A thousand years ago, the Eleven Domains were invaded and the original inhabitants were driven onto the road as Travelers, belonging nowhere, welcomed by no one.Now the Domains are governed with an iron fist by the Warlords, but there are wilder elements in the landscape that cannot be controlled and that may prove the Warlords' undoing. Some are spirits of place - of water and air and fire and earth. Some are greater than these. And some are human.
Bramble: A village girl whom no one living can tame, forced to flee her home for a crime she did not commit.
Ash: A safeguarder's apprentice who must kill for an employer he cannot escape.
Saker: An enchanter who will not rest until the land is returned to his people.
As their three stories unfold, along with the stories of those whose lives they touch, it becomes clear that they are bound together in ways that not even a stonecaster could have foreseen - by their past, their future, and their blood.
This omnibus edition includes all three novels - Blood Ties, Deep Water, and Full Circle - together for the first time.
Pamela Freeman is an Australian author of books for both adults and children. Most of her work is fantasy but she has also written mystery stories, science fiction, family dramas and non-fiction. Her first adult series, the Castings Trilogy (Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle) is published globally by Orbit books. She is best known in Australia for the junior novel Victor’s Quest and an associated series, the Floramonde books, and for The Black Dress: Mary MacKillop’s Early Years, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize in 2006.
As of 2015, she will also be publishing historical novels under the name Pamela Hart.
I just finished a novel over the holidays that I am really quite excited to review. Some of you may know of the Australian author, Pamela Freeman, as it is my understanding that she is a fairly well known author of young-adult literature. Well, I just finished her first set of novels (I think) written for adult audiences. Frankly, I have to tell you that it is also completely age and subject appropriate for youth and teen readers as well. Okay, on with my review.
Ms. Freeman has recently written a sequence of three books entitled, "The Castings Trilogy," and it is nothing short of brilliant! The three novels in the trilogy are titled, "Blood Ties," "Deep Water," and the third is "Full Circle." The titles are quite apt considering the subject and pace of each novel. I read a larger-sized omnibus edition published by Orbit (2010) at just under 1,400 pages in length. I have to tell you that I couldn't put it down; it was just riveting!
Firstly, these novels flow quite effortlessly and seamlessly from the first volume to the third. Ms. Freeman is an excellent writer with a very clean and crisp writing style that immediately pulls the reader deep into her tale. Somehow, to me, this book seemed particularly poignant and meaningful during our current times, with all of the hatred, prejudice, and violence that we currently endure around the world. While a superbly crafted work of fantasy fiction, with extraordinarily interesting characters, this is really a book about morality--what is right and what is wrong--and about what it means to be human, and what it means to be different, and how important it is to seek the means to bridge those differences. There are so many wonderful lessons about how to live a good and decent life in the characters Freemen has created.
As the father of adult daughters, I can't begin to tell you how very much I admired her development and utilization of several very strong female characters through the story-line. For example, her creation of the young Traveler woman 'Bramble' was sheer genius. I fell in love with this young, very tough-minded woman. Then she 'kicks it up a notch' with the characters of 'Martine' and 'Sorn.' These are women who interact through the course of the plot with other characters in such a fashion that they truly do become wonderful role models for all of us--male or female--in our day-to-day lives. They are full of strength, intelligence, courage, honor, integrity, and commitment. In fairness, many of her male characters exhibit many of these exemplary traits too; particularly 'Ash,' 'Leof,' 'Baluch,' and 'Acton.'
Another aspect of the novels that impressed me was Freeman's real talent in her creative utilization of a literary device that has the tale told through the use of multiple points-of-view, some as a voice from the past, and some from the perspective of the present. It is really a wonderful technique for providing back-story and key information in a very efficient fashion.
While I do not want to give away even a hint of the plot, suffice it to say that this is really the story of a struggle between two disparate groups of people in a world that is essentially dominated by one of the groups of peoples, at the expense of the other. It proceeds at a relentless pace that almost leaves the reader breathless for want of figuring out what is to become of the world of the Domains and these fascinating characters we've come to know and empathize with. I would very much recommend this book for a discussion in a book club as it brings up topics and issues that we all need to think about as citizens of our communities, countries, and the world as a whole. I wholeheartedly thank Ms. Freeman for giving us this thought-provoking series of novels. While highly entertaining, there's an important take-home message for each of us to ponder, discuss, and bring to bear in our own lives. I look forward to reading anything else this talented woman writes.
Finally, I will definitely read this novel again; it is a keeper! I happily assign 4.5/5.0 stars for this superbly crafted fantasy series, and very highly recommend it.
I absolutely loved this trilogy! Pamela Freeman is an excellent writer and her fantasy is spell-binding. It was a long read, almost 1400 pages, but well-worth every minute spent reading it. I found myself totally caught up in the world of the Eleven Domains and the characters that inhabit them.
Bramble was probably my favourite character; her strength and courage and wild nature really appealed to me. Ms. Freeman used multiple points of view throughout the three books and I think this helped to paint a vivid picture of the world from different perspectives. The flow from one book to the next was very well done.
I will definitely read more of Ms. Freeman's work in the future and would highly recommend "The Castings Trilogy" to anyone who loves fantasy.
I finished this omnibus novel last week. The writing is at times lyrical and the characters are solid--I could see them outside of the plot. Many readers have complained about the shifting POVs--in addition to the three main characters, Freeman adds first person vignettes from superfluous characters. Frankly, I loved that about the book. !.) It makes the 11 Domains seem like a real world because she focuses on really mundane characters; 2.) Those tales really do come together in the end, as a wondrous tapestry of pain and catharsis and story telling.
The Castings Trilogy subverts many fantasy tropes. The reluctant Chosen One doesn't have a whole lot power or agency in her world--she's not really magical. The Big Bad has a legitimate beef, mainly, the ethnic caste system in his world. And the male lead isn't a hidden prince. The kingdom is a group of Balkanized nations rather than a united kingdom. And the history of ethnic cleansing and oppression isn't clear-cut; its complicated.
The magic system has a sense of wonder--ghosts, elemental spirits, necromancy and fortune-telling--but it's also organically built and consistent.
The Castings Trilogy is a unique take on the Grim-Dark epic fantasy that adds a dash of social justice as a subtext.
I loved this world! These books were so well done. This fantasy story not only took me into a fantastic world of wizards, gods, and warriors, it took me into a story of racism, social class and the on going battle our own world has struggled with between races and equality. It was a very thought provocative story. I really loved it
I have nothing to say but that I immensely enjoyed this trilogy. Pamela is an excellent writer who has written a fantasy world that is full of everything and where anything can happen. The story progresses naturally and the trilogy ends in a climax and a very satisfactory ending with closure. Most fantasy worlds have definitive good and bad. One reason why I loved George RR Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' was due to that lack of black and white and the abundance of grey and the same could be said to this trilogy. The books deal with a wide variety of emotions from bravery and love to betrayal and revenge, but even the worst characters redeem themselves and even the best have flaws, constantly reminding us that there are no absolute good and absolute bad people in the universe.
Adored reading through every single page of this long trilogy and did not regret a second I spent reading it. 10/10!
The Trilogy edition is more than 1200 pages but it is a very good read and I finished in 3 days. Most of the book moves between narratives of three main characters. The author weaves a fine web of connection between all the characters with narratives from other characters in the story. It takes a little thinking to process all the different narratives, but it is definitely worth the time.
I put this book down when I was around two-thirds of the way through book one. At first, I was very absorbed in the fantasy world, the complex characters, and the desire to know what happened next. The combination of show vs. tell was perfect, and information was fed to me just slowly enough to keep me wanting more, but not so slowly that I lost interest. The point of view was also very interesting, switching between three main characters in the third person and present tense, but interspersed with first-person backstory accounts given by minor side characters. These chapters added a lot of extra meat to the story and the world, without taking you out of the current for too long. I was strapped in for a steady and rewarding fantasy adventure. But then some highly convenient things happened very suddenly, and I was SO ready to discover murder and bribery, but was left with no explanation whatsoever. Simultaneously, two of the three main characters reached significant turning points and changed their direction completely, leaving behind everything that I had been lead to believe was significant. And I didn't really care about the new direction. Also, the most interesting character of all, FOR NO REASON AT ALL, so I blew a big wet raspberry and let myself out. Oh well.
I finished this series in four days. I just couldn't put it down. Pamela Freeman deserves 5 stars just on the complexity of this story. She paints a beautifully detailed picture of a world I would love to live in. Much like the Game of Thrones, the story is told through multiple points of view ranging from the main characters we are following including a few side characters as well. Freeman does a fantastic job of painting the big picture for us. Every character is important and gets their own turn in the spot light, giving us the back ground story and allowing us to know more than the characters do. This is one of those books that make you feel like you have lived the story yourself or at least seen a movie about it because you can see the whole thing playing out before you when you close your eyes. That's one of the many things that made me fall in love with this series. In a world of Gods, magic, destiny, unseen powers and where love can change any fate, anything can happen. This is by no means you're typical epic romance. This is a book involving war and characters will die. There are several types of love in this series and all will leave you begging for more. When you finish this read you're gonna sit back, sigh and have that bittersweet feeling of fulfillment but wishing you hadn't finished yet so you could still be in their world.
It's been a thousand years in the Eleven Domains since the people of Acton, the Lord of War, and those of the old blood, also known as Travelers, have been at war with each other, but you wouldn't be able to tell it with the hate still brewing between them. Travelers are scorned by Acton's people, seen as filth with their dark hair and even darker eyes. Unwelcomed in most villages, they stick to a life on the Road, constantly moving from place to place. They earn their keep by singing and performing, and when necessary, shagging someone to get a place to sleep. Don't judge them for it though, the life of a Traveler is hard and it's even harder avoiding death by a Warlord's hand. I can't help but see them as gypsies when I read about their nomadic lives. Not all of Acton's lineage shares the hate of these people and there has been some mixing of the bloods along the way, and the characters we follow in this tale are a variety between the two.
Bramble: a young, untamable Travler girl of mixed blood. She is one of the main characters that we follow and my favorite female protagonist of all time. She is the epitome of the wild heart inside of all of us yearning to be free... Born wild and died wild.. No one will ever tame thee..thou wilt love no man ever.. Bramble is a woman who knows what she isn't and refuses to be conquered by anyone. Those strong willed traits are what get her in trouble in the end, because a Warlord doesn't care if you were just doing what you had to do to survive. Especially if you're just some Traveler girl trying to protect your family. Bramble loves the exhilaration that danger offers her and she will definitely have you flipping through the pages, begging for more. If you're a horse lover like me, she's gonna be even more appealing to you. I love the connection the author builds between Bramble and her horse "the roan." Growing up training horses myself, I greatly appreciate the knowledge the author has of horses because everything she writes involving them in the series is accurate and realistic. You will love the parts involving Bramble and her steeds in this series.
Ash: also a Traveler and one I see as a tortured soul.. by himself that is. Ash always sees his self as lacking and refuses to acknowledge the greatness within. He has so much potential but ignores it in fear of standing out even more than what he already does. This does not, however, make him an unlikeable character. He is enjoyable to follow and I liked watching him grow into the man he's meant to be and finding his place in the world.
Martine: an older Traveler woman with the sight that I see as the motherly figure of the group. She is a caring woman that is wise beyond her years and often takes her fellow characters under her wing and offers them her advice. Although she is older, she too is still on the road to self discovery and it's great getting to see her accomplish that. You will definitely be rooting for her along the way.
Acton: Acton, oh Acton. Merciless, invader, conqueror, the one who yelled, "Kill them all!!" He is that and soooo much more. I can't say too much about him without spoiling alot of the series, but I will say that I LOVE me some Acton. He is my by all means my favorite character, and as usual, things are never as they seem...
There are several other characters that we meet and follow along the way, all enjoyable, but I'll let you find out about them yourself. And find out you should. I would recommend this book to any type of reader, regardless of what type of genre you're into. If you're a true book lover you will appreciate this tale just for the creativity and depth alone. This is a series I will be re-reading through out my life and will definitely be passing down to my future children when they're old enoguh to appreciate it. Regardless of what you're into, take a chance and read this book! You will NOT be disappointed! :)
My somewhat tacky summation of the Castings Trilogy is, "What if religions were real?" You have to say it in a kind of breathless, awe-struck tone of voice to get the full effect.
Because it does seem to differ from many epic fantasy books by having most of the magic come specifically through a source deity. There's a logic to how supernatural creatures work that seems far more spiritual than most I've encountered. At times there's a real threat to the characters when they leave the safety of settled lands, because the world is full of things that want to kill them quite maliciously.
To elaborate on my sexy hook of an opener, it's a world where religion and spirituality work the way a child or an idiot might expect them to work. You pray hard enough and if the god of your choosing thinks you're awesome enough and your request resonable enough, it's gonna happen.
If things worked that way in our religious wars past and present would have been terrifying. You'd have battle priests and war preachers praying until smitings and plagues struck each other. The faithful would actually be the biggest cultural badasses.
Beyond that, it's a generally entertaining read. It avoids the major thing that will bring me to a full-stop on any epic fantasy book, purple prose. If I get even a hint of ren-fest dialogue within the first few pages, I am done and I will not return. Outside of the high courts of old and the theatre, no one sincerely talked like that then or now. If you're creating a world from scratch, there's no reason your characters should sound like they're in a high school rendition of Hamlet.
While it was entertaining, it took me much longer to finish than an equivalently bulky book like the Game of Thrones books. This mostly came from the lack of consistent agency from the central characters. They're generally pushed by external voices, with a far-off goal to be completed in a different part of the country, normally a vaguely defined directive that will make sense later. The strong desires of a protagonist give a lot of thrust to a book.
In my creative writing class our teacher had the audacity to say that multiple character viewpoints in a novel often make for weaker fiction. A lot of people in the classroom became outright scandalized, but when I thought about it, I saw his point. The Castings Trilogy blatantly abuses this with a series of vignettes that add anywhere from a lot of background to not a damn thing of interest. I admit to skipping a couple. The book is long enough.
When you spread out your action across too many view points, you let a lot of dead space into each narrative arc, where you can forget details or lose interest in their motivations. It also allows for the grass is greener effect, where you're wondering what your favorite character is doing while you're reading your least favorite character (come on, who hasn't asked, "I wonder when they're going to get back to Tyrion?" while reading the Song of Ice and Fire books?) and muddling through to the better parts.
But still, solid writing and an interesting setting can get me past a lot of structural gripes. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I'm relieved to be done?
Content of this kind can be hard to wrap one's mind around. I want to say it was an adventure with light violence and playful relationships. Although that is coming from someone who is moderately desensitized to violence from my past reads. The book was good. Not great but good. Some characters were deep. Bramble was especially entertaining. The biggest highlight to the series was getting to read the back story of almost every character you come across throughout the adventure. Each character that the main characters meet gets a little story to tell you who they were and why they were important. This was refreshing and something I had not seen in a novel before.
The second book was the highlight of the series. Introducing a character you always wanted to know about and his past definitely helped to enlarge the world and to bring some more interesting characters into the mix. Hard to say more without spoilers but suffice to say the book was well written, interesting, and devoured in a short amount of time.
The final book I found to be disappointing and should be the one to give you pause before reading the whole series. It was not as good as the first two and left me with a feeling of "oh, really? but.... that's just stupid!" The series was moving along at a solid 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 until I reached the last 1/3 of the final book. I guess the neat little bow ending does not do it for me anymore. I would rather wonder about things and come up with possibilities. Anything to make me thing beyond what I had just read. Either way, the books were enjoyable and are a solid recommend to add to your "to read" stack.
Even though I loved all three books in the trilogy, Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle, I couldn't review them individually as all three books are one continuing story. Each book flowed seamlessly into the next and must be read as a whole.
My understanding is that this is Pamela Freeman's first adult series; impressive. Well written characters under individual POV chapters, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This is a format I particularly enjoy; I get to know the characters intimately and deeply. Even better is that minor characters get their own short chapter, a back story of who they are, and how they came to be who they are today as the product of their pasts, an overall theme for the book.
The author finds an inventive way for us to learn the life of a man 1000 years dead. Again, I was impressed. The whole series is impressive, I'm surprised it's not well known. There is much depth to these books, it's not simply good vs evil, right vs wrong; we get to see all sides and more importantly, understand them.
This is a series not to be missed. If you like Epic Fantasy, this is one of the best.
Omnibus Edition - Blood Ties, Deep Water, and Full Circle
Surprisingly good, though a slower than normal read for me. I'm glad I had the whole trilogy as the endings on the first two books were EXTREMELY abrupt. The chapters were basically short points of views by individual characters. It was hard to follow at first, but an enjoyable way to read after one figured it out and went with it.
This book was one of the most interesting I've seen in a while. I didn't like all the characters, but I did understand their perspectives, and I never wanted to stop reading. The setting itself isn't socially very different from a dozen other books, but the histories there and the presence of local gods and ghosts completely transformed it into something interesting and alien. I'd say that it felt historical, except that the ghosts and gods are so integral to the plot. One of the first things acknowledged is a rarity in fantasy - the role of women and the rampant abuse of force and power present in a medieval-esque social structure. The main character isn't ever seen as any less capable because of her gender, but she's young and female, and she's aware of the disadvantages that she could be in because of it. She isn't sheltered or unaware of the injustice of the world, so it feels like a realistic view of recognizing the corruption and imbalance of her society, not a cheap "innocent child learns life isn't fair and bad things happen" take. There were a lot of interesting elements, and the quotes and what they built to will stay with me for a long time. I definitely plan to reread this book.
Spoilers and tangent: While many women are hurt in the story, it's never disproportionate or without cause. There are a number of female perspectives in the story, and while some survived rape and had various experiences as mothers, it's never graphic. The book manages to acknowledge what happened to them respectfully while focusing on the narrative of the women and the impact their experiences had on them, NOT focusing on the act itself or the men who caused it or the misery of those women. It felt very respectful and realistic to real women's testimonies and survivor stories of things they've lived through, and I was really impacted by both how well this book handled it, despite basically none of the female characters agreeing with one another (and not choosing sides between them), and the realization that before this book, I'd read and seen very little media that had done so. It manages to portray people who make bad choices, and learn to regret them, without making them out to be horrible people or evil, even though there are legitimately bad or selfish people in the world. It manages to handle things succinctly and respectfully without glossing over or ignoring the bad things that can and would happen. Rape, obsession, jealousy, the loss of a child - these are all things that can happen to anyone, and while not every woman experiences them, it's something many women are aware and afraid of. The female cast was really strong and honestly outshone all the male characters, and they were really the ones influencing the plot the most consistently most of the time. It was really refreshing to see, especially in a fantasy book, when so much of the genre restricts women to the roles of "housewife", "the tomboy who learns to wear dresses", "victim" and "love interest".
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I really enjoyed this trilogy and I’m so glad that I read it as the giant omnibus edition instead because it really does read like one really long novel instead of three; I failed to noticed where one book ended and the other began. This is such a wonderful tale and has some really great world building elements.
The book pulls you in and I felt like I was living in the book while I read it because following the different narratives gives you a great perspective of the more mundane things happening in this fantasy world, while still keeping a nice pace to the main plot. The characters are really well written and they don’t fall into the common character tropes and stereotypes, which is refreshing. I actually really enjoyed reading from multiple characters, which I normally hate, because I found I didn’t have one favourite line I wanted to follow. It was easy to become intrigued into what all the different characters were up too.
Some of the perspectives you read are from characters who don’t have a great influence in the plot and are only briefly mentioned but this adds some great world building opportunities and really expands the history behind the world. It was nice that as the narrative characters met up with each other the narration lines changed with them, especially so towards the end of the book where they slowly all congregate in one place to make one perspective.
I love the magic system behind this world because it’s not too far fetched from our own reality with praying to the gods and specific people having the sight. Again it was one of the elements I felt really drew me into the story because it wasn’t exaggerated beyond belief.
This book was unpredictable at times and I did find myself cringing on behalf of some of the characters but I liked having the little surprises tossed in there. This book had a fairly happy ending and I liked how the plot was rounded off, I did think there might have been a bit more action and fighting at the end. All in all it was a good read and I would recommend to someone with a good amount of patience and perseverance because it’s definitely worth the read.
What a gorgeous, wild, deadly world this is! Full of magic and chaos but never confusing, full of gods and prophecy but nothing is ever set in stone. There are so many characters in this series, but I never lost sight of who they all were. I felt their fear, their joy, their pain, their need to protect their loved ones, their awe of the gods. Vivid characterisation, heartfelt storytelling, and a masterful use of structure and time to tell a wonderfully complex story which encapsulates so many issues of the world today, but never sinks into preaching or moralising. It’s a fresh, new way of telling an ancient story, and I loved it.
Three in one binding is a bit daunting, but having read it this way, and having finished, I would have to say I prefer it. I enjoyed the cast of characters, but it was hard to summon up a love for them in only 'Blood Ties'. I might not have continued reading if I'd only had the first book on hand - but after the second I would have gone stir-crazy if I'd had to wait for the third, and now, having finished... I cried off and on through the last few chapters. I ended up really loving this series, and Bramble and Acton most of all, but the worldbuilding and history of the Eleven domains is heavy and a bit slow going at times. If you enjoy fantasy universes and stories more about the characters than battles, then keep going!
This series is one of my favorites as a whole. The first book didn't thoroughly grab me till over halfway through, but the 'chapter' system for them kept me very interested and I loved the characters, it was just a little slow. By the second book, I was in love. The characters are interesting, and there are small parts dedicated to the people around them that bring the society the characters live in to life. The third book had me rooting for the 'heroes' but also had me saddened and remorseful for the 'villian'. I really enjoyed it.
Very rare for me but I couldn't finish this. I got about 300 pages in by pushing myself and I still couldn't figure out what the big storyline was supposed to be.
The world building was great and the setting and characters were interesting. But I couldn't see what the story was. There was absolutely no sense of 'oh what will happen next!' It was more 'huh what's gonna happen, probably nothing important '
Real shame because I loved the characters and setting but had to put it down as it was to difficult to keep going hoping something exciting would happen.
I think this trilogy would really appeal to fans of historical fantasy, such as fans of Juliet Marillier. I liked the atmosphere better than many of the Marillier books I've read. While Freeman was also dealing with big themes, tragedies and the potential ending of the world the books didn't have an overarching tone/mood of impending doom like Marillier's often do. I'd say they showed more grief than sorrow and more resilience than melancholy. Enjoyable!
I will make the review simple, like most of mine, I did enjoy the book start to finish. I think I would give the book a solid 3.5 stars
I did read another review that someone else had written about the formatting of how the characters were introduced and how their stories unfolded. Just like how he had mentioned, at first it was a bit confusing but once you got to "know" everyone I enjoyed to story.
I really enjoyed this trilogy. The story moves quickly and bounces from character to character. Not only is it a great fantasy story with spells, ghosts, and battles, it also revolves around difficult issues of racism and classism.
I loved the characters and miss them already.
All the books flow into each other so it reads more as a whole than 3 individual books.
I found the start to be slow with the character chapter arrangement seemingly to disparate. However I was soon engrossed in each tale and each side story. The stories are rich and satisfyingly full for each character. The side stories complete a rich and compelling world. I found the end to be a bit short in conclusion.
This book had one of the most immersive and well thought-out worlds I’ve ever come across. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. The characters are so very real. This is forever going to be one of my favorite books. It’s complex in a way I never thought was possible, and I’m so glad I read it.
One of my absolute favorite books! I bought it on a whim at a book sale and I’m so glad that I did. I read it quite a few year ago so I won’t get into the details. But I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy