I have been impressed with the book that I have read from Random House's Hydra ebook imprint so far and I had one more review copy of a Hydra book left to read so I dove into "Full-Blood Half-Breed" by Cleve Lamison hoping to find another entertaining story.
While the war between the gods has been over for 2000 years, the world is still not at peace. The Thirteen Kingdoms is in the midst of a tenuous peace in which martial arts have become revered as gifts from the gods and the different factions honoring their own forms as the way in which their respective god wants the world to be. The way to personal honor, and to honor the gods, is to win in a bloody tournament that is a testament of faith as well as a way for individuals to settle the differences of the factions. It is an honor to compete and an even bigger honor to win.
Paladin Del Darkdragon is a man without a true tribe. He is a half-breed and is looked down upon by those who are the pure-blood of the tribes. Without a true tribe, he has come to master all four of the forms of martial arts in order to survive rather than dedicate his life to one form. He is an outcast from the glory of any gods and has struggled to form his own life in the midst of the different tribes. He enrolls in the tournament to win personal honor and, hopefully, acceptance. What he does not know is that there is a new threat in the world as a new prophet has chosen a champion to begin war once more. Darkdragon must fight not only to save his life but to save the world from another war that could destroy them all.
"Full-Blood Half-Breed" is an odd mix of dystopian fiction, alternate history/fantasy, and action thriller that all pulls together to form an interesting story yet one that I found somewhat unsatisfying. There is a lot going on in this book as Lamison works to pull together religion, politics, societal commentary, and mixed martial arts into a coherent and compelling story yet it just never seems to quite come together. With all of those elements clashing from the very beginning, I found my attention wandering and it was very difficult for me to get into the story. There were things that I liked about the book but it just never seemed like there was enough time and attention given to any one story element to completely develop it into a compelling read. As I worked my way through the book, which was just a little too much "work" and not enough enjoyment, I never could find a character that I could really relate to or a plot line that I could latch onto in order to become invested in the story. I was never able to become invested in the story and so my reaction was more of a shoulder shrug rather than a revelation. I found it impossible to care about the story and the characters.
Now, in defense of the story, I do think that I would have enjoyed it more if I cared more about martial arts but I just do not. Rather than feeling that the action as a way of developing the story and highlighting the underlying meaning, it seemed instead to be window dressing for nothing in particular. I wanted to find a story that would make me think about the religion or the politics or the culture of the world that Lamison presents. Instead, the book seemed to be more of an MMA event with a series of fights leading up to the headlining bout. There are some interesting elements and the book is well written. It just never seemed to fully capture my attention.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Hydra for this review copy. "Full-Blood Half-Breed" is available now.