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Publisher: Grey Sun Press; 2nd edition (2015)
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 In Amaska, residents serve Anur, the God of Justice. Amaskans, men and women, train with a rigor akin to the Spartans to be in peak physical strength and to be ever alert for the presence of danger.  Yes, the Amaskans kill, but only to right a wrong as directed by the “Order.”  They take no delight in carnage, but they will not stand idly by when someone is suffering an injustice.  Knives are their weapon of choice. When not in combat, they identify themselves proudly with tattoos of circles on their jaws.

The Tribor, on the other hand, are a people void of morals who worship Itova, the Death Goddess, and kill with abandon. Their triangular tattoos are covered by their clothing and there is nothing noble about their instinct to murder.

Then there are the previously warring kingdoms of Alexander and Shad, now existing in a tentative peace, one that rulers hope will be solidified through a royal marriage. A princess of Alexander is betrothed to a prince of Shad. If the union is successful, the two kingdoms hope the brutal conflict over the borderlands will cease once and for all. Unless, of course, the marriage a ruse on the part of one side, the first step in a strategy to conquer.  There’s speculation and intrigue as readers speculate who are the allies and who is about to be betrayed.

Locales, readers soon learn, are of great importance in this book and provide insights into the characters. The author includes a map of “Boahim” and we learn much about its “Little Dozen” kingdoms.

As accomplished as the situations and settings are, the real feat of this novel is the depth of characterization. At the heart of this tale are twins, young women who were born five minutes apart. Princess Margaret of Alexander is delicate, genteel, silly, spoiled, and absurdly naïve about political matters.  At least her sister, Adelei thinks so.

In contrast, Adelei, raised in Amaska since she was five years of age, moves with the strength and stealth of one who has killed many times for a cause, who puts duty above any earthly pleasure. She has the advantage and the burden of having two fathers, King Leon of Alexander, her biological father, and Master Bredych of Amaska, the man who adopted her when she was five. How she came to leave her kingdom of origin and return a decade later is a riveting, suspenseful tale, part of which is told in flashback. Of course, present events are tied to the past, and Adelei will have to reconcile what has happened to her when she was a child, known then as Iliana, if she is to perform the assigned task of protecting her twin sister.

Princess Margaret is preparing to marry Prince Gamun of Shad, a young man with the worst of reputations (think Joffrey in Game of Thrones), although the dreamy young woman hopes it is only petty gossip maligning her betrothed. In protecting her sister, Adelei is also protecting their shared father, the elderly and ailing king, and the entire Kingdom of Alexander.

As events unfold, can two such markedly different sisters learn from each other? And, if so, what will the consequences be? Just when you think you know where the novel is headed, the author will surprise you, frighten you, charm you, and, ultimately, move you profoundly.

Raven Oak’s fantasy novel, Amaskan’s Blood, pays such careful attention to detail that readers will likely feel as if they’re reading historical fiction. While it does take occasional detours from realism, this epic novel reads like an extraordinary and engrossing depiction of actual events.  This is a credit to Oak’s very precise and inviting prose and her enormous talent for elaborate plot twists imbued with emotional drama. Will fans of fantasy still like this book? Absolutely! In fact, if you’re longing for the next season of Game of Thrones to begin, this is the novel to read while you’re waiting.

  • Writing: Excellent
  • Sex: Nothing graphic – advised for 13+
  • Violence: Killings involving knives and blood
  • Narration: 3rd Person
  • Tense: Past
  • Mood: Adventurous/Suspenseful