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A Blade of Black Steel

(The Crimson Empire #2)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,118 ratings  ·  95 reviews
The sequel to Alex Marshall's A Crown for Cold Silver, an outstanding, game-changing epic adventure featuring an unforgettable female warrior.

After five hundred years, the Sunken Kingdom has returned, and brought with it a monstrous secret that threatens to destroy every country on the Star.

As an inhuman army gathers on its shores, poised to invade the Immaculate Isles, th
Paperback, 640 pages
Published January 17th 2017 by Orbit (first published May 24th 2016)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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 ·  1,118 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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This one surprised the hell out of me.

I mean, I liked a lot of the aspects of the first in the series, all the cussing, girl-chasing, older matron ex-queen bent on reclaiming her lost queendom, the heavy-metal aspects of getting the evil band back together and being the underdog villains amidst wonderful dialogue and demon-strewn wastelands (that they may or may not have had a part in bringing about). I was even thrilled by the effortless way that the world-building automatically assumes that s
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit I didn't enjoy this as much as I did the first hence the one star rating. There were moments where the dialogue was clever and witty but it seemed much more sparse than it was in the first.

It also seemed like there was a lot of woe-is-me attitudes and not as much action. I was expecting more out of this book than it gave me.

Hopefully the third installment is good.
Beatrice Vincent
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Honestly I was both excited and nervous when I started this - how could it possibly live up to the triumph that was A Crown for Cold Silver?

But rest assured it did.

I never thought I would see the day when I said "how about instead of this love triangle we have polyamory" and the creator of the work said, "hoo boy are you gonna be pleased with this."

How am I going to survive the wait until the next instalment?
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Almost deserves the 5 stars, very entertaining.
Trevor Sherman
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished but it had Some things I really liked Ill get the review done soon
Simon Ellberger
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A Blade of Black Steel” is the second book of a series—a follow-up to the excellent “A Crown for Cold Silver,” which absolutely must be read before this book. The transition between the two is meant to be the responsibility of the reader as the author begins the new story with no summary of the first novel, and some may find this to be a problem. For those who don’t, there is a prologue that subtly sets the stage for the story in a fashion as black and strong as the title. And it does so decept ...more
WOW. Easily the best book I've read all year.

I am in LOVE with this series. This is one of those reviews where I'll have to try really hard not to ramble excitedly and I'll surely forget half of what I want to say.

I am absolutely amazed by the depth of this story, both in its themes and its character development. Unbelievably satisfying character development, at that. Alliances shift, and what originally seems to be a sinister act turns out to have a rational purpose; likewise, something rationa
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. This was everything I wanted the first book in the series to be.

I did like the first book, but had a number of issues with it. I also think some of the characters took some warming up to, and I came around to most of them in this installment.

We're clearly in the Empire Strikes Back phase of the series, which I usually find to be the best part of a fantasy trilogy. The story became more compelling in this book as well, and you can't beat Marshall's sense of humor. Bonus points because
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Like the opener Marshall crafts some great characters and puts them into multitudinous plotlines that all have good bones---then buries the whole enterprise beneath reeking tons of verbiage that, waaaay more often than not, serves not to advance any part of the story but only fill up the pages. I found that the best way to read this was just to skim anything that wasn't dialog. What a waste of effort on the author's part. I'll still probably tackle the sequels, at least until the main story star ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book (and the first) so much that I bought it in hardback and ebook. I haven't read the third yet, but this series is so good I bought that one twice too. And my husband used an Audible credit on the first one.

The Song of the Lioness quartet were the queer books I needed when I was a tween. The Crimson Empire books are the queer books I need as an adult. I know different people are going to take different things away from these books, and I want to say that this is one of the most e
Keith Pishnery
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Crown For Cold Silver was my favorite book of 2016. I loved that it relished in subverting epic fantasy tropes and having a sense of humor. Felt a bit more relatable and modern than most swords and sorcery. It had a gobsmacking weird cliffhanger and I was excited to see where it would go in the middle volume. Somewhere I saw this called Empire Strikes Back and that's pretty apt. There is a lot of swashbuckling here, but it's also a dark hour for our heroes, with foes new and old coming at all ...more
Brandon Forsyth
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like the most perfect LGBTQ+ Dungeons and Dragons campaign ever. Funny, full of thrilling action, and constantly surprising, the only complaint I have is that it gets a little bogged down in the middle.
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book in a series, so you probably know what you'll think of it based on the first, so I'll keep it brief:

Pros: All the cool relationship and sexual orientation stuff from the first book is back and bigger and better than ever. The big bad appears and things start rolling.

Cons: The split up party that means the story has to jump from location to location to follow all the action is also back (and there's a even a couple of new characters introduced). It's not necessarily bad,
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, fantasy, weird
Largely a continuation of the first volume in substance and quality. There's more magic and monsters, and things have gotten a LOT more queer and sexy, but for the most part things are chugging along as they were. Which is to say, a huge cast of great characters being emotionally vulnerable and caring and fun in the face of some vast and frightening and demanding circumstances. And despite a plot that sometimes feels relatively static, there are a lot of meaningful and surprising twists here, to ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carl Phillips
The characters are growing on me but there are serious pacing issues and plot progression issues here.

Basically fu*k all happened in the middle third. And the pace only picked up in the last 15% of the book, and then what did happen totally overturned everything else that had happened.

If anyone knows what on earth is happening with the plot then please tell me.
Joy Cronje
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book! It was unpredictable! I love the unique vocabularies of the characters, the characters themselves (of course), and the truly unique flavour of the world building and various cultures.
Must. Read. More!
Steve Lucido
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Blade of Black Steel builds on the story that was begun in A Crown for Cold Silver and does so in brilliant fashion. Again, Alex Marshall really impresses with his pacing and dialogue that had me laughing out loud at some points and on the edge of my seat at others.

In the second book of this series we are now familiar with a great ensemble cast of characters that were introduced in the first book and we are able to follow them as the plot begins to build towards its climax in the trilogy and
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this so much that I'm almost sad to only have one book left. I've become really invested in the world and characters and really don't want to let them go! :(

- There's even more visible queer representation than before (two guys I previously assumed to be straight fall in love with each other and there are now at least two trans characters) and it's handled so well and casually that I'm almost asking myself why this is an issue for other books at all.

- I LOVE the characters - so much I ca
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stan Pedzick, Mike Burwell
Having been introduced to all the characters (and the war situation) in the first book (WELL worth reading), we now get to experience what they're really like in action! And, we are treated to each backstory, some in greater detail, getting to know them in far too intimate ways, at times.

The Drama builds-- the Chainites and their religion is exposed for what it is: Danger to All Those That Live.

Grandfather becomes a Sword (very cool!); Sullen finds a purpose; Cobalt Zosia is redirected; her Five
Actual score: 3,5.

Starts off way too slow, and I found myself bored for most of the first half. Then it picked up the pace, I fell in love with the characters all over again, and had a grand old time of it. The ending felt fairly weak, however - not much of a set-up for the next installment. Still looking forward to reading it, but not dying to, if you know what I mean.


The characters remain the highlight, and I found myself whooping with delight when two of the FINALLY lock
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad step down from the excellence of the first book this was still an enjoyable read, it was just MUCH slower.
I was excited that this picks up exactly where book 1 left off but gone is the crazy energy of its predecessor. Our cast basically sits in the same spot for 200+ pages talking to each other about future plans, potential double crosses, and relationships until I found myself skimming through a lot of the dialogue. Things eventually do happen but for every action there are chapters and
Pavlo Tverdokhlib
A strong sequel to a great first book in the series. Zosia, Five Villains and a whole bunch of others return for more fast-paced, hilarious action as the world of the Star finds itself on teh brink of the Apocalypse.

The plot is a hard thing to describe. Individual plotlines are pretty great, showing personal development and taking a number of characters on unexpected arcs. However, the overall plot moves very slowly, and only really picks up towards the very end, promising a lot more excitement
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-all-2019
This book frustrated me to no end. Yes, we get answers and outcomes related to the cliffhangers from A Crown for Cold Silver. My problem is simple, I don't know what the author wanted me to experience. It was all over the place.

I do not feel the story moved forward by very much at all. Nearly 600 pages and I have a list of at least five threads that could have wrapped in the first 200 pages. The cliffhangers at the end of this one could have been done in 300 pages. So no, not happy.

It's a good
Aksel Dadswell
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark, violent, filthy and funny, this one delivered surprise after surprise. The characters I became so attached to in A Crown for Cold Silver moved in unexpected directions, and the level of diversity on display is wonderfully refreshing. The plot, too, was incredible both from a technical standpoint and for the sheer breathlessness with which it pulled me through to the end. The way Marshall (Bullington) handles action and dialogue and pacing on a scene-by-scene level is astounding, and the ma ...more
Will R
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I thought I knew the trajectory that the first book was headed in, but that all changed in the last third of A Crown for Cold Silver. The events of that book, so obviously a subversion of typical heroic fantasy, left me intrigued to see where Marshall was heading next. Unfortunately, after the large timeframe and geographical variety of the first book, this one felt disappointingly contained. I enjoyed the foregrounding of some of the previous secondary characters - I felt Purna was a particular ...more
I think I've found a new favorite author. This makes 3, 5-star books in a row for Alex Marshall/Jesse Bullington. It's fantasy, but it's almost like he didn't read any fantasy before he wrote it or like he made a check list of all the fantasy tropes and then made sure to avoid them all. But it's not just the originality of it all, it's the characters, it's the writing, it's the wit. This isn't "read through this part to get to the good part" kind of writing. This is "every single part is the goo ...more
Dec 14, 2019 rated it liked it
After reading the first book, I was curious what would be happening next. It's an odd world where men can have children, men can have breasts, women can have a mustache, etc. In a way there is a resemblence to our world, but on the other hand it is really weird. And the more I read it, the more I like it.

In the first book, Zosia's world collapses and she's out for revenge. Yet now it looks like that her former friends might be the reason why this is happening to her. There are several characters
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second book in the Crimson Empire series does an amazing job of adding to the mythos created in the first. This book picks up right where the first one leaves off. After five hundred years, the Sunken Kingdom has returned and the Cobalt Company must decide if they will fight against the inhumans monsters that have risen with it or continue on the path to taking over the kingdom.

All the things I loved about the first book are evident in this sequel: the dark humour and the characters with fl
Sarah Frobisher
A Blade of Black Steel is a fitting follow up to the first Crimson Empire book; full of bloody battles and strong females. However, while the writing and setting is rich, the dialogue often comes across as overly simplistic and juvenile. Purna is a strong character, who adds an interesting dynamic to the twisted and surprising story.

SUMMARY: When the Sunken Kingdom returns, everything Zosia has worked for is in jeopardy, and no one can be trusted. As the forces around her build, she must decide
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Alex Marshall is a pseudonym for Jesse Bullington who has previously published several novels in different genres. - See more at: ...more

Other books in the series

The Crimson Empire (3 books)
  • A Crown for Cold Silver (The Crimson Empire, #1)
  • A War in Crimson Embers (The Crimson Empire, #3)

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“Zosia would always prefer her weapons the way she liked her women: thick, blunt, and capable of fucking up even the biggest devil in the First Dark” 0 likes
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