Verdict: Through relatable and flawed characters, rich world-building, and the exploration of profound themes through captivating prose, St. Martin has again created a gripping work of fantasy sure to resonate with readers of all ages.
The third installment in the Lisen of Solsta series, BLOODED tracks the journey of Lisen, ex-valley girl and reluctant ruler, as she at last ascends her rightful throne as Empir of the other-dimensional Garla.
BLOODED begins just after the final events of the second book, plunging the reader back into the tempestuous, riveting world of Garla. After pushing her murderous brother Ariel to suicide, St. Martin’s heroine sheds her old identity as she steps up to the throne, becoming “Ariannas.” As if acclimating to her multitude of new responsibilities was not enough, disaster strikes when a kidnapping threatens the secret Heir to the Empir of Garla. With unrest brewing, and a growing rift among her subjects, will Ariannas be able to preserve her kingdom?
In this installment, St. Martin continues to amaze the reader with her complexity of characters. One of the chief ways in which she accomplishes this is through her use of sometimes-italicized inner dialogue. Through this method, she reveals that even the “bad guys” are not wholly bad, and that her heroine is likewise realistically flawed. A prime example of this comes when Korin stops himself from criticizing Ariannas, who should be his enemy, by reminding himself that she “was not a monster. She’d made a difficult, ugly and misguided decision.” By including such thoughts, St. Martin characterizes would-be archetypes as multi-faceted, mature, and understanding.
In any work of fantasy, world-building is a key component, and St. Martin brilliantly succeeds at this. She accomplishes this effectively by examining Garla through the eyes of Ariannas, who is a foreigner just like the reader. Trivial images, such as a lack of air conditioning in castles, the “crevix” bird with its “dark silhouette,” and “a small chunk of something resembling what she’d known as cheese on Earth” all create a richly detailed world into which the reader can easily step.
Another element that sets this series apart from other works of fantasy is St. Martin’s interspersing of mature themes throughout Lisen/Ariannas’s journey. In BLOODED, St. Martin delves into issues of identity, primarily through her heroine’s character development. Wracked with guilt after “pushing” her brother into suicide, Ariannas/Lisen is more confused than ever, asking, “If she wasn’t Lisen, then who was she? Because this Ariannas…bore no resemblance to Lisen of Solsta nor to Lisen Holt.” Her feelings only become more complex as she comes to terms with her roles as psychic, warrior, foreigner, captain, Empir, and, most confusingly, mother. By introducing these bewildering identity issues, St. Martin ensures that her story will resonate with readers, young and old.
To discuss these mature issues, St. Martin employs the remarkably vivid, humorous, and beautiful writing style characteristic of her prose. She takes the reader from Arianna’s irreverent asides, such as “Ass-kissing abounds,” to a striking image as “She sat down again, her soul suddenly naked.” Even St. Martin’s description of psychic powers, a potentially throw-away scene, is moving, as “thoughts began circling up like so much debris” until “the sky cleared, all that were left were fragments of a life, indistinguishable from one another.” Through her range of diction, from witty to wonderfully imaginative, St. Martin invites the reader to join Arianna in discovering the fantastical world of Garla.
Through relatable and flawed characters, rich world-building, and the exploration of profound themes through captivating prose, St. Martin has again created a gripping work of fantasy sure to resonate with readers of all ages.