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The first-born shall be the heir.

The second-born the warrior.

The third-born blessed as workers.

The fourth-born owed to the scholars.

The fifth-born to become a healer.

The sixth-born will forever wander.

Those with the gods’ gift for the sorcers.

These shall be the seven tribes of the Swathe.

THE BLOODLAWS, FIRST WRITTEN IN 1236

Cover Art - Pink and Lavender skies behind an armored man and giant hummingbird

After thoroughly enjoying the first installation of The Bloodwood Saga series, Demon’s Reign, by David Estes and Ben Galley, I could hardly wait for the second, Demon’s Rage, to be released. In spite of my usual irritation with an adolescent, “chosen one” protagonist, I couldn’t help but immediately like Tarkosi Terelta. Tarkosi, or Tarko, is the third-born child of a disgraced family in the bloodwood realm of Shal Gara. The bloodwoods reach to dizzying heights from the loam below and serve as entire kingdoms in the greater expanse of the Swathe. In Reign, we see Tarkosi struggle to find a place within the “worker” ranks of the third-born – and yet nothing seems to fit. He is sure he is a sorcer, no matter what the Bloodlaws say. By the end of the first book, after many twists and turns, lucky and unlucky twists, it would seem Tarko was right all along. He is a sorcer, and all it took was for a demon to be trapped in his mind for his natural magic to show up. As you can imagine, this was an uncomfortable tenancy for both Tarko and his unwilling, vicious tenant, Serisianathiel, daughter of the Demon King. The relationship, and the understandable necessity of keeping it a secret, set the foundations for an absolutely thrilling adventure from the uppermost branches of Shal Gara, down the leafroads which connect the bloodwoods, and deep into the loam at the forest floor.

In Demon’s Rage, Tarko and Serisi, along with their fellow Scions of the Sixth-Born, have been banished from their beloved Shal Gara, both lauded as heroes while damned as personally responsible for the bloodwood’s fall. The demon invasion, which resulted in the joining of Tarko and Serisi, was temporarily forestalled but The Swathe refuses to believe the demons won’t return. In fact, most of the denizens of both bloodwood and loam have convinced themselves that the fall of three separate, millenia-old bloodwoods were the result of wildfires instead of a destructive, otherworldly invasion. The Scions, hoping to finally banish the demon hordes, are determined to make them see and understand the truth. The demons are real, they are coming back, and worse, there are traitors, the Fireborn, a fiendish cult determined to sacrifice The Swathe to the lordship of the Iron Icon, the demon’s god of chaos, in exchange for personal power. Few people the Scions meet are willing to speak with them, fewer still are willing to believe.

From first contact to trudging the loam, the demon Serisi has come to appreciate the balance between order and chaos which already exists in The Swathe. She has allied herself with the Scions’ cause and lends her personal abilities to the growing might of Tarko’s magic. A truce and a partnership has formed in the dually occupied, singular person of Tarkosi Terelta. Together, boy and demon seem to be invincible.

Tarko and Serisi may be the true hope of The Swathe but they would be lost without the aid of their companions, the other Scions. Together, Atalawe – scholar and beastwrangler, Pelikai – sorcer, Redeye – sorcer, Ralish – worker, Inwar – a jagu (large cat), and Eztaral – Eagleborn warrior, with Tarko and Serisi, strive to form alliances wherever they can throughout The Swathe. After one bloodwood matriarch promises to help their cause when she sees proof of a demon invasion, the Scions and the Cloudriders of Lost River capture an invader and bring him to the famed Forging at Dorla Sel. The Forging is a deadly competition between the best sorcers the Swathe can muster. The prize – a meeting with and boon from the Allmother, supreme matriarch. If they can arrange a meeting with her, convince her of their cause, and secure her aid, the Swathe may be saved.

Demon’s Rage is an immaculately crafted, thrilling adventure with thoroughly fleshed out and necessary characters, compelling power structures, and gorgeous, vibrant world-building. Throughout the narrative, we witness Serisi’s scathing and sarcastic commentary in conjunction with her deeper understanding of the beauty to be found in the lives of the inhabitants of the Swathe. Likewise, we see Tarko’s metamorphosis into not only a powerful wielder of magic but also a more blood-thirsty fighter. As they learn to work more cohesively towards the same goals, their personalities bleed together and affect each other – mentally, physically, emotionally –  in fascinating ways. Like in Demon’s Reign, the grand adventure culminates in a blinding twist which will gut-punch and infuriate readers. (Truly, I didn’t see this one coming.) I can hardly wait for the next book in the series and can only hope it comes out soon, like yesterday soon.

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

Demon’s Rage by David Estes and Ben Galley

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