Gilead’s Blood by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the darkly tragic Gilead’s Blood by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent.
“Classic dark fantasy! For those who like their heroes with a dark side and plenty of evil environments and bitter moments of tragedy then Gilead’s Blood is a novel not to be missed.” – The Founding Fields
Gilead’s Blood is an older novel and one that did interest me, but alas I could not get my hands on a copy. And then Nik Vincent, many thanks to her, returned to Gilead with the sequel Gilead’s Curse and thus it was necessary that Gilead’s Blood be reprinted. And though the book suffered from a very slow pace at times and a bit too much travelling rather than story development, it was a good read and one that really evoked some feeling in me at more times than I had expected.
Gilead te tuin Lothain is the last of his line, the ancient and noble elves of Tor Anrok. After the loss of his kith and kin Gilead devotes himself to battling the evils of the world, travelling to the darkest places in the Old World searching for the death that will end his pain, with only his trusty ally Fifthvael te tuin at his side. Gilead’s quest will see him battle the minions of darkness, lords of chaos and the monsters that lurk within ranks of everyday men and women, but can the morose elf survive his trials and find that final release that will see him reunited with his loved ones? Or will he be doomed to forever wander in search of a death that will never come? The land is full of myths and legends of heroes and villains, but this story is not one of them.
The story in GB is similar to the style of the Gotrek and Felix novel Trollslayer. Rather than one large story the book is split into six parts, each one telling a different story that is connected to the other and follows the one that came before it. Unfortunately this limits the potential for a novel-long plot as each story differs from the others, but in turn gives a variety to the novel and allows for much more time to pass and things to change between the characters as the years pass. It is a mixed bag and while one or two of the stories felt lesser to the others, i’m thinking of Parts 4 and 5 in particular, the others made up for it by being engaging and fun in that dark fantasy way, it’s grim and harsh and you just need to see what will happen next.
The characters are numerous due to the story format, the only two characters appearing across the book are the titular Gilead te tuin Lothain and his ally Fithvael te tuin Lothain. These two are as different as dark and light, Gilead being morose and selfish yet when pushed he will do the right thing if not always for the right reason, whereas Fithvael is a kinder breed of elf than we have seen before and one who is willing to pass the torch to humanity. These two complement each other, Fithvael helping Gilead make the right decision when the sullen elf needs a push and Gilead leading the way in their fight against darkness and being unwilling to rest. The remainder of the cast is well-written, some characters really standing out for their appearance or actions and particularly in the final part of the book where each character really stuck with me and the book felt so much more like an epic rather than a personal story.
When the action is at it’s best, it’s really really good, but in some parts it suffers for what feels repetitive and somewhat dull. The final battle in the book is excellent and is one of the best small-scale sieges i’ve read, caring about each of the characters helped but it was the desperation and the danger of the situation that really made it feel real. Other battles were nearly as good but some felt a little tough to understand coreographically, the height of some characters in particular when compared to others (at least as I pictured it) made it hard for me to believe they could pull off some of the sword-moves that they did. And alas some of the battles suffer from the slow pace that plagues the middle of the book, which makes them harder to get through since these types of sword battles shouldn’t be slow-paced.
The pacing is the issue of the book. At the start and up to the end of the third part the pacing is fine, it isn’t too quick or too slow and makes these parts of the book an easy read, but as I reached the mid-way point the book started to feel very slow to me. The travelling sections, lack of any real character or story development really stunted the novel’s pace and made it harder to get through. This disappeared by the sixth part which returned the book to it’s good pacing and went a good way to making up for the lull, but the book does suffer for it’s slower middle section.
Now for my favourite quote, a tough one as not a great many quotes leaped out at me but this one is quite good,
“No matter… I believe I have kept you occupied long enough.”
The ending to the story is a good one, and a bit more uplifting than the rest of the book though it does have dark moments, it is an open-ended finish that leaves Gilead and Fithvael ready for their next adventure. It does wrap up the book but there are several outstanding issues that I suppose will have to be dealt with another time and in another story featuring Gilead, but ultimately each story is it’s own contained ending and thus the end of the book, is really just the end of part six. But it’s still a good ending and leaves off at a good point, leaving the reader wondering what is next for Gilead te tuin Lothain and whether or not he will find the death he longs for, or perhaps another reason to live. Only time will tell as with Gilead’s return after so many years, we can hopefully look forward to a few more novels featuring the last of the line of Tor Anrok.
For a good story and a good cast of characters, and the nicely done moments of tragedy and that epic final battle I give Gilead’s Blood a score of 7.1/10. I would recommend this book to any Warhammer fan and to fans of dark fantasy, those who like bryonic heroes as Gilead is definitely one of them, characters suffering through loss and grief and often not getting better as time goes on and with only a sliver of hope that things may one day get better, or they may just end. Some may find the format of the book off-putting, and to that I can only say it isn’t for everyone and while I can enjoy it, I myself wouldn’t want to read books like it too often. But despite flaws this is a good dark fantasy novel and one that I definitely enjoyed.
That’s it for this review. Next will likely be Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight, a book that I am quite looking forward to if only to find out for myself whether all the criticism about it is something I agree or disagree with. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!