Guest Book Review: Sarah Houser

This week I had the absolute pleasure of working with the amazing blogger Sarah Houser on the first, of hopefully many, guest post for On My Bookshelf.

Sarah is an amazing, and well-known book blogger, who comes out with some very thought provoking content…and she LOVES Vikings. She also loves to review Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, along with some graphic novels.

If you’ve never heard of her, I definitely recommend taking a look at her blog, Hamlets & Hyperspace, or her twitter @MickMouser313. Ever since I discovered her blog my TBR list has doubled, and then doubled again, and is probably close to doubling another time. She’s always reviewing books that I find fascinating, and her reviews make you fall in love with the book before even reading it.

I approached Sarah about being my first ever guest book review, and I am glad I did, because her review is amazing. I told her to give her honest opinion of the book, and she did exactly that. She doesn’t pull her punches when it comes to a book she doesn’t like.

I asked if she wanted to cover a book about Vikings, and she was more than happy to read Blood Eye by Giles Kristian. I just want to thank Sarah again for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us this awesome review. She’s got a lot going on in her own life and she’s running a blog of her own, so for her to take the time to write an extra review is nothing short of kindness. Thanks again Sarah!

Make sure to read her review of Blood Eye below and give Sarah lots of love in the comments or on her posts.

“Blood Eye has been on my radar for awhile. It’s about a young man named Raven whose village is pillaged by the Norse. The Norse value him for his ability to translate between them and the English, so he is taken along on their adventures. 

Blood Eye came highly recommended by some of my GoodReads friends who have also enjoyed Bernard Cornwell’s fabulous Last Kingdom series.  I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I loved those books, but I was expecting it to be better than it was.  

While the books themselves are very similar, following similar formatting and including many similar elements, I think that was the key downfall of Blood Eye.  

Unfortunately, Raven felt like he was trying far too hard to be Uhtred, but without any of those things that makes Uhtred so wonderful.  There’s some blatant hero worship coming from Raven in regards to Jarl Sigurd.  He spends too much time telling the reader how fearsome, ferocious, clever and god-like Sigurd, and all the other Norsemen are.  

There’s nothing wrong with this (he’s supposed to be young, and that shows), but I want to read about a character who stands on his own two feet and can become his own person, not someone who only strives to be like others.

Both series, in their own ways, glorify violence, but where the Last Kingdom books do it subtly, Blood Eye throws it in your face, line after line after line.  

There is a part in this book- in the next to last chapter- where this glorification of violence and combination of hero worship is taken way too far.  

One of his Norse friends brings a young girl (in the book it’s noted that she is around 16) to Raven, meaning for Raven to rape her.  

Raven’s inner monologue clearly shows the reader that he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he does it anyway, never mind, that he likes another girl. He then finishes the book feeling incredibly guilty about what he’s done.

Well then why did he do it?  So he could be like his friends?

 His friends weren’t pressuring him, weren’t teasing him about it, so I’m not even sure the peer pressure argument applies. I just didn’t understand the motivation for the character, I didn’t understand why the author felt the scene needed to be included, and I didn’t appreciate the implication that all men must have acted that way back then because it was accepted or because their friends did it.

 I understand historically- this did happen, but I don’t think implying that all men became rapists when the opportunity presented itself is a message I agree with.  

Aside from that- there is no plot in this book.  The reader is asked to follow Raven along on his adventures and stuff happens to him, skirmishes and fights and the like, but there’s no end goal, and with no end goal, there is no suspense.

In the beginning the reader is told that Raven doesn’t know who he is or where he comes from.  I thought at first maybe Raven was meant to discover his roots, and perhaps he does eventually, but it doesn’t happen in this book, and he doesn’t seem to care all that much about it.

I can forgive this in a book that is character driven.  I don’t remember the plot of Prince of Thorns all that much, but I remember Jorg was such a fascinating character that it didn’t matter what he was doing.  Raven is not Jorg- and for that matter, he’s no Uhtred.  The book needed a plot.

Finally, the book comes across as incredibly preachy.  In the beginning- Raven is Christian.  After like a day with the Norsemen, he’s suddenly a full blown pagan, and he spends all his time talking about how weak the Christian god is in comparison to the Norse pantheon.  

It droned on and on and on, to the point where every page had some reference to it, and I found myself groaning every time I turned the page and spotted the reference.

I gave it two stars despite all the above, because I can see that Kristian is a talented writer.  He describes the scenery very well and definitely has some decent quotes.  But a book needs more than pretty writing to convince me it’s worth reading.

I don’t think I’ll be continuing with this series- but some of his other series have ended up on my TBR also, so I may give them a try.  I believe Blood Eye was a debut, so I am hopeful the plotting and characterization has grown stronger in other books.”

What do you guys think of Sarah’s review? If you liked it, I definitely recommend checking out her blog again. it’s worth the visit, and definitely the follow. Show Sarah some love for helping me out for this week’s book review.

I would definitely have Sarah back at any time for another guest review. Her reviews have taught me a lot about writing my own reviews, and she has been someone I’ve looked up to in the book blogging community since I discovered her blog. AND she’s one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, so thank you again Sarah!

2 thoughts on “Guest Book Review: Sarah Houser

  1. I am so incredibly flattered by your thoughtful and glowing endorsement- thank you Andrew! This was so much fun and you made it such a great experience. I’d be happy to do another guest post any time (or vice versa!).


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