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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 12, 2019

Series:  Bloodleaf Trilogy #1

Source: For review

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?
When I received this book, I had no idea what it was about. I always read the notes from other authors or reviewers who are featured in the ARC before I start new titles now. With some of the fantasies I've read lately, I am getting more cautious about the titles I pick up. Fantasy/YA authors I trust had to have said some good things about it before I'll give it a chance. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised. Writing this review, I had to work a lot to not share spoilers because some of that is what I really want to talk about. Alas!

Nevertheless, I did find myself sucked into this novel. It was quick to get into/a good hook, gave just enough details that I was trying to puzzle things out but continue reading, and definitely was carried along at a fast pace for the plot. Bloodleaf is a fairytale retelling of The Goose Girl, which I started to realize as soon as it mentioned Falada, the white horse. 

Protagonist Aurelia is a headstrong, untested, and extremely reckless girl for a princess. She's mostly likable even if she severely lacks wisdom that often makes one extremely exasperated with her choices and absence of forethought. She is betrothed to marry the prince of Achleva, but during an attack by the Tribunal and their allies, Aurelia is forced to flee Renault to Achleva with a few important members: Conrad, her brother and the heir to Renault; Toris, a noble lord who is also head leader of the Tribunal and is trusted by her mother because he too is a blood mage; Lisette, Toris's daughter, and Kellan, Aurelia's guard. It is Lisette who pretends to be Aurelia rather than a maid for the retelling. Originally, Aurelia falls headlong into the "damsel in distress" or "princess in jeopardy" trope as other male characters try to protect and shepherd her. She also seems to fall into a sort of "chosen one" trope, but both tropes are subverted by her actions throughout the book and at the ending. She's definitely an empowered damsel if anything.

While I enjoyed getting some description of Achleva and things Aurelia ran into and places she went, the one thing that stood out to me as needing more fleshing out was her journey to Achleva, because at one point she has to rely on herself and she knows nothing. How does she not starve or get completely lost, especially since everyone was having to work so hard to keep her alive? At times it seems like Aurelia is smart, but then just makes unfathomably foolish decisions. She receives a confession of insta-love and believes it, and never sees the betrayal coming. I would have liked to see more of Aurelia's life in Renault growing up rather her descriptions of other characters. A flashback or vivid memories would have lent more credibility to her mother, Kellan, and other details like her cycle of waiting ladies or her discoveries of her blood magic. I thought we did get remembrances of Onal and Conrad. 

My favorite thing about this book was the Achlevan characters like Zan and Kate. They came to life much more than any of the Renaultan folk except Aurelia herself. When we meet Zan and it turns out Zan helps her, there were a number of clues I picked up on here. I was able to predict the majority of the twists but really appreciated the slow unfolding of events and emotional narrative. I was sucked in and crying at two points in the novel! This relationship between Aurelia and Zan felt pretty believable even if it was hard to determine just how much time had passed with Aurelia in Achleva. In fact, I became very accustomed to Aurelia as Emilia instead of herself. 

This being an ARC, there probably are details and some passages that will change from this version to the published book, out this coming Tuesday. My edition was missing supporting documents like the map, so I was unable to visually see Renault and Achleva. (Confession: I love maps and spend a lot of time pouring over them to compare the written journey with the depiction.)

Since I was thinking so much about the worldbuilding, I wouldn't say I'm fully clear on worldbuilding particulars like the history of being a blood mage, the history of Renault and Achleva, etc. I'm not sure whether that's a result of this ARC copy, the book itself, or me. Still, I would have liked to have a clear picture of those points because it seems to be super important later in the book. For example: I thought there were a number of interesting fantasy elements with not enough explanation -- witches, harbinger as ghosts, and "blood magic" vs other magic? Is all magic blood magic and there are some just places it's allowed? I thought there was a mention of other magics which we see a glimpse of with the mysterious fox. Also, the 500 year timeline and its relation to present characters was confusing, but without revealing key points, I can't muse further.

All in all, I enjoyed this read and spin on "The Goose Girl" retelling. It was creative and emotional, and despite some confusion over details, I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the trilogy.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

1 Person left their mark:

  1. Renaltan princess Aurelia is a witch. She thinks about taboo books and maintains a strategic distance from contact with the apparitions she sees while attempting to conceal her forces from an enchantment dreading people. She'll be protected once she weds the sovereign of another government, subduing a centuries-old fight, however hidden, plotting powers thump those plans amiss. Escaping to the mysteriously strengthened city of Achleva she claims to be an ordinary person with exceptional enchanted aptitude as fatal plots whirl around her. Aurelia's and her companions' skin hues go from pale to dim darker, however racial personalities don't become possibly the most important factor in the story.You can utilize this best essay writing service for any sort of essay writing.

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