“Blood Red: The Wonder Book One” by James Devo

In “Blood Red” we are introduced to a steampunk/alternate world that is vaguely Victorian/Edwardian in flavor, but in which humanity has access to Wonder, a form of magic that is used instead of electricity, gunpowder, steam, etc. Different kinds of Wonder are mined or reclaimed from deposits, and the story follows two different groups who are both after the same Wonder trove.

The world building in “Blood Red” is richly imaginative, with a multi-thousand year history and, we discover as the story progresses, various humanoid races populating it, as well as different groups of humans. However, there are some things that we are not told (yet) that the reader might like to know, such as more detail about how Wonder works. Since this is the first installment in a series, this may be information that will be revealed later. The book is filled with a varied cast of characters, and the action is portrayed from multiple characters’ points of view, which heightens the tension, but can also occasionally be a little hard to follow as the action jumps from character to character.

One of the highlights of the book is the dry wit of the narrator’s presentation of the action. There is a slightly absurdist edge to the story, which makes the occasional gruesome moments less gruesome and more darkly humorous than they might have been otherwise. The whole thing reads like a rueful yet amused retelling of ridiculous adventures that nonetheless have real consequences. This is not high fantasy but something more like a cross between Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Glen Cook’s Black Company books, on a base of 19th-century British adventure tales, so if you enjoy any of those things, you will probably find lots to enjoy here as well.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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