Jen reviews However Many Must Die, the first book in Phil Williams‘ new military fantasy series, The Blood Scouts.
I can’t tell you how fast I jumped on the chance to read this ARC! Thank you to Phil Williams for the ecopy!
|Series:||The Blood Scouts #1|
|Date of Publishing:||October 9, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||war related violence and crimes|
Wild Wish was trained to do one thing: kill.
Saved from a lonely backwater existence by a global war, Wish couldn’t believe her luck when she got into the Blood Scouts. Now she gets to share tents with an all-female platoon of night-stalking, giant-slaying, boat-sinking, battle-swaying legends in the making.
The problem is, they keep dying.
And they’ve been given their worst assignment yet.
The enemy Dread Corps are combining magics deep within the nightmare lands of Low Slane, to unleash a weapon that could sway the entire war. It’s up to the Blood Scouts to stop them – with a journey that gets more dangerous with every step.
Far behind enemy lines, death hangs in the air. Monsters lurk around every corner.
Are Wish’s skills – and positive attitude – enough to keep her Blood Scouts alive?
Or will the cost of survival finally break her?
Get ready for the first epic entry in a new series, and a new world, of dark military fantasy from Phil Williams. Start reading today!
“Emi slid forward, down onto her elbows, cackling at the world’s maddest joke, and the boat rocked, slowing its implosion but beyond repair now. It was going down, fast, no longer buoyant with this new, warped shape. The cannon on top moved, trying to find one last victim for its dying breath, but it rotated one way then another, like the men below were fighting over the controls. A series of pops sounded on the boat, rivets exploding?”
Against the Current by Wildfire
Just stand and watch us, keep your eyes on us
Always leaving our mark, living in your head
Can’t contain us, there’s no escaping
Nah, you ain’t seen nothing yet
So, wow what a book. I don’t know what it is I love so much about Phil’s women characters, but Wild Wish has to be my newest favourite.
Wish is part of an all women troop of soldiers called the Blood Scouts. When information suggests that the other side is experimenting, making a new weapon that could turn the war in their favour and kill hundred of thousands in the process, she is hastily promoted and tasked with leading the Boot squad on a mission that sends them deep into enemy territory. Wish hasn’t been part of the scouts long but during wartime, you learn fast and get promoted quickly.
Most of the story is brought to us through either Wild Wish, an officer in the Stanclif army, or Constans Marringdale, a Purification officer in the Drail Empire. Between the two we get a good look at the world at large, cultures/beliefs and some of the politics. Epigraphs do a bit of the heavy lifting here as well as filling in the minute details of history, military, and the war.
Wild Wish is probably the first character I’ve read that I felt really grew into their name. The other women all had military nicknames that you knew right off why they were earned, but Wish’s name, while still obvious, became her as the story progressed.
Wish seems meek at first and maybe even a bit naïve or just young. She’s overwhelmed with it all – what she’s doing, the losses of her friends, etc. but she has this underlying steel that makes her a survivor and you can’t help but love her and hope she gets to go home to her farm and live out her life near her friends. I think the fact that she wasn’t one of those brash women you sometimes see, especially in UF, is what appealed to me the most.
Maringdale on the other hand, is tough as nails. Cold and determined, she will do what she feels needs to be done for the Drail Empire to succeed. Maringdale is a Witlacer – a type of magic user – her gift is kind of like a truth detector/intentions finder which she uses like a drug dog sniffing out spies and other threats.
The Drail Empire has no room for women in its army or any position of importance for that matter, so she has to be extra ruthless to be taken seriously. (This is something the Stanclif are no better about but they at least have more will to make concessions by allowing women in their army- even if they sure don’t value them like they do their men.)
The Blood Scouts’ Boot squad is large and in a lot of way are like a big found family (which is probably why I loved them).
Some of the characters move in and out of focus but it never feels like too much at once, or even too small. The size gives room to move them around or to lose people and let me tell you – no one is safe here. It’s a war zone and we never are allowed to forget just how dangerous it is, or that it isn’t always the enemy that gets you – sometimes it’s the terrain or creatures. There’s an art to handling a large group of characters, especially in a battle without getting whiplash and this is it.
Occasionally we have accounts of the Blood scouts, as scarily ruthless women from the soldiers on the other side of the war…which they are, but because we spend so much time with them, to us, these same deadly soldiers just feel like young women trying to survive and not lose anymore of the friends they have made along the way.
There are two types of magic – Witlacing and Dirtminding.
I like how simple the magic is to understand while still encompassing everything from the physical – moving earth or objects, to the intangible – influencing the mind, etc. Also, there are heavy consequences for its use, the toll on their bodies or minds is unmistakeable.
There is a fair bit of travel so we get an idea of the landscape and I really enjoyed these parts. It never felt boring. The downtime gave us some nice moments with our characters and the travel time gave us some really fun things along the way. Every time they’re passing through a new part of the world, I’d think it can’t get any cooler than this! I loved the scenes approaching the Horns of Heaven and that whole sequence working through the caves.
I loved the movie Shooter (I should probably get around to that book series someday) which might be why some of my favourite ‘military’ parts of the story were the sniper scenes.
There was a great sequence where they’re moving in on some Drail bunkers, that really brought the sniper work to life. You wouldn’t think something like long-distance shooting could be so tense but somehow the combination of that and the moving soldiers up the ridge just had me on the edge of my seat.
I did find in the beginning it took me a bit to settle into However Many Must Die. I couldn’t decide whether it was intentional because Wish is also settling in and feeling a little out-of-depth with all that was going on around her, or if it was just that typical, new series finding my feet in the world and its terms, settling in.
Loved However Many Must Die. Excellent story. Go read it now!
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