In Blood of Requiem Daniel Arenson has created an immersive and real world that takes what we thought we knew about dragons, griffins and were-people and twists it into a truly original tale. One of the things that struck me immediately was his use of Latin-sounding names for people and places, a touch which lends a sense of familiarity to his world. The reader immediately identifies the importance of each main character and place as they are introduced, because their names have strong historic and religious roots within our own society.
The Vir Requis are Weredragons, humans born with the ability to shift to draconic shape. The story opens with the final battle between two brothers, in which the young King of Requiem, Benedictus is the last of his kind, the Vir Requis to left alive. He manages to bite off the arm of his brother, the completely mad Dies Irae, and in the chaos he is able to flee to safety. Dies Irae survives and usurps the crown.
Dies Irae was not born with the ability to shift to dragon-form. This is seen as a defect by his autocratic father and as such he could not inherit the crown of Requiem. His younger brother Benedictus is instead made heir to the throne. Dies Irae later kidnaps Benedictus' daughter Gloriae, claiming her for his own, and takes the throne of Requiem by murdering his father. Griffins are bound to serve the ruler of Requiem by virtue of a sacred object, the Griffin Heart. Dies Irae steals that object, thus launching a war between those who can shape shift to dragonform and those who cannot, with himself as their new King. With the nearly invincible griffins in thrall to him, he succeeds in his genocide, leaving only a remnant of survivors. There is a rich, multi-layered backstory that is revealed in tantalizing bits as the story progresses
Hidden in the world are a few survivors of the Vir Requis, one of whom is Kyrie Eleison, a young boy weredragon who was found on the battlefield and taken into the home of a survivor, Mirum who raises him as her own. One day Dies Irae appears, and Mirum knows that Kyrie is in danger. She gives her life to allow him to escape, and he flees only to end up wounded and near death. Grief stricken, he determines to find the mythical black dragon, King Benedictus, and with his assistance Kyrie hopes take back Requiem from Dies Irae and his cruel daughter Gloriae.
Kyrie finds a man that he believes is Benedictus, who is going by the name Rex Tremendae. He forces his company on the old recluse and through a series of events he is proven right, Rex is none other than Benedictus. Kyrie forces Benedictus to face things that the old man would rather forget.
Benedictus' wife Lacrimosa and their daughter Agnus Dei still live, hidden away. There are many secrets and layers to the love story of Benedictus and Lacrimosa. She is a white weredragon, and Agnus Dei is a red weredragon. Kyrie is a green weredragon, and each color has strengths that are particular to that color that they can bring to any battle.
The many dimensions and rich backstory kept me reading, and turning the pages as fast as I could. I am impressed with the tapestry that Arenson weaves..Just when you think you have seen it all, there is more to see. I heartily recommend this engrossing tale to all who love dragons and truly enjoy epic fantasy.