Empire of Blood and Sand (Jael Crowfeeder #1) by Alister Hodge

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a honest review. We are thrown into a Desert Empire where wild beast occupy the land. Jael Crowfeeder is a beast hunter paid to bring these haunting creatures under control. Little does he know, Jael will get swept up in turmoil of the Empire and be forced to reveal his most guarded secret about his heritage and what it will mean for the upcoming war. The creatures of the wild are set to be unleashed and a traitorous knife is waiting in the heart of the Empire’s army.

Jael was once in the service of the Empire as a soldier man years ago. His time has been served and he now works as a beast hunter with his assistant Pyx. Upon the conclusion of his last job, Jael is betrayed and thrown in prison to be tried and hanged but Pyx comes to the rescue and enlists Jael for service to the Empire he hates once more. Being thrown back into the fire, Jael’s company needs to make haste through the desert wilds but there is no telling what creatures lay beyond. General Larika is a warrior princess and heir to the throne. Larika is trying to keep an invading hoard from destroying the Empire but an enemy is waiting for her in plain sight. The enemy has gathered an ancient magic that will bring the Empire to its knees and the only person capable of helping Larika is Jael himself as he is the last surviving member of the Scalzini people once slaughtered in a brutal genocide.

Right off the bat we are thrusted into a grimdark world amid massive amounts of bloodshed that boarder in the scenes we would find is horror novels. At the beginning’s of each chapter we get glimpses into certain events of the past including the Scalzini people being slaughtered. We even get to see Jael’s memories surrounding the events and it was enough to make me tear up. The Scalzini were considered to be barbarians living in the free wilds and being one with wild beasts. Jael needed to survive and hide his ancestry lest he be hunted to death and his only escape, ironically, was to join the folds of the Empire itself. This is very much a character driven novel with the fighting scenes providing the sharp edge to take the action over the top. This is a world that shows no fear and its secrets may be more scary than the wild beast keeping the humans on the edge of there toes.

This is a novel any fan of dark fantasy with long suffering characters will enjoy. I can’t say that this was a smiles and a great read to take to the beach but with the short page count and pacing of the chapters being quick, I was able to finish this book in very short order. Very much looking forward to the sequel which I have waiting on standby.


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