(2015) Den Patrick, Gollancz, £8.99 / Can$15.99, xi +403pp, ISBN 978-1-473-20002-9
The Boy who Wept Blood by Den Patrick, the second book in the 'Erebus Sequence', is a political fantasy with an Italian renaissance flavour. It is not necessary to read the first book in the sequence, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, to understand this one, although there are some references to what went before which were presumably covered in that story.
Dino is the main character and events are narrated from his perspective. The tale is primarily of his adult life, although some of his earlier life is shown through flashbacks. He seeks to protect his sister (although probably not a blood relationship)Anea, the de facto ruler of Landfall, while she tries to replace the concept of monarchy with a more inclusive government and a less rigid adherence to strict social classes. Dino has to walk the tricky path, dealing with secrets, spying, assignations and outright violence in his own inimitable style.
Dino’s place in society is had both privilege and exclusion. He and his sister are held in regard as royalty, but also despised for the things that make them different. Dino hides his physical differences viewing them as deformities, even when that difference does or could give him an advantage in a fight or protects him from serious injury. This gives us an interesting insight in to the intersectionality of prejudice and privilege.
The book also looks at homosexuality in an bigoted society, the penalties for both expressing and repressing the feelings that the characters have, show that even where they try to hide or conform, there is both an emotional and societal price to pay.
The reader can see that the sensitive, emotional child, that Dino was, suffers at the hands of the restrictive society, even while he appears to be towards the top of that social hierarchy. It reminds us that even those who appear to be privileged by their place in society can be suffering if the role expected is one which goes against their own nature.
The title itself shows that no matter how high in society Dino is, no matter how skilled he becomes, he is and always will be the 'boy who wept blood', he will always be different and disliked, even hated because of it.
Having said that, the social commentary in this book is not heavy handed, it is seen through the experiences of the characters, rather than through an authorial voice.
The book touches on issues of addiction and manipulation, where characters’ personalities are changed through use of substances, but this is likely to be explored further in the next book in the sequence.
I felt the conclusion was a little frustrating as it left a number of questions unanswered, but trust that these will be addressed later in the series.
Overall, the characters were engaging and the plot interesting, with the occasional surreal moment.
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