Cover Image: Blood Heir

Blood Heir

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Anastacya 'Ana' Mikhailov is the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire. Ana hasn't left the palace for several years, because of her ability to control blood. In the Cyrilian Empire, people with gifts, or Affinities, like Ana are feared and forced to work. No one can know about Ana's ability.
Then the emperor, Ana's father, is murdered and Ana is framed. Fleeing the castle, Ana vows to bring the real murderer to justice and to clear her name.
Ana finds herself allying with Ramson Quicktongue, a criminal who is on his own quest for revenge.
Ana and Ramson make a deal, but can Ana trust the con man?
Will Ana catch the man she saw poisoning her father that fateful night?

I have to admit that going into this book I was expecting it to be just like every other YA fantasy I've read the past few years. However, it did end up surprising me.
Ana was a likeable and relatable protagonist. It was interesting to read her thoughts on her power. She didn't shy away from using it when she had to (and didn't have to), which was quite refreshing.
I really liked May and Linn, and Ramson was quite likeable, but I felt like I'd seen several characters like him before.
The setting was interesting and I would like to see/find out more about the other countries that were mentioned.
The plot was good overall, but I did find my attention drifting a couple of times. There were a few plot twists that I didn't see coming, so I was left guessing as to what would happen next.
The writing style was easy to follow and understand.
I haven't decided if I will continue with the series, but this was a solid first book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read.
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Blood Heir is the exciting fantasy debut from Amélie Wen Zhao. This book became initially famous for controversy regarding some of the content. I’m not going to cover this here, you can find it on the internet in your own time.

I am a sucker for anything Russian and this book is Russian/Slavic inspired. On top of this it’s a loose retelling of the story of Princess Anastasia, so I was already two feet in. The princess in question here is Princess Anastacya Mikhailov of Cyrilia who was raised in an environment of luxurious excess and of privilege. However she is framed for the murder of her father and now has to prove her innocence with the help of criminal rogue Ramsom. Leaving her life of luxury behind, she discovers the real world beyond the palace walls and her own power.

Did I enjoy it - Yes. The book does lean in to a lot of predictable fantasy tropes and struggles to find its own voice. With that said the world building is strong, the system of magic interesting, there is romance and there is plenty of action. It is a fun read and at it heart it’s what fantasy is all about - escapism. I am really looking forward to see where Amélie Wen Zhao goes next 

Has some great ideas and plenty of fun ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of five
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An enthralling YA fantasy. It pulled me right in from the start until the very end. Blood Heir had a lot of  controversy surrounding it in the beginning but I’m glad the author decided to publish. I would definitely recommend.
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I went into reading this with a dollop of caution, due to the controversy surrounding the first release of ARCs and everything that has happened since. I'm not even sure if the version I have from Netgalley is the 'origina'l' version or the 'revised' one which is closer to what was published. Controversy aside, what I will say is that I actually really enjoyed this book.
It starts off quite slowly, with lots of flashbacks for world-building which can feel a bit tedious., but I liked Ana as a character (no she isn't perfect, but she is realistic, especially in making silly decisions at times), I loved her relationship with May and the hints we saw of her relationship with her brother. Ramson is the stereotypical loveable rogue with a heart of gold despite his tough front, but it is a trope that I quite like so I grew to like his character quite a bit over the book, even if it might have been a braver choice to have him actually be as bad as his reputation promised.
Overall, this was an enjoyable fantasy debut and I don't know enough about the issues that are controversial to add my opinion there. I was hoping that this would be a stand-alone, but the end of the book sets it up for a continuation and I plan to read the next one in the series to find out what happens.
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Blood Heir was an adventure from the beginning to the end.

The book starts off eleven months into Ana escape and into her plan to find the real murder of her father. By having the story starting this way means you jump right into the story feet first.

One of my favourite elements of Blood Heir is the banter/ back and forth between Ana and Ransom, and I am looking forward to seeing more in the next book. Below are some quotes between the two of them that I enjoyed. 

"Ransom," she found herself saying. " Don't ever tell me to shut up again."

He blinked, and his lips began to lift at the corners, until he was grinning at her.

"We made a Trade last night. You have a funny way of showing diplomacy.

"Well, you know what they say about diplomacy. It's the only proper way for two parties to lie to each other's faces and be happy about it."

Another element that I enjoyed in Blood Heir is the Affinity. Affinities are magical gifts that some people have, but people that have affinities are seen as evil and need to be controlled. Even when they have epic powers that could be used for good or make life easier. I loved Ana Blood Affinity, and the way it can be used to know if people are around, and even throw people around.

The way that the truths were revealed, kept me on my toes with the direction of the story. Everything is weaved together beautifully. The story is a trilogy I thought the ending would be the cliche YA fantasy ending. But Amélie didn't do that. I enjoyed the way the story was left and look forward to the next book.

Book Heir is dual POVed story, It works well seeing into Ransom and Ana mind, especially Ransom. As he is a con-man, and I do enjoy a con-man brain as it always thinking ahead. Where Ana is purely focused on her goal. 

My favourite Aspect of Blood Heir;

The Magic
Ana and Ransom
Interesting Plot
My least favourite aspects of Blood Heir;

Dip in pacing
My rating for Blood Heir is 4.5 out of 5.
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There was a lot of negativity and backlash to this book before it was actually released and I don't actually understand why. I tried not to let all the drama colour my opinions.

I quite enjoyed the novel. I got And I Darken vibes from the characterisation which I loved since I am a sucker for 'unlikeable' characters. Throughout the novel, Ana, our heroine tries to find her father's killer and clear her own name. Her partner in crime on this journey is a criminal named Ransom Quicktongue. It was dark, fast paced and entertaining. Really enjoyable. Can't wait for book 2. The only thing that irked me a little bit was the unbelievely cringey name Ransom Quicktongue.
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BLOOD HEIR BY @ameliewenzhao ⁣
*To comment on the controversy and what I’ve read on it, the author clearly listened to the comments she got before re-writing this book and owning up the criticisms, and for that this book deserves to be read and appreciated*⁣
𝗙𝗔𝗩𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗜𝗧𝗘 𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗥𝗔𝗖𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗦: Ana, Ransom, Lin and May⁣
𝗙𝗔𝗩𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗜𝗧𝗘 𝗔𝗦𝗣𝗘𝗖𝗧𝗦: The magic system in this book is wonderfully intricate and wildly interesting. It’s a unique take on magic that I haven’t read in fantasy yet. I loved Ana’s blood magic, kind of reminded me of Ruby’s magic in Renegades, but the emotional connection Ana has with her own powers heightened the plot and her character arc. ⁣
This is a very fast paced book, you’re on the edge constantly and the end of every couple chapters leaves your mouth hanging open. I read this as a group buddy read with @claresbooks and @bookpagefighter and we finished before we were meant to, mostly because this book just grabs your attention. There are a few character deaths which were painful and it’s made me terrified for book two, clearly no one is safe. It’s perfect for readers who love Leigh Bardugo’s writing, their is a similar rhythm to the way the stories develop by both authors! ⁣
𝗦𝗛𝗜𝗣𝗦: I loved Ransom and Ana. It’s such a slow burn ship, you’re going to be in pain throughout. ⁣
𝗥𝗘𝗖𝗢𝗠𝗠𝗘𝗡𝗗𝗘𝗗 𝗙𝗢𝗥: readers looking for a fast-paced fantasy story about magic, royalty and a war
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Wasn't sure whether to give this a 2 or 3 star review.  I enjoyed the Slavic setting and handling of vampires, which is different from the norm.

However, I didn't love Ana or Ransom, which spoilt the book for me - I know Ana was a princess and not used to keeping her head down, but really, sometimes she behaved very stupidly and that spoilt it for me.  And Ransom started out too deeply mired in the grey for my liking.

I've gone for three starts because it's the first in a series, so we'll see where the characters go from here ...
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A phenomenal YA fantasy,  an epic page turner, Pulling you in from the first page and not letting go until the end. It's a must read.
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While this book has many standard YA fantasy tropes (which initially I wasn't thrilled about, how many times have we seen a princess avenging the murder of her royal family), it does manage to take those tropes and turn them into a highly entertaining read that is actually quite a bit darker than it might seem. It doesn't break new ground but it is worth the read if YA fantasy is your thing.
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After all the controversy I was really glad this book became available again as it deserves a chance. 

That being said, personally this wasn't a favourite of mine. The 'lost princess must reclaim her throne while dealing with her unusual magic' plot line is so incredibly generic in YA at this point, and I struggled to find the motivation to continue with the story at multiple points. The magic is an interesting concept, but seemed very much made up on the fly - there was no real understanding given of what possible Affinities there were, and it seemed as though there were several powers that were held back as unknown mostly to shock the reader. I really disliked the incredibly generic bad-boy companion/love interest, and I found the character of May to be a direct analogue of Rue in The Hunger Games, there to create sympathy and not really be a character in her own right. 

I did appreciate that the author was trying to bring issues of people trafficking to the fore, but I thought that at times this was handled a little ham-fistedly. Ana's realisation that her empire is built on the backs of trafficked people is excruciatingly slow, and spelled out in the most basic language for the reader to the point that I found it slightly condescending. You can show a character learning something without putting the exact words of her realisation on the page every time - especially when it's something as simple as 'people trafficking is wrong'. We know that. It's stating the obvious, and it's repetitive, which cheapened the impact for me because I ended up getting bored of reading it. 

I think this will suit those who loved Wicked Saints and the Grisha trilogy/Six of Crows duology - they have similar wintry/Russian vibes and attempts at grey morality. Personally, I hated both of those, so I can at least say I liked this better, but it's just not one that worked for me.
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The writing was so good, and the story was an incredible page turner. I was so scared of another book with a cliffhanger because I've started so many dang series that end on them, and while it is open ended because of the second book, it isn't the death cliffhanger sentence that I loathe! And I'll be ready for book two when it comes!
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Before going into this I was intrigued by the premise but didn’t really know much of what I was getting into. But the opening scenes in this book really are action packed and I loved the introduction so much! The introduction of the characters of Ana and Ramson was intriguing and gripping and was what initially grabbed my attention, even if some of the dialogue was a little cheesy. In my opinion the relationship dynamic between them is the driving force behind this book.

The lore is very interesting and I enjoyed the idea behind the magic system, although at times I felt as though some things weren’t explained clearly enough. I think that the action and world building were the best written parts and the atmosphere is incredible, I loved how the author made the setting feel so real, I honestly felt the cold while reading.

The first half of the book was my favourite and in my opinion felt stronger than the latter half.
The second half was more predictable to me and had similar vibes to other fantasy and dystopian novels I’ve read... revolution... overthrowing the evil... you get the idea.
If you’re reading for character charisma and atmospheric world building you will live for this. Although for me the plot lacked a little in some areas and was definitely one of the weaker parts. Which wasn’t exactly a problem, but personally it just made the book feel as though something was missing.
I wanted more in terms of romance development, which is odd for a fantasy novel for me, usually I like when there isn’t much but I feel like this book needed a little extra swoon if you know what I mean. I think it could’ve added a little more flavour to the slower areas in the middle.

Overall this was a solid read and I’d definitely recommend giving it a try!

Rating: 3 Stars
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For almost a year, crown princess Ana Mikhailov has lived in exile and seeks to find the man who has haunted her dreams since the night he murdered her father, the King of the Cyrillian Empire. It was easily framed that Ana murdered the King because Ana is a rare blood affinite – with the ability to control the blood running through anyone’s veins. 
In order to find her father’s murderer and prove her innocence, Ana turns to Ransom Quicktongue: a disgraced criminal who’s seeking a way back in to the underground ranks of Alaric Kerlan’s criminal network. When Ana and Ramson come face to face, their fates are tied more than they know and they find they can’t pull off their schemes without one another’s begrudging help.

Blood Heir’s opening chapter left me speechless. Quite frankly, this is one of the best beginnings to any fantasy story I read in 2019. 

The story unfolds through the alternating perspectives of Ana and Ramson, and was brilliantly executed by the author. When it comes to fantasy stories and canon ships, I’ve found YA author’s can be quick to dismiss portraying the guy’s perspective, so not only do I applaud Zhao for illustrating the different dimensions of Ramson’s character so well, I applaud her for including the guy’s voice in the first place. 

Zhao wasn’t afraid to show you the nasty side of these characters, especially Ramson in the earlier chapters. I loved this. It made me love the characters even more, because they were made bare and open to the reader, in all their good and bad.

I immediately took to Ramson, which I don’t think was avoidable (at least to me) because he reads like he’s got a Han Solo/Harrison Ford vibe going on, which I totally digged, due to how endearing he was.

Ana is a likeable female lead, who regrettably does cause a great deal of frustration. She’s brash and naive, which very rarely if ever works in the favour of the main character. Luckily, Ana is also compassionate and very powerful, to the point where it almost makes overlooking her shortcomings possible. I really hope Ana develops more between now and the sequel, because I’d really love to love her, like I loved Ransom, rather than settling for just liking her.

My biggest qualm with this book is there is quite a striking similarity to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and Kaz Brekker’s story in Six of Crows, in relation to Ransom’s character and the book’s magic system (i.e. affinites that control blood, wind, fire etc.) 
So I do feel Blood Heir suffers from a lack of originality when compared to recent YA series, but Blood Heir’s charismatic characters heavily compensate for this.

The other issue I encountered was repetitive prose… but this is a tricky one to comment on. 
Prior to this book’s publication, there was a lot of controversy on how the topic of slavery was written. The long story short is: the author actually pulled this book from publication to apparently make edits/revisions in response to the controversy, before eventually publishing it. I don’t know what changes were made by the end, so I’m only commenting on the actual book published.

So, the point of all that information is: I think this has possibly been to the detriment of the quality of the book. Through Ana’s character, the reader continuously reads about how wrong slavery is. Initially, it’s fine, because it’s stating the obvious and outlining the problem within this fictional world, and it’s alright the next time too, as it feels like Ana’s eyes are being opened and she’s growing into her saviour role. But by the latter parts of the book... it just feels like an insult to the intelligence of the reader. We know slavery is wrong - I don’t need Ana repeatedly telling me so. It got to the point where it felt like the author was screaming this message to the reader through Ana, rather than it actually being Ana’s voice.

And this is how it’s tricky: is this simply repetitive writing? Or is it the author trying to pacify critics by continuously ramming a message down the reader’s throat, at the expense of the quality of the plot? If I had to pick, I’d say it was the latter (because there wasn’t much repetition in the book beyond the topic of slavery). But I don’t think I can confidently answer which one it is. So I’ll err on the side of “looking past it” but I couldn’t not mention this, as it really did disrupt the pace and my enjoyment of the overall book.

Blood Heir is very atmospherical. For the first time in a while, I actually used the book’s map because of how immersed I was. The snowy wintry unforgiving woods, the picturesque villages... I was transported to another world. It’s truly one of the most effective cold climate reads I’ve read because of how clearly it was illustrated. 

Regardless of any issues, I was excited at the thought of jumping back into this story whenever I had to stop. I looked forward to continuing it, which really says it as it is on how much I enjoyed reading it.
The climax of this book had me dropping my kindle in a huff of frustration whilst I stared into space wondering why the author would inflict such inconvenience and pain on me. But the conclusion refuelled me with its brilliance, and I’m ready for more. Blood Heir is a decent debut that has really enjoyable characters, a good writing style and has left my brain whirling and buzzing for the sequel.
I do recommend it, especially if you want something akin to the Grishaverse or another 2019 debut, Wicked Saints. 

*Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC, in exchange for this honest review
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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Before starting this book I saw some of the reviews and the drama around it being published and then not and I will be honest I ignored most of it because it was from people who hadn't read the book and were actually commenting on other people's thoughts. That is a very dangerous game of whispers, were the message becomes completely distorted from the original intention.

Aside from this, let's talk about the actual book. 

A semi-retelling of the Anastasia story but with powers, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air after a recent book slog, before I knew it in my first sitting I had finished 20% of the book. The book had a changing POV however I didn't see this as too much of an issue, it's always good to see both sides.

I did find that Ana seemed to be very childlike in her quick, rash decisions and motives were based purely on emotions despite having more seasoned people around her advising her. It did get frustrating that she would constantly just rush in and mess up what they were trying to achieve each time, and at the end say how she had grown when in fact she hadn't from the beginning of the book.

Ramson had a similar arc in that his motives and actions didn't really change until he decided he had the hots for her and then changed his entire personality. I had no issue with this but it was less gradual so seemed a bit sudden towards the end of the book despite being constantly told that how good a person he used to be but wasn't really.

Despite all of this, I did enjoy the book however I am not sure I would search out the sequel when/if it is released. I didn't find myself really wanting to know what they were going to do next.
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I really quite enjoyed Blood Heir. It doesn't do an awful lot new in terms of the YA fantasy genre, but the world building is nicely done and Ana is both convincing and appreciably morally grey. We need more of that in YA; there's been a recent glut of black-and-white thinking, crusader-type heroines and the world just isn't like that. Given the controversy over this one, I say we need more Ana!
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I absolutely adored this book - I got a sampler at YALC 2019 and knew I needed to get a hold of this and read it because the sampler managed to suck me in with only a few chapters.
I admit, I sometimes did want to scream at some of he characters decisions, but I think that's what makes a great book, that you get connected and actually worry about what happens to them.
The ending blew me away and left me wanting more, I think this is going to be a spectacular series and I can't wait to see where it goes.
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A really exciting retelling of the Anastasia story set in a magical alternative world. It had me gripped from the beginning and I can't wait for the next one in the series. Like Romanov by Nadine Brandes  this takes the Anastasia myth and turns it into something new and interesting and spellbinding.
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Blood Heir is a retelling of the Anastasia story but set within a fantasy world. The action takes place mainly within the Cyrilian Empire where non magic humans live alongside Affinites who have a magical affinity connected to the elements e.g. water or fire. But Affinites are not valued for their skills and talents – instead they are feared, hated and enslaved. 
The main character is Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, who herself is an affinite – but her rare affinity is with blood and she has been kept a secret by her family for years. When she is framed for the murder of her father she escapes the city walls and frees an imprisoned conman Ramson Quicktounge to help her find the man truly responsible for the Emperor’s murder. Ramson has his own motives for helping Anastacya and both of them have reasons to mistrust each other but they may be the only hope for each other and the empire….
This was full of action from the very first page, with twists and turns all the way through. The world building was absolutely perfect and the characters were so fascinating – they were complex and imperfect and I loved having the perspectives of both Ana and Ramson. It was fascinating to see how Ana reacted to the world outside the palace walls and her slow realisation of what the Empire was truly like and the enslavement of its people. I was so pleased to finally be able to read this book after it was initially pulled from publication and I am glad the author felt able to publish her book as its amazing and I will definitely be buying a copy for my school library .
Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book.
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It's impossible to talk about Blood Heir without first acknowledging the route this book took to publication - originally scheduled to be published at the beginning of 2019, the book was delayed after numerous ARC readers identified significant sensitivity issues with an aspect of the plot and characters. Blood Heir deals in some depth with the concept of indenture, with marginalised characters in the place where the book is set at high risk of being forced to sign work contracts which leave them effectively in slavery. In original ARCs, the story's depictions of race provoked strong concerns about how the story came across in the context of historic Black slavery in the USA. In response, author Amelie Wen Zhao delayed the book, revisited in the context of her original intent - to explore concepts of indenture with real-world parallels in Asian countries - and has now released the book, as of late November, satisfied that it did so. Having never read the original ARC, I don't know how much changed before publication, and I should be clear that I'm white and, as a non-American, less likely to pick up cues that would read "chattel slavery" to US audiences - so I'm not going make claims about whether Blood Heir is now "fixed", other than to note I didn't pick up anything other than the author's intended parallels in my own reading. However, from where I stand it feels like Blood Heir's delayed, revised publication is an example of sensitivity reading going right, albeit late in the process and therefore more loudly and messily than might have occurred if concerns had been raised earlier. People were right to raise concerns. Zhao was right to listen and use those concerns to revisit her intended, ownvoices, message. I hope and suspect the book is stronger for it.

Anyway, onto the actual review! Blood Heir is the story of Anastacia Mikaylov, Crown princess of Cyrilla, now on the run after being accused of the murder of her father. Unfortunately for Ana, being found covered in blood at the Emperor's deathbed does make it tricky to argue against a murder charge - but in her defence, Ana is a Blood affinite, born with the rare and extremely creepy ability to manipulate the blood within people's bodies. Ana has kept her talent secret and suppressed for many years - as it caused the very gory public deaths of several innocent bystanders when it manifested, this seems like a good idea, though it's accomplished through some really unfortunate and traumatic methods - and her actions at her father's deathbed were an attempt to heal him of poison. Now, Ana is attempting to hunt down the alchemist who did cause her father's death, the only man with a lead on that is one Ramson Silvertongue, a criminal mastermind who happens to be inconveniently locked up in a high security prison after a job gone wrong.

Blood Heir opens with that prison break, which throws Ana and Ramson into an uneasy alliance - Ana to find the alchemist, and Ramson to track down and get revenge on the crime lord who screwed him over to land him in prison in the first place. Because Ramson is also a point of view character, his motivations don't remain particularly mysterious for long, although Zhao does a good job of having the pair keep secrets from each other and ensuring that the audience is reminded of what each knows about the other and the importance of the secrets they are holding back without it becoming contrived or convoluted. There's also a lot of flashbacks, with Ramson's past in particular requiring some quite long scenes to establish where he came from and what pushed him into the life he's currently leading. Again, these are balanced pretty well, with the information in them deepening our understanding of Ramson's character without excusing his less savoury decisions. Ana and Ramson are pretty immediately established to have a slow burn thing going on, and its well handled - again, having Ramson's point of view helps a lot with that, as it helps to humanise him and make him more sympathetic to the reader while also maintaining some of that mysterious bad-boy attraction to him for Ana.

Much of Blood Heir is concerned with Ana's self-discovery, as both a potential leader and as an Affinite. When it comes to the latter, Blood Heir doesn't give Ana a pass on her privilege, pushing her to grapple with the fact that her past may have led to its own trauma, but her status also put her out of reach of the slavery and corruption which is a reality for the vast majority of Affinites (nitpicky readers will wonder why she only starts having these revelations nearly a year after escaping the palace and going on the run, but that's not really the point). The trigger to these discoveries are the numerous Affinites we meet on her journey, from May, the character she has bonded most closely with during her exile, who is an Earth Affinite, to the Yaegers - who are, I guess, "Affinite Affinites" and can dampen the talents of others, to those with other talents and agendas who we meet later on and who seem poised to play a much greater role in the sequels. Despite the particularities of her talent, and the fact that it is twice established she is only really able to use it for creepy restraints and murder, Ana's emotional journey takes a more straightforward "self acceptance" tack than I'd have expected, though I don't think her particular state of mind at the end of the book is likely to carry through a full trilogy (assuming that's what this is) without significantly more growth. What is harder to ignore is the lack of much growth or independent agency for most of these other Affinites, although there are a few cool characters who I hope will have an opportunity to develop further in later books. Blood Heir is, of course, very far from the only book with "privileged but "special" character discovers discrimination exists for "special" people without privilege", and it certainly doesn't place Ana in any sort of saviour or leadership role for the people who share her marginalisations - they've already got their own mechanisms for organising, and indeed the scene which caused the initial blow-up is actually very much about Ana coming into contact with their external agenda. If you're tired of this trope, Blood Heir is not going to make it new and refreshing for you, but it's not done badly by any means.

Blood Heir is definitely positioned as the start of a series and there's not much resolution to be had in its closing pages - without giving too much away, Ana and Ramson end up going "... ok, well, let's try a new tactic for that," in the last couple of pages and riding off into the sunset while giving each other meaningful glances then glancing away because slow burn. I know I shouldn't label things "trends" based on two separate anecdotal experiences, but given that I only just read Joan He's Descendent of the Crane, which closes its courtly intrigue in a not-dissimilar state, I wasn't in the best mood for books-without-endings this time around (in fact, I kept up with the naive "how are they going to resolve this in 20 pages... now 15... 10..." until the bitter end). Luckily, Blood Heir is strong enough on its own merits that I'm intrigued to see where the next one goes, and despite some of its more formulaic aspects it's still a worthwhile addition to the YA fantasy shelf.
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