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Blood and Iron: A Novel of the Promethean Age Paperback – June 27, 2006

26 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Promethean Age Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ancient grudges and ruthless schemes are simply business as usual to the Faerie court in Bear's complex and involving contemporary fantasy. Seeker, formerly Elaine Andraste, is a changeling bound to the Mebd, the queen of the Daoine Sidhe, to find other changelings and bring them to the Faerie court. There, like legendary Tam Lin, and Seeker's own son, Ian, they entertain the queen until she tires of them. Now the queen needs Seeker to find—and win the heart of—the new Merlin, latest incarnation of a being who, in the hands of the Prometheans, could be used to destroy the Fae. Pragmatic college professor Carel Bierce, the first female Merlin, is not easily swayed by Fae—or Promethean—advances. Long-forgotten rivalries and unsuspected blood ties arise to tug at Seeker's loyalties, even as the queen promises to free Ian when she succeeds. Campbell-winner Bear (Worldwired) overturns the usual vision of Faerie, revealing the compelling beauty and darkness only glimpsed in old ballads and stories like "Tam Lin." (July)
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“Elizabeth Bear is talented.”—Entertainment Weekly“Bear makes the rest of us look like amateurs.”—Peter Watts, Author of Behemoth“[Bear] does it like a juggler who’s also a magician.”—Matthew Cheney, The Mumpsimus

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Product Details

  • Series: The Promethean Age (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Roc; First Printing Thus edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451460928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451460929
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,200,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By ML VINE VOICE on July 11, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In her contemporary but backward-looking novel BLOOD AND IRON author Elizabeth Bear's protagonist is "Seeker," a conflicted half-faery woman who serves a faery queen by abducting children with similar backgrounds from their human homes. This places her in direct conflict with Matthew the Magician, a human mage in the service of the Prometheans. The Prometheans, who happen to be headed by Seeker's human mother Jane, are sworn enemies of the fae, dedicated to their eradication. While Seeker loathes the queen who keeps her and her young son in virtual slavery, she nevertheless loves magical creatures great and small, from the puck who attends her to the werewolf who loves her, the sorceress who taught her, the kelpie who threatens to kill her, and the dragon who manipulates her. She will do anything she can to save the magical world, even if it means giving up her soul.

The novel can be read in a number of ways. On one level, it is a fairy tale deeply influenced by classical European (especially Celtic) folk tales and legends, including those regarding vampires, werewolves, and especially those surrounding King Arthur. On a second level, it is a romance, the story of Seeker's affection for the kelpie named Whiskey, her love for the werewolf named Keith (whose betrayal, incidentally, led to her enslavement), and the pain and torment they each endure due to the competition between her feelings, one one hand, and her duties to the faery queen, her son, and faery as a whole, on the other hand.

On the highest level, it is hard not to see the novel as a plea for greater environmental consciousness.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Shanshad VINE VOICE on May 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
For whatever reason, New York city tends to to be a favored backdrop for those writing urban fantasies involving faerie in some form. That's what originally drew me to this tale, since I have a penchant for collecting fantasy that takes place in my home setting. And I have a soft spot for contemporary fantasy with fae characters in general. Elizabeth Bear has gone about creating an epic tale that is out of legend and myth of old, from the tales of Camelot to the ballad of Tam Linn.

The Seeker was once a mortal woman, now bound to serve the Queen of Faerie and charged bringing her the half-blood children from the human world. Seeker chafes against the bonds that hold her, but has no choice when the Queen lays a new geas upon her: to seek out the new Merlin--a being who is magic-- and seduce him into service for the realm of Faerie. But Seeker will have competition in her race to win the prize. Set against Faerie are the human mages of the Prometheus club. If they can convince the Merlin to join their side against the Fae, all of Faerie may be doomed. On the brink of war, this epic story's protagonists and antagonists must make their choices and ultimately watch the story play itself out.

The premise of this story is an interesting one, certainly this is a grand scale sort of epic fantasy, rather than the more intimate urban fantasy I'm used to. I was originally going to rate this only three stars, but to be fair it likely deserves at least three and half to four stars. I've not read Ms. Bear's work prior to this book, so I can't say if this story is indicative of her usual style, but I tend to like books that are more directly about character and less grand epic.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Johnston VINE VOICE on July 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elaine Andraste, now known simply as Seeker, is a servant of the Medb, Queen of the Daoine Sidhe; stolen by the Fae in childhood, she has spent her life bound to the Faerie Realm, stealing other human children for the queen. Matthew is a mage, of the mysterious Promethean Club, a group of human magic users in league against Faerie. When the Medb requires Seeker to trap the Merlin, the newest incarnation of the powerful wizard who could save Faerie or doom it, Seeker comes into conflict with Matthew and his allies, as well as with rivals from other Faerie factions.

Bear weaves together strands of folklore and legend from King Arthur to Tam Lin with her own imaginings to create a compelling vision of Faerie, both terrible and beautiful; it's no wonder the Merlin has difficulty deciding whether to aid Faerie or oppose it. The characters are fiercely memorable, particularly Elaine and her wild Fae companion, Whiskey the kelpie (a shapeshifting water horse). The story is immersive and intricate, full of schemes and rivalries, blood ties and friendships, mystery and sorcery, and the prose is equally complex and allusive. It required some concentration to sink into the narrative, but once I was in, I emerged only with reluctance. This is one of the best books I've read this year, and one of the best treatments of Faerie I've ever read; I await the sequel, _Whiskey and Water_, with great eagerness.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
After reading Hammered, Scardown, and Worldwired, Bear's previous trilogy, I was really looking forward to this book. The others were taut thrillers that felt as though they had been one large (huge) novel before being chopped up into three books by a publisher. In those books, the characters were interesting, and the plot was familiar enough that it felt comforting, but went off in enough unexpected directions that you never really knew what was going to happen next.

Blood and Iron is the opposite of all that. Instead of being a middle-future military sci-fi, like her first trilogy, her newest book is a modern-day fantasy story. It's the story of a secret war being fought under our noses. On the one side are the forces of the Sidhe, the fairies of British and Celtic mythology. This is not an platoon of Tinkerbells here - these are the fey folk of Tam Lin, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, or Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies. These are creatures of glamour and illusion who steal away mortals to use as sport and entertainment.

Ranged against the Sidhe are the humans of the Prometheus Club - a secret society of magicians who guard our world against incursions by the fey. They use the strength and magic of iron to keep the enemies of humanity at bay.

The "war" has recently escalated with the appearance of a Merlin, a person who acts as a source of magic power. Both sides of the war are seeking to identify and court the Merlin, hoping to bring that strength to their side.

Sounds like a fun adventure, right? It could have been. In fact, some individual scenes (including the novel opener) are written with great energy and are truly exciting. But the book just never grabbed me.
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