Overview (No Spoilers):
I was first introduced to The Combat Codes during SPFBO6 Phase 2, where I really enjoyed Darwin’s novel, however found myself yearning as a whole for more detail and worldbuilding throughout. The premise was an intriguing mix of martial arts and mystery, leaving me with a plethora of questions, especially considering the major cliffhanger that Darwin treated us to at the end of The Combat Codes.
Grievar’s Blood is an ambitious follow up that expands far beyond any expectations I had regarding pathways of the potential plot. Not only does this subsequent novel encompass neighboring countries but also deviates characters from the path that had seemingly been set in stone for them.
In book two, Darwin significantly evolves the foundation he’d established in The Combat Codes, both in worldbuilding and unveiling underlying politics. Darwin manages this feat by adding in three additional POVs that stretch the story in unanticipatedly delightful directions. Cego wasn’t even my favorite of the POVs, perhaps not even in my top two, as the new perspectives elevate both the literary world and heightens the stakes. Grievar’s Blood doesn’t fall prey to the pawn maneuvering that often plagues follow up novels, instead Darwin has produced a story that will keep the reader captivated, and actively pondering how the many new insights will fit into the wider picture. And indeed, there are far reaching machinations that The Combat Codes only briefly alluded to that are just starting to develop by the end of Grievar’s Blood, which will have unforeseen implications for all of the characters involved.
Character wise, the new POVs were much welcomed as they not only exponentially layered depth for those individuals, but also introduces a new cast of characters and expands the worldbuilding by adventuring to countries that heretofore had been relegated to passing references. Without giving away who the new perspectives are (see the additional insight section if you want those spoilers), Darwin picked three characters of various stations that each add to the story in their own way. While these stories mostly kept to their own isolated paths, I’m curious to see how they will intersect in book three.
Overall, Darwin built upon the solid foundation established by The Combat Codes by ambitiously elevating the story in Grievar’s Blood through expanding to multiple new perspectives and detailed world building that will leave the reader more than curious to find out what book three will have in store.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- What will happen to Cego’s team with him being arrested and Joba being killed? Will they place last and be held back a year? What happened to the team the previous year that placed last?
- The Goliath seemed like such a cheat in the system! Who will the Daimyos find to replace him?
- Why did Murray abandon Cego? How did Murray find Sam? How did he know who Sam was? Who did Murray see in the hallway while in his drunken stupor?
- With Sol having left the school, the Harry Potter feel was definitely lost, allowing the story to grow without those preconceived associations.
- We still didn’t find out who the other student from Cego’s year was who was part of the Cradle. Really Kori Shimo was hardly in this book and with Shiar and Joba being dead, my money is now on him.
- I loved getting Sol’s point of view, especially as she ventures far from the school and into more dangerous, foreign soil. We learned more about her past, especially what her legendary father was like; however more importantly we learned the secret of her birth. Her chapters also served to expand our knowledge of Grievars, as well as the dynamic with the Daimyos outside of the limited setting established by The Combat Codes.
- Why/how did Cego’s tattoo react like it did? How did Silas find him?
- What was happening to Aon Farstead to cause him to ‘lose his mind’?
- How did High Commander Memnon realize his addiction to neurostimulants was causing him to have foggy judgement?
- It is hard to imagine Shiar not hovering in the background to torment Cego. Who was Shiar talking to? His behavior was very similar to Aon’s. Who put him up to cheating?