Thieves of Blood by Tim Waggoner is a dark fantasy, sword and sorcery novel that is the first instalment in a trilogy called The Blade of the Flame, and takes place in the Eberron universe. It follows an assassin-turned-priest human, Diran Bastiaan, and his half-orc chum, Ghaji, as they travel the lands ridding the world of evil and helping the less fortunate. While visiting the Lhazaar Principalities, Diran’s home turf, they come upon a malevolent force that washes over the city, thus sending the duo on an epic quest to eradicate it.
Thieves of Blood was the very first book that introduced me to the Eberron universe. In 2006, I was only familiar with fantasy novels via the Legend of Drizzt series, and hadn’t read much sword-and-sorcery beyond that. However, with Diran and Ghaji, not only did my love for the genre explode into a passionate love affair that shall last until my dying days, but it also showed me a dark setting with creatively fascinating lore, history, politics and more. Because of The Blade of the Flame Trilogy, not only was I able to find the perfect extended universe fit for my tastes, but I also discovered an incredible sense of inspiration to write my own stories within the fantasy genre.
Admittedly, Thieves of Blood is not a perfect series. The book is riddled with basic grammar and spelling errors to make anyone cringe a bit and the dialogue can be woefully cheesy. Even so, I still adore just about everything else otherwise (actually, the cheesy dialogue is also quite delightful to me). When I think of swashbuckling, fantasy action, this is the sort of story that I immediately think of. When I imagine two companions that complement one another with their blatant differences and their inherent bromantic chemistry, again, this is the series that instantly pops into my mind. It has a spot of everything that I crave in a cool, romp of an adventure.
The story kicks off with the twosome encountering a creature that is pretending to be something other than it appears, and through this one simple encounter, Diran and Ghaji find themselves on an unexpected frolic of a journey where they’ll meet an Elven spy, a halfling pirate, and elderly wizard who sailed with an infamously shady pirate adventurer. As one clue leads them to the next in their search for the terrible evil that is plaguing the Lhazaar Principalities, they have fights with mire-monsters, vampires, changelings, and good ol’ fashion human brutes with more drunken brawn than brains. Because of all these elements, I never find myself bored or uninterested in what’s going to happen next, regardless of having read it seven or eight times already. The action definitely has its gruesome moments as certain folx are burned, bludgeoned, and butchered to death, but as an individual that prefers savage fucking fantasy battles, I found it marvellously entertaining.
In addition to the almost non-stop adventuring, the characters really give the story more dimension that goes beyond the basics of beat ‘em up fun and cheesy one-liners to make you cringe yet chuckle simultaneously. Diran used to be an assassin in his previous life, and this definitely impacts his current perception of good, evil, the in-between, and the beyond. His past experiences and missions weigh on him like the burden of a burning crucifix. Because of this he becomes quite a fascinating character that borders on anti-heroic heroism. Ghaji is similar in that he also carries the scars and scowls of an ugly past that he is trying to put behind him by doing some good and honest work in the world. Ghaji isn’t as religious as Diran and his perception of dealing with the deadly critters borders more on the many shades of grey, but because of their inherent differences, they hold each other accountable for difficult choices that must be made along the way. Learning about their pasts and how they seek to redeem themselves for it, or learn to live beyond its fetters, is another one of my favourite characteristics about The Blade of the Flame books. With respect to Thieves of Blood only, those morsels help us to gauge the driving force behind Diran’s actions as he seeks to destroy the evil he’s hunting here quite vehemently.
Like most adventure novels, the twosome meet a few unusual folx that end up joining their cause for personal reasons and these newcomers are just as messed up and lost as the bromance duo. What surprised me was how well the chemistry for all of the motley crew characters ended up meshing. They have their moments of bickering, but at the end of the day, they fill in the gaps that one didn’t even realise was missing. It’s awesomely endearing and gloriously amusing by the same boot.
Thieves of Blood is also very easy to read in a short amount of time. Between the short page count (approximately three-hundred-forty), the never-ending chaos of ass-kickery, the dark and stormy backgrounds, the brutality of the bloodshed, and the sweet hope of potential long lost romance, it’s extremely easy to keep flipping through the pages with keen curiosity. My first time reading Thieves of Blood, I finished it in about three to four hours. Each time after that, I’ve had to purposefully slow myself down to savour the story and the cast members more, but within a day or two, I’m done and anticipating the next instalment. So, in that sense, this is perfect for readers searching for a light and easy fantasy indulgence that won’t require a serious time commitment.
Overall, Thieves of Blood is an excellent work of dark fantasy and sword-and-sorcery action-adventure frolicsomeness, and is a shining star of enjoyment, excitement, and endearing reading comfort. I highly recommend this to all bibliophiles who are fans of fun sword-and-sorcery, and also to non-fantasy readers that are looking for something less heavy (emotionally and textually) yet interesting to dip their toes into the genre with. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for sure!
Publication Date: May 2006
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Genre: Sword and Sorcery, Dark Fantasy
Series: The Blade of the Flame Book 1
Page Count: 342
Content Warnings: Violence. Swashbuckling Action. Graphic scenes of gore, blood, and body mutilation. Death via monsters, cannibalism, fire, fighting, and blood loss. Imprisonment. Torture of prisoners. Kidnapping. Enslavement. Mental instability from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Survivor’s guilt and trauma. Racism against multiracial people. Misogyny. Use of poisons.
GoodReads: Thieves of Blood by Tim Waggoner
Availability: Out-of-print; eBook only.