BloodandBrineCVBlood and Brine
by Caprice Hokstad

ISBN-13: 9781927154205 (Trade Paperback)
Page: 240
Pub Date: April 2012
Publisher: Splashdown Books

The planet is called Byntar. Though not stated, it probably lies somewhere in the Gemini Constellation because it is a world of twin suns, twin moons, two continents, only two races, and the frightening compelling tale of tormented twin brothers. The inhabitants of Byntar are composed of just two races. No confusion here, you’re either one or the other. The Elva and Itzi and from just looking at the names, one is definitely superior to the other. The Itzi are peaceful, hardworking, isolationalist Amish type, while the Elva would be the sons or daughters produced from a union between Subcommander T’Pol and Lagolas. There are no starships, hovercraft, blasters or pulse cannons. The setting is very similar to the renaissance time frame on Earth, though a few of the industries are rather advanced compared to Earth’s medieval times. Byntar lacks electricity and combustion engines; the people are ingenious, using wind and water to turn mills. Production maybe slower, but quality is always handmade pride. The planet also lacks the elements to create gunpowder so the creation of cannons and muskets would never come into existence. Probably a plus until a more devious evil comes down to meddle in the affairs of those planetside. One might expect a planet rooted in a medieval time frame would have an overabundance of magic crisscrossing the world from one end to the other; but those readers looking for spells, incantations, and pure fire-blasting sorcery, this is not for you. Simply put, magic does not exist Byntar. Yes, there are mages whose task is to study the Elva Heavenlies and the Itzi Nymphs to hear the voice of God and do His will, which usually involves passing this wisdom on to individuals in the flow of future events and current circumstances. Magic, sorry doesn’t exist here either. Slavery is common place on this world.

Blood and Brine is a story of the unseen. What you can’t see just might kill you! Beyond the obvious there is a reason, both sinister and divine. It is also a tale of war, betrayal, plague and sorrow. “Never trust anyone who wants what you’ve got. Friend or no, envy is an overwhelming emotion.” — Eubie Blake. Blake’s quote fits very well the shaping of things in Caprice Hokstad’s final novel in her Ascendancy Trilogy.  Trust is an issue between King Arx of Latoph and his twin brother, Duke Vahn. Trust is often like a vapor, illusive and hard to see, even in plain sight. So it is for Duke Vahn as he wrestles with things he only thought were shadows from a tangled past. Things we fear the most often arise to scare us back into reality. There are also others who have their own agendas and are carefully working in the background manipulating events.

Things move a little too fast in this book. Itzi slaves are massacred in one chapter and then we move swiftly into the rescue of Duke Vahn’s young son from his father in law, Pendo, king of Ganluc. Once back at Rebono Keep at Ny the reader is thrust in the middle of building a navy. Also, the slavery issue here is somewhat confusing. The Note on Byntarian Culture states that slavery is prohibited to children under ten. The question arises, if one is born to slaves, wouldn’t that make that child a slave also. It would also seem that slave names are always lower case, which at the start leaves one with the feeling these are typos missed by the editorial staff. After all proper names are capitalized. All in all Blood and Brine is a very good story, yet a little more in-depth description of situations would have made it a richer story. — Billi Caye