A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
TL;DR: Recommended only to a specific type of reader. See intro.
- Okay, so I super enjoyed the world in this. The style of the writing makes it feel truly epic and tangible – at least for me. All I could think of at certain scenes were those truly cheese moments in Conan the Barbarian where you had broad, epic panorama views on a journey or a shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger hunched over a fire (you can see what I grew up on). You should take those scenes and round out the rough corners, add a Romance style flair to them and that’s what you get here. It made it feel vibrate and familiar but all new to me at the same time. I wanted to see what the characters were seeing past the words. Good stuff.
- The characters were also almost the same way, they felt just solid enough to be better than Conan, but you still get that… barbarian feeling. We had a lot of interesting rep in these characters to, our main heroine has several issues and there was plenty of queerness thrown in. It was definitely a heterosexual romantic pairing but queer characters were also the norm in this world (I forget the word for this and google is not helping me).
- All of that said. This book is going to hit you with those Romance words. The ones your grandmother thinks you read in every romance novel. See below:
She lifted her chin. “What now Warrior?”
“Stroke me,” he said with clenched jaw. “As if your hands are a sheath I would fuck.”
A sheath. Her fingers circled him. The grasp of her right hand was weak, but her left hand was still strong. Upward she stroked his length, his skin softer than she expected, her fingers both sticky and slick.
“A sheath wet with my brother’s blood,” she told him and watched the hot flare of his eyes. “Does that please you warrior?”
It did.pg. 68
- I am going to let you assume why her brother’s blood is on her hands. You’ll probably get it in one. And that is something else here, the world and actions the characters take are brutal. I would not read this if you are prone to pearl clutching. Leave your pearls at home.
- All of this adds up to a read that was absolutely bananas. But I loved every minute of it. At one point, shortly after that particular scene in fact I laughed so hard I had to make my husband read it. It was so bananas but at the same time took itself just seriously enough that I did too. Even on my limted budget I immediately pre-ordered the second book.
- My only complaint was the very Romance style ending where we have a large gap of time passes and things that were described as needing done (like political maneuvering) were skimmed over. I also had a personal trigger pressed with the loss of a pregnancy/child at one point, but it was vague enough that I was able to press on.
So, yes. I would very much recommend this, but take my warnings in hand. No pearl clutching, and expect the bananas. I am not even going to spoil the zombies because just – wow, that was one of my favorite parts. Just read it if this sounds at all fun to you. Because it really is.