cover image A Time of Dread: Blood and Bone, Book 1

A Time of Dread: Blood and Bone, Book 1

John Gwynne. Orbit, $16.99 trade paper (672p) ISBN 978-0-316-50224-5

Nice guys finish alive, and not always last, in this gritty but not grimdark fantasy of battling supernatural forces, set in a fantasy world where humans battle the demonic Kadoshim with the assistance of the Ben-Elim, a winged race of warriors from the ethereal Otherworld. Bleda, a human warrior-prince whose siblings are killed by a Ben-Elim they attacked, is taken hostage and raised by the Ben-Elim. When the supposedly defeated Kadoshim suddenly spring out of hiding with their own human allies and human-demon children, Bleda teams up with Riv, a fellow denizen of the Ben-Elim citadel, to take them on. Riv finds that the angels she knows often fight and scheme among themselves, their conflict instigated by the issue of “improper” human–Ben-Elim relationships. Separately, Sig, a bear-riding giant familiar from Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen series, embarks on a solo quest to eradicate the Kadoshim, and Drem, son of a trapper, discovers his heritage is with the Order of the Bright Star, who have their own fight against the demons. The Hebraic names are a bit misleading, since neither the characters nor the cosmogony are recognizably Jewish in any way. Gwynne relies on some of the currently popular elements of high fantasy—blurred lines between good and evil, a willingness to kill off significant characters—but avoids much of the cynicism that reduces epic struggles to mere realpolitik. (Jan.)