Pros: World-building, characters
Cons: A few small slips
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
L. Deni Colter’s The Halfblood War reminded me of how much I can enjoy fantasy. I think there was a period during my formative years when a bunch of bad fantasy came out, and apparently I never entirely recovered. Now I don’t tend to be drawn to reading fantasy so much, which is unfortunate. But recently I picked up an epic fantasy storybundle because, hey, a bunch of cheap books, and I ended up reading Colter’s novel between classes. I’m really glad I did.
In Thiery Hold, Chayan, the grandson of the current ruler, is half-Elven. His mother is Yslaaran, an Elf who enchanted his father and later gave birth to Chayan. The Elves have held themselves separate from humans ever since the gods abandoned the lands, and there’s a great deal of prejudice against anything remotely magical or otherworldly. Chayan’s father, Tirren, believes it’s time to introduce Chayan around the holdings so that people can start adjusting to his presence well before they’d have to be ruled by him. But things are changing within the lands, in ways that threaten to overturn years of peace. Maradon, the ruler of Lacedar, desperately wants to return to the days when there was a High King–and of course, he believes that High King should be him. Where Yslaaran wants the Elves to return to aiding the humans as in times of old, the Queen of the Elves would rather see the humans kill each other off, so she offers aid to Maradon. Meanwhile, Dashara is another of the rare Elven/human halfbloods (called Somiir), but she lives in Bansheenan, where the Somiir are revered. As soon as she hears of Chayan’s existence she’s determined to go to him, to make sure he’s being treated well and to teach him to control his wild magic. All of these people and plans are going to come together in a clash that could wipe out humanity.
The world-building is lovely. The Elves are relatively inhuman, and that does show. The characters have depth, even Chayan’s grandfather, Erimar, who hates the Elves who enchanted his son. Even Maradon, who’s a madman, has some nice detail to him. The fights and battles are exciting. I was a little surprised that we didn’t see Chayan learn to use his magic more, particularly since it seems so strong–it kind of felt like a dropped plot thread.
There’s a character who earns Maradon’s enmity to an extremely strong degree, and the punishment Maradon comes up with seems extremely out of character for him, although convenient for the story. I can’t buy into the idea that Maradon would do anything other than visit an extremely painful and personal revenge upon this person. There were one or two other small details that didn’t quite add up, but they weren’t that big a deal.
There is a sexual assault and attempted rape (of a man) in here, so be aware of that.
If you’re looking for a one-book not-hyper-complex men-and-Elves fantasy, The Halfblood War is a great option. Another reason I don’t often pick up fantasy is because you often can’t be sure what you’re getting into, how many books there’ll be, or how long it’ll take for the next book to come out. And you don’t always want to have to memorize hundreds of names and dozens of races. This volume makes a nice, compact read that’s quite enjoyable.