Friday, March 13, 2020

Book Review: 'Smoke and Rain (Blood of Titans: Reforged, #1)' by V.S. Holmes

Smoke and Rain by V.S. Holmes

A wondrous fantasy epic begins

Massachusetts author V.S. Holmes earned her degree Biology for Keene State College and works as a contract archaeologist doing Cultural Resource Management, supplementing her interest in prehistoric people and stone tools. As a disabled and queer human, Holmes is an advocate and sponsor for those writing with disabilities, and is a significant advocate for the LGBTQ community. Her writing is in the SFF genre (Science Fiction Fantasy) and to date she has contributed short stories to four anthologies, as well as her own books – the STARSEDGE: NEL BENTLEY series, and her acclaimed REFORGED series, of which SMOKE AND RAIN is the initial volume, having won the 2015 New Apple Literary Excellence in Independent Publishing Award. Holmes hosts the Amphibian Press Podcast.

The atmosphere surrounding this epic tale is intoxicatingly real, despite the knowledge that this is a fantasy fiction. And that quality – related in eloquent and imaginative prose – suffuses every aspect of this fine novel. Holmes has created a strikingly impressive central character in Alea, surrounds her with a cast of characters who become credible even in their fantasy-imposed origins, and introduces a memorably significant Elle, whose addition by the end of the story grows in importance. For an introductory volume of a series yet to be completed, Holmes has captured the imagination and commitment of her readers.

Opening with a calendar image from this ‘other place and time’ and maps of the fantasy world and of Vielrona and Ceir Athrolan, Holmes weaves a tapestry of the forthcoming events with the skill of a thaumaturge. ’Arman gathered bloody rags from the cots and tried to ignore the five figures by the door. Despite his mother’s care, half the refugees who arrived four days before had already passed. He dumped the rages in a basket in the corner, glancing back. Fire chased ice up his spine. It was unpleasant, but alluring, like the burn of alcohol down his throat. He forced himself to approach the women. Laen are never simply “women.” In his twenty-three years, he had never seen of the gods’ creators. Now half a dozen of them stood in his mother’s inn. Arman hastily patted a blood-stained hand over his curls and bowed. “Lady Liane?”

In that seductive opening few lines so much of the nidus of this fantasy tale is hinted. The quite condensed synopsis suggests the adventure ahead: ‘A mad king's genocide destroyed Alea's home and left her sanity in tatters. Caught in the crossfire between the gods and their creators, Alea realizes the darkness inside her is the only thing that can end the bloodshed. Across enemy lines, bastard lieutenant Brentemir Barrackborn is horrified by the blood on his hands. He must choose between the gods he worships and newfound family if he has any hope of redemption—or surviving the war.'

Wade deeply into these waters for a fine curtain raiser for REFORGED. V.S. Holmes quite simply demonstrates that she is an artist of significance. Very highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.