Blood Hostages (Blood Wars) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Feb 1996
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When his uncle is abducted by a pair of gargoyles at the behest of an eight-armed god, Aereas joins his cousin Nina on a perilous journey into a bizarre and twisted world where they uncover a plot to turn the tide of the Blood War and unleash a horrific evil. Original. 75,000 first printing.
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In an effort to convey the mind bending nature of the Planes, the author (J. Robert King) occasionally shifts view points suddenly, or describes some seemingly unimportant back story during a tense scene, or will radically change writing style for a brief time. While this was certainly a commendable effort, it unfortunately wasn't executed as well it as could have been. Instead of a mind twisting, soul altering, jaw dropping tour-de-force of planar mayhem, the reader will get an overall competent, but occasionally forced or boring, fantasy read. Blood Hostages isn't entirely true to Planescape mythology (King occasionally seems confused as to which creatures are Baatezu and which are Tanar'ri), but it does have enough of the good stuff packed within to keep the reader turning the pages. When Nina and Aeareas, two Clueless prime worlders who don't know the Nine Hells from the Abyss, are thrust into the Outer Planes, they are fortunate enough to receive a guide in the form of the friendly gnome Boffo. This is where the story starts to pick up and the insanity of the Planes really starts to set in. The cousins receive a tour from Boffo of Sigil, the city which sits atop an infinitely tall spire at the center of the Mulitverse. King almost perfectly describes the city's look and feel, and how its various inhabitants and organizations could drive a prime worlder completely barmy.
Although Sigil is given its due, the rest of the multiverse isn't shown quite as much favor. After the first third of the book, the author seems to become bored with describing things in great depth, and starts glossing over things that really should be given more attention to. At one point in the story the characters are floating throughout the Astral Plane atop the body of a dead god - and the sky is raining demonic Tanar'ri intent on ripping everything to pieces. This scene had the potential to be both highly terrifying and extremely exciting, but it's dealt with in unfortunate "assembly line fantasy" style, with the minimum detail required to get the point across and move on to the next section.
Overall, Blood Hostages is a decent addition to the Planescape universe, but it could have been so much better if a little more time had been spent expanding the story into a larger novel.
Anyone who likes the idea of reading about a world that is as chaotic but strangely consistent as a dream will enjoy the ride that is the series.
As for the fact the book may not be true to canon Planescape, I can only say who cares? The books are still beautiful, and I highly recommend them to younger readers as a mind opening experience.
Another issue is what turned most people off from the Planescape setting. The characters almost immediately become super powerful. Before the first half of the first book of the triology is over, the supposedly green, inexperienced characters are already hanging out with greater fiends, bargaining with a god, and killing extremely powerful monsters with just one blow. It takes away the grandeur and mystique of the setting.
On the plus side, the series held my interest enough to finish all three books in a week, and it seems to get better as it goes along. I can't say I'd recommend these books, but if you're deployed and there's nothing else to do, they'll kill some time.
The author has done a FANTASTIC job of both acquiring vast knowledge relevant to the Planes as well as presenting this material efficiently and successfully! His solid grasp of factual detail makes him very capable of providing the necessary background needed to carry out the very difficult task of writing Planescape novels, which is something often missing from the work of many Fantasy authors.
JR King has truly outdone himself and has presented us with a masterpiece of literature the likes of which we have seen only in JRR Tolkien's work and in authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends trilogies as well as RA Salvatore's Icewind Dale and Dark Elf Trilogies. Love, fiends, bravery, magic, swordfights and battles of epic proportion are all about. A great trilogy indeed and a "must read" along with Pages of Pain, sadly, the only other novel written in the Planescape setting.