Book Review: BLOOD HEIR by Amélie Wen Zhao

Title in gold on a red cloaked figure in snowy woods
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - first book



In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This book is one of the most controversial books this year – if not the. I’m not going to talk about that, because others have addressed it and I didn’t read the original text, so I have no idea how much was changed. Did the controversy contribute to me picking it up? Probably.

I really liked the book, whizzing through it while sick.

From talking to others, the writing seems to be pretty hit or miss – like marmite. I liked it, and thought the style fitted the world really well. It was so clean and sharp, with the odd nice description sprinkled in. It carried the narrative along nicely, which was snappily paced.

It was told through Ana and Ramson’s POVs – with between a 2:1 and 3:1 in Ana’s favour. I liked that they both had a say in the story. Not only because there’d be a massive chunk missing without Ramson, all the scheming in the background, but it meant they could both have substantial arcs, and I do love a good shady con-man turned reluctant hero because they’re shown a better way.

However, there was a single chapter near the end in Linn’s POV. It was very odd as she was a relatively new character and this was the only time someone else had narrated.

It’s a pretty typical Russian-inspired world – snowy and with Russian-approximated words sprinkled within. So yeah, there isn’t much to the world building, but the cold, wintry setting fit the cold late November well – better than its original spring publication date would have. As a backdrop, it works very well.

Ana’s affinity is pretty gruesome, but also very useful for getting her out of her many scrapes. However, it did mean that it wasn’t that clear why the Affinites are indentured. They have such powerful magic, and yet are trapped in this system. The arrival of the Yaeger later on really helped fill in this gap – though I’m still not convinced it completely explains why they’re trapped.

Overall, it was a fun book and I look forwards to reading the next instalment.

Read my reviews of other books by Amélie Wen Zhao:

Blood Heir (this series):

Song of the Last Kingdom:

3 thoughts on “Book Review: BLOOD HEIR by Amélie Wen Zhao

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