Ryuu is a boy orphaned by violence at a young age. Found by a wandering warrior, he learns he may have more strength than he ever imagined possible. A quiet child, Moriko is forced into a monastic system she despises. Torn from her family and the forest she grew up in, she must fight to learn the skills she'll need to survive her tutelage under the realm's most dangerous assassin. Young, beautiful, and broke, Takako is sold to pay for her father's debts. Thrust into a world she doesn't understand and battles she didn't ask for, she must decide where her loyalties lie. When their lives crash together in a kingdom on the brink of war, the decisions they make will change both their lives and their kingdom forever. If they can stay alive.
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Nightblade represents a whole year spent taking chances on books I’ve never heard of, all with the hopes of finding new authors and hidden gems. Some didn’t turn out that way but most turned out to be excellent and fun choices. Nightblade is truly one of those gems.
Instead of your run of the mill, European based fantasy we are treated to a world with Japanese/Chinese parallels with a very rich history. The land is split into three main Kingdoms, with other nations surrounding that, and each has a tenuous and fragile peace with the other. But our story takes place on a smaller more personal scale. Ryuu isn’t tasked with changing the world or bringing peace to a set of kingdoms, instead he us simply trying to live a life where he can use his strength to protect those without choice or means of doing so themselves…which is refreshing after reading so many books where the main character sets out to utterly dismantle the status quo. I think that difference really brings the raw emotion of the experiences he goes through to the forefront. The kingdom itself is oddly beautiful despite it’s issues and the author’s skill with building worlds is fairly apparent. I could see the busy streets of the city, and the shadow streets of the red lit road where men go for companionship, I could easily picture the old forest and stone paved courtyard of the monasteries. One can go a long time without experiencing world building on a scale where everything becomes an actual sensory memory, as opposed to just a plot line, and I never realize how starved I am until I find one.
Ryuu is definitely a fantastic character to follow, as is Moriko and Takako…who all come together in different ways. Each of them shares the loss of their family and the chance of a normal life but the way the view the world is different. Ryuu is headstrong and curious, and he wants to help others no matter what and most of the story centers around each consequence of his actions and the weight it puts on a single person. While he is skilled and hardened in many ways in some others he is a bit naive, which joins nicely with Takako’s loving personality and her knowledge of what the world is really like.
Nightblade is definitely a highlight to this year’s books, and I’m glad I took a chance on it when I did.
First thing, this is an adult fantasy. While not grimdark, it is more oriented to adults, with violence, rape and other adult themes. That being said, those parts are organic to the story, not gratuitous. There are 3 different storylines following 3 different characters, who proceed through a series of tragedies in their lives that shape their futures. Ryuu watches his parents murder at the hand of bandits, and is rescued by a warrior passing by, who happens to be a banned Nightblade, kind of a magic using warrior/assassin. He decides to train Ryuu, who he senses has a lot of power. Ryuu spends years training with his master, building mastery of his skills, all while avoiding the monks who convert or kill all Sense (the magic) users.Moriko is taken by the monks as a child, to be raised in a monastary, with harsh discipline and an austere life. She is physically abused, as are all the novices, and trainined to use her power to sense magic users. Her magic is differnt, though, being more like Ryuu's. She is then trained by an assassin to use the power offensively. Takako is sold by her father to a brothel to pay for his debts. She is groomed for years for the part, but a General has plans that include her being a consort for his son that derail her plans. The crossing of Ryuu and Takako sets off a chain of events That will change everything, and when Moriko crosses thir path, you can feel the strings of fate shifting. The plot is fast moving after the initial introductions, with a lot of action and some well drawn out fight scenes. The magic is fresh and fairly original, without being too overwhelming. The setting, the Three Kindoms, is somewhat underdrawn as far as the Northern and Western kingdoms, but the Southern Kingdom is well described. This is just a minor thing. The characters are a real strength, being interesting and engaging, if not always likable. The villains are well drawn out, with realistic motivations for their actions. Andrew Tell, who I had never heard previously, does a great job narrating, really differntiating the characters and bringing the story to life. Any fan of Anthony Ryan.s Blood Song books should enjoy this book.
I was given a review copy of this book by the narrator at no cost in return for an honest review through Audiobookblast dot com.