Blood Heir – 3 Star Review

photo credit: jenthebookishbakernz on Instagram

“But perhaps all monsters were heroes in their own eyes.”

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

Everyone who saw the Tangled references and will forever, from hence forward, know Ramson Quicktongue as Flynn Rider, please raise your hand! You are not alone. But seriously, I caught a few similarities early on and now Flynn Rider is the face I always see when thinking of this book’s male MC. Blood Heir jumps straight into the action, with an opening scene taking place in a prison. We join our female lead, Ana, as she approaches Ramson (Flynn!) who has been imprisoned. She needs his help avenging her father’s murder that happened one year prior. Ana has been in hiding, believed dead, and accused murderer of the emperor. Ana is also harboring a big secret; she is the Blood Witch of Salskoff. An Affinite, which in this world is NOT an advantage.

The magic system within this YA trilogy reminded me a lot of Red Queen and elemental magic. Some people have affinities to control dirt, minds, fire, flesh, wind, or even blood in Ana’s case. However, these Affinites are not the ones in control. In fact, they are victims of exploitation and human trafficking. This being a major theme in the book, also garnered hate on twitter when arcs were circulating in early 2019. So much hate and claims of racism, that the author pulled the book from its June publication. After hiring sensitivity experts to comb the manuscript, Amelie Wen Zhao agreed to continue with publication for fall 2019. 

Knowing this going in, I really searched for the discriminatory or offensive nature that earned this book such an uproar. However, I didn’t see it. So many YA fantasy books revolve around caste systems, and an underserved population being oppressed. This isn’t a new theme in YA, and I really didn’t see myself what made Blood Heir so offensive. But I also did not read an arc but a finished copy, so perhaps there were more scandalous notions I’m unaware of. If you’ve read an arc and disagree, please reach out and let’s chat! I’m very curious to discuss it more with someone with a differing opinion.

Okay, back to the book review. When I heard Amelie talk about Blood Heir on the fantasy panel at Y’all Fest 2019, she used the phrases, “blood mist,” and, “angry, strong female heroine finding her inner strength.” I was very intrigued! Plus look at that cover art; I love me a pissed off herione! However, Ana never fully developed into the fierce, angry girl that I yearned for. She struggled briefly with embracing her affinity or hiding it, but her personality never truly shown through for me. 

I also had issues with Ramson’s character. He is the most notorious con man in the land (the reason Ana sought him out) but outside his opening prison scene we never see him succeed at cleverish escapade again. He and Ana literally get caught every single time they do anything. The love arc between them two felt flat for me. I think this is because we get a little of the cute back and forth banter in the beginning and again at the end, but the middle lulls. I do have hopes of a love triangle for the next installment, but we will see. 

The world building was intricate, but again it felt pretty YA basic in my opinion. The themes the author was working towards were explicitly told to the reader over and over again, and it felt like the author undershot the reader’s ability to pick it up without it being spelled out. Specifically, the last chapter was a straightforward recap that was not needed at all and took away from the great cliffhanger from the previous chapter. 

I would rate this book a 3 star. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it either. I will be interested to see how Amelie Wen Zhao hones her writing craft and what projects she produces in the future. I will probably wait for reviews of Book 2 to circulate before deciding whether or not to continue the series. Thanks to everyone who joined the IG live discussion over this book. It was SO much fun for me chatting with you all even though I didn’t LOVE the book! Haha! Hope you can join our February discussion over A Heart So Fierce & Broken! Visit the Book Club tab for more details!

Reviewed by Coco

Thank you to jenthebookishbakernz on instagram for the photos! You can visit her IG account by clicking here

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