Fantasy, Review, Young Adult

[Review] Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy, #1)

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Nov 19, 2019)

Received a review copy courtesy of Times Reads

Blurb from Goodreads:
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.

As a QPOC, I am all for supporting marginalised authors and I would never say no to reading stories written by them. Also, Asian authors for the win, guys! Nothing makes me smile more than seeing my Asian brothers and sisters having their work published. Despite the whole commotion with Blood Heir before its publication last November, I was genuinely really saddened by the announcement that Amélie Wen Zhao and Penguin Random House decided to pull Blood Heir from publication. However, heavens blessed us and we have Blood Heir gracing our shelves today!

Blood Heir is a tale of redemption, acceptance, belief and falling for someone completely unsuitable for you but you do so anyway because we love nothing more than morally grey characters who are faced with the most difficult situations and having to make the most unpleasant decisions. Phew, that was quite a mouthful.

But that’s just what the book is about. Blood Heir is more than just a mere fantasy novel about the Chosen One who is wrongfully accused of committing regicide and must prove herself by clearing her name, find her father’s killer who is not her, save her empire and try not to fall into the evil clutches of those who want her kind dead. Oh yes, she has abilities. Or in this case, Anastacya is an Affinite, humans who are gifted by special abilities that make them repulsed by society as they pose as threats to the empire. Very X-Men, if you ask me. Think Jean Grey who manifests blood manipulation powers instead of the Phoenix Force but with less crazy. Okay, maybe some crazy, after all. But we stan a queen who’s badass and gets things done.

“I suppose we are all heroes in our own eyes, and monsters in the eyes of those who are different.”

Truth be told, I did find Blood Heir to be a bit formulaic and a bit predictable. However, I do think that’s the case when you’re quite accustomed to the genre and YA books in general. Before you hit with a red hot poker, it’s not exactly an issue that influenced my enjoyment of Amélie Wen Zhao’s debut novel. Instead, I found that she weaved a rather complex and multi-layered story that digs deeper into more serious social issues as the story progresses, which I felt it added more depth to the story.

As Blood Heir is a darker retelling of Anastasia, I liked that Amélie Wen Zhao didn’t shy away from writing how desolate and powerless the people of Cyrilia felt and Amélie Wen Zhao nails it by painting an image of the corrupt kingdom of Cyrilia vividly, introducing a world that is realistic and truly harrowing. However, for me, I felt that a huge section of the book relied quite heavily on world-building—almost to the point of being “info-dumpy” but I think it’s possibly unavoidable, seeing that Blood Heir is the first book of a trilogy.

Seeing that I already hinted above that the book will feature morally grey characters, it is without a doubt that I was referring to Ramson Quicktongue. Hear me out, if you look past his irresistible charms, quick wit and slyness, he is actually a poor soul who’s endured some terrible trauma growing up and it didn’t help that his father’s a bit of a shit but yeah, he is a hero with a troubled past. I will have to be very honest in this review. What kept me going was Ransom’s backstory as I was more invested in finding out what happened to him that made him walk down the path leading towards the criminal underworld. Oh, I love nothing more than the highly addictive, also known as my kryptonite, “enemies-to-lovers” trope. Man, did I enjoy all the bickering.

“Choices were for those with privilege and power. When you had none, all you could do was survive.”

Blood Heir is one of those books that you can rely on to lose yourself into for a couple of hours. Although I can confidently and contritely say that I didn’t exactly love it, Blood Heir is a story that would leave behind an indelible mark because it raises thought-provoking questions that we sometimes forget to ask ourselves. Do we define ourselves based on what and who we are or by the actions we take? The ending does hint at more exciting developments in the plot and I do look forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel, Red Tigress which will be releasing this November. On a final note, Ransom Quicktongue deserves a star on his own because frankly, I think I am in love.

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