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Grievar's Blood by Alexander Darwin
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.


Grievar’s Blood is a daring sequel to The Combat Codes. The cast is bigger and the stakes are higher than before.

“Don’t run from it,” Cego said. “I’ve done that. I think I’ve been doing that my entire life. Running away from my past, trying to escape. And I know now that path only leads deeper into the darkness.” “So, what then?” Sol asked. “If we can’t get away from it, what can we do?” “Embrace it,” Cego said. “Welcome the weight of your past. Don’t run from it. Stand in front of it and let it flow through you. Let it make you stronger. Sometimes, we need to hurt ourselves to kill the demons. Sometimes, we need to feel the pain, every darkin’ bit of it, raw as it comes, before we can pick ourselves up again.”


The story in Grievar’s Blood takes place about two years since The Combat Codes started. Cego would love to focus on his study of martial arts, but the revelations about his mysterious past that he found at the end of the first book distract his concentration. However, Cego isn’t the only main focus character now; two new main POV characters are included here, Solara Halberd and The Slayer. I honestly didn’t expect the direction of the narrative in Grievar’s Blood; Darwin has taken a risk with his storytelling decision.

Instead of focusing the narrative exclusively on Cego like in the first book, Darwin decided to made Solara and The Slayer receive equal moments of the spotlight as Cego did. This could’ve easily backfired, and I’m sure it DID backfire for many readers who solely want Cego and Murray as the key characters. This has happened to Tower Lord and Queen of Fire (shudders) by Anthony Ryan, and for a while, I did worry that Grievar’s Blood would encounter the same issue because I DO want to read more of Cego after spending an entire book with him. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.

“Thoughts constantly barraging the mind are like thieves entering a home. First, a Grievar must learn to recognize the thieves upon entry, see them for their true nature. Second, a Grievar must accept the thieves within their home, the intruders have arrived and there is nothing to do. Finally, a Grievar must show the thieves that their home is empty, there is nothing to steal within.”


There were indeed moments where I thought to myself, “Solara’s story seems to be unnecessary” or “Is Cego’s story being put on the bench now?” because Cego’s POV didn’t appear in the final 35% of the book. But Darwin has done a terrific job in connecting all three storylines together, and by the end of it, he has successfully transformed the small scope story established in The Combat Codes into a larger-scope narrative about freedom, justice, and revenge. There’s an emphasis on politics and world-building, and we get to learn more about the Daimyo. This indeed made the action scenes relatively fewer in quantity, but they’re certainly not lacking in quality. Duels felt more impactful in Grievar’s Blood, and the trial scene plus its result were my favorite scenes in the book.

“Practice a technique once and you’ll know what it looks like. Practice it a hundred times and you’ll know what it feels like. Practice it one thousand times and you’ll hit it on a lesser-skilled opponent. Practice it five thousand times and you’ll hit it on an opponent of equal skill.”


Overall, Grievar’s Blood is a great middle-installment. Darwin has raised the tension and scope of the series without losing the entertaining factor of the series. I couldn’t put the final 15% of the book down, every storyline converged at the end, and now I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series that will also come out within this year.

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

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Reading Progress

October 22, 2020 – Shelved
January 26, 2021 – Started Reading
January 28, 2021 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Eon ♒Windrunner♒  Great review, Petrik! I did not even know you had read this one already!


Petrik Eon ♒Windrunner♒ wrote: "Great review, Petrik! I did not even know you had read this one already!"

Thank you, Eon! Haha already did last month, I was waiting for its cover art but it seems like it might be a while before it's ready so might as well post it now first!


message 3: by A.R (new) - added it

A.R I'm really glad to hear the second book held up! Also, hearing that all the plotlines came together successfully is really good. That's hard to pull off sometimes!


Petrik A.R wrote: "I'm really glad to hear the second book held up! Also, hearing that all the plotlines came together successfully is really good. That's hard to pull off sometimes!"

That's very true! Now hopefully the final book will nail the conclusion! :D


Adam Petrik reviews so the rest of us don't have to.
(Yep, still dad-joking that one around the block.)

I loved this one as well, it goes far deeper into the lore. Great ending, too. Amps everything up a few notches. This sequel has more examples of fantastic, unexplainable, non-scientific events, that might have gone over better with some of the SPFBO judges who were iffy on classifying it as fantasy.

Regardless, it seems like this series has been getting a boost from the buzz and the awesome new cover art.


Petrik Adam wrote: "Petrik reviews so the rest of us don't have to.
(Yep, still dad-joking that one around the block.)

I loved this one as well, it goes far deeper into the lore. Great ending, too. Amps everything u..."


Thank you, Adam! Hahaha that's a good dad-joke, though, I really should use it more often!

I'm not a judge on SPFBO but I do also feel a bit weird on classifying this as fantasy; I definitely think it's more sci-fi. Regarldess, this is a great book and series, can't wait to see how it ends! :D


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