Writing a review for The Blood Brute Volume 1 is an interesting proposition. While I have reviewed a number of anthologies, each containing a number of short stories, I’ve never reviewed an omnibus. Making this proposition even stranger, I have already reviewed the three books in this anthology. Rather than copying and pasting my comments from those reviews, this is a re-review: sharing my thoughts about the first three entries in Dixon Reuel’s Blood Brute series upon reading them for a second time, back to back as part of an omnibus, or reading these entries as one ongoing story. If you haven’t already read the reviews, I’ll direct you to my thoughts for each book: Rise of One, Fall of Two and Ebb of Three. I cover off my thoughts about them as individual stories there. Also, while it’s not collected in this omnibus, you might as well take a look at my review of Strain of Four: this is a series that constantly gets better and more engrossing with each entry.
As confident as I am in my assertion that the fourth book (which, at the time of writing, is the only Blood Brute tale not included in this collection) is the best in the series to date, I don’t want to sell these first three stories short. A testament to great storytelling—and something reviews written in the immediate aftermath of reading the book can’t quite capture—is how long a book lingers with you after reading, and the stories included in The Blood Brute, Volume 1 have all stayed with me over the six-odd months since I originally read and reviewed them. From the first line in Rise of One—”The outbreak began in springtime rumors”—my memories of the characters and their world came flooding back. I wasn’t just reading about this world, I was transported back to Reuel’s wonderful stories.
In rereading these books, collected in a massive, 801 page (or “only” an estimated 742 pages if you’re reading on Kindle) tome; a 2.88 pound (or 1.31 kilogram if you, like me, use metric weights) monstrosity, I discovered these books age like a fine wine. When I originally read the books, some of the prose and dialogue in the first two didn’t initially grab me; here, I didn’t find it to be an issue. While it’s likely my familiarity with the books, I loved my time with them from the outset.
Despite me not nitpicking with Rise of One and Fall of Two, the books still improve with each entry. In reading these back to back in a single volume, it felt like these improvements were building to its crescendo with Ebb of Three. And it is a magnificent crescendo. As it tells the story of the vampire Rise, his coven, and the love of his (after)life, the mortal Cypriot, the stakes (and no, I’m not at all sorry about that pun) get bigger and bigger. But as big as these get, Rise’s story gets more emotional and bittersweet. In each book, you feel for these characters, but in three of them, back to back, read as one story across its beautiful tapestry, the story pulls at your heartstrings. This is absolutely a story about vampires in an apocalyptic future, but its heart comes from the characters, and their humanity.
The three included novels all stand well enough alone that they can be enjoyed in isolation from one another, and Reuel has successfully ensured the reader can enjoy one without having read the preceding volumes. The second and third entries tell the reader everything they need to know if they haven’t read the others, which is great for new readers, which also serves as a reminder for anybody who puts distance between them. In not only revisiting these books, but reading them as one, massive volume, I was struck by how well Reuel balances these aspects with the larger narrative. None of it feels the least bit redundant; the three books flow together beautifully as they tell Rise’s tale.
Each of the books collected in the omnibus unfolds slowly, casting a deliberate pace, unveiling the story with wonderful attention to all its intricacies. While readers wanting a straight horror story about a zombie-bitten vampire might find themselves disappointed by the tone, if you’re interested in a character study about the toll this world takes on its characters, there is so much to chew on. Between the three novels, the author has methodically built the story, expanding the world, and developing the characters. It is a wonderful examination of Rise and those who surround him, and his relationship with Cypriot is beautifully told throughout. Yes, it’s an LGBTQI+ romance as the blurb states, but more importantly, it is simply a beautiful love story.
While I originally read these books in their digital forms, I read The Blood Brute Volume 1 in paperback. Yes, it’s a massive book, but it’s beautifully presented. The paper quality is great; a little heavier than the standard trade paper, which adds a little something to the experience.
If you’re yet to experience the Blood Brute series, The Blood Brute Volume 1 represents the perfect jumping on point. All three books are excellent in their own right, and improve with each subsequent entry. But as excellent as they all are, when read together, they are greater than the sum of their parts. This omnibus presents the first three parts of an intricately woven tale. The Blood Brute series is one of many horrors, both supernatural and emotional. But the stories themselves are a thing of beauty. In collecting the first three books, The Blood Brute Volume 1 harnesses this beauty and tells a story that is totally affecting.
If you haven’t read Rise of One, Fall of Two and Ebb of Three, there is no better opportunity to experience them than in this collection. If you have read them, there is no better way of re-experiencing them. This is a perfect time to read the first three parts of Rise’s story, and after doing so, it’ll leave you wanting to read Strain of Four. Even if, like me, you’ve already read it.
Favourite Passage (Rise of One)
“We have to be careful, as those who age so slowly, not to fight upon past battlefields. In that, and maybe only in that, are we superior. To hold a grudge for a human lifespan, that is one thing. To hold a grudge throughout the whole of our lives, that would be an unlivable, untenable existence. So, we do not fight on past battlefields. We air our grievances as plainly as possible. We found, after centuries, we could live no other way.”
-Salter, The ChroniclerRise of One, Part 1 – “Autumn”
Favourite Passage (Fall of Two)
“This way.” Rise grabbed Cypriot’s bony elbow and brought them before the baleful gaze of a unicorn, whose pearlescent-thread horn speared the plump belly of a lion, who in turn mauled the unicorn’s throat. Rise hadn’t noticed their death-embrace before. Standing before such a tapestry, cold fear washed through him again.Fall of Two, Chapter 11: “Glum Shadows”
Favourite Passage (Ebb of Three)
He waited for dozens of hands to seize him, for the great scythe of fate to sever his head, cleave him from this life. Rise waited, shivering and dripping saltwater onto the strand. And waited. He hazarded a glance to Pigeon Man, at the owl-ish stripes and splashes of brute blood across his face.Ebb Of Three, Chapter 15: “Scald”
The Blood Brute, Volume 1 was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
The Blood Brute, Volume 1 will be available in paperback and Kindle formats, exclusive to Amazon, from 15 September.
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