Of Blood And Fire is Ryan’s debut story and has been self published. It has recently gathered a lot of traction among “Book Twitter” and on The Oasis discord so I knew I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It’s a throwback to classic fantasy but does it live up to it’s name though?
Some information about this book:
- Genre: Fantasy
- Release date: March 20th 2021
- Page count: 541
- Series: The Bound and the Broken (#1)
Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the south squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.
In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving—a test of courage and skill that not all survive.
But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.
There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.
He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.
The story starts 400 years after the events that occur in The Fall (review here)(you can get the novella free from Ryan’s newsletter or it’s on the end of the OBAF audiobook). We begin with a boy called Calen Bryer and his two friends Rhist and Dann, who are preparing themselves for the local coming-of-age event, The Proving. The boys have to enter a notorious forest near to the village they live in, in southern Epheria, and bring back the pelt of a predator. There are many people competing and the winner is the one who brings back the pelt of the most dangerous predator. As you might expect, things in the forest don’t go as expected and this is where Calen is pulled into life changing events.
“You are our family. Maybe not by blood, but water becomes just as thick as blood if you go through enough shit together.”
He isn’t alone for this journey though; as I’ve mentioned he has two friends with him and between the three of them is a really well written dialogue of coming-of-age teenage boys and brotherhood. The dynamic shared between them comes across as genuine and their flaws mean that you will quickly find yourself gravitating to at least one of them (go Dann!). I smiled regularly when reading the dialogue between characters as it reads well, although for me personally there were quite a few times where I thought said should have replaced laughed.
“Hope. Give people hope, and they will fight.”
Of Blood And Fire is a book that lives up to that age old writing advice, “write a book you would like to read“. It is, I’m sure, a culmination of everything about fantasy that Ryan likes and luckily for me it had a lot of things that I like about fantasy too. Within its pages, OBAF manages to pull in many fantasy themes. Magic, elves, dwarves, giants, dragons, demon-like creatures, besieged cities and a rich history all feature. It really takes the best of so many other fantasy books and film and places them carefully within the story. Nothing in here felt rushed, copied or unoriginal though, Ryan has done a good job putting his own spin on stuff enough to differentiate between himself and Tolkien for instance.
“You will only know your true friends once they know you truly.”
Some tropes can’t be escaped though. The chosen one (minus a prophecy), the warrior and the dragon, the band of misfits saving the world, the evil lord and probably a handful of others can be spotted within the pages but tropes are used a lot for a reason. Because they are so good when done well and Ryan does them well here.
OBAF is a split between character driven and plot driven storytelling. It’s a blend he has mixed well, toeing the line between great character development and a rich history being built upon by tyrants and heroes. If you enjoyed Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Eragon, or Skyrim, you will have a blast with this story.
Rating 4/5 – This is a powerful debut by Ryan Cahill. If you ever need to recommend a fantasy story to someone who has never read any, Of Blood And Fire should be number 1. Ryan has written rich and genuine characters into a fantastic world filled with a captivating history that ensure that once you pick this up you will keep turning pages, wanting to see what happens to our heroes until the very last page. This book has so much packed inside it with a few twists and turns, that you will be hard pressed to not enjoy it.