Book Review: Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: November 2019, Illumicrate Edition, Harper Voyager  

Pages: 454

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

You may or may not be aware that there was some controversy around this book prior to its publication. A Twitter backlash resulted in the author deciding not to publish the book initially, and later, having made some changes, going ahead with publishing it. There was a bit of a Twitter pile on by people who hadn’t even read the book, which seems completely ridiculous. If you’ve read the book you can form an opinion on it, but I don’t get it when people hadn’t even read the book. Besides, people shouldn’t be going round attacking authors on Twitter. I’m glad the author did decide to publish in the end. This post is going to be purely a review of the book. If you want to know more about what happened, a quick google will pull up a tonne of articles on the subject.  

Blood Heir hooked me from the start, with a tense and compelling opening few chapters. Ana’s Affinity means she can control blood. She can sense it in other people and use it to kill people. There is the potential for her to use it to heal too, but she’s never been taught how to do this. Since her Affinity revealed itself, she’s been viewed by others as a monster, meaning she also views herself as a monster. Ana’s internal conflict revolves around the view of herself as a monster, and trying to accept that it’s how she uses her ability that shows who she is, that she isn’t inherently bad because of her Affinity.

The world in which Ana lives – the Cyrilian empire – is one that misunderstands and mistreats Affinites. Those with abilities are used for their magic and are looked down upon by society. When her family learn she’s an Affinite, Ana is locked away and attempts are made to ‘cure’ her. Due to being kept hidden in the palace, it’s only when Ana is outside of its walls that she discovers her Empire isn’t as good as she had thought, but is actually very corrupt. Affinites are trafficked and the Empire’s own soldiers are complicit in it. Many Affinites come to Cyrilia looking for a better life, but are separated from their families and trapped in work contracts they can’t escape. The author has drawn on her own multicultural experiences in writing the book. She moved from China to the US when she was 18. Amelie has stated that Affinite indenturement in Blood Heir reflects the issues of human trafficking in Asia. As the reader uncovers the truth of what’s happening in Cyrilia alongside Ana, it’s an eye opening experience to the corruptness of the Empire’s system and the conditions the trafficked Affinites endure.     

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Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: May 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Pages: 626

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Feyre is immortal.

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people – nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand’s dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.

She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.

As I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses so much, I was very excited to read the sequel. Lots of new characters are introduced as Feyre enters the world of the Night Court. It didn’t take long for me to become invested in all of them. I loved meeting Mor, Amren, Cassian and Azriel, and I also enjoyed discovering other parts of Prythian as A Court of Thorns and Roses was focused on the Spring Court.

Maas does a such a good job with Feyre’s character, showing the impact the events from A Court of Thorns and Roses has on her. At the beginning of the book she’s haunted by what happened to her, and the lives she was forced to take to save Prythian. Feyre grows and develops over the course of this book, coming to terms with what happened Under the Mountain and gaining new perspective of her time with Tamlin. Speaking of Tamlin, I really don’t like his character. I didn’t like him in the first book and I didn’t like him in the sequel either. He’s a very boring character who just comes across as moody and lacking in personality. So I was glad he wasn’t a main character in this book!

Unfortunately I did feel it was longer than needed to be. If it had been a bit shorter, just trimmed in a few places, it would have had better pacing. However I appreciated the time taken for character development, as I felt I really got to know all the central characters, not just Feyre, which made me more invested in their fates. I also loved the slow development of the romance. It was predictable who would end up together, but there was no instalove here.

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Best Books of 2019

2019 has been a pretty good reading year for me. Although I’m glad I studied English Literature at uni, it did for a while dampen my love of reading. I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure, and when I finished the degree, I still couldn’t get back into loving reading in the same way I had before. In the last few months though I’ve really started loving reading again and I’m excited (having been two years since I finished my degree) to finally be really back into enjoying it again.

I reached my Goodreads reading goal of reading 20 books this year which I’m really happy with. Now that I’m enjoying reading more I’m probably going to up my target a bit for 2020. Most of my favourite books I’ve read this year happen to be fantasy. I’ve read a couple of disappointing contemporary books and haven’t read any amazing sci-fi either.  

The best book I read in 2019 has to be Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s the only book I’ve given 5 stars this year. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, for some reason this book had a certain spark and I completely fell in love with it. When I finished reading it, all I could think was ‘wow’, because it was just so imaginative, vivid and brilliant.

I’m so glad I discovered Sarah J. Maas a couple of years ago because I’ve loved all her books I’ve read so far. A Court of Thorns and Roses really surprised me as it was slow to start but got really intense and suspenseful in about the last quarter. That ending section Under the Mountain was just so good that it made up for the slowness at the start. I’m currently reading the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, and loving that too.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Didn't Get to in 2019

There are so many books I wanted to read in 2019 but didn’t end up getting to! I have so many books on my TBR. So here are a few books I wanted to read this year in particular but didn’t end up reading.

T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy – A King Arthur retelling set in space? I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard the concept for it. I also got my hands on the Illumicrate special edition. But I just didn’t get round to reading this one. It’ll be high up on my TBR for 2020.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – This book has been really hyped this year but I have a lot of fantasy books on my TBR and just didn’t end up having time to read this one. The second book is out already so this is another series I’m going to get behind on!

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Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal            

Publishing Info: April 2019 by Titan Books

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.

The Devouring Gray really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. Christine Lynn Herman does an amazing job of creating a spooky and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the book. The opening drew me in and the book held my attention the whole way through. The writing has a good balance of description and I found her writing to be very evocative and engaging. I’ve seen The Devouring Gray repeatedly compared to Stranger Things, but I haven’t watched that show so can’t say if that’s an accurate comparison.   

The book switches between the perspectives of several different characters, but I found it easy to follow and didn’t get any characters mixed up. Violet’s grief for her lost sister and the difficult relationship she has with her mother is really well portrayed. She has been brought up away from Four Paths and doesn’t know anything about the Gray or her family’s role as founders. In books there is often a main character who is brought unknowingly into a magical world of some sort, but what I liked about this book is that we also see the perspectives of characters who already live in that ‘world’. This made a change from solely seeing the perspective of the ‘newcomer’. It was interesting to see how Violet learned about Four Paths, but also to see through the eyes of characters seeing a ‘newcomer’ arriving to their town and how that shifted things for them.

Each of the characters has their own story, conflict and secrets. I loved Harper’s character and her determination to overcome what’s happened to her in the past and the prejudice she now faces. Justin, despite from the outside appearing to be the perfect founder, is actually struggling with his own problems and secrets too. I felt a connection to all the central characters and enjoyed seeing how their individual plot strands came together.   

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Book Review: The Rose Society by Marie Lu

9780399167843The Rose Society by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2015 by Penguin (first published 2015)

Pages: 397

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends.

Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all …

Adelina Amouteru’s heart is set on revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army.

Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. The leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead, and her former friends at the Dagger Society want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

The Rose Society is the second book in Marie Lu’s Young Elites trilogy. Having loved the first book, I was glad to find The Rose Society was just as dark and addictive. As the series doesn’t follow your typical protagonist, it makes the story so much fresher. It makes such a change from the hero-centric plotlines I am used to reading. Adelina is such a complex character, inhabiting neither the space of hero or villain. What makes the book so interesting is that Lu makes me sympathise with her. I understand exactly why she is doing what she’s doing, and it makes me think, is she really bad? Are the others really good? It makes it so exciting not really knowing if any of the sides are truly ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

Once again Adelina is really and truly the focus of the book. Told from her point of view, her internal conflict is such a big driving force for the story. Lu does such a good job of portraying what’s going on in Adelina’s mind. I truly understand her character and feel completely wrapped up in her wild emotions, in a deep way I don’t often find in young adult books.

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