Author: Pamela Freeman
Publisher: Orbit • 461 pages • £7.99
Blood Ties is a Marmite book – either the slow-paced plotting comes as a refreshing change or it infuriates you to the point that you’d rather watch an Uwe Boll movie – at least Alone in the Dark had some momentum. Even 200 pages into this, there’s barely a sniff of a solid plot.
The story follows the lives of three main characters: Bramble, a girl on the run after accidentally killing a soldier; Ash, a trainee bodyguard/enforcer; and Saker, a gloomy enchanter with a talent for raising the dead.
The dawdling narrative flutters between them, but the story regularly stalls by info-dumping potted life histories of the characters the trio meet. It’s an interesting approach: the author relies on these vignettes to add extra colour and depth to her protagonists. Consequently, Bramble and Ash feel well-rounded (Saker, less so). But who knows where the author is taking them? Or why?
Long after your patience with this style starts to wear thin, Blood Ties kicks into gear. Bramble, Ash and Saker are all Travellers, descendants of a nation conquered and massacred long ago. The ghosts of the dead hang around in limbo, sadly watching the living; and a regional warlord starts to eye up his neighbours (and not in a friendly way).
But just as Blood Ties picks up the pace, just as you’re beginning to appreciate the world-building and identify with the characters, you realise that there just aren’t enough pages left for a satisfying pay-off. Unbelievably and frustratingly, Blood Ties feels like a 400-page prologue. It ends abruptly with a suggestion that book two of this Castings trilogy will be the one where all the action is. We can only hope so…