Review: VALE OF BLOOD ROSES, A tale of Noreela, by Tim Lebbon

Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Iris Chacon.

Stunning, haunting, alternate-world fantasy penned by a master.

I can still remember the first time, many years ago, that I read Frank Herbert’s Dune, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, and Jack London’s “To Build A Fire. I have read hundreds of books and stories in the interim, but those (and a very few others) transformed my thinking with images and emotions that stayed firmly planted in my mind and made it more fertile as a result. Tim Lebbon’s Vale of Blood Roses affected me the same way.


In the Pengulfin Woods, Jakk walks, throws stones at the birds called wood sparks, and tries to forget his nightmares. Jakk is a farmer now, isolated happily with his wife and child, to whom he never reveals the details of his past.


In the past, after the Cataclysmic War, when people thought all the machines were dead, Jakk and three war-hardened fellow mercenaries trekked across the land on their weary way to someplace they might call home. Jakk had vowed never to kill again, but his companions were, by turns, either numbly resigned or madly eager to shed blood.


The two stories, Jakk’s past and his present, are woven together, told simultaneously, leaving the reader to place events into cause-and-effect order. At first this tactic is confusing, but the author wisely refrains from explaining too much, giving readers the joy of discovering for themselves the answers to questions and the ramifications of events.


In Jakk’s past, he and his bloodthirsty friends tragically and mysteriously encountered a valley (the “vale” of the title) that was not shown in their precious and rare book of maps. Their interaction with the inhabitants went horribly wrong, and Jakk got his first glimpse of the deadly “blood roses.”


In Jakk’s present, the terror of the mysterious vale returns to take its toll on him, his family, and his former colleagues.


Even though this is a novella and, therefore, relatively short, author Tim Lebbon deeply immerses the reader in Jakk’s situation and surroundings; so much so that even after the book is closed (or the Kindle shut down), the mental images and strong emotions are loathe to fade. I highly recommend Vale of Blood Roses, not only to science fiction and fantasy fans, but to anyone who enjoys a moving story masterfully told.


This novella contains no offensive linguistic or sexual material, but the brutal battle scenes and some other bloody incidents vividly depict the violence and horror appropriate to such activities.


Lebbon has published four other titles in the “Noreela” series: Dusk, Dawn, Fallen, and The Island. Dusk won the 2007 British Fantasy Award for Best Novel.


This writer received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest, objective review


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