Synopsis (taken from Giles Kristian’s official website at http://gileskristian.com/books/the-bleeding-land/):
England 1642: a nation divided.
England is at war with itself. King Charles and Parliament each gather soldiers to their banners. Across the land, men prepare to fight for their religious and political ideals. Civil war has begun.
A family ripped asunder.
The Rivers are landed gentry, and tradition dictates that their allegiance is to the King. Sir Francis’ loyalty to the crown and his desire to protect his family will test them all. As the men march to war, so the women are left to defend their home against a ruthless enemy. Just as Edmund, the eldest of Sir Francis’ sons, will do his duty, so his brother Tom will turn his back on all he once believed in…
A war that will change everything.
From the raising of the King’s Standard at Nottingham to the butchery and blood of Edgehill, Edmund and Tom Rivers will each learn of honour, sacrifice, hatred and betrayal as they follow their chosen paths through this most savage of wars.
I purchased Giles Kristian’s first book, Raven: Blood Eye, in 2011 for no apparent reason. I just walked past the book, had a brief scan of the synopsis, and thought ‘Why not?’ Since then, his books have been and still are a constant source of enjoyment and inspiration for me and my writing. This past Thursday, I finished reading his 4th book, The Bleeding Land and wanted to provide a review. It won’t be too long as I don’t particularly like long winded reviews. If you are considering reading a book like this, I hope that this review can help you to make your decision.
For me, the best things about Giles Kristian’s books are the battles scenes (really well described. Using most if not all the senses to put you right in the heat of the battle) and the dialogue (solid mixture of humour and relevance so that no word is wasted. EVER) and The Bleeding Land continues this trend.
As the synopsis above shows, this book has a lot going on. A country at War and family are torn apart by it. The characters, mainly Edmund ‘Mun’ Rivers and little brother Thomas Rivers, become the main points with their family members and war comrades providing good quality support. Each main and supporting character is allowed to grow and develop well and at no point did I feel that any of the characters were there just to make up the numbers. Each character had a use to move the story along and help another or their own character’s story.
The scene is set very well to allow this to happen early on. You are introduced to the River’s family and the impending conflict of the country around them. This all builds to the Civil War beginning and the brothers taking opposite sides (Mun fighting for the King and Tom fighting for the Parliament. I won’t tell you why). Once this happens, the story moves along and does not allow the Civil War around it to engulf it, keeping the River’s family at its core very neatly. Along with the men of the River’s household, the River’s women are very well represented with the mother and sister of the family, Mary and Bess, shown as strong characters in their own right.
The battle scenes throughout the book are very well described and again using all five senses, helped me to drop into the battle. Sometimes, I smelt the odours of War far too well for my liking. But, that just shows in my opinion how good an author Giles Kristian is. In particular, one of many Battles, where the Rivers women, having been left to defend their household whilst the men are away at War, become part of the War as the parliament ‘rebels’ fight to take their home from them. This spans a few chapters and is not just about a battle. There are many other things going on which made it so compelling.
The only downside I could find was that some of the descriptions went on for too long and I found myself skipping past them. In most cases, it was the descriptions of the clothing that each character was wearing. Though very clear and informative, I felt that these could have been shortened to keep the pace going.
In conclusion, a brilliant read with rich characters and a good story, I would recommend this to anyone looking for an action adventure and historical fiction novel to read. You will not be disappointed.