By: Aaron S. Jones
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Self Published
Content/Trigger Warnings: Shown on page: Alcohol dependency; Slavery; Gratuitous Violence; Suicide; Vomiting; Gore; Beatings
Content/Trigger Warnings: Alluded too: Child harm; Child slavery
“The eyes of the young boy shine with hope; glow with adventure; and glisten with transient pain. The past is a shadow; the present is fleeting, and the future is open and endless” Aaron S. Jones, Memories of Blood and Shadow
What consequences do our life choices have? How do we judge a person whose hardships have molded those choices? For an orphaned boy and his brother, their parents killed, and taken for slaves, do we judge the actions they take to better their circumstances? Such is the story of Tavar Farwan in Memories of Blood and Shadow. Indentured into become a soldier to Alfara, the very people who killed his family and stole his life, the paths he chooses change the world. In Memories of Blood and Shadow, Aaron S. Jones has created a truly epic fantasy that encompasses sympathetic protagonists, incredible world building, extraordinary fight and battle scenes, LBGTQ representation, and a page turning adventure. The story is told in the third person narrative by Tavar when he is an older man. When attacked in his home, leaving one dead and other wounded, we find the wounded man has come to right some wrong Tavar has done in his past. To understand the present, and who Tavar has become, he relates his life story to this man, Jassim. It was excellent choice of narrative, seeing Tavar and his life, the hardships he faced, and the choices he made that were born from those hardships. Memories of Blood and Shadow is the first standalone fantasy that I have read in quite a while. It was a refreshing change and it was truly gripping right from the start. Aaron S. Jones has written an unforgettable tale of Tavar Farwan, his quest for revenge, his life, loves, adversity, and regrets. There are twists and turns, political intrigue, and ultimately the tale of a man who has lived a life that changed the world.
Tavar Farwan is undoubtedly one of the finest characters I have come across in fantasy. It’s hard not to like Tavar, but he isn’t the perfect embodiment of a hero. Much of what he does is driven to gain he and his brothers and his friends freedom, and seek revenge on those who killed his parents. On that day, the parents of many children were killed. Tavar and his brother are separated, but he remains with his friends, Adam and Alice. He does what he is tasked to do, train in the army for a cause that is not his and the country that killed his parents. As Tavar goes to war, he doubts what he is doing. This is not his fight. To him, he is killing people he has no grudge against, yet he must do it. In war, it is kill or be killed. Tavar will stop injustice when we can, even putting his own life in danger. He is fiercely loyal to his brother, his friends, and those he meets in his life who become “family” to him. While telling his story, there are times we are brought to the present and Jassim will ask questions. These small breaks remind us that the tale being told is from the past, and all that has occurred has led up to this moment in time.
There were many other characters that Tavar meets in his journey. I felt each and every one contributed to the person he became, whether they were good or bad. He once again finds family among friends he meets, and their advice and wisdom keep him grounded. They protect him as much as he protects them, and they often stop him from making rash decisions. One character of note is Kenji, and old blind man he befriends, a man he forms an incredibly close bond with. There is so much more to Kenji than an old blind man, and his focus is making sure Tavar gains his freedom to live his life as he should. He was a remarkably character and his wisdom was written so well:
“I’m an old, blind man Tavar. I’ve lived a full life an enjoyed most of it…I’ve loved and I’ve certainly laughed. I can feel the wrinkles around these eyes that are proof of that. It would be amazing to hold my daughter in my arms again and hear what she has done but I know she is safe and happy. My time is coming to an end…I’ve made my mistakes and learnt from them, there’s not much more I have left to do, apart from helping others live their own lives. Like you.” Aaron S. Jones, Memories of Blood and Shadow
The narrative was brilliant, as was Mr. Jones’ sharp, clear prose. I love when I feel as if I am transported into a story. It’s as if I am following silently behind the main character, living his life with him. The characters all had their own stories, and complete story arcs. Alice was a joy see as she falls in love and marries Clarissa, a woman she trained with in the army. These moments are captured beautifully. The battle and fight scenes were incredibly detailed. There is gore, blood, and torture. I read a wide variety of fantasy, many of which depict battles and fights. Some are not gory, and it works with the narrative. The details here are necessary. The horrors that Tavar witnesses drive home the point that he is waging a war and killing others for a fight that is not his. There is torture as well. Is it gratuitous? Yes and no. Torture is harsh and hard to read, but again necessary here. Alfara in not a peaceful loving kingdom. The King is worshipped as a god. The torture of those deemed “traitors” to Alfara are also meant to drive home the point to Tavar that above all, he wants to escape a place that would commit such atrocities.
The world building was exceptional. Mr. Jones creates many different regions in throughout the book, each with its own customs and culture. The city of Kessarine, the heart of Alfara and where Tavar trains, feels distinctly Middle Eastern in both the names of the inhabitants and the clothing. On the wealthy, there are bright colored robes, and at one point Alice and Clarissa were dressed in a niqab to go out. It was so wonderfully descriptive; one can feel the energy of the city. There is not mention of any particular culture, just what Mr. Jones has created in the book. It was the names, clothing, calls to prayer, and food that gave the city that impression. The king is worshipped as a God, and when he appears, his face bears make up, and the people clamor to get a glimpse of his rare appearances. The other notable place is the Home of the Blood Nation. It is where one of his friends comes from, and they seek out their help. They live across the desert, in a vast region in a city composed of tents, houses of wood, and stone. The faces of the warriors are painted in such a way as to appear more threatening. Their clothing is simple, reflecting the region in which they live, and they have a seemingly peaceful life, though outsiders are seldom welcome. Alfara is not welcome in many places as it sends it’s armies to squash rebellions and take over each nation. The final place to mention is the Arrow Islands. Think of a Caribbean paradise, white sand beaches, and crystal-clear water. The people are happy and it is a peaceful place, just where you would want to stay for a while-a long while.
Memories of Blood and Shadow was a truly epic fantasy in every way: exceptional character development, beautifully crafted world building, and a perfect narrative to tell the story of the main protagonist. Tavar Farwan has lived a full life, and the story is told from his perspective as he relates it to a man who has come to him to right a wrong from the past. Mr. Jones wove together Tavar’s history, along with excellent world building, battles, political intrigue, betrayal, love, and some regret. Tavar is driven by his desire to be free from Alfara, but he is also kind and compassionate, and will stop injustice when he sees it. He is fiercely loyal and will fight not only for his freedom, but his friends as well. After seeing his parents killed by Alfaran soldiers, his friends become his family. Memories of Blood and Shadow follows Tavar’s trials and tribulations, and I felt drawn to his character. I cared about what happened to him, and to his friends. They elicited strong emotions, which I always feel is the mark of exceptional writing. There is also LBGTQ representation, and this is always a positive point for me. The pacing and prose were extremely well done in the third person narrative of Tavar. We only read his narrative since he is relating his story, and the other characters appear as it unfolds. The battle and fight scenes were gripping and exciting, though they were gory. It was necessary for the narrative, and drives home the point that practicing being a soldier is very different from war itself. Especially for Tavar, who is fighting a war against people who are not his enemy. Memories of Blood and Shadow is a standalone fantasy, which I have not read in a long time. The story concluded brilliantly; nothing was rushed at the end. I highly recommend Memories of Blood and Shadow. While it is a standalone, I certainly wouldn’t mind visiting Tavar’s world again.
Summary (from Escapist Tours)
Guilt cuts sharper than the deadliest of blades. Tavar Farwan lives alone past the Undying Sands. During a violent storm, he is attacked by two young warriors claiming a need for vengeance for pain from ages past. Tavar defends himself, killing one of the intruders and leaving the other to bleed on the floor. Weary and filled with regret, Tavar offers to tell the young man his story: a story of how, in a world of Naviqings, Leviathans, and Shadow Warriors; a poor, nomadic orphan rose to inspire a kingdom, and kill a God.
My sincere thanks to Aaron S. Jones for a copy of his book and to Escapist Tours for providing me with an eBook.
Find out more about Aaron S. Jones on his website: https://jamifairleigh.com/
Purchase Memories of Blood and Shadow on Amazon