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Review: We Are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo

Review: We Are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo

‘In a sealed-off city, a young woman, Lena, is running for her life. She has been sentenced to death and her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear – those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. Years ago she escaped before her own powers were discovered. But now she won’t hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud engulfs the city. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine… But what neither Lena and Constance realise is that the stormcloud binds them – without it, without each other, neither can get what they desire…’

The element of We Are Blood and Thunder that I most enjoyed was the worldbuilding and the variety of magical and mechanical systems (that often go hand in hand) that exist in the world (or should that be worlds?) that Lena and Constance inhabit. Suffering from the storm cloud as it is, Duke’s Forest really does seem a world away from that which Lena escapes to, to the extent that I pictured them in entirely different colours, primarily muted greys/reds/purples for Duke’s Forest, and brighter yellows/whites/oranges for the city. I loved the culture and mythology that surround the ancestors, which is primarily based on Ancient Egyptian beliefs and practices as regards death and the dead, and I liked that it was not set aside after Lena’s journey begins, especially as much time is taken to establish the life of the cryptlings, how they are treated and how they live. It was this that first had me hooked and I would have loved to have seen more about the daily lives of the cryptlings.

Though I initially found myself more attached to Lena than Constance, I have to admit that this changed not so far into the story and, even knowing that there is much about her that is withheld and suspect, I was a little more interested in Constance’s side of the story than in Lena’s. This is not to say that I was not invested in Lena’s story, but that, perhaps with the immediate threat to her diminished, for much of the narrative there was more immediate danger to Constance and a bit more to unravel. That the two essentially switch places and experience what the other has been living through while each having their own clearly defined stories is one of the novel’s strengths, especially as the pacing of each of these story threads seems to pick up at the same speed before they weave back together again, leaving neither character’s narrative waiting for the other to ‘catch up’ and need filling with material not tied directly to either. While I was hopeful that Lena would grow in confidence and learn how to live with the powers she’s so recently discovered, I was trying to figure out whether Constance was a threat or had decent intentions at heart, and so neither of their points of view is ever uneventful or dull, which I find is increasingly rare in novels that have multiple point of view characters.

I feel that the writing shines most when describing elements such as the storm cloud, magic, surroundings and action sequences, as these are the passages that tend to contain more poetic and lyrical elements. Though the dialogue is certainly sound and no voices feel forced and not from well-rounded characters, there are occasions when the descriptors surrounding it make it a little jarring, particularly during conversations in Constance’s narrative. However, given that Constance is not one who seems at all comfortable or willing to converse with many, nor get in touch with her feelings, I imagine that this could be deliberate and designed to emphasise the more awkward facets of her nature.

We Are Blood and Thunder is an easily engaging read and is quick to reel the reader in to Lena and Constance’s world. I loved the combination of magic and mechanical creatures and many of its other dual elements, lots of which I won’t mention specifically for fear of spoilers! It’s a very well rounded novel in terms of both story and setting, and with the diverse elements of both I feel that there’s something within its pages for everyone. It’s out in April, from Bloomsbury! Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of We Are Blood and Thunder for review!