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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Blood of the Lion by C. D. McKenna is an epic fantasy and the first book in The Vorelian Saga. McKenna gives us three distinct point of view characters all in different stages of a journey that we will likely see converge at some point in future books. The introductions are made in the same way the novel is written, solidly interspersed with enough information to craft a good scene but not so much that we lose sight of the other two characters. The first is a king named Morei or, as bad luck would have it, the “Demon King”. He is desperate to do right by his people, and has the fantastical power of moving energy, but is lonely and hamstrung by what he is and is not able to do. Dragon riders have been non-existent for centuries until Cyrus and his dragon Sozar burst onto the scene, with mixed but mostly hostile reactions, so they stay in the mountains. Not the mountain range with a history I might choose but, I don't ride dragons. There they remain until Cyrus is ready and better equipped to understand why he's the only dragon rider. Between these two males is Syra, who is in possession of a blade called the Demon Killer and has a price on her head. She's never more than a heartbeat away from peril but is in the company of two guardians bound to her security.
The Blood of the Lion is an extremely involved read that requires more than the usual commitment that a fantasy novel might, given the promise of a protracted series. C.D. McKenna didn't call it a saga for kicks, I'll tell you that. The character I thought I would like the least is the one I liked the most. Poor Morei might be one of the most misunderstood kings I've come across in recent fantasy. He's got some stability issues but not in the “off-with-their-head” sense, and he is, fundamentally, a good king with great potential but a crappy hand was dealt to him, and other players are definitely cheating. Syra is awesome and as a girl-dad reader, a firebrand of a female protagonist is non-negotiable to me. She's strong and valiant and flawed and brave and all-round awesome in the handling of the Demon Killer she has guardianship over, for better or worse [or way worse]. The bond between Cyrus and Sozar transcends lovey-devoted-pet territory and is a hybrid empathic-telepathic mix. It will take readers more than a few minutes to find themselves engrossed in the novel because the start is what can be best described as a long beginning. World-building is tricky and complex and authors need to be given the time to lay the foundation for us. McKenna executes this well and once a reader is in, they are in. Overall, this is a fantastic entry into a fantasy series that will undoubtedly garner legions of fans. Very highly recommended.