very satisfying. All in all, the cover art is just epic.
Thieves of Blood is a good way to start off a trilogy. There wasn't much that really holds it back, aside from a few things that can be ignored. The relationship that suddenly seemed to develop between Ghaji and Yvka came from no where. There wasn't enough time devoted to their budding romance. All we got were some looks here or a word there. It just felt sudden. Also, character descriptions came off as jarring. Having a brief description followed by dialogue or exposition, then a huge paragraph dedicated to detail, did take me out of the story for a brief time. However, everything else seemed to work great. The protagonists and antagonists were just great. They both added something to the story. With the protagonists, there were some great backgrounds that really made me want to read more about them. With the antagonists, they were cliché but they used their clichés to a wonderful effect. Also, the story was wonderful. This is how you should write a straightforward fantasy novel. The straightforward nature gave the plot a feeling of importance and made it feel like something was on the line. Overall, would I recommend Thieves of Blood? Yes, this is a great story with some fantastic characters. Plus it has vampire pirates, what's not to like about that?