Book Review: We are Blood and Thunder, by Kesia Lupo

In a city where magic is feared and the dead are worshipped, life is overshadowed by a powerful and devastating storm cloud.

Two girls fighting for survival in a world where they dare to be different.

Kesia Lupo is an author who studied history at Oxford University and creative writing at Bath Spa. She lives in Bristol.

We are Blood and Thunder is her debut novel. It is set on the fictitious Valorien Continent. It begins in a city in Dukes Forest where we meet Lena, a Cryptling whose job it is to prepare the dead bodies of the people who lived in the city, ready for their Descent. She isn’t perfect: she has had a mark on her face since birth which meant she was doomed to live unseen underground for life with others who are marked, preparing the dead.

We quickly discover that magic is banned in Dukes Forest and Lena has been accused of having it. We find her running for her life. But the city is sealed and she has nowhere to run. It is easy to immediately feel compassion for Lena. She is an underdog whose fate was set the moment she was born. She just wants somewhere to belong.

Lena does escape, and meets Constance, someone who is seeking a way back into the city. Constance is a mage who had escaped form Dukes Forest years ago, before anyone discovered her powers. Both have secrets and as we journey with them, these secrets are gradually revealed.

Dukes Forest has been covered in a powerful storm cloud for many years and it is killing the inhabitants, but Constance wants to save her childhood home. She needs to find out who or what is creating this cloud and stop it before it is too late. Together, Lena and Constance must work to save their home. Only they have the key to stop its destruction.

Each character is multi-layered and the reader finds themselves constantly wondering who to trust. Our perceptions are in a state of flux as each new truth is revealed. Throughout the novel we learn the history of the continent and the politics involved. We learn about the world of magic through the eyes of Lena and the world of politics through Constance.

The chapters alternate between Lena’s perspective to that of Constance, both written in the third person. Often a chapter ends with a cliff hanger and it is hard not to skip ahead to see what happens. The end is surprising but satisfactory. The two strong female characters carry the plot, along with a love interest.

There are twists and turns and surprises along the way to keep us interested. Across the continent the people have different beliefs which are at war with each other: the ancestors or the gods. There are elements of science, and the constant theme of being an outcast just because you are different.

Because this book is a stand-alone story, it needs to be fast paced and we need to get to know the characters immediately and deeply. I think Lupo manages to do this very well. It is nice to finish a fantasy book without having to wait for the next instalment. A trilogy is, more often than not, the fantasy vehicle of choice.

Yes, there are some parts of the plot that maybe moved too fast, creating some questions for the reader, and the way some characters react is frustrating at times. Also, some of the phrasing is a bit clumsy, but for a first novel it is enjoyable and creative and worth a read.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: May 2019
RRP: $16.99

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