I it have never necessarily been massively into historical fantasy. I have yet to read Game of Thrones (this will change soon, I guarantee it). Most of the fiction in this category that I have perused tends to include supernatural elements; Saint’s Blood by Vancouver-based writer Sebastien de Castell is no exception.
While there are the traditional elements of any swashbuckling novel – knights, royalty, dukes, priests, saints, swords, arrows, etc., the story is set apart by some mystical elements – namely a hideous mask which literally drives its wearer insane, as well as powers of persuasion and other nonsensical yet intriguing devices. Additionally, the lead character of Falcio val Mond is perhaps one of the most overt non-believers in recent literary memory, especially in a novel that seems to be set in the high middle ages.
I will acknowledge that it is a bit difficult to rate the third book in a series without having read the first two yet de Castell’s third entry in his The Greatcoats series does stand out as story on its own.
Admittedly, I found this tale slightly confusing at first, for two reasons. The first, obviously, was that I was unfamiliar with the two entries that preceded it. The second was simply the sheer number of characters who kept popping in and out and me trying to read it faster than I probably should have. Somewhere around page 200, 250, I began to realize the subtle brilliance and sheer power of de Castell’s writing. The characters in Saint’s Blood are a spicy mixture of ego, love, arrogance, politics, power, naivete, impulsive; surrounded by a web of intrigue, deceit, and darkly comic fantasies. I’m sure King George would be proud, even if it did seem like a bit of wannabe Westeros at times. Nevertheless, Saint’s Blood is a fast-paced tale for the ages.