This week’s Fantasy Friday is spotlighting Matthew Cook’s The Ballad of Kirin Widowmaker series.
I read book one, Blood Magic, when it was released in 2007. It quickly became a favorite read, and I was very happy to know that there was going to be a sequel. A third book was planned, but has not been published, which makes me a little sad because I really love this series and was looking forward to where the main character’s story was going. However, the first two books are still favorites of mine and I reread them at least once a year.
LIGHT SPOILER AHEAD!!!
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Her sister was murdered, and Kirin hungers for revenge. Using the power of her “blood magic,” the young necromancer creates grotesque and inhumanly strong creatures by calling men’s souls back into their dead bodies. These “sweetlings,” as she calls them, are utterly devoted to her, and Kirin cherishes them as if they were her own children. But while fighting a bloody war against a relentless enemy, she meets Lia Cho, a beautiful and gentle woman who can call the power of storms… and soon, Kirin learns that there is more to life than pain and vengeance.
Blood Magic starts off strong and never lets up. Kirin’s voice pulled me in immediately, and I couldn’t put the book down until I was finished. It only took me about three hours to finish this book! The chapters alternate between the present day action of fighting the Mor, and the past, showing what led Kirin to be the necromancer and fighter she is. That type of writing normally would turn me off but Cook does a fantastic job of alternating smoothly, so the story felt natural instead of choppy. Kirin’s journey is heartbreaking; from her ill-fated marriage and her sister’s death, to how she became what most people fear. I found her to be a wonderful narrator, both relatable and otherworldly. The introduction of Lia was well done and I really enjoyed the effect she had on Kirin and the way she sees life.
The besieged Imperial City lies inside the massive wall of the Armitage; outside, the attacking Mor have laid waste to most of the land. The Imperial Court seems unaware of their peril, but Kirin and Lia — who have barely survived the Mor and made their way to the City — know the danger all too well! When Kirin discovers a necromancer who seems to possess her power over blood, she hopes he can help her understand her strange magic. Meanwhile, the deadly Mor are assaulting the walls of the city that shelters them.
Nights of Sin, book two, is wonderful but not quite as good as book one. I found this one to be a bit more “typical” fantasy instead of continuing the rich, fast-paced, and dark bent of book one. That said, I still enjoyed the story and found it a well-done second book in the series. I found it incredibly heartbreaking that even the people she saved from the Mor- including her Captain- show her no gratitude and still greatly fear her power. That both saddened me, and made me angry. I also liked the evolution of Kirin and Lia’s relationship, though I am not fond of how that ended. I feel that Lia turned her back on Kirin, and it would take a lot for me to accept her again if she tried to rejoin Kirin.
While I hope to read more of this series, books one and two are more than a fantastic addition to the fantasy section of my bookshelf. If you can find copies of these books, I highly recommend giving them a try!