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Book Review: Don’t Bloody the Black Flag

Table of Contents

The fight for peace is often a war.

To end nearly a century of war plaguing Ennea, a clan of nomads plans to bring leaders from the four nations together. They task a young water dancer named Isála to deliver a missive to a northern general, her estranged mother, and convince her to join the conclave. However, there are those who would do anything to defend their war from the threat of peace. After living a life sheltered from the violence, Isála will have to choose between her principles and shedding blood for the good of her people.

Don’t Bloody the Black Flag is a novella set in the world of the Malitu series. It takes place more than 200 years before the events of No Heart for a Thief.


Book Information

  • Title: Don’t Bloody the Black Flag
  • Series: Malitu #0.5
  • Author: James Lloyd Dulin
  • Page Count: 116
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Rating: 4.5/5.0
  • Date Read: May 5th, 2024

Opening Thoughts

Don’t Bloody the Black Flag by James Lloyd Dulin has been bounced around on my monthly TBR for a couple of months now. I finished up book one of the Malitu series (No Heart for a Thief back in November and really enjoyed it. I figured with this one being a novella I’d tried to squeeze it into one of my month reads to keep me somewhat attached to this world as I want to get to book two sometime soon as well.

This was a nice story that provided us just a bit more depth into the Malitu world as it takes place a couple of hundred years before book one. I have to admit I do love when authors give us those bits of history whether they find ways to weave them into their ongoing stories or they give us little novella or short stories. It just adds so much more to a world we readers may be enjoying.


The pacing was done really well. I knocked out the just over a hundred pages over the past weekend easily enough. There were a couple of times that I found myself pausing just to confirm this read was as short as I thought it was. This didn’t read like a novella to me. There was a solid beginning, middle and end to it. This almost felt like it could have been slid right into a larger book. I didn’t have any issues with names of places or characters in Don’t Bloody the Black Flag nor did it feel too fast or slow at any given point.

About the only struggle I can mention regarding pacing which can be a pro or con depending on the reader was near the end when we see examples of the other accented dialog of regions. This is also present in book one as well. I know these types of things can add depth to a world and it does achieve that in time for me personally. I just stumble over the first few paragraphs until I settle in and understand how the dialog is going and flows.

World Building

The world building was great is such a short amount of words and pages. This is mostly due to what I’ve already mentioned with just adding further depth to the world the author has created and shared with us. It was interesting to see where the Black Flag comes from along with the different uses of some of the songs. Having a skill or power is one thing but seeing characters use them in different ways can be very immersive. There is also a considerable amount of depth to the cultures found within this novella and the series in general. Some characters or nations believe in peace and others believe in revenge. Blood will be spilled either way, but some paths may see more blood flow than others.

Character Development

The characters also deep and relatable in this story. Isala and the siblings Teshun and Rione were a treat to see on their journey. This group was a perfect example of those differing views I just mentioned above. Isala coming from a clan that preaches peace and is against violence and the siblings who have traveled the lands and experienced much harsher environments lean toward understanding the need for necessary violence. Teshun acts as a bit of a bridge amongst the trio as well. Even on the antagonist side there were many layers to the onion. We certainly had cause to dislike some of them. However, there are some that we can clearly see they are conflicted with the amount of violence they feel they must enforce to protect they own way of life.

Roundup & Recommendation

This was a very fun and entertaining read this weekend. It might actually be at least one of if not my favorite novella I’ve read to date. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who has read book one of Malitu. I even think it would hold up well enough as a first read if you just wanted to sample something from James Lloyd Dulin as well though. So if you have time to get through just over a hundred pages, toss this one on your list and give it a go.


World Building 4.5/5
Pacing 4.5/5
Character Development 4.5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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