Review by Joel Kreissman
Virtus Draconis: Blood Price is Edi Alvarez’s first novel, set in a “science fantasy” world populated by humans and “incomplete” anthropomorphic animals. When princess Meredith of the highly conservative and religious kingdom of Shaddai attempts to start a crusade against their more progressive neighbors, mercenary adopted brothers Claude (dragon) and Mordred (wolf) of the Eon Group are hired by the president of Anthropia to warn other countries and hunt down Shaddai agents. Soon enough, they realize that they don’t need to look very hard, as Meredith makes them her primary targets. After the first attack by Shaddai forces they are joined by Anna, a human nomad who undergoes a dangerous forbidden ritual to make a pact with a spirit and become a “mystic” and/or prophet with immense magical powers, as well as transforming into an incomplete dragon.
Blood Price is a very fast-paced book, I was able to finish reading it in a couple days as I kept coming back to it to read what happened next. It’s an exciting adventure that seems to be over too quickly. That said, I noticed some places that could use improvement, mostly in the way of worldbuilding. Very little is explained about the setting. For instance we are told that “incompletes” are almost completely human in genetics, with the apparent differences in species practically cosmetic, but we don’t know how incompletes come into being aside from side effects to highly dangerous rituals. That said, the action moves so quickly that you don’t have time to wonder about your worldbuilding questions until the end of the book. The central conflict of a conservative society of religious fanatics attacking progressives might be a tad blunt, but it’s a conflict that will be familiar to many furry readers. Religious conflicts can be complicated in any setting, if gods are distant and there’s no hard evidence of their existence, it can be easy to believe that their followers are delusional or power-mad; but if divinities can directly make their intentions clear through physical appearances or empowered followers, you start to wonder if the zealots might have a point or whether the gods are evil. In this story, the first time we see a character exert divine power is when Meredith appears to send a soldier who failed her to Hell, but then Anna and Claude get their own powers from a spirit whose divinity is somewhat ambiguous. It’s difficult to tell which side, if any, has any divine support here.
Overall Virtus Draconis: Blood Price is a fast-paced adventure that makes a good casual read. I have a few questions about the setting, which I would like to see answered in a sequel.