She Dreams in Blood is the sequel to the excellent Black Stone Heart, book one of the Obsidian Path. The first novel is a finalist in the 2021 Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), and with good reason as it’s an excellent book.
The sequel continues the first-person narrative of Khraen, once and (future?) Demonist Emperor. He has a few more shards of his obsidian heart and the memories that come with each piece, but still searches for the remaining pieces. He’s becoming more powerful with each shard, but also increasingly frustrated as his memories are just shy of completion.
“If my soul-devouring empire was all that stood between humanity and utter destruction, I wasn’t the villain. Maybe I wasn’t the hero, but stories of dashing heroes doing noble deeds are horseshit.”
At the heart of Kraen’s partially restored memories are two women. The first is his necromancer soul-mate who travels with him, harvesting the bodies of dead women to keep her “fresh” and appealing to Khraen. He battles with he moral issues of her taking the lives of innocent women to sustain herself versus his near obsessive need to have Henska at his side. He rationalizes that she’s no more than a predator who needs to kill to survive, much as an animal might do.
“These were the terrible decisions a truly good man could never make.”
The second woman isn’t a mortal (or undead) woman at all but an ancient goddess. Khraen is slowly become aware of this being, known only to him through his reawakening memories as She Dreams in Blood. Khraen is slowly starting to realize that there are forces beyond his own awareness that are responsible for how his destiny has turned out.
“Was a flawed soul better than none at all?”
She Dreams in Blood is a fascinating study in the internal struggle between right and wrong, as Khraen tries to balance his desire to do good things in the world with his need for reclaiming his lost power, along with enacting vengeance on those who’d betrayed him. The more he learns about his past, the more Khraen starts to realize that his still missing memories of Henska are crucial. How much has she manipulated the path of his life to get to this point, and how influential is she over the future? He knows that she loves him and she does everything she does for him, but at what cost?
“There was something terrifying about someone willing to do anything they thought was in your best interest.”
We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer to discovering the missing pieces in Khraen’s memory, and how he will reconcile those with what he wants to do going forward. Will he find a balance between the villain that the world portrays him and the moral man he feels he should be? Or is he doomed to repeat his mistakes of his previous centuries as emperor?