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In a world where single combat determines the fate of nations, the Grievar fight in the Circles so that the rest can remain at peace. But given the stakes, things are never so simple. The Daimyo govern from the shadows and plot to gain an edge by unnaturally enhancing their Grievar Knights.
Cego and his team enter year two at the world's most prestigious combat school, the Lyceum. Though he'd like to focus on his martial studies, Cego feels the pull of his mysterious past and two missing brothers.
Solara Halberd, daughter of the fighting legend, embarks on her own quest to bury the past. She must utilize every lesson her father taught her to explore unknown lands where evil lurks in the shadows.

338 pages, Paperback

First published January 28, 2020

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About the author

Alexander Darwin

4 books192 followers
Alexander Darwin is an author living near Boston with his wife and three daughters. Outside of writing, he teaches and trains martial arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). He’s inspired by old-school Hong Kong action flicks, jRPGs, underdog stories and bibimbap bowls.

Outside of writing fiction, Alexander has written for publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine and SF Signal. His latest piece - "The Lost Diary of Anthony Bourdain" - was a featured piece in Rolling Stone’s January 2022 issue.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
May 2, 2021
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Grievar’s Blood is a daring sequel to The Combat Codes. The cast is bigger and the stakes are higher than before.

“Don’t run from it,” Cego said. “I’ve done that. I think I’ve been doing that my entire life. Running away from my past, trying to escape. And I know now that path only leads deeper into the darkness.” “So, what then?” Sol asked. “If we can’t get away from it, what can we do?” “Embrace it,” Cego said. “Welcome the weight of your past. Don’t run from it. Stand in front of it and let it flow through you. Let it make you stronger. Sometimes, we need to hurt ourselves to kill the demons. Sometimes, we need to feel the pain, every darkin’ bit of it, raw as it comes, before we can pick ourselves up again.”

The story in Grievar’s Blood takes place about two years since The Combat Codes started. Cego would love to focus on his study of martial arts, but the revelations about his mysterious past that he found at the end of the first book distract his concentration. However, Cego isn’t the only main focus character now; two new main POV characters are included here, Solara Halberd and The Slayer. I honestly didn’t expect the direction of the narrative in Grievar’s Blood; Darwin has taken a risk with his storytelling decision.

Instead of focusing the narrative exclusively on Cego like in the first book, Darwin decided to made Solara and The Slayer receive equal moments of the spotlight as Cego did. This could’ve easily backfired, and I’m sure it DID backfire for many readers who solely want Cego and Murray as the key characters. This has happened to Tower Lord and Queen of Fire (shudders) by Anthony Ryan, and for a while, I did worry that Grievar’s Blood would encounter the same issue because I DO want to read more of Cego after spending an entire book with him. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.

“Thoughts constantly barraging the mind are like thieves entering a home. First, a Grievar must learn to recognize the thieves upon entry, see them for their true nature. Second, a Grievar must accept the thieves within their home, the intruders have arrived and there is nothing to do. Finally, a Grievar must show the thieves that their home is empty, there is nothing to steal within.”

There were indeed moments where I thought to myself, “Solara’s story seems to be unnecessary” or “Is Cego’s story being put on the bench now?” because Cego’s POV didn’t appear in the final 35% of the book. But Darwin has done a terrific job in connecting all three storylines together, and by the end of it, he has successfully transformed the small scope story established in The Combat Codes into a larger-scope narrative about freedom, justice, and revenge. There’s an emphasis on politics and world-building, and we get to learn more about the Daimyo. This indeed made the action scenes relatively fewer in quantity, but they’re certainly not lacking in quality. Duels felt more impactful in Grievar’s Blood, and the trial scene plus its result were my favorite scenes in the book.

“Practice a technique once and you’ll know what it looks like. Practice it a hundred times and you’ll know what it feels like. Practice it one thousand times and you’ll hit it on a lesser-skilled opponent. Practice it five thousand times and you’ll hit it on an opponent of equal skill.”

Overall, Grievar’s Blood is a great middle-installment. Darwin has raised the tension and scope of the series without losing the entertaining factor of the series. I couldn’t put the final 15% of the book down, every storyline converged at the end, and now I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series that will also come out within this year.

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Seth, Shaad, Summer, Zoe.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,386 reviews223 followers
April 26, 2021
I picked Grievar’s Blood immediately after finishing The Combat Codes. As a sequel, it delivered everything I wanted from this story: a fast-paced adventure, more character development, and surprising revelations about the world and Cego‘s past.

Darwin introduced new POV characters. I particularly enjoyed Solara Halberd‘s chapters. The ending of The Combat Codes turned her life upside down and left her in pain. I don’t want to spoil it, but her arc offers more than just action - it follows her journey of coming to terms with grief and loss. At this stage, we know she’s a great fighter, but can she also navigate politics and use her cunning instead of fists?

Initially, the book focuses mostly on Sol; Cego’s arc gains momentum later in the book, and the payoff is great. Darwin ties up all plot threads in a satisfying conclusion that whetted my appetite for the final book. The inclusion of new POV characters allowed him to provide a large-scale narrative and address themes of politics, justice, and revenge. There are fewer fight sequences, but they all serve something and are a pleasure to read (if you don’t know, Alexander Darwin teaches martial arts and translates his expertise and passion into his writing).

Besides getting thrilling action sequences, we also learn more about the world and its politics. The political strife between factions (and nations) is a tricky one and the ending suggests the revolution is coming. What started as a smaller-scale story turns into a multi-arc tale of revolution and I'm more than happy with it :)

I appreciate the author took a more ambitious route and developed his series instead of focusing on more fights and more of Cego’s crazy abilities. It resulted in an immersive and clever story that’s entertaining, easy to read, and addictive. I can't wait to read the third book!
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,563 reviews2,938 followers
April 24, 2021
I enjoyed this follow up book, especially as this one has far more of a focus on some of the female characters, which was a smaller complaint I had on the previous. I liked seeing Sol and her journey to reclaim her father, and also the friendship and adventure she had along the way. I was a little sad some of our characters got all split out in this one, as I enjoyed them all together in the first, but I believe we've now opened the world up and the political strife between the people-groups is where the story is heading.

Cego's story in this one is a fairly sad one as he really gets the short end of the stick a lot between people believing he's more than he is, and between new powers he's not even sure of. I enjoy his story, but I felt pretty sorry for him over the course of this book as he felt a bit more out of his depth generally.

The plot moves along well and I liked the general direction, I think the first one had a little more impact for me as a plot, but the last bit of this book and some of the reveals of new characters were exciting moments. 3.5*s
Profile Image for Adam.
391 reviews170 followers
August 6, 2020
A solid sequel that avoids taking the easy route into already-familiar fight school territory, and instead offers up some well-deserved new POVs, more emphasis on world-building and its power hierarchy, and some neat set pieces.

Overall there’s a good deal less fighting this time around, but the fights we do get are more epic in scope. I quite enjoyed Sol’s POV but I found myself wondering why it would be related to the overall story at large; it almost felt like her story could better be served as its own standalone novella. Introduced some really cool new characters, though.

So SPFBO6 introduced me to Combat Codes, and curiosity led me to pick up the sequel. I’ll happily pick up the next volume whenever it drops. This is a fun, fast-moving series with detailed combat scenes, interesting fantasy and sci-fi elements, themes of brotherhood, revolution, loyalty, and freakishly large test-tube baby heads. So if you have that last one on your bingo card, you’re in luck!
Profile Image for Eric.
179 reviews52 followers
July 14, 2021
3.5 Stars

Better than the first book, this volume did a good job expanding the world our story takes place in and adding some depth to the story. The plot moved in some unexpected directions, aided by the introduction of multiple chapters told from different characters point of view.

There are several things that happened that still haven’t been explained, and I’m hoping that the final book will answer some of those questions. Still, it was a fun read with lots of well written action.
Profile Image for Jennifer (bunnyreads).
472 reviews72 followers
August 6, 2021
It took me awhile but I finally had a chance to read the follow up to the Combat Codes. What a fun series this has been. Thank you to Alexander Darwin for the review copy.

Ok, wow, this series! I have said it before but second books really are the best showcases of a series for me. They can either elevate the story, or when a series takes place in a learning/institution kind of setting, it can stick to the tried and true and go the safe route, with a rehash of the first book’s formula.

I admit, I enjoyed the characters enough that I wasn’t even minding the possibility of more the same because the first book was just so much fun. But Grievar’s Blood went above and beyond my expectations, surprising me by taking a chance and going in a whole new direction. One that lets us really get to know the world they inhabit, and one that gave me a huge new reason to love this series, in the form of Solara- one of the whelps from Cego’s team.

The events from the end of the last book have hit Sol and Cego hard, both are dealing with the aftermath of that final battle, and the repercussions it brought to their lives and both characters pov’s have some surprising moments.

I really enjoyed Sol’s sections, seeing her grow as a character, overcoming obstacles and proving that labelled smart girl from book one, has more substance than we had a chance to see. Her friendship with Mauri was a massive highlight for me (I always say fantasy needs more women friendships) and I enjoyed learning more about the world through Sol’s parts of the story.

Cego, has quite a road ahead of him. Onto a new year school Cego is feeling the absence of his mentor, while grappling (wink, wink) with the truths about his past. And to be as vague as possible, Cego’s story takes a side-turn that gives us a broader understanding of how their society works, and let me tell you, this was one plot turn that I didn’t expect at all. I loved that about it.

The Combat Codes Saga has been such a readable series and as I said in the first book, it has so much heart to it. I love the friendships. I love the lessons. I love the characters. And I can’t wait for the next book. What a great follow-up, it makes me want to jump right in to the next book to see what interesting ways Alexander Darwin will take this story to its conclusion.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
147 reviews521 followers
May 28, 2021
So very impressed by the expansion of this story from book one. Feels like book one was almost a long prologue and this was the real story Alexander was wanting to get to. I liked this one a lot. My only complaint is the fact that this easily could have been filled out with even more character moments and story to take it to the next level, it was quick. However I think that's a stylistic choice as what these stories are and that's perfectly fine. Excited to see the fallout from all this in book 3.
Profile Image for Arundeepak J.
110 reviews53 followers
February 9, 2021

A neat sequel that avoided the usual second year at the academy trope.

The story begins some times after the events of first book. Cego and friends are in the second year, Sol and Murray are gone and new students from another places are enrolling to the school.

First of all I liked how the book didn't go through the usual second year trope and introduced new POV's and extensive world building. I also liked the fact that the book was not a single page longer than it should be.

The only thing I had a problem with this book is, actually two things are Sol's POV which I'm not sayin was written badly or anything, It just felt Outta place and not as compelling as Cego's storyline. It almost felt like a standalone merged with the main book. Second problem I had with this book was that there wasn't any WOW moment in the final chapters like I had experienced with The Combat Codes.

But overall, the book was a solid sequel with a nice setup for book 3.
Profile Image for Kristin B. Bodreau.
295 reviews50 followers
August 24, 2020
There was a lot more large scale world politics in this second installment than what we see while following Cego in the first book in this series. This made for a better setup for the rest of the series, but meant that we had less of Cego and Murray, who were the main reason I enjoyed the first book.

Also as a result of following more storylines, this had a less cohesive feel. However, because we got more background and more information about the wider political landscape, it does make me more likely to continue.
Profile Image for Blaise.
341 reviews84 followers
May 1, 2021

Alexander Darwin decides to change his approach up when writing the highly anticipated sequel in his martial arts trilogy. Instead of focusing primarily on Cego and Murray as we saw in Combat Codes, Darwin expands his POV characters to include Solara and The Slayer. It is always a challenge to introduce new characters especially when moving from a one or two person POV story. I’m excited to say that the new additions were well developed, intriguing, and in some ways frightful. They brought a sense of suspense to the story and I can’t wait to see how the series will conclude. This will be a spoiler free review, but I will be referencing events that have taken place in Combat Codes.

Grievar’s Blood takes place about two years following the conclusion of Combat Codes. Cego and his friends are entering their second year at the Lyceum, where they are training to become Grievar’s. Instead on focusing on his martial art skills, Cego is tormented by his past memories and his two missing brothers. This will eventually lead Cego down a dark path of discoveries where there will be no turning back. Solara is on a mission not to discover her past but to bury it. She finds herself in unknown lands where evil is lurking in the shadows and she must lean on the lessons of her father in order to survive.

Grievar’s Blood is more focused on politics, the search for power, and the combat scenes take a little bit of a back seat compared to book one. I found this to be a little bit of a let down at first, but the fight scenes we do see are much more impactful and I only wanted more. Call me greedy but I love a good old sparing match. We also learn so much more about the Daimyo and what their ultimate plans are!

Alexander Darwin has definitely taken great strides as a writer between his first two books. The plot threads are starting to converge in a very smooth and unique way where nothing seems forced. The characters feel real to me in every possible way regardless of the circumstances. There is a multi-chapter trial scene in the middle chapters that had me so riveted that I thought I was watching this fight in real time. You will not be able to put down the final 20% of this book down and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. Not only for this series, but Alexander Darwin’s young career as well!

Profile Image for Zack Argyle.
Author 5 books363 followers
May 15, 2021
The world building in this book was phenomenal. It took the relatively contained world of Combat Codes and expanded it into a conglomerate of Final Fantasy, Star Wars, and Red Rising. Every location felt tangible and unique, yet perfectly melded into the greater world. I could spend forever just watching Solara Halberd riding a "roc" along the countryside.

Grievar's Blood is a stunning sequel. Darwin's mind is a brilliant force of creativity. The only issue was that I wanted more. Fortunately, book 3 is well under way, and I eagerly await that next installment.
February 3, 2020
"I had to wait so long for this one! But it was worth it. If you're a fan of progression fantasy, in particular martial arts stories, you're going to want to pick up the first two books in this saga.

They take place in a world where fighting with armies is replaced by one-on-one martial arts style combat. So of course each nation spends all their resources training and 'enhancing' their fighters. The writer is an expert in martial arts and so describes the action scenes with vivid detail, it was one of my favorite parts.

Book two picks up where one left off, with the MC at the world's best fighting school, now as a level two. There he needs to take various martial arts classes with his crew, as well as compete against rivals in 'the Circle' in order to gain rank within his class.

But book two also expands the world quite a bit outside of the school setting. It follows a strong female character, Sol, on a quest across the world where encounters both friends and rivals.

Overall, I liked the second book even more than the first. Just hope book three comes soon!"
Profile Image for David Sweeney-Bear.
Author 14 books6 followers
February 3, 2020
Full disclosure: I narrated the audiobook of book 1 in this series and was given an advance copy of Grievar's Blood in preparation for narrating it also.
That said, as a reader I thoroughly enjoyed this next installment in the Combat Codes saga - It continues the story of Cego as he undertakes his training at the Lyceum. There are a number of new characters, expertly portrayed and some captivating new environments within the dystopian sci-fi world of this series of novels.
If you haven't read or heard Combat Codes 1, do so now! Then you can have the unparalleled pleasure of moving straight on to Grievar's Blood. You won't want to put it down.
Alex's writing goes form strength to strength, I can't wait for book 3 :)
Profile Image for Vinay Badri.
689 reviews37 followers
January 27, 2021
This book surprised me and in a good way. I expected book 2 to follow an almost Harry Potter-esque journey through school for our lead Cego but what I didnt expect was for the story to branch out in different directions.

Sol, who was our Hermoine stand-in, becomes an important POV and starts on her journey to address the events of book 1. Cego almost vanishes from the book as newer surprising characters find their way in and I think the book is richer for it.

But managing all of these views and still maintaining it well organically is a balance and Grievar's Blood just about manages to balance it. The 2nd book definitely got a bit messy, some leaps of logic too far out and there was movement away from what we think as the core of the book to something else larger and much higher stakes. The movement away wasnt exactly seamless but nonetheless works

Despite these flaws, the book works very well. The characters from the last book are developed further, the world drawn out more and the stakes get more personal. Cego's journey is a mix of his youth but also his maturity. He has as many questions as he gets answers about himself, his journey, his training and his brothers.

Sol's journey on the other hand moves her a mere supporting character to a more active player in this book. She has always been a fighter but now she is forced to be more political, more cunning as she focuses on her goal

Overall, while not as action packed as the last book, this one is more plot heavy, twist heavy and builds out a fascinating world. What I really do like is how the author does play within the tropes in terms of the story but is willing to completely play around the rules of the tropes - willing to sacrifice them in order to move the story forward brilliantly
Profile Image for Susanna.
248 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2023
Many thanks to Orbit Books for providing me an eARC in exchange for my honest review! The title will be released on December 5, 2023.

Once again throwing epic, visceral combat scenes at us, Darwin continues the adventures of young Cego in his second year at the Lyceum combat academy. However, this is no cozy fantasy with a school-setting. Cego doesn't know what's coming for him. Mentor and former Grievar knight Murray has left on a mission to find Cego’s brother Sam, while Cego’s friend Solara Halberd has gone to retrieve her slain father’s body. All three characters get pushed to their limits mentally and physically, with fights to the deaths and threats from the shadows.

As a sequel to The Combat Codes, Grievar’s Blood expands our view of this world and the players within it. The multi-POV format serves the world-building and broader plot but does perhaps weaken the cohesiveness of the book. I felt we didn’t get as many meaningful relationship-building moments or opportunities for character growth. I didn't really care about most of the new characters introduced. On the other hand, the highs were high. Darwin sticks the landing with some stunning revelations as well as unexpected plot developments. I also enjoyed seeing new regions of this world and how Daimyos (the elite ruling class) live.

Talk about cliffhangers! Grievar’s Blood has us over a precipice on multiple counts. Darwin has set up some very ambitious plot threads that seem like they will be difficult to wrap up in a satisfying way in one final book. I cannot wait to be proved wrong! I feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of all that this world’s politics, technology, and history entail.
Profile Image for A.R.
296 reviews33 followers
July 26, 2021
A lot like the first book, I did not feel strongly invested in the story for about the first half of the novel. Sol's portion never strongly interested me until near the end. Cego's was far more interesting, but only really got good near the halfway mark. The closer this book got to the finish line, the better it got. Around 80% of the way through the book really took off, though Sol's story still did not grab me as much. Her motivations and plot just did not seem as interesting, though it was fun to see how mercenary Greivar work.

Overall, an excellent book that ends strong and makes you eager to jump into the next one!
214 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2021
A rollercoaster ride of a story

Man I was not expecting how this story played out!! You definitly need to read this one! The shady dealings, and really questionable tactics come to a head in this book. The pieces are all falling into place, and things for the world wont be the same after this.
100 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2021
Excellent second book in this series. It really stepped up the pace weaving threads with characters I already enjoyed and some great new ones. Looking forward to the next book already.
38 reviews
December 14, 2020
Strong sequel, improves on the original

Overall—would recommend this book, especially as the story has taken a deeper, more developed and nuanced turn in this sequel. Compelling with growth of and introduction/expansion of new characters and the overarching plot line. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
32 reviews1 follower
October 20, 2021
Brilliant…. Again

The first book got me hooked, and this second book has hooked me in even deeper. I finished it in less than 2 days, and after this review I will start the 3rd book immediately. Whole different spin to the first book, still full of jaw dropping moments. I’ve said it before, these books should be turned into a Netflix series!
Profile Image for Andy.
321 reviews25 followers
April 5, 2020
The next instalment of Alexander Darwin's excellent 'Combat Codes' saga continues with 'Grievar's Blood', picking up where book 1 left off, with Cego and his team now studying at Level 2 at the Lyceum combat training school. More lessons, more rivalry, more techniques and philosophies to learn that will aid them in the combat arena.

Where book 1 mostly followed Cego's journey from zero to hero, 'Grievar's Blood' builds upon the lore established in book 1 and also expands on the world building, with new character POVs away from the Lyceum, at the Isles of Besayd and in the northern frozen wilds of Myrkos. It was great to see more of the world and the different cultures outside of just the main combat academy complex and follow these two character arcs. Both of these new expanded POVs didn't feel like filler at all, but as well as freshening the story and giving us a break from Cego's exploits at the Academy, actually pushed the narrative as well as adding a lot of depth to their character development. I really liked Sol's character arc in this book, starting out on what was a personal quest to claim and return home with the body of her father - a legendary fighter that was killed in the ring and his body on show as part of a Collector's grisly collection - but by the end of her quest, you could see that her narrative, as well as the other POVs we follow; of Cego and his 'brother' Silas, are all threads in a bigger story that is actually coming together where we'll likely see the conclusion of in book 3. A revolution is coming!

The combat is written really well and sounding detailed and authentic, which it should do considering that author, Alexander Darwin, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt! It is a one of the many positives; fast paced and action-packed, as well as deep character and expanded world building, that kept me immersed and turning the pages to find out what was happening next!

Note: I did receive an ARC edition of the book from the author, but I really enjoyed the book, even moreso than the first, and will be looking forward to next instalment in the 'Combat Codes' saga.
March 19, 2020
Like most anybody, you probably also embarked into the thought experiment of "what if there were no more wars by simply having nations decide disagreements via 1v1 combat?". Well, Alexander Darwin takes that to completion while at the same time building a well-connected and well-formed caste system, with sub-divisions, rivalries and politics, and a supporting framework of combat modifiers (the elements "Circles" are made of) to enrich the tale.

At first I was a bit incredulous, expecting something like "Harry Potter and The Undefeatable Armbar": kid shows raw talent, kid gets recruited into elite school, kid gets rival, kid gets mentor, yada yada yada. BUT was I surprised. Alexander manages to infuse the basic hero journey with enough texture, side stories and depth to turn it into something different. If at times things seem a bit previsible, it is just an author growing into it, I believe. For those looking for the "combat" part I find the fights pretty believable, based probably on Alexander's own martial arts experience (needs more Capoeira!).

All in all, strong series, well written and enjoyable. I am looking forward to the next books!
2 reviews
February 5, 2020
This was an intense read. I picked it up and couldn't stop reading before I'd finished it. In this sequel we get to explore more of the Combat Codes universe and it's fascinating and though-provoking. The strategy to combat the characters utilize and the Grievars way of life is expanded on, but we also get to learn more about the structure of the society they live in and the to other races of people in their universe. The first book raises psychological questions of identity and artificially planted memories, the second book continues on this, but includes the struggle for freedom from oppression and a battle for a life that isn't stained by technology and unnatural forces.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
19 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2020
Thank you

I dont normally do these 'reviews'. who am i to try and explain or critique something as personal and private as a story written for strangers by a stranger. im just glad the author was brave enough and dedicated enough to allow me the opportunity to stumble upon this journey. reminded me of how i felt reading about the Sons of Ares. a story with that resonated with me personally. All i can say is thank you Darwin. if youre reading these reviews as a way to ascertain wether or not you should read the Combat Codes Saga, youre wasting your time. Read it
2 reviews
April 4, 2020
Thank You for writing such a goos book

beautiful writing. Immerses you into the fight scence with details that only a veteran fighter can describe. This is not similar to Endgame or Hunger games it is on a whole other level.
Profile Image for Travis Riddle.
Author 11 books332 followers
July 30, 2021
A fascinating and thrilling follow-up.

Darwin has upped the stakes considerably in this second installment of the Combat Codes Saga, which is really saying something when the series is already tackling brutal, sometimes fatal duels, many of which involve children.

It was a bold and interesting choice sidelining one of the main characters of the previous book for the entirety of this one, but it's a gamble that I think paid off given the ending. And it lent the spotlight to new POVs, one of which was my favorite part of this book.

Solara Halberd's journey in this book was a breath of fresh air, getting us out of the Lyceum and introducing us to the islands of Besayd (love that little reference to Final Fantasy X's Besaid [I assume]). It was nice seeing a new setting in this world, getting a bit of this country's culture, including the introduction of rocs, which I loved. Rocs are huge birds that people use as mounts, just like Final Fantasy's Chocobos. Sol's storyline involving trying to retrieve her father's body was both exciting and also brought some emotional stakes to the proceedings that I did not necessarily get from the first book.

Not to mention the fact that this teen girl has to steal her father's body from some Daimyo lord's personal museum is a way darker topic than I expected this series to tackle. Which, again, is quite saying something given the central conceit of the series as I mentioned before. But right from the start, I was totally on board with Sol's goal and was anxious to see how it played out.

Cego's storyline also takes some wildly dark turns in this volume, although I won't get into that for fear of spoiling the journey. But I will admit I was much more invested here than I was in his story from the previous book. Darwin does a great job of writing these action scenes and introducing truly shocking turns of events one after the other. This book is truly a rollercoaster ride.

The book ends setting up a paradigm-shifting conflict for the final book in the trilogy, with a bunch of disparate storylines converging to reveal the true intent of the Combat Codes Saga. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.
234 reviews21 followers
August 19, 2021
Darwin flips the script with the second novel of the Combat Codes Saga. While character interactions and development become a bit less 'personal', the heavy emphasis on world building, philosophy, and culture help propel the story through some of its rougher patches. Grievar's Blood feels like a completely different story from Book 1, which was self-contained and could be read in isolation.

That being said, the novel suffered from some pacing issues and a few passages that felt a bit 'info-dumpy'. Darwin attempts (sometimes successfully) to balance these passages out by providing it to us from different character POVs. throughout the novel. In the case of Solara Halberd, I found her chapters refreshing as they provided some more background about the cultures of the Grievars, the daimyos, and the world Darwin has crafted.

However, my major gripe with the story comes from the unexpected POV shift in the later quarter of the book. While it helped provide a bit of insight as to what is happening 'behind the scenes' in Darwin's world, the majority of it felt like it was just set up for the third novel. And this is where, I found Grievar's Blood suffered the most. The last quarter of the book felt a bit disjointed and poorly paced. While I am certainly no expert on the matter, I feel like it could have been more beneficial for this POV to have been interwoven through the earlier passages of the book to help us be able to have 'more time' with this new character.

Grievar's Blood has left me with more questions than answers and while it wasn't the strongest book in the Combat Codes Saga, what it proposes to set up in Book 3 has left me only wanting more.
Profile Image for Emily.
34 reviews11 followers
April 14, 2021
I absolutely loved the first book in this series and minus some minor editing mistakes, this one was no different.

The story doesn't pick up right where it was left off, but we sort of get a clue as to where a certain character from book one is in that opening scene. There are returning characters, Cego, Sol, Dozer, Knees and friends. Also Menmon, who I am glad we got to know better in this book. Murray is largely missing, but his presences still looms large.

We travel farther in this book and the world building is wonderful. Learning more mythos, a glimpse as to how things became the way they are (is it reliable?), And even an introduction to Silas' POV, one of Cego's brothers if you forget from Combat Codes. Silas is not just a ruthless killer, he has heart, he's fighting for something he believes in, and it turns out he's powerful on his own accord - and that's what he is fighting for.

The Damiyo are an interesting group who rely on stims and enhancements to live their lives the way they do, and understanding their world more makes this book fly by. Seeing Cego's struggles Silas' heart, Sol try and understand her father - and the introduction of new characters who didn't feel one dimensional all made this a 4.5 star read for me. I can't wait to see how it all comes together in the end. This world is brutal, it's full of heart, a touch of fantastical, and even some sci-fi - it's a coming of age tale of underground revolution, brotherhood, and growth.
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