Of Blood Exhausted by Jemahl Evans [Book Review]
Of Blood Exhausted is the third in the Blandford Candy series that started with The Last Roundhead. (The second was This Deceitful Light.) If anything Jemahl Evans is improving with practice, there’s a real feel for the period in the language used, the descriptions and the characters, several of whom are based on real people. There are footnotes throughout to add context to the historical events, either to corroborate the source or correct errors from Candy’s recollection of events.
Of Blood Exhausted
As with the previous two in the series Of Blood Exhausted cuts between the aged Sir Blandford Candy narrating from 1720 and the imminent South Seas Bubble which his nephew is involved with, and the winter of 1644-5 culminating in the battle of Naseby.
Candy is tasked with finding a mysterious assassin called the Black Bear who is allegedly attempting to kill Prince Karl-Louis, a cousin of the King who supports Parliament. There’s are a couple of side plots involving Candy’s manservant which bring in the seamy underside of London. In addition the whole thing plays out amidst the debate on the formation of the New Army and the politics of the self denying ordinance.
Falling in Love
Over the course of the story Candy realises that he’s falling in love again. His paramour, Meg, is spying for Parliament and enjoying the pleasures of the flesh as she does. The dawning awareness in Candy of how he feels for her is really well done and gives another dimension to him as a character. He compares how he feels for Meg with his first love and finds it equally weighty, if different.
Candy travels a bit in Of Blood Exhausted. His first trip, at the start of the story is to Amsterdam. He’s sent to investigate whether the Parliamentary agent there is corrupt, or helping the King. He doesn’t spend long on that task as he’s set up and arrested the night that he arrives. His sister, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, meets him along with the Winter Queen and sends him back to London to watch over the Prince.
Finding the Assassin
While on that mission Candy tracks down a suspicious Frenchman and chases him over the rooftops. In the rain. The Frenchman had an escape plan and Candy is unable to follow. We meet the Frenchman later and discover that he is D’Artagnan (the historical figure that the Three Musketeers is based on) and that he’s on the same mission as Candy. There’s a level of friendly rivalry, including a delicious scene where it’s clear that Meg has been seeing D’Artagnan!
Along the way there are a few failed attempts on the Prince’s life. These don’t endear the Prince to Candy, as it looks more like luck than Candy’s prowess. Each attempt gives some clues, and when we get to the denouement where we discover the Black Bear in the midst of assassination it came as a surprise to me. I just hadn’t added the clues together while I was reading. It makes sense though.
Blood and Exhaustion
That isn’t the end of the story. Candy returns to the New Army for one last battle. He rides with Okey’s Dragoons into the hedgerow on the flank of Naseby. The battle is well told from Candy’s perspective, which also includes the sacking of the baggage train and the slaughter of the wives and camp followers. It’s a tragic and poignant scene, the righteous and godly raping and murdering the innocent. Really well done, neither gratuitous nor sanitised.
In the end Candy has enough of war. He resigns his commission and, at his sister Elizabeth’s suggestion, sets sail for Boston to manage some of the family business in the colonies. I’m already looking forwards to the fourth book and reading about Candy’s adventures in the new world!
This series is wonderful and each part is better than the previous one. The language has a period feel, and there are copious end notes either correcting or confirming Candy’s reliability as a narrator. It’s so well done that I’d love to give it a sixth star. You should read it.