When I was provided the opportunity to read and provide an advance review of R.L. Parker’s Bathed in the Blood of Ravens: A Destiny of Blood & Magic Book 1 (henceforth referred to by its short name, Bathed in the Blood of Ravens), I was keen to check out what looked to be an epic fantasy tale. And an epic fantasy tale it is: like many sword and sorcery tales before it (and I am certain, like many sword and sorcery tales after it), it is a dense read. A dense read often comes with the territory, and on its own, this isn’t necessarily a negative: However, I do feel like this should be pointed out, for those of you who prefer their reads to be shorter.
It is a lengthy read, at an estimated 670 pages on Kindle, 546 pages in hardcover, and 468 pages in paperback. From the outset, there is an assumed knowledge of medieval times, in particular, the details of the battles, the weaponry and the armour used. While I don’t expect the author to hold the reader’s hand, given the technical terms used throughout the novel, but I think it would have been helpful for the book to include a glossary of these terms to assist less knowledgeable readers.
Bathed in the Blood of Ravens takes place in the fantastical world of Ayrelon, a setting that Parker created for pen and paper roleplaying games including Dungeons & Dragons. While I am not personally au fait in the details of roleplaying games (most of my RPG experience comes from video games), there was no obvious sense that Parker based the novel on gameplay, and instead feels like an organic tale.
Due to the length of the book, after a brief prologue setting the scene of things to come and then an opening that throws the reader into the thick of the action, the pace is slow, taking its time to build to a wonderful crescendo. While Bathed in the Blood of Ravens is Parker’s debut novel, he has mastered the pacing required to keep the story engaging. As noted by the book’s full title, this is the first book in the A Destiny of Blood & Magic series, and aside from a couple of points that are not fully resolved, and a scene teasing that this story isn’t quite over, it is a complete read. You won’t find yourself suddenly at the end of the story, wondering why it suddenly ended.
Parker’s prose is on point for most of the book, as is the editing. While reading, I was very rarely struck with typos or errors, and it is evident that a great deal of thought and care went into the end result. The one exception I will point out, however, is that Parker often falls into the trap of telling, rather than showing, with characters providing exposition through monologues, which sometimes took me out of the story.
I love the chapter introductions, each of them opening with the Ayrelonian date, followed by a poetic parable from the in-universe Night’s Writ, before moving on to the chapter at large. I will note, though, that the formatting in the Kindle file the author provided is a little off with the drop cap, not indenting the subsequent line. This causes the drop cap to bleed over the first word in the second line. While it’s neither here nor there, and a fairly minor issue, there were a couple of instances where the start of the second line was a little difficult to read.
As is the case with many an epic fantasy, Bathed in the Blood of Ravens has an absolutely huge cast of characters. Laurence, mentioned in the book’s blurb (above), is indisputably the novel’s lead character, however he is accompanied by many others. At points, Laurence comes across as a little bland, with the plot bending to his will and strength, however this is in comparison to the other characters; those surrounding him are rich and developed; all incredibly distinct. In creating all these living, breathing characters, a large portion of which could support their own novel, Parker has pulled off quite the feat.
While Bathed in the Blood of Ravens should interest fans of high and epic fantasy, it should also satisfy fans of coming of age stories. Despite the issues I have with Laurence as a character, the story is about a young man coming of age, and facing a personal threat, which he must not only physically prepare for, but grow into the hero he needs to be. The character relationships throughout the book sing, with them all feeling natural, not just to the story, but to Laurence, and how their interplay works together.
But this novel is not all about watching Laurence’s journey from boy to hero; becoming the man he was destined to become. It is also about operatic action and set pieces. The battles in the book are big and bloody, but more importantly, beautifully articulated, beat for beat.Despite some slight issues I have with the novel, Bathed in the Blood of Ravens is an excellent epic fantasy story that I recommend fans of the genre read. I am truly curious to see where the rest of this story goes, and where future instalments will take it.
“I’m Gremill, and this here be my farm. Yer tresspassing,” he barked.
They weren’t sure if he was angry or joking. The strange contortion in his face when he tried to think of which words to use hadn’t helped that impression in the slightest.
“There, um,” Gaerin cleared his throat. “There be trolls up yonder, and we figured you could help us kill em,” he said, mimicking the old man’s pattern of speech.
Lyla stifled a laugh.
“Goll darn trolls!” belted Gremill.Bathed in the Blood of Ravens, “Aspiration”
Bathed in the Blood of Ravens: A Destiny of Blood and Magic, Book 1 was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Bathed in the Blood of Ravens will be available in paperback, hardcover and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon) on 25 June 2021. An audiobook version is expected later in the year.
You can follow R.L. Parker online, via:
Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews: