Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund reviewed

Blood of an Exile Book Cover Blood of an Exile
Dragons of Terra
Brian Naslund
Pan Macmillan
August 8, 2019

Bershad stands apart from the world, the most legendary dragonslayer in history, both revered and reviled.

Once, he was Lord Silas Bershad, but after a disastrous failure on the battlefield he was stripped of his titles and sentenced to one violent, perilous hunt after another. Now he lives only to stalk dragons, slaughter them, collect their precious oil, and head back into the treacherous wilds once more. For years, death was his only chance to escape. But that is about to change.

The king who sentenced Bershad to his fate has just given him an unprecedented chance at redemption. Kill a foreign emperor and walk free forever.

The journey will take him across dragon-infested mountains, through a seedy criminal underworld, and into a forbidden city guarded by deadly technology.

But the links of fate bind us all.

Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund started nicely for me. Flawless Bershad is a dragon slayer. This is a job for those who are exiled for their crimes – he was once a lord. The life of dragon slayers is generally either short or very short. Bershad has killed more dragons than anyone else. His survival is seen as remarkable. He is surprised to be called back to the capital by the king who sentenced him. He is even more surprised at the offer the king makes him. Kill a foreign emperor and he will be able to walk free again. Other than the fact he is unsure whether he is interested in the task there is a high probability of death if he does accept. Will anything make him inclined to go?

Blood of an Exile follows two main threads. Bershad’s journey with some very diverse companions and Princess Ashlyn’s back in his home country. Not only is she a Princess but she was also once Bershad’s lover. These two threads have a very different feel to them for me. A fairly prominent theme in this is the economics and ecology of dragons. I do admire the fact that ecology has been brought into this however I have to say that it did feel a little contrived to me. Overall there is a medieval feel to this story with lords and fairly primitive weaponry in the main.

Coming from a “Lord of the Rings” background many years ago this is a far more modern approach to fantasy writing. While there is some “ancient” and some “quest” involved this feels more contemporary. There is sarcasm, humour and bad language here which brings a lightness to what can be quite a dark read at times.

The main characters were good – Bershad particularly so. In general minor characters stayed just that. However a definitely honourable mention for the Garret and Jolan partnership – I enjoyed that. I did find that Bershad’s thread worked far better for me than Ashlyn’s one. Bershad is an action character and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Ashlyn’s part which had some “politics” in it was less appealing to me.

Overall I found Blood of an Exile very readable and was reluctant to put it down. For me it is more contemporary than say Robin Hobb’s work but still more traditional than someone like Jay Kristoff’s books. I liked the lightness of touch combined with a real bite to the story at times. However I was never really blown away by this book. That said I have a feeling I would like to know what happens next!

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review