Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao was an interesting book to say the least.
One of the greatest things going for it is that Blood Heir was a story unlike any other I’ve ever read before.
And that’s a pretty difficult thing to do these days. There’s nothing new under the sun, and nearly every fantasy book seems to be an iteration of Lord of the Rings to some degree or another.
But the closest comparison I can make for Blood Heir is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.
And really the only comparison is that it’s a Russian-based fantasy world.
That is mostly where the comparisons end.
It’s uniqueness, however, does not endear me to it more, neither does it dissuade me. I am merely neutral on the matter.
Tropes are tropes for a reason. They are conventions that people like, thus they appear often. Blood Heir avoids nearly every trope that I like to see in a YA Fantasy.
So if you want a unique experience, Blood Heir might just be for you, but on with the review.
Blood Heir Review
I have so many mixed emotions when it comes to Blood Heir.
Overall, I like the book. But there were times where it really bothered me. Namely the beginning, the middle, and the end.
But everything else was great!
“Wait, wait, wait, hold up. Something doesn’t sound right here.”
Allow me to explain.
Blood Heir begins with our heroine (or anti-heorine? Or morally gray heroine?) Ana being taken through the dungeons of a high security prison where she is meeting with a prisoner who is the key to finding the man who killed her father.
But it’s not as simple as it seems. Ana is an Affinite, a wielder of magic that is hated and feared by the empire. She’s also the Crown Princess who’s supposed to be dead after she was framed for killing her father, the Emperor.
So she’s entering this prison at very real risk of discovery herself, and what ensues is a really great opening scene full of action that tickles my fancy.
What follows that opening scene is the first mark against the story for me.
I don’t particularly like deep backstories that need hashed out and explained to the reader. I’d rather get the minimal information out of the way, and bring the rest of the crucial details out in dialogue.
Dialogue is the heart of story, and Blood Heir has large portions that are fairly devoid of it.
Instead, we get a few chapters early on that are basically author to reader worldbuilding infodumps. But I try to be patient in the opening chapters of any novel as it’s pretty par for the course.
That doesn’t mean I like it any less. There are more tactful ways to introduce pertinent details.
After those opening chapters, Blood Heir begins to pick up as Ana gets on the trail of her father’s killer and there’s a really awesome plot to be discovered.
Seeing first hand the cruelty and viciousness of the empire towards Affinites is miles better than being told about it.
But frequently the story is put on hold for the reader to take an adventure back in time many many years prior in long and wordy flashback sequences.
To tell you what that character experienced to make them the way they are today.
Which is great and all, but it could have come across in dialogue!
Let the characters open up a bit to each other, bond, and develop.
But they do not. In fact, the two main characters, Ana and Rasmon, are pretty one dimensional and do very little growing over the course of the story.
Ana is as vicious and blood thirsty as her empire and when she’s not pouting about being called a monster and wallowing in her sorrows she’s mercilessly draining people of the blood in their bodies with little to no remorse.
Rasmon on the other hand, only looks out for himself until the final pages of the book. So at least there’s some development there.
Oh my gosh, the ending of Blood Heir.
I was sooooooo excited.
The last 15% or so of the book I devoured and blew threw, turning page after page in a frenzy of anticipation and excitement.
Only to get one of the biggest let downs I’ve experienced from a book in at least a year.
To tell you why would be spoilery, and you all know I don’t do spoilers. But suffice it to say it leaves a lot to be desired for, quite literally, and that’s all you’re going to get out of me.
I was so ready to give this book 4 stars until that ending. Then my angry, disappointed self wanted to immediately downgrade it to 3 stars.
After the initial wave of frustration passed, I decided to compromise on 3.5/5 stars.
A story that could have been good was ruined by a lackluster ending.
Will I read Blood Heir’s sequel? (Because believe you me there will be a next book)
Probably. Will I rush to buy it the moment it’s released? Absolutely not.
There are too many other good books out there, like Red Rising or Scythe, that so totally took my breath away. I’m on a hunt to discover more stories like those, rather than wallowing in a world of mediocrity.
If you’re looking to buy Blood Heir, here’s a link:
Looking for more great books?
Check out my review of Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim.