ARC Review: Blood Heir

Ana has been hiding her secret in a world that both fears and wants to control her. Ana is an Affinite, one of the people of her world who has powers, abilities. Only her Affinity is much more sinister than most: she has control over blood. This Affinity changed her life, and not for the better. But when her father, the emperor, is murdered, and she’s blamed for the crime, she has to find a way to clear her name. She has to prove that she’s innocent, that her Affinity does not control her, all while escaping from the people who desperately want to use her powers for themselves.

I got an advanced reading copy of Blood Heir in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Heir is a YA fantasy novel by Amélie Wen Zhao. It’s a novel that was originally supposed to come out earlier this year, but didn’t due to some pretty extreme controversies. I’m not going to get into what they are now, but you can look them up if you want. But the novel was delayed in its publication, while sections of the book were rewritten to address the controversy. I received an edited and rewritten ARC of Blood Heir, so it’s a different version of the previous book. As I myself did not read the previous version, I cannot say how different it is, or how much it addressed the comments it received, but I do applaud Zhao and her publisher for making the difficult decision to delay publication and instead go back and edit some of the material which was considered offensive.

But, you’re not here to read about all that, are you? You’re here to find out what I thought about the book!

I was a bit surprised to find that the fantasy novel seemed very inspired by Russia. I suppose the name of the main character should have given it away: Anastacya Mikhailov, who goes by Ana. This world is also one full of people who have a form of ability, and, as is usual, people want to either exploit them or revere them. Ana happens to live in a country where the aim is to exploit, and a lot of Affinites are forced into “contracts,” which are, pretty much, indentured servitude/slavery. They’re required to travel with papers to basically prove their freedom, and also have a rough time just living day-to-day without getting captured by people and forced to serve others. You can see why Ana would have a rough time in this world, especially since her own Affinity is super creepy: blood. But she’s also a princess! Which forms an interesting part of the narrative, since she’s often unaware of experiences that the other people she meets may have had. As one often does, she pretty much idealized her father, thinking he could do no wrong, but when she goes out into the world, she’s horrified by what she finds.

Did I like her as a character? Um, sort of? I wasn’t too particularly wowed by her so much as by her story and the plot that led her along it. Ramson, the other main character in this book, was much more interesting.

Ramson agrees to help Ana find the person who actually poisoned her father, for a price. He’s a con-man, and he’s only in it for himself. Yes, he’s a bad boy. But we get to experience a large part of the narrative through his eyes, and slowly learn more about him. I liked how we’d get his story little by little, eventually understanding all the choices that led him to where he ended up in a prison at the beginning of the book. Not only that, but he also definitely goes through some major changes throughout the narrative, basically growing a heart. Ana didn’t really undergo much of a transformation, although she did have some incredibly emotional moments (I definitely cried at one moment in the book). So, yeah, I liked Ramson better.

Ana and Ramson take over the narrative, and while there’s secondary characters interspersed throughout the book, they didn’t really do much more than help with specific plot points or add color to the story. I barely learned anything about their lives, their motivations, their strengths… I suppose the book is just much more plot-focused than character-focused, so there’s that.

Oh yeah, there’s the hint of romance from early on, and I won’t go into it, but I will say that there was just enough to keep it interesting but there was definitely not a lot. I was happy with how it went, actually. And it developed pretty naturally, I thought, so definitely appreciated.

The setting does also influence the plot a great deal. What most clearly formed a part of the plot was mainly the traditions and culture of these people, more than anything else. Visually, I imagined Russia, but couldn’t see much beyond that. Regardless, this difficult society was exactly what Zhao needed to get this book going!

The book had several twists, again, mostly to advance the plot, or force some stress onto the characters. I never called any of the twists, so there’s that! Definitely an unpredictable type of novel, one that kept me guessing the entire time.

I had a good time reading this book, although I didn’t absolutely love it as I’d expected to. Maybe it’s because I read it while having a really bad bout of food poisoning, which pretty much wrecked me for a couple of days. Note to all readers: this book, while not extremely gory, does have a lot of mentions of blood. If you currently have a queasy stomach, like I did while reading, maybe avoid it for the time being.

Regardless, I enjoyed the plot and am excited to see what comes next for Ana and Ramson. Luckily, this book is part of a trilogy, so I probably won’t have long to wait to find out!

Blood Heir will be released on November 19. You can pre-order your copy now from Delacorte Press at this link.


6 thoughts on “ARC Review: Blood Heir

    1. Yeah, it really made the rounds thanks to its controversy! I was honestly shocked I got an ARC of it since I assumed because of that it would be hard to get, but I got it!
      Let me know what you think of it when you read it. I’m curious to know if you’ll agree with my opinions.

      Liked by 1 person

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