Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Of Sand & Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu

Of Sand & Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu

Publisher/Source: Sent to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. (Released 8/09/16)

Page Count: 228

Format/Genre: Hardback/Fantasy

ISBN/Link To Book On Amazon: 978-1473218451 (Hardback £12.99)

Audience: Those who enjoy exotic fantasy tales that include darker themes, swearing and violence.

Summed up in one word: Awesome

Author Bio: Bradley Beaulieu fell in love with fantasy from the moment he began reading and began writing his first fantasy novel in college. He has since published two novels, won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award and earned a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination. (Bio provided by Gollancz)

 First Impression: I knew this book would be awesome from the moment I received it in the post (Thanks Gollancz!). Not only does it look great, the artwork is superb, but it also looks classy and inviting to read. It was so nice to read a smaller more refined fantasy piece that was not overly focused on world building. Not that I don't enjoy the more dense and detailed fantasy books, I just felt this was a breath of fresh air, with a plot driven style that was filled with quality characters and a simple, elegant and brutal writing style.

Summary of the Story:
Çeda is the youngest pit fighter in the history of Sharakhai.

Renowned in the arena, she's the fearsome, undefeated White Wolf. Though none one but
her closest friends and allies know her true identity.

Until she and Rümayesh cross paths.

Rümayesh is determined to unmask the mysterious White Wolf and claim Çeda for her own... So a chance encounter is about to become a battle for Çeda's friends, her life and even her soul. 
(Synopsis from Of Sand & Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu)


Story/Plot/Narration: Çeda lives and works in the harsh streets of Sharakhai delivering packages for her boss Osman. She is also the undefeated arena champion known as White Wolf. Her two worlds soon collide when Osman assigns her to a case involving a mysterious but powerful woman. The woman, Rümayesh, needs Çeda's body for her own twisted agenda. When her plot to take out Çeda fails, Rümayesh loses everything, except her connection to Çeda via her dreams.

Constantly haunted by a screaming and tortured Rümayesh, Çeda must use all of her skills, talents and friends to find her before Çeda goes insane. It won't be easy though, the streets are a dangerous place and Çeda is being followed, a sinister pair of twins are playing their own games and need Çeda to accomplish their goals.

"Her mind went immediately to the strange, blue-eyed Kundhuni boy. She remembered where she'd seen him now: at the spice market just before Brama had nicked her purse. She'd seen him again at the river, and then a short while ago at the harbor. How many time had she missed him? Had he been watching her for days? Weeks?" 
(Quote p20 Of Sand & Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu)

An intense, twisted journey follows where Çeda will have to risk everything to save everyone she cares about. I loved this story line so much, it has intensity, horror, magic, mythology and each threat to Çeda and her friends was new, exciting and well thought out. 

Genre/Writing Style/Themes: There is quite a bit of profanity in this story, the same goes with violent murder and other adult themes. Written from a third person perspective, we follow Çeda as she races around The Great Shangazi Desert, fighting enemies, seeking answers and trying to stay alive. There were two stand out elements of writing in this book in my opinion. First, I loved the swiftness, the quick, fast paced onslaught type plot arc which does not have much room for pause. Secondly, the mythology in this book is incredible, I felt that I was studying a new world, so much depth to the atmosphere and the lore of this world.

Characters: These characters are definitely a devilish bunch. we have:
Çeda (The Warrior)
Brama (The Frenemy, yes I just used the word Frenemy)
Osman (The rich boss)
Emre (Main squeeze..sort of)
Kadir (The loyal assistant to Rümayesh)
Rümayesh (Experiment of the gods, pain in the bum)
Makuo/Hidi (Demon twins)
Draja (Trainer) 
Ibrahim (Father figure)

Setting: Taking place in a Middle Eastern/Asian location was a nice vacation for me as I have spent the last few novels in the streets of England or America :) Beaulieu really set the scene in the book, using the heat, the clothing and the dust/sand to influence and add add depth to the plot. 
"Given back to the desert, a phrase that spoke of bleached bones, of men and women forgotten and swallowed by the Shangazi's ever-shifting dunes." (Quote p13 Of Sand & Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu)

Likes/Dislikes: The length of this book both pleases me and bothers me, on the one hand I would have liked to spend more time with this book (need to get Twelve Kings!) but I also believe the length is what gives this book its punchiness. The way this book is written is probably my favourite thing about it, every section is gripping and also elegant, talk of jewels, sands and gods, everything fantasy should be, well mystic, desert fantasy anyway. If I try and find fault I am going to sound insincere, I completely agree that nothing is perfect and Of Sand & Malice Made is not perfect either, but I had fun reading it, the author is a top bloke and I found my whole experience surrounding this book to be awesome.

Overall Opinion: I have said it once (ok a lot more than that...), I will say it one more time, awesome! If you read this and completely disagree with everything I have said then that is fair enough, but if you agree at all, on any point then...high five! Mysterious, magical, dusty and populated with well rounded and enjoyable characters.


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