Harlequin MIRA (2014)
Blood and Gold #1
I absolutely loved the novella “Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thyrsland”, set in this world, which appeared in Legends of Australian Fantasy back in 2010, and have been eagerly awaiting the series since then. It was worth the wait – this is one of the best books I’ve read in ages! The worldbuilding is beautifully done – Wilkins has avoided the trap of overburdening the reader with too much information, but cleverly seeds details throughout the book, which increased the richness of the reading experience overall. The plot itself is actually quite contained, essentially distilling to the story of Bluebell’s efforts to save her father, with other elements woven into and branching out from this task, but it works very well over the course of the novel.
And Bluebell! Bluebell is such a fantastic character – her strength and formidable personality are wonderful, but that’s not even the most interesting thing about her. Bluebell’s love and loyalty to her family take what could easily be a woman warrior cutout and give her so much more depth. Wonderful! Although I have to say, I think Ash is my favourite character, and Rose, despite her self-centred nature, is also thoroughly interesting – seeing the women grow and change (Ivy and Willow too, and even the character of Yldra, to an extent), is probably my favourite aspect of the book.
The ending is definitely worth a mention too – I know this book is intended to be a series, though it’s not jacketed as such, and I was impressed by the way Wilkins manages to both draw everything together to create a hugely satisfying, self-contained story, while at the same time giving play to enough threads that a very fine sequel could be woven from them. I can’t wait to see what that looks like!