Review: Blood Heir

Posted: January 17, 2020 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Amelie Wen Zhao, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult

I was fairly surprised when I saw this book displayed on a wall at my local library. Some of you may be familiar with or remember some of the mess that rose up around this book back in 2018. This is the author’s debut novel, and when it went out for early reviews, there was a bundle of people that started complaining quite loudly about how the book was racist and condoned slavery, and there was a big ruckus about it. By the time I’d even heard about it though, the book had been pulled from publication, by request of the author, and it was no longer available for review. Color me excited though when I saw that the book had quite obviously been published after all, and I was going to get a look at what all the hubbub was about.

Turns out, there wasn’t much to get excited over.

BLOOD HEIR (Amazon) is a story about an exiled princess living in a Slavic-like world, trying to seek revenge against the man that murdered her father the king. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy centered around Anastacya Mikhailov, who was first hidden away from the world because of her magical ability, and then later fled the castle when she was accused of murdering her own father.

The start of the story was pretty impressive. It’s been nearly a year since Ana’s escape from the castle where she grew up, and she’s been searching this entire time for some way to find the man that killed her father. She’s been told of a resourceful con man, Ramson Quicktongue, that has a way to find essentially anyone in the entire kingdom. Unfortunately, he’s being held in a high-security prison, and she’s determined to first free him from incarceration and then turn him to her will. It’s a nice thought. A bit simple, but that’s often how the young view the world.

I was pretty into the book by the time they escaped the prison. Those first couple chapters described a girl that was desperate and willing to do anything to accomplish her goal. She’s what’s called an Affinite, a person that has an affinity for a particular idea or thing and thus has magical control over it. In fact, she’s a Blood Affinite — a very rare and powerful type of Affinite. Meaning, she can physically manipulate blood. Even when it’s flowing within a person’s body. When her father the king realized this, eight years prior to the beginning of the story, he hid her away from the world and all it had to offer the young princess.

At that point what I wasn’t prepared for was to find that the rogue she frees from prison was going to get some POV time too.

The story of a princess wrongly accused of murdering her father that uses her magical ability to murder those that stand in her way of justice.

Ramson is a fairly unsympathetic character. Prior to being incarcerated for plotting to kill the king, he was a right-hand man for what equates to a mob boss. Only he was double-crossed by a traitor within the organization and then ended up in prison for a crime he was ordered to commit. Thus, his motivation is to work his way back to that mob boss and return himself to his position of power. Again, a nice thought, but also pretty simple in its construction. He’s by no means a “nice guy”, and I found that he didn’t have very many redeeming qualities. Which means, he’s more than happy to use the girl in any way he needs to in order to get what he wants. Surprise, surprise.

Despite the decent storytelling at the beginning, once the story opens up, a number of difficulties arise. The world itself feels really small. Everywhere that Ana needs to travel to in the kingdom is within a week’s travel by horse. And despite this being an entire kingdom, she demands that Mr. Quicktongue find her father’s murderer in no more than three weeks. Then there’s the bit on the back cover about “[the] empire spiraling into chaos,” but the elements that arise within the story that were obviously those fomenting the possible chaos… was a small, single group of a moderate number of people. There’s also a lot of info-dumping that feels like info-dumping, and an ending that didn’t make much sense to me at all.

The largest issue I had though was with the ultimately poor characterization of the two POVs. One of the large “themes” of the book (yes, that’s the “t” word, people) is that slavery is bad and needs to be abolished. Which is a very laudable ideal. Don’t get me wrong. The only issue is that she doesn’t live in a world that in any way, shape, or form conforms to that ideal. She’s the daughter of the most powerful person in the land. Her father’s kingdom literally survives and thrives on the enslavement and forcible control of Affinites, regardless of what power they hold. There is always someone there to take advantage of that power. Due to a complete lack of understanding of who Ana is and perhaps what she’d been taught as a child, there never seemed to be any motivation or even justification for her to do the things that she would do in the name of “freeing the slaves” (other than the possible message that “this is the theme that the author wants to teach you about”). There’s also the issue of the relationship that develops between these two characters. I just didn’t get it. By the time it even started to develop, nearly all characterization had dropped off the page, and the frequency with which the story returns to this single concept essentially overtook the main plot. It left me feeling like I’d just been the victim of the old switcharoo.

One last thing I really need to mention is the fact that this book is supposedly being marketed as a book for 12 to 17-year-olds. No way is this book something a 12-year-old should be reading. The high amounts of violence and murder perpetrated by the main character, her casual acceptance of the need and desire for that violence, and a very obvious threat of rape against the main character, pretty much rule out the possibility of this book ever being appropriate for a 12-year-old, in my opinion.

Regardless of what I thought about the story, I’m proud of the author for deciding to publish the book and not let a relatively small group of people with unfortunate opinions dissuade her from following her dream to be a published author. Good on her. And I say keep it up.

A decent if simple read, but not really anything to write home about.

  • Recommended Age: 15+ for violence
  • Language: Infrequent and moderate, racial slurs
  • Violence: Frequent blood, death, murder, and torture
  • Sex: Threat of rape

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