‘Blood Reign’ by Ezra Payne – ARC Review


Intentions are irrelevant. There are always consequences.

The giant lizard-like creatures known as Hexxets have lived in arid deserts of Lamdak for centuries and their miraculous stone city of Bal’kar is now occupied solely by humans—and suffers for it.

Facing starvation within the isolated kingdom, plans are made to bring them back into the city, but resistance from citizens is justifiably strong given past experiences from many who were once enslaved in the Hexxet camp.

Their return would spark damning consequences. Yet for a small few, the risk is worth the potential benefits.

Vicious warriors, colourful characters and powerful organisations combine in this debut fantasy novel.

This book contains strong violence, foul language and sexual themes. It is not recommended for younger audiences.

Name – Blood Reign [#1 of ‘Hateful Tales]

Author – Ezra Payne

Publisher – Virulent Press

Genre – Fantasy/Action/Adventure [Adult Fiction]

Chapters – 5 parts; 64 chapters (plus an Epilogue)

Pages – 481 (Kindle Edition); 6158 (Kindle Reader Locations)

Cover – 10/10! (What an AMAZING cover!) [Cover art and illustrations by MiraSand]

Release Date – 24 February, 2024

Order at Amazon (Kindle), The Great British Book Shop (Physical)

To start off – 2024 has quite nicely turned out to be the beginning of my blogging-reviewing journey as an amateur, and I consider myself very fortunate to have found indiebooktours on X/Twitter shortly after. They were kind enough to accept me into their community, in turn providing me with a base from which to build upon, and also to keep moving forward as I continue to make amazing friends along the way. For that, I will be forever grateful. It was through them that I got the eARC of ‘Blood Reign’, provided in collaboration with the author in exchange for an honest review.

So, right off the bat – HOW GOOD IS THAT COVER?! It caught my attention immediately, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it! (and I still can’t!). No wonder I was super eager to find out more about the book, and with an exciting description to go alongside, it was just a matter of time before I got going.

So, what’s this fantasy debut (with an awesome looking cover!) all about?

Well, to begin with – the book is divided into 5 parts, and the events in part 1 are very much significant with what’s about to unfold in the future. Not only that, but all those involved in the said events are ultimately affected one way or another, with the actions and motivations of certain individuals paving the way for what’s to come…

So then, what happens in part 1 you ask? Here’s a quick rundown – the focus is on the monsters/creatures/beasts (whatever you wanna call them!), “most of whom looked like tailless lizards that stood upright like humans”… the Hexxets. We are introduced to their savage rule, wherein humans have been enslaved to work endlessly under a scorching sun, with a vast stretch of sand surrounding them all. The “soft skins” have hardly any respite, and to watch over them is one of their own from days gone by… Meet Saah’tria, the overseer. But she is not just “any” human – Saah’tria stood seven feet tall with a muscular body that her leather and iron armour struggled to hide. The whites of her eyes were dark and her pupils burned red. Violet veins protruded from her pale skin. It was difficult to still think of her as a human.

Desperate to prove a point to the Hexxets, her hatred and despise towards her own kind is what drives her on to achieve the ultimate aim – get accepted into the hoard, and get freedom to live her own life. But doing that is going to take everything Saah has to offer, made even more difficult with the watchful eyes of Prime Lord Ne’resh keeping a close look. With help from fellow Hexxets Ak’mah, Khiriah, and Taigan, Saah will embark on a path not tread upon. Wielding the ‘Hateblades’, she will become the symbol of fear, of power itself. The journey will transform her from Saah’tria – ‘The Hated’, to Saah’desh – ‘The Hateful’… turning her into a legend.

But fate is about to intervene, and the lives of all those involved are going to change… forever.

Following the aftermath of a tense and brutal conclusion to part 1, we follow how the events in the opening stages have had a direct impact on the lives and times of pretty much everyone present on the continent of Lamdak. Hexxets and humans are not the only ones involved this time. Kings and their great cities, bandits roaming the lands, giant 80 feet sandworms, spies, assassins, mages, powerful families, and the Gods themselves are right in the midst of it all…

A young Noxilis, brought up in the city of Bal’kar, is about to witness the evil nature of those in power. (Pssst! Here’s a quick sneak peek of the city!) –

The grand stone city of Bal’kar: a sprawling marvel of engineering that many called the ‘Jewel of the Desert’. Within the western region of the city was a grand coliseum of rock and metal, decorated with engravings of great tales and battles upon every wall. The skulls of past victors lined the sides of the outer section and the bones of the defeated were fashioned into seating for spectators.

Sounds fun, right? Meanwhile, the lives of Spade – a young rouge girl with quite an attitude, and Aela Knight – daughter of the High Priestess of the Church, are about to transform in ways quite unimaginable…

On the other hand, Jill Arziken and Veil, two magi living in a world where magic is dangerous, feared, and an offense punishable by death, have their very own personal reasons to rid the land of the giant lizards. Prince Ekon Armos, the heir to the throne of the Marble City of Peria, witnesses the brutal nature of the Hexxets firsthand himself during childhood, leaving him traumatized. But he is still determined to prove his worth as the rightful king of his people. Vasova, the City of Iron, is playing a quite nasty and dangerous game of its own. While at Nastra, the Church’s capital, the Gods are getting ready to play their very own hand…

Amidst all the happenings over a 50-year period through the lands of Lamdak, Bal’kar – the “once upon a time” only Hexxet fortress on the continent, is about to witness the BLOOD REIGN…

The things which impressed me massively!

  • Firstly, the plot was excellent! I was fully immersed into it right from the get go. Just couldn’t stop reading, and I absolutely flew towards the end!
  • Secondly, the characters – just WOW! That’s a total bad*ss set of female cast if I’ve ever seen one. Pretty much every character is immaculately written in my opinion, and I loved them to bits! Literally can’t wait to see more of them! My favorite? Undoubtedly Zosar Isketh (a cool name, huh?), the carriage driver!
  • And finally, the lore was pretty well put out, and the world building was great!
  • No doubt, there are some strong themes present throughout – religion, friendship, love, etc. But I felt that the author executed them pretty well.
  • The whole chemistry/dialogues/vibes in and around the horde was just simply too good! Really enjoyed reading through those parts.

The things that didn’t quite work out?

Being totally honest here, but I just couldn’t find any bad/negative thing about it. I totally enjoyed it all the way through! Absolutely no complaints from my side. Yes, you could say that certain characters made a couple of “morally gray” decisions and stuff like that, but in my opinion, that’s just part of the world that they are in and the circumstances surrounding them all. No qualms from me whatsoever on that.

Some quotes/dialogues to ponder upon…

“Why discard your race? Do you despise them?”

Despise was a strong word. Hate was stronger. But it wasn’t humans she hated; it was the prejudices infecting them. She’d been tormented for her small frame and reserved demeanour in her early years. Perhaps chastising the weak made others feel strong, but it was something she would not tolerate, be it from humans or Nightbreed champions. After decades of training and potent elixirs, few tormented Saah’desh in her new titanic form.

“I would see fear in their eyes over pride or scorn. If they are to be ruled by their thoughts, they will be thoughts of lambs, not dragons.” She scoffed. “Humans are too emotional and those emotions cloud their judgement. The Hexxet horde is objective and efficient. I prefer this.”

“You think human emotion is weakness?” Taigan asked.

“It is limiting.”

Conversation between Taigan and Saah (bold depicting the ‘Ancient Tongue’ spoken by the Hexxets; depicted similarly throughout)

“The Fates are selfish and cruel. Walk your path. But do not let their actions mould you in their image.”

She grumbled, frustrated with herself. “Had I your wisdom and calm …”

He chuckled quietly. “Experience tempers a soul with such. None are born wise, Miss Knight.”

Conversation between Zosar and Aela

“I tell you this so that you know of the blood already spilled on the path you walk. A lesson in measuring your wrath, lest your journey end as mine did: inflicting pain on yourself, those around you and everyone in your way.”

Zosar with some words of wisdom for Aela

Other info.

  • A nice, colour map of Lamdak (by Evin Keirans) is present at the start (I LOVE MAPS!).
  • Note: – Mature themes present throughout (blood/gore; sexual assault; violence).

Final thoughts

This is truly an AMAZING debut! I mean, everything is pretty much spot on. The plot is engaging, the characters are superbly written, and the lore/world building is just great. What more can you ask for? I absolutely devoured this book! The pages were literally flying by, and I just couldn’t stop reading! I am more than looking forward to seeing where this story goes, and I’m eager to see more of the characters for sure. Personally, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you go for it!