By Blood, By Salt (Land of Exile #1), by J.L. Odom

13 Jun 2024

The Book

By Blood, By Salt
Series: Land of Exile
Pages: 374
Age Group: Adult
Published on 14 May 2024
Publisher: Self-published
Military Fantasy
Available on:


Azetla has served the Maurowan Army for thirteen years. There are seven left to pay. A pariah and a debt soldier, he is a commander with no rank, a soldier without citizenship, and wears a sword that it is unlawful for him to either own or use. He has learned to hold his tongue or risk losing everything.

When Azetla’s battalion is sent into the desert to catch a Sahr devil—one of the famously brutal inhabitants of the region—his tenuous position is threatened. He discovers that there is far more to this mission than catching a fiend. For the Emperor of Maurow, it is a way to prove that he fears nothing, not even devils. For the Emperor’s brother, it is a stepping-stone to rebellion. For Azetla it could be deadly either way, as he is cornered into choosing a side in the coming coup.

But the devil that Azetla finds in the desert is not what anyone expects or wants. As the conspiracy against the Emperor becomes entangled with the simmering ambitions of the desert tribes, Azetla must decide if he’s willing to strike a bargain with a devil in order to survive.

Naturally, she is not to be trusted. But then again, neither is he.

My Review

By Blood, By Salt is the first novel in the military fantasy series Land of Exile, written by J.L. Odom, which is also part of the SPFBOX. A character focused fantasy with a desert setting inspired by the Middle Easts and that puts a great importance in an often overlooked aspect, like it is language, with a set of well-fleshed characters.

Azetla has served in the Maurowan Army for thirteen years; a pariah because of his origins, a soldier without a rank inside the battalion, in a precarious position that can be lost with the minimal mistake. When his battalion is sent into the desert to capture a Sahr devil, he soon discovers that there's more behind this mission that catching an inhabitant of the zone. The Emperor pretends to show that nothing can oppose to him; but for the Emperor's brother, this is the first step to rebellion.
When his commander, and his main defender, is killed during the capture of the Sahr, Azetla finds himself in a delicate equilibrium, especially as the Sahr devil might be the key that can help Azetla to cement his position. A bargain with somebody he shouldn't trust; but for the rest, Azetla wasn't worthy of that confidence.

After a relatively slow first quarter of the book, where Odom introduces us with a great amount of detail to the world and the politics, details that later will gain more relevance, we will jump into the action and the life of this battalion in a hostile terrain; the author manages to capture the difficulties of troops in a strange land, and the struggles they many time experience. Not only that, but also shows less pleasant aspects such as the casual racism (and with Azetla we have a prime example), but also the importance of communication as the bridge to gap different origins. The use of several POV helps to reflect all those aspects with different perspectives.

The world itself is one of the best example of desert settings in fictions, partly inspired by the Middle East, and it features a rich variety of cultures and religions, which are explored through different eyes and origins. While the Empire of Maurow is the hegemonic force, we can see how the local populations are the key to transit many of the most arduous places, requiring of a good relationship and collaboration with them.

As previously said, the pacing is a bit slow at the start, but once we are in the desert, the things pick really fast; we can consider that the author was introducing us to the world to later just focus on the characters. 

If you are looking for an authentic and well written military fantasy, By Blood, By Salt is an excellent choice; a strong debut that starts the Land of Exile series and which hints a bigger arc that I want to continue exploring in next books!

The Author/s

J.L. Odom

J.L. Odom

J. L. Odom hails from Oklahoma. After a five year stint in the Marine Corps as an Arabic linguist, she graduated from George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs with an emphasis on Conflict and Security. She lives with her husband and five children wherever it is that the U.S. Army happens to send them. Her hobbies include running, jiu jitsu, and cooking to feed a crowd.