The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse.
A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.
Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.
But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most.”
The blurbs about this novel are billing it as appealing to fans of Mercedes Lackey, and I can definitely see the similarities. Alix is on par with Valdemar’s Talia or Elspeth, growing into a command role and maturing as a person in the process. She’s one of the more realistic heroines that I’ve seen recently, and she’s actually someone that I could see meeting in real life and liking. Also like Lackey’s characters, Alix has her faults, the biggest one being a tendency to rush into things without thinking.
What I really liked about Alix—and indeed, about all three major characters—is that they display remarkable maturity by the novel’s conclusion. How many times have you read a book and wanted to yell at the characters “If you’d just talk to each other, this wouldn’t have happened”? While there’s some of that here, certain major players do actually (gasp, shock, and horror!) air their difficulties with each other and do so without descending into needless drama. You have no idea how pleased I was to see that.
Also believable is the antagonist—I can’t call him a villain, because by the story’s end, you know exactly why things happened the way that they did, and you can’t deny that the reasons were sound. It makes for a more complex tale to go with the shades of gray instead of the stark black and white. I even found myself respecting the guy a little bit, which is refreshing when many books stick with cold, hardened villains.
I found the novel’s plot to be slow gaining momentum, but by about halfway through it found its stride. The story also meshes with the character development of the major characters, and it all weaves together very nicely. The only other slow point for me was the whole concept of the “bloodbound”. It wasn’t explored very much in this book, and you’d think with the title, it would be a major factor in the plot. It’s mostly on the periphery, though, so I’m hoping to learn more about this in future novels.
Though containing familiar elements, The Bloodbound has enough unique twists and turns to make it a solid tale in its own right. I recommend this one for readers who enjoy the development of complex characters.