I’ve been watching the Penguin Random House eBook imprints tentatively since the initial furor over the contract terms. (Which did, apparently, get resolved quickly.) But I hadn’t dipped my toes in until the blurb of Full-Blood Half-Breed made me want to give a Hydra book a chance. What tempted me? Well, there was the holy martial arts, which made me think of the terrific Avatar: The Last Airbender. (I first watched it with my niece, and then I totally watched the rest by myself. No shame.) Then there was the promise of an action-packed tournament. A quick read culminating in a showdown between two young warriors representing their religions? Sounded like a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Paladin is one of the two narrators. He’s the eponymous full-blood half-breed, which refers to the fact he’s descended from all four of the world’s races. This already sets him back in life, because mixed-race people are treated like second-class citizens in this world. But worse, he’s been thrown out of the temples for all four fighting styles because he refuses to devote himself to one. He wants to represent all of his heritage when he fights, and convince others that that’s a good thing, not heresy. He’s more than a touch naive about people being forced to consider that their religion might be wrong. He’s also quite convinced by his own awesomeness and rightness, like many a teenage boy.
His rival is Zwergfuchs, whose name only gets more ridiculous from there. He goes by the much less ridiculous Fox the Runt (no, really) and is the other narrator. His passages are interminable. If Paladin is foolhardy, at least it’s because he’s an idealist and has his heart in the right place. Fox the Runt is a hateful little brat who falls instantly in love and changes everything about himself for a girl and somehow manages to become an even worse person in the meantime. (His redeeming quality is considering that racism might, in fact, be bad.) The girl he falls in love with follows the Vile Creador, an ersatz sort of Christian God, and he converts to her religion. The main usefulness of Fox the Runt’s passages is to show what the cult is up to, but I’m just not sure it’s worth the time spent in his slimy head. There are tantalizing hints of the cult using magic to force people to join, but that plotline never comes to fruition in Full-Blood Half-Breed.
You see, the tournament isn’t the climax. It’s merely the build to a holy war, which is apparently going to range across the next book, because Full-Blood Half-Breed isn’t a standalone. Maybe that could be mentioned somewhere on the cover or blurb. I hate when I reach the end of a book and it’s all, “Surprise! This is a series! Please read the next book to see how everything works out.”
There is quite a bit to like about Full-Blood Half-Breed. I feel like religion is glossed over in a lot of books nowadays, despite being a bit part of many people’s lives. It is interesting to see a world with so many religions shaping the character’s ideas of class and such. It’s also interesting to see race discussed frankly in a fantasy novel. But I just find so much of the story hugely off-putting. Fox the Runt is gross, full stop. Paladin is a more interesting protagonist, flawed but capable of growth, with something to prove and challenges to overcome. But even he could be gross, such as when it comes to the girl he had a crush on who didn’t reciprocate because she saw him as a kid. When she gets into trouble, he writes it off as her always being shallow and makes zero effort to help her in any way. And honestly, the novel drags until it reaches the tournament passages. And even those aren’t too interesting until the final event. (Archery and tilting are much more exciting on-screen than on the page.)
There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than reading Full-Blood Half-Breed. But Cleve Lamison’s debut leaves me wishing I’d read something else.
In Cleve Lamison’s hard-hitting debut, two young men divided by an intense hatred—yet marked with a common destiny—have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.
It’s been two thousand years since the bastard spawn of the god Creador lost their war to enslave humankind, transforming the Thirteen Kingdoms into a violent world where the martial arts are exalted as sacred gifts from the gods—and honor is won through arena blood sport.
Paladin Del Darkdragón, a sixteen-year-old warrior-in-training, is a “half-breed.” His battle against pure-blood bullies like Fox the Runt has forced him to master the four fighting forms. But when he blends them, he is condemned as a heretic by authorities and banished from the training temples. Seeking redemption, he enrolls in the arena games, savage trials that end in death.
This year’s games mask an old plot driven by a new prophet. With a horde of Creador’s Bastards and an army of fanatics led by Fox the Runt at his command, the Prophet will bend the world to his will or burn it to ash.
Paladin faces an impossible choice: redeem his honor in a fight he can’t hope to survive, or abandon his loved ones to perish in the sweeping holy war consuming the Kingdoms.
No excerpt available.