Book Critique – Blood Ties (Castings Trilogy #1)

For review of all books in the series: Go here

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: Well-written with a balance between ongoing tale and the parallel stories of other characters without missing a step. Keeping readers intrigued to keep going on, letting  the mystique and reality shown in equal parts for any kind of reader to enjoy.

Blood Ties is the first book in The Castings Trilogy by Pamela Freeman first published in January of 2008. This book brings together three unique individuals from three different domains - Saker, Bramble and Ash - taking their first steps towards the change in the Warlords rulings.

A thousand years ago Eleven Domains were invaded and the inhabitants forced to go on road as travellers, and welcome no where. Now these Eleven Domains are ruled by the Warlords. However, larger elements like fire, earth, water and air, that the Warlords cannot control play their part, perhaps may become the end of the Warlords era. Some involved are sprites, fairies, and some are just human. This series covers their stories and how they bring the change.

Saker, the enchanter, from village of Cliffhaven in Cliff Domain; Bramble, a nineteen year old young lass from Wooding in South Domain; and Ash, a nineteen year old from the town of Turvite in Far South Domain getting trained to be a safeguarder; start on their journey from their respective locations. All with Travellers blood in them set on a path from their own Domains towards a central point, neither knowing that their paths would intersect and form a common goal - a goal to outsmart the warlords. 

This is the first book Freeman has written for adults, up until then she had been writing children's fantasy fiction. Freeman has managed to keep us gripped to the book while she takes us into a world that is sort of semi-dystopian. A world where there is existence of spirits, ghosts, magic - both white and black - along-side humans and the everyday sufferings and gains; and politics and wars.

Freeman also veers off from the primary characters, giving more to some of the supporting ones, and tying their tales to the primary tales expertly. Most of her plot is written in a regular way, however some of her off-shoot chapters usually end up being first person narration. 

Freeman has three different character portrayal with her main protagonists - one obsessed with the past and wanting to right the wrong; second confused if their spirit is alive or dead; and the third though smart and intelligent tends to reflect the decisions made in the now with the events from their past, becoming an easy mark for anyone. Such disparate characters, it made me wonder how she will connect them and get them to a common goal. It proved to be a very interesting journey. 

Freeman doesn’t hesitate or mince her words when she is showing the readers the consequences of wars; the cruel ruling by warlords; or while relaying accounts from past about how much the inhabitants had suffered at the hands of Acton and his people. Every single one of them can be related to what we are facing in the real world now. 

Wars are created because some king want to invade a land and decides it is theirs as opposed to the inhabitants; destroy the land, heritage and culture; sometimes eliminating a population or a tribe. It is so sad that that principle that the kings of past were doing is continuing with the rulers of now; although now it is not just about owning the invaded land. It has become more about who can be a super power over the entire world. 

Freeman mentions that an earlier version of this first book had been her thesis for a Doctor of Creative Arts degree. I can see how much successful she was in getting that degree just by reading the book. I am not sure what to categorize this, but I landed at it being a mix of paranormal dystopian fiction. Freeman has warlords, fair people, travellers who are outcast, ghosts, enchanters, stonecasters and a battle simmering on the edges of the domains. A recipe that fits my label I guess.

Well-written with a balance between ongoing tale and the parallel stories of other characters without missing a step. Keeping readers intrigued to keep going on, even if the reader doesn’t believe in myths, spirits and hearing gods everywhere. She keeps the mystique and reality just in equal parts for any kind of reader to enjoy.

Looking forward to read the next book.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot reveals:

a. Acton was the first war leader who had waged wars against the inhabitants before the world was divided into eleven domains. 

b. Ash comes into possession of a cloak brooch that was owned by Acton, which he gives it to Martine, the stonecaster for safekeeping. Freeman has the picture of that on all three of her book covers. Will have to read the all the three to know the significance of the brooch. Despite having no trade ability, Ash can make ghosts talk.

c. An enchanter had placed a curse on Acton before she jumped from the cliff when Acton had invaded Turvite and taken over, Who is she?

d. Bramble, Ash & Martine all reach the Well of Secrets in Oakmere, in Last Domain at the same time although from different directions and for different reasons. 

e. Safred, well of secrets, is daughter of a warlord, Masil, & Perian, Cael's sister. Which domain was Masil warlord of is unclear. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. The Eleven Domains are:

i. Far South Domain

ii. South Domain - ruled by the Warlord Ceouf; Beck is second-in-command; 

iii. Three Rivers Domain

iv. Central Domain - ruled by Warlord Thegan, married to Lady Sorn. His people - Lefric "Leof"; Horst, the archer; Sully; Sig, the Sergeant; Faina, Lady Sorn's personal maid; 

v. Western Mountains Domain

vi. North Domain

vii. Lake Domain

viii. Far North Domain

ix. Cliff Domain - ruled by one of Thegan's sons, Gabra.

x. Northern Mountains Domain

xi. Last Domain - ruled by Arvid

b. The Domains are bordered by:

i. Ice King's Country in the North West

ii. Foreverfroze in the North East

iii. Death Pass in the West

iv. Wind Cities in the South West

c. Bramble's family - mother, father, grandfather, sister Maryrose & her husband Merrick "Ric".  

d. Ash's family - mother Swallow, father Rowan; Alured, the drummer; Cypress, the drummer; all Travellers on Road with music in bones. 

e. Villagers from Turvite: Doronit & and her trainee safeguarders - Ash, Aylmer; Hildie; Elfrida; and the three Dung Brothers; Martine, the stone caster; Ranny of the Highmark; Dufe, killer-for-hire; Boc, moonstaff leader;

f. Villagers from Wooding - Sylvie, the stonecaster; Swith, leatherworker's father; Aden; Sigi, the brewster, her husband, Eril, the inn's owner & three toddlers; Widow Farli; Gerda, the tanner; Udall, the thatcher;

g. Lake People - Eel; Salamander; Steersman; Listener; 

h. Villagers from Oakmere - Well of Secrets aka Safred; Cael, Safred's uncle; 

i. Other people Ash, Bramble & Saker meet: Twins Ber & Eldwin; Gorham & his wife Osyth, their kids Hazel "Zel" & Flax; Maude, Gorham's mistress; Rawnie & Rumer, Osyth's sisters; Elva, Martine's adopted daughter, her husband Mabry & an infant boy named Ash; Fiske, an innkeeper; Halley; Lacewing "Lace" & Butterfly "Fly"; Gytha & Drema, Mabry's sisters; Barley, the potter; 


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