Review: “Children of the Bloodlands,” S.M. Beiko

Pros: Stunning characters, relationships, and plot
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

At the end of S.M. Beiko’s Scion of the Fox, a darkling was sent back to the Bloodlands and it was revealed that this was all a part of her larger plan. In Children of the Bloodlands (The Realms of Ancient Book 2), that plan comes to fruition. Seela, the spawn of the three celestial darklings, comes into the world and begins spreading the Cinder Plague across the world as it collects children to its evil “family”. Roan, Natti, Phae, Barton, and Eli will once again have to play a part in this–although not quite like last time. Roan’s in Edinburgh trying to learn more about her grandmother Cecelia, Eli gets called to visit the Owls, Barton goes overseas to the Rabbits, and Phae accompanies Natti North to meet the Empress of the Seals. Seela’s trying to collect the Calamity Stones, and the good guys need to get to them first. Unfortunately Seela has a surprise for Roan that may pull her in a very dark direction, and Eli swiftly becomes trapped in a Hope Tree. The group seems to be failing before they’ve even begun!

I love that the plot goes in unexpected directions. I’ll just say that contrary to the obvious direction for things to go in, the five children do not all become the Paramounts of their families. Things are much more interesting and varied than that. There are also great things at stake, and I never felt like the outcome was assured or the trials too easy. In fact, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what ultimately happened. Having read some rather predictable books recently, it was a lot of fun to be surprised repeatedly (even though the plot doesn’t rely on surprises).

The characters in this world are fabulous, as are the relationships between them. In particular, Roan, Eli, and the “frenemy” relationship they have going on is one of the best parts of the book. Neither of them particularly likes the other, but they’re having to start learning to rely on each other. Even the seemingly straight-out evil characters have more going on than just that. Everyone and everything has a depth and history to them that’s delightful.

There are plenty of nifty events going on. Roan meets her other grandmother. Natti rescues polar bears from a zoo. Phae confronts a very bitter god. We find out about a group called the Stonebreakers that wants to destroy all of the Calamity Stones, and humans are inevitably becoming aware of the Denizens. The Gardener from the Bloodlands has come to the mortal plane. All in all it’s an engrossing ride, and I look forward to reading more books by Beiko!

My bones are a haunted house.

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