Book Review: Annwyn’s Blood by @MichaelEging

Annwyn’s Blood (The Paladin of Shadow Chronicles #1) by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold – 4 stars

When Marianna was spirited away by unknown raiders, everyone expected a ransom demand to soon follow. Such was the peril of everyday royal life in the chaotic times following abandonment of the misty isles of Albion by indifferent Rome. But when weeks went by without word her father, High King Mattheus, dispatched teams of trusted warriors to find her and bring her assailants to account.

Young Erik, Scion of the House of Birkenshire, was one of these. Separated from his comrades and alone in hostile territories, he plunged headlong into forgotten vales and desolate coasts in pursuit, driven onward by precious memories of stolen tender moments. Then he stood before the grim fortress – wherein he found, not the innocent damsel of his youthful desires, but a terrifying beauty borne of an ancient evil that bound his soul to an even more primal force bent on regaining its place in the halls of human exaltation.

Now caught between two worlds, he must resist the temptations of his beloved-turned-succubus while protecting his family, his people and his world from the encroaching grasp of Arawn, Lord of Annwyn, Ruler of the Dead, Elder God of the Mabinogion. In this journey to regain his soul, the knight must find a way to strike the fatal blow against a resurgent primal darkness.

Every time I picked this book up, although it was good, I had no trouble putting it back down. The writing gives a good sense of the setting, evoking a gritty feel appropriate to the times, the wonder of magic, the darkness of the enemy. Descriptions are palpable, images are evoked, scenes are crisp.

It took me over half the book to figure out who was supposed to be the sympathetic character. The perspective shifts often, nearly every chapter, between several characters, and some of them feel superfluous. At least two of the chapters – those of Thelwyn and Marianna – could have been left out with little to no detrimental effect.

Most of the characters are well done, with strengths and flaws that make them seem real. The plot is interesting, with twists and turns – some more surprising than others. The ending felt as if it came from nowhere, but otherwise, the story was satisfying.

Most fantasy readers will likely enjoy this tale, I merely caution that it starts slow and can be difficult to really connect with.

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