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Blood Ties (The Castings Trilogy) Paperback – April 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This complex trilogy opener, YA author Freeman's first book for adults, describes the Eleven Domains, a landscape littered with prophecies, gods and ghostly warnings. Saker, a wealthy and callous enchanter's apprentice, seeks to avenge his family's massacre. Bramble, gifted with a connection to animals and woodcraft, kills a warlord's man in self-defense and must flee her home. Nervous young guard Ash trains to become an assassin and endures his beloved mentor's exploitation of his necromantic abilities. When Saker's vengeance-seeking walking dead roam the land, Ash must find ways to stop them as Bramble seeks to protect the people they threaten. Freeman shies away from simplistic morality, building elegantly well-rounded characters—most notably Bramble, who manages to be tough but not hard, a loner but not unsympathetic and sexual but not obsessed with romance—and interwoven stories that at times draw too heavily on George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels for inspiration. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Pamela Freeman is an award-winning writer for young people. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney, where she has also lectured in creative writing. She lives in Sydney with her husband and young son. Find out more about the author at www.pamelafreemanbooks.com.
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Pamela Freeman's "Blood Ties" is your average fantasy novel. The setting is more akin to a George Martin novel but with more focus on the younger characters of the story. The world itself is your run of the mill setting with conquered and divided domains/kingdoms vying for power. Essentially there are two castes of people, one being the current norm and accepted (Acton's people) and the other being shunned and forced into a nomadic lifestyle (Travellers). This book mainly centers around Bramble (a nature loving rebellious tom-boy) and Ash (a trained bodyguard/killer working for a local "protection" guild). Both come from Traveller blood and are therefore shunned by the majority of folks based solely on their looks (i.e. dark hair/eyes). The third character Saker (an orphaned enchanter/necromancer) is only dealt with in very small amounts but clearly he'll have a much larger role in the following books. In the end all three characters are forced on to their own seperate journeys which as the title would suggest will all cross paths. Here's my take;
+ Well written. The story was easy to follow but not to the point where it felt entirely like a young adult novel.
+ Enviroments are well described and easy to imagine.
+ Both Bramble and Ash have distinct and unique personalities. Freeman does a great job and fleshing out the two main characters.
+ Chapters were broken down by character. I found it refreshing knowing the entire chapter would be focused on solely that character.
- Main characters aren't tied together at all until the very end of the book. (Yes I realize it's a trilogy but it took entirely too long to get to the point of characters crossing paths).
- Bramble's chapter regarding her stay on the horse farm was extremely long and drawn out. I was excited for her to finally get to the Old Forest, not settle down and learn to train horses.
- Most character's names were taken from animals or plants which seemed terribly uncreative, especially for a fantasy. Examples include Lark, Sparrow, Ash, Bramble, Saker, Eel, Salamander etc. After a while it got very old and somewhat ridiculous.
- I found it difficult to feel sympathetic towards the plight of the "Travellers." Sure they were conquered, driven from their homes and forced to take to the road as gypsies. But the author made it feel like they laid down and rolled over rather than attempt to fight the large invading force.
- Needed a more detailed map. Many times Freeman was describing places in the world and I had only a vague idea of where the character was.
Despite its shortcomings I still found "Blood Ties" an enjoyable read although a bit irritating at times. I wouldn't recommend it to a friend but I'll probably read the following two books in the trilogy at some point.
For starters, there is no supernatural evil "Dark Lord" out to destroy the world, just a number of squabbling and greedy warlords who have divided the land into a number of Domains, having invaded and conquered the original inhabitants. Now known as "Travelers", due to their wandering lifestyles, these dark-haired people are harassed and despised by those that forcibly took their lands. Such prejudice naturally leads to various crimes of murder, rape and theft against the Travelers, with little consequences for the perpetrators. Even though the invasion of their lands took place hundreds of years ago, the injustice still rankles amongst the Travelers, and the massacres of their people are remembered in song, passed on from generation to generation.
Two other notable features to this fantasy world are Freeman's portrayal of death and the presence of "stonecasters". In this world, the spirits of the dead linger on earth for a fixed period of time before moving on to (what they hope) is rebirth. Stonecasters are those that can read fate in the throw of a collection of small engraved stones, most of whom also seem to be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead - though some are better at this than others.
Into such a world are born our two main protagonists: Bramble and Ash, both with Traveler blood. Bramble is a wild young woman of the countryside who likes nothing better to roam the woods all day, whereas Ash is a young assassin's apprentice in the city, just coming to terms with the reality of killing. Most of the attention is on these two as they struggle through various obstacles in life, and both are interesting and three-dimensional characters: sympathetic without being too good to be true.
But it is the plot itself which makes "Blood Ties" so unique in the fantasy genre, for the story (such as it is) moves at a languid and meandering pace, spans a number of years, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the typical aspects of what we deem "fantasy". There are no quests for magical items, no dragons that need slaying, no long-lost heirs to the throne or innocent farm boys with great destinies. Instead, Freeman explores the world through the eyes of her two characters, focusing on the day-to-day struggles of survival in a harsh world. It is so removed from the clichés of fantasy literature, that a segment involving Bramble would read (if taken out of context) more like a girl-training-wild-horse story, as she teaches herself how to ride.
And that's why I enjoyed this book so much, for along with Bramble and Ash's stories, there are several shorter chapters dotted throughout that tell the stories of periphery characters and their place in the world. It's an interesting feature to the book, and although some may grow impatient with these chapters considering they often have little bearing on Ash or Bramble's stories, they help to enrich the overall story and the customs and cultures that Freeman has created for this world. Furthermore, they allow us to catch a glimpse of worldviews that oppose Bramble and Ash's - such as the memories of a soldier who explains why he is so loyal to the warlord who poses such a danger to the rest of the world, and his reasoning that it may not be such a bad thing if he was to unite the Domains.
However, there is a thread of a definitive plot at work in the story; that of a third character named Saker, who travels the world in the attempt to raise the ghosts of massacred Travelers from their graves to wreck vengeance on the descendants of the conquerors. Toward the end of the book, another element is introduced (perhaps just a *little* too late to have the impact that it should) that hints toward a more concrete plot that will no doubt be developed further in later books.
Amidst all the pain and despair, Freeman is careful to include moments of joy and peace, and ultimately "Blood Ties" feels more like a story about a world than any particular person, full of its own history, culture and unfolding future. Presumably, the sequel Deep Water (The Castings Trilogy) will delve more into the brewing tension between the warlords and the Travelers, but for now, the exploration of this created world is all the reader needs to sustain their interest.
Most recent customer reviews
At first I didn't think that I would enjoy the use of multple stories to advance the book, but it really worked.Read more