Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
Released: November 19, 2019
This was a very gripping and enthralling fantasy read.
A twist on a retelling of the story of Anastasia, Zhao creates a world where a powerful woman does what she must to, not only save herself, but the kingdom that shunned her. In a world that people with affinities (abilities), called Affinites, are seen as inferior and indentured as servants to the rest of the kingdom, Ana must find the man who killed her father. Once the princess, now seen as a traitor, she has everything going against her--even her powerful affinity for blood. But, with conman Ramson Quicktongue and her dear friend May, Ana may be able to get the revenge she's been looking for all along, and save her brother's life in the process. Things never go as planned, but the fierce Ana will stop at nothing to save her brother, even if it means her own life.
I loved the world Zhao created; her descriptions of the world were beautiful and set her scenes perfectly, it was like I was there with her characters. I'm a huge fan of Anastasia and the tales surrounding her, and I loved seeing that woven throughout the book!
The magic system is something new and different, which I really liked, and I enjoyed how much of it we got to see throughout the book. It was completely flushed out, and I really appreciate that, especially compared to other books with magic systems that don't show as much. The Affinities were well created and interesting, and I can't wait to see more of them come to play in further books in the series. I feel as if there's a lot more that we can see in further books.
The characters often reminded me of those in Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, if only because they grapple with their morality, right from wrong, and kicking ass and taking names. I liked that although Ana, the main character, was a princess, she was not the kind we tend to see in stories. She was a fighter, she was stubborn and always stuck with her ideals, and she wasn't afraid to do what was necessary. The fact that her Affinity was for blood was also interesting, considering princesses are meant to be prim and proper. It was a really great juxtaposition!
As for Ramson, oh my heart. I really loved this conman and his relationship with Ana. They bounced off each other like an angry pinball machine and I loved it. I also loved that we got a lot of his backstory, which is something I feel is uncommon, especially in a first book in a series. It was great getting to hear both his and Ana's sides to their story. I love a good dual POV!
Reading this, my emotions were constantly all over the place. Everything from heart flutters, to anger, complete sadness, and back again. A book that can do that is a great book--at least in my opinion. I know there was a lot of uproar over this book, but I'm glad I still read it!
All that said, this may not be for the light of heart, or the people that this may trigger. It deals with the trafficking of children, which even in a fantasy world, can be jarring or triggering for people. It doesn't condone it in any way, it fights against it tooth and nail, like many books that also deal with difficult topics.
I can honestly say I am excited for book 2 already! Finger crossed we continue to get more from this world that Zhao created!