As we return to the Great Shangazi Desert, the city of Sharakhai is in shambles following recent events. The kings of Sharakhai are all on edge, neighboring kingdoms are scrambling to gain control and power over the kings, and Ceda has uncovered the deadly secrets surrounding the twelve king from her deceased mother. Ceda will stop at nothing in her quest for vengeance, but she will discover that this war with the twelve kings has been going on longer than she knows with bigger powers at play than she can handle on her own. With Blood Upon The Sand is an amazing sequel in this epic fantasy series and one worthy of the small space you have left on your book shelf. This will be a spoiler free review, but I will be touching upon certain events in book 1.
Ceda has entered into the Blade Maidens in service to the kings of Sharakhai. Ceda was able to accomplish this because she is the daughter of one of the twelve kings, but she doesn’t know which one. Ceda’s mother kept this truth a secret from Ceda and she paid for it with her life in a most gruesome and horrifying fashion. Through the training of the Blade Maidens, Ceda becomes an elite warrior and with the secret book left by her mom, she indeed slays one of the kings of Sharakhai. Centuries ago, the twelve kings became immortal through an ancient ritual but each king was presented with one weakness from the gods written as poems. Ceda’s mother made it her goal to discover these weaknesses to rid the world of the twelve kings forever and now Ceda is holding this huge burden on her soldiers. Emre has now joined the rebels of the Moonless Host in their quest to topple the kings. The Moonless Host hopes to take advantage of the unrest in the city but the kings will do very thing necessary to maintain their power.
Meanwhile, the blood mage Hamzakiir has his own plans in store for Sharakhai involving a deadly ritual of his own. Ceda and Emre are drawn into the plot and they must cross the desert to learn the truth, and a deadly secret is revealed that will shatter the power of the twelve kings. Ceda will also become enthralled with the haunting asirim. Hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the twelve kings against there will and due to the initiation process of the Blood Maidens, Ceda is now bonded to these creatures and feels their pain and misery as if it were her own. The asirim are desperate for their release but the binding powers of the kings are too strong to break. Ceda could be the champion they need to break the chains of torment.
I realized that was a long summary, but this book has so much to unpack and the I felt this recap will help you understand the best is yet to come. What excited me most about this book is the stakes are raised for all parties involved. Not just for Ceda and Emre as our main characters, but the kings and rivaling nations as well. You can start to see the wheels of the bigger plot starting to spin and where Bradley P. Beaulieu wants to take us on this grand journey. Although we don’t get to see any flashback chapters for Ceda in this book, we are introduced to a new POV. Davud chapters were a great introduction to the sources of blood magic and how this very powerful but double-edge weapon can shift the balance of power. We learn more surrounding the past of the twelve kings, the origins of the Moonless Host, and the battle lines will be drawn in the sand. By far, the most exciting parts of this series for me are learning about different poems and secrets surrounding the twelve kings. The amount of foresight and creativity it must have taken to plan all of this out ahead of time and methodically weave these small bits of art into an epic story is remarkable. This may only be the second book of a six volume epic but it packs plenty of punches and will leave you wanting more.
I do not see this series discussed very much in the SFF community and to me this is a shame. This series has a kickass female protagonist, great supporting cast of characters, interesting magic system, amazing world building, and a continuously evolving plot that will not keep you complacent. The sins of the past will shine brightly in this sequel but a shadow may fall on those you least expect.