Tej Turner's Bloodsworn was published by Elsewhen Press in a digital edition on 8th January 2021 and in paperback on 8th March 2021, in time for the Spring Equinox.
About Tej Turner:
Tej Turner has spent much of his life on the move and he does not have any particular place he calls ‘home’. For a large period of his childhood he dwelt within the Westcountry of England, and he then moved to rural Wales to study Creative Writing and Film at Trinity College in Carmarthen, followed by a master’s degree at The University of Wales Lampeter.
After completing his studies, he moved to Cardiff, where he works as a chef by day and writes by moonlight. He is also an intermittent traveller who, every now and then, straps on a backpack and flies off to another part of the world to go on an adventure. So far, he has clocked up two years in Asia and a year in South America. He hopes to go on more and has his sights set on Central America next. When he travels, he takes a particular interest in historic sites, jungles, wildlife, native cultures, and mountains. He also spent some time volunteering at the Merazonia Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Ecuador, a place he hopes to return to someday.
Bloodsworn is his third published novel. His debut novel The Janus Cycle was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015, followed by his sequel Dinnusos Rises in 2017. Both of them were described as ‘gritty and surreal urban fantasy’. He has also had short stories published in various anthologies.
He keeps a travelblog on his website, where he also posts author-related news.
Click here to visit his official website.
“Everyone from Jalard knew what a bloodoath was. Legendary characters in the tales people told to their children often made such pacts with the gods. By drawing one’s own blood whilst speaking a vow, people became ‘Bloodsworn’.
And in every tale where the oath was broken, the ending was always the same. The Bloodsworn died.”
It has been twelve years since The War of Ashes, but animosity still lingers between the nations of Sharma and Gavendara, and only a few souls have dared to cross the border between them.
The villagers of Jalard live a bucolic existence, nestled within the hills of western Sharma and far away from the boundary which was once a warzone. To them, tales of bloodshed seem no more than distant fables. They have little contact with the outside world, apart from once a year when they are visited by representatives from the Academy who choose two of them to be taken away to their institute in the capital. To be Chosen is considered a great honour... of which most of Jalard’s children dream.
But this year, the Academy representatives make an announcement which is so shocking it causes friction between the villagers, and some of them begin to suspect that all is not what it seems. Just where are they taking the Chosen, and why? Some of them intend to find out, but what they discover will change their lives forever and set them on a long and bloody path to seek vengeance...
REVIEW: BLOODSWORN BY TEJ TURNER
Tej Turner's Bloodsworn is the first novel in The Avatars of Ruin series. It's the author's debut epic fantasy novel and an excellent and immersive introduction to a new fantasy world. I consider it to be one of the best reads of the year, because it's classic epic fantasy with a satisfying amount of freshness and dark fantasy elements.
Having read and enjoyed the author's previous novels (The Janus Cycle and Dinnusos Rises), I was eager to read Bloodsworn and was excited about it. When I began to read it, I found myself immediately drawn into the story and enjoyed reading about the characters and their adventures. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that the author is equally at home at epic fantasy as he is at mythic urban fantasy, and was impressed by his ability to deliver a fresh story.
The story begins with the villagers of Jalard getting ready for the arrival of the representatives from the Academy. Kyra is the only girl who has been practicing with the boys and wants to get selected so that she can go to the Academy. She is determined not to spend all of her life in Jalard. When the representatives from the Academy arrive, they choose - to everybody's surprise - Jaedin and Sidry, who are unlikely candidates. Soon Jaedin and Sidry leave the village and begin the journey towards the Academy. Jaedin's sister, Bryna, senses that something is not right, but is not exactly sure what is wrong. A bit later, the lives of the Chosen and those who are left behind change in a terrifying way that nobody could've expected...
This novel has an exceptionally good and well-constructed story that moves swiftly forward. The story begins in a normal and traditional way, but soon it takes a new direction and becomes darker and grittier, not to mention increasingly captivating. As the readers find out what happens to the characters and what kind of choices they make, it is nearly impossible to stop reading until you've reached the final page. The author delivers surprises and revelations along the way and makes sure that the reader is entertained by the story.
The story focuses on a number of characters and tells of what happens to them. The various points of view make the story intriguing, because it's rewarding to read about how the different characters react to the events and how they feel about each other. There are tensions between the characters, because not all of them are friends with each other and they wouldn't normally spend time together. When the characters are forced to tolerate each other's company and fight together, conflicts arise and they must find common ground with each other in order to survive. They're all deeply shaken by what has happened to them and their lives are in turmoil, but they manage to find determination and strength within them.
The cast of characters is satisfyingly diverse and includes LGBT characters, which have important and meaningful roles in the story. There's something realistic about the author's approach to sexuality and its various aspects that I find impressive. He has a natural approach to sexual elements and themes, because the characters' feelings, desires and needs are explored in a fluent way. He succeeds in writing about how bold or shy the characters are and how they behave in and react to sexual situations, because they lack experience, but have their own needs.
Here are a few words about some of the characters without spoilers:
- Kyra is a strong-willed and hot-headed young woman. She is interested in fighting and wants to be accepted into the Academy.
- Jaedin is a young man who is more interested in history and scholarship than in fighting. Just like his twin sister Bryna, he is Blessed, but using magic exhausts him.
- Bryna is a Blessed young woman who has powers. She can see and sense things others can't see. Her magical talents are stronger than Jaedin's talents.
- Rivan is a talented and competitive fighter who wants to go to the Academy. He is Kyra's rival.
- Sidry struggles with going to the Academy and staying on his parents' farm. He is aware of what is expected of him, but he has his own desires and needs, which he can't ignore.
- Miles is Jaedin's teacher. He has taught and told Jaedin many things, but he has his own secrets that he doesn't share with others.
- Baird teaches fighting to the boys and also to Kyra. He is a skilled fighter.
I am pleased with the characterisation and find it excellent, because the characters feel sufficiently alive and vibrant, and - what's important - they grow up as persons during the story. The author writes compellingly about the characters' feelings and emotions, paying attention to their dreams, hopes, worries and insecurities. He writes realistically about their deeds and decisions, because they're based on what they've experienced and how they feel about things. These characters are not your typical cookie cutter characters, but living and breathing individuals who - just like real people - are flawed and make mistakes.
The worldbuilding is immersive. The author has created a secondary fantasy world that has its own history, conflicts and wars. The past events have shaped the world in many ways. The author writes intriguingly about how the world has been divided into the nations of Sharma and Gavendara. Gavendara is ravaged by a plague, the Ruena, which seems resistant to conventional medicines, but Sharma isn't ravaged by it.
I enjoyed reading about the various forms of magic in this novel. The author's approach to magic feels compelling and he writes well about how magic is controlled by those who use it, because Psymancy is linked to the person's psyche and the ancient divine crystals that are embedded in the person's body bestow certain abilities on the person. I was especially impressed by the scenes in which the Zakaras were created, because they had a distinct feel of dark fantasy to them. There are also other elements which are reminiscent of dark fantasy (one of the scenes right before the ending is highly entertaining to readers who love dark fantasy due to what one of the characters does, but in fear of revealing major spoilers I won't mention more of it in this review).
One of the best things about the story is that the action scenes are fast, effective and they move the story forward. They're not filler material, but an essential part of the story. These scenes are filled with energy, excitement and suspense, because anything can - and will - happen in them.
The author addresses a few themes in this novel. I won't go into details about these themes, but I gather that one of the themes is that is it justified to sacrifice the lives of innocent people in order to test how certain things work and what can be done to people. The author writes intriguingly about what one of the characters does and how he and his companion perform tests on people and explore certain powers. I enjoyed these scenes, because they're enticingly dark and thought-provoking. Another theme involves growing up and finding oneself, because many of the characters are young and they have a lot to think about.
I look forward to reading the next novel, because I found the story fresh and compelling. I was impressed by the author's ability to steer away from normal fantasy tropes that often plague many epic fantasy novels. This novel has of course a few familiar fantasy elements, but the author uses them excellently.
Tej Turner's Bloodsworn is perfect escapism for everybody who loves classic epic fantasy with dark and gritty elements. If you enjoy reading novels by such authors as Christopher Nuttall, Courtney Schafer, Eldon Thompson and David Craig, you'll find Bloodsworn very intriguing and will be fascinated by the story. It's a satisfying tale of adventure, vengeance and ancient magic.