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Reviews of 'Empire of Blood'

Empire of Blood

by Richard A. Knaak
The Minotaur Wars, Volume 3

Reviews of 'Empire of Blood'

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Reviewer: Trampas Whiteman

Rating: Stars

Empire of Blood is the stunning conclusion to Richard Knaak's Minotaur Wars trilogy. Overall, I found the book to be fantastic and a good ending to the series.

The cover is a nice illustration by Matt Stawicki. Though I don't think it ranks as one of his best (compared to his stunning work on Amber and Ashes), it is nevertheless a good picture. Stawicki captures the essence of Nephera perfectly.

The one huge disappointment in this book wasn't even in the writing. It was the map of Nethosak, by Dennis Kauth. I will have to admit some bias here, as I wrote up the section on Nethosak in Age of Mortals. My own write-up was based on the original write-up of the city, which was detailed in DL16 World of Krynn. What we see in Empire of Blood is completely different than these prior two sources. Contrary to the map, the Great Circus is outside of the city proper. The map doesn't even show the breakwater. In essence, the original material was completely ignored and a new (and rather dull) map was created.

That being said, let's move on to the story. I have to say that Knaak really gives definition to the minotaurs. He keeps them from being stereotypes. Though all minotaurs are at heart warriors, there is variety. I think I'm most impressed with the Wyverns, a group of minotaur rangers practiced in the art of stealth who wear bladed gauntlets.

The weak part of the book is actually the beginning. At the end of Tides of Blood, I had certain expectations. I thought that Bastion would be infiltrating the rebels as a spy, perhaps from there to slowly come to realize that they were right. The novel skips over that part completely, having Bastion's identity already known to Faros. Faros seemed to have backpedaled some himself. I expected to see him beginning the war against the forces of the Forerunners. Instead, he decides to beat up on a few more ogres.

That being said, I felt that Knaak did a wonderful job with Faros in this book. He changes from the berserker out to kill ogres no matter what to the champion of Sargonnas and the very personification of vengeance. He became a great leader, and showed a good knack for battle – so much so that he tricked Maritia, the daughter of Hotak. His final battle with Ardnor was spectacular.

The other characters in the book also received good treatment. I enjoyed Golgren a lot, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the future. I like how he's united the ogres under him. Ardnor was good, though I would have liked more insight into his thoughts. Maritia was a treat, standing head-and-shoulders with her siblings as a child of Hotak.

I wanted to discuss Nephera a bit as well. Overall, she was great. Her increased fanaticism was a good story point, and I liked her relationship with Morgion. I think she was described well in terms of her physical appearance too. I did think that two things could have been done differently with her. First, I found it all-too-convenient that Morgion could give Nephera her powers back (especially the ghosts) and more. Morgion is NOT as powerful as Takhisis. I don't mind so much that she got a new god as I did that she continued to have all the ghosts under her control still. The ghosts should have moved on to the afterlife after Takhisis left. Even if they didn't, why didn't Chemosh, god of the undead, come into play? Surely he would not approve of Morgion stepping in on his territory. That being said, her use of plague was spot on. The other part I didn't like as well was that she was defeated a bit too easy for my tastes.

The end battle was phenomenal. Seeing the banner of the down turned axe (symbol of Morgion) on the battlefield was great. Ardnor nearly had the day won, save for his own pride and hubris.

The gods were nicely portrayed in this book too. I'm not exactly sure that Zeboim would have acted the way she did without demanding some sort of price, but otherwise, spot on. There was a nice nod to Kiri-Jolith as well. My only problem with the gods in this book was that they weren't referred to by their minotaur names nearly enough. Minotaurs say "Sargas", not "Sargonnas". In fact, minotaurs feel that those are two different gods.

Knaak also provides us with a couple of "guest appearances" that nicely tied his other Dragonlance books into this one. For starters, there's the Sword of Tears from The Legend of Huma. Seeing the sword in action was great. Also, we see the Kazelati minotaurs again. They're there just enough to keep the mystery going about them, but not to give too much away.

Editing, once again, could use a bit of work, as there's a number of typos in the book.

Overall, this makes for a great ending to the Minotaur Wars series, and it leaves things open to where you want to know what's going to happen next. Will Faros and Maritia be able to solidify the empire? Will they continue with expansion? What's going to happen next with Golgren?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm anxiously awaiting Richard Knaak's next novel.

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