Series: The Blood Gift Duology #1
Published by Harper Voyager (4.5.2022)
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Source: I own it
It's all about blood.
The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen's deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.
The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.
For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.
Who trained her to keep that a secret.
But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.
Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials--a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that--if found out--would subject her to execution...or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather...and then she needs to kill them.
Mareen has been at peace for a long time...
Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.
Magic and technology converge in the first part of this stunning debut duology, where loyalty to oneself--and one's blood--is more important than anything.
I had pretty mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It had very strong Red Rising vibes, but was still totally unique in its own way. Fair warning: this book is heavy. It’s full of racism and misogyny and is quite brutal.
I went back and forth between “yeah, this is awesome!!” to “ehh maybe it’s a little over the top” with both the brutality of the book and Kenna’s personality. I like dark and brutal, but there were times during the trials when it seemed senseless and just too much. I felt the same way about Ikenna as a person. She was badass, unapologetic, and hardcore – and part of me loved that. The other part of me hated it because it made her unrelatable at times. She was basically invincible. Her Blood Gift made it pretty much impossible to kill her. However, she was vulnerable emotionally, which kept her from being too god-like. Her grief over her grandfather was the most relatable thing about her. In the beginning she was out of control, lashing out to cover pain with anger. It was this above everything else that made me connect to her.
My favorite part of this book was definitely the world! It was vivid and cinematic, I loved it! I can’t wait to see more of this world.
Writing style: 4/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 3/5
Gallant by Victoria Schwab
Published by Greenwillow (3.1.2022)
Genres: Young Adult, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 334 pages
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
Like all of Schwab’s books, this one was unique and enjoyable while reading, but didn’t stick with me. I have to grudgingly admit that she writes decent stories (it’s no secret that I don’t like her as a person, oops). This one had a very atmospheric gothic vibe that I appreciated! The prose is engaging and the pacing is quick.
My main complaint is that I never felt an emotional connection with the story or the characters. While I did like the setting and premise, the characters seemed lackluster to me. I didn’t remember the main character’s name without looking at the synopsis. Like I said, this book didn’t stick with me. It’s one of those that I enjoy while the book is open but forget about as soon as the cover is closed.
Writing style: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Overall rating: 3/5
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress #1
Published by Philomel (10.10.2017)
Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: I own it
An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress—and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?
Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
Welp, I finally read this book after it being on my to-read shelf for 6 years.
And I was wholly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t grab me like I’d hoped it would. My main issue was that I couldn’t connect to the main character. I wanted to be able to root for a villain for once (I love villain MCs!!), but I just didn’t care about Xifeng. She was pretty one dimensional, honestly. It was easy to see how the path she was on lead to darkness and the how of things, but I never felt any emotion from her despite the awful stuff she went through. Her character overall just fell flat for me.
The writing was pretty dull. Even when interesting things were happening I felt absolutely nothing. And there were some really brutal parts, too! I love brutal stuff! But in this book it did nothing for me. No one is more sad about that than I am.
I really wish I’d loved this one.
Writing style: 2.5/5
World Building: 3/5
Overall rating: 2/5