Review by: Alison
Flesh and Steel Trilogy by Jane from Nut Hatch
Jane has written a flamboyant and imaginative fantasy set in an age where vampires, witches, were wolves, sorcerers and witches are not myths, but real and the Christian church is waging a bitter, brutal and bloody battle to root out and destroy them. The setting is an alternate 15th century, with the Moor and the Saracen in partnership with the vampires, and allies, against their mutual enemy.
In Flesh and Steel, Raymond D'Elan, the vampire general, leads his army against the 'devil cardinal' while the wolven Bodie, prays for release from his five years of torture, poisoning and abuse as the prisoner and involuntary 'scryer' for the cardinal, and see the city's, and his, green eyed, wild ringlet haired, leather clad rescuer in his visions.
As this is the first of a trilogy, some time is spent in setting up the main characters and providing them with backgrounds and motivations for their actions. Much of this is quite fascinating, as is the description of the powers that the vampire, witches etc. possess. Jane has given her vampires the ability to consume the life force of humans, but has chosen for them to eat, and drink normal food and not be reliant on blood for nourishment. She has also made them ancient and ageless. Bodie, the wolven is a wolf at the full moon, but human the rest of the time, and possessed with the gift of farsight.
The main story is about Raymond and Bodie, their meeting and their instant attraction, counterpoised with the vampire's distrust of him. Bodie convinces Raymond and his more sceptical lieutenants, Sabin and Tanis, of his sincerity in wanting to be part of them, and in so doing introduces us to Sebastian, the troubled priest, and Domenico, Bodie's one-eyed mentor. Once accepted, Bodie has to go through a years probation and service before he can be fully accepted into Raymond's clan. The story finishes with Raymond off to battle and Bodie beginning his indentured service.
Blood and Fire and Soul and Storm are the second and third parts of the trilogy. Blood and Fire is the preparation for the final routing of Rome with Raymond called away to fight and plan and Bodie left at the mercy of the Slave master and the traditions and daily humiliations of slavery. I found this part variable and a little repetitive, while Soul and Storm brought the trilogy to a magnificent end with Bodie, now a free man, in great demand as a highly skilled scryer. He scrys for the Scotlanders, who will support the pagano army if the auguries are favourable, and foretells victory, but tells no one, not even his lover Raymond, the truth. Bodie grows in stature, strength and self esteem as he commands his own troop of men, despite Raymond's misgivings, and their relationship slowly becomes one of true equals.
I'd heard a great deal about this trilogy before I read it, much of it totally contradictory, but what did come through was the rich imagery of the story. Having now read all of it I think that the setting, the style, the descriptions, the characters, the imaginative plot and the sheer flamboyance of the piece far outweighs any occasional tumbles into somewhat verbose purple prose and repetitions. I also like the characterisation of the alternate Bodie and Doyle, despite Bodie's initial weakened and subservient position. There were sufficient similarities to the originals to engage me, and Jane managed to maintain the plots momentum and intrigue, while developing Raymond and Bodie's relationship throughout the three books.
Alison, from website May 2010