Genre: Science Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - first book in duology
It’s all about blood.
The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive. The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.
For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her. Who trained her to keep that a secret.
But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.
Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials—a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that—if found out—would subject her to execution…or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather…and then she needs to kill them.
Mareen has been at peace for a long time but Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE BLOOD TRIALS is going to be a hard book to review because it was a good read, pacy and engaging, but I spent the whole time comparing it to BLOOD SCION. It’s been about eight weeks since I read that book, so it’s fresh in my mind and it makes it so hard to judge a book on its own merits.
Both are science-fantasy worlds where a girl who suffers prejudiced abuse because of her background also has to hide her magic because it would (also) get her killed, and that magic is linked to blood. She decides to try out for the elite military to track down information on the murder of a family member, but there are officers and higher ups trying to kill her during the trials. And that’s just a brief overview of the non-spoilery stuff.
Of course, it’s complete fluke that I read these two so close together (and that they were published two weeks apart in the UK, bringing them close on my reading list). However, when that happens, it’s natural to compare two very similar books – particularly if they stand out as great reads and so stick in the mind. There was a lot of “deja-vu” as I read this book, down to twists that I pegged from the get go because of the premise similarity. (It was just the final like 100 pages that I didn’t have that deja-vu feeling for, and so wasn’t able to predict and, my, did that section go where I wasn’t expecting.)
It was a fun read, and I do like books that don’t shy back from showing the brutality of the world. I also liked that we get a “quick-temper” girl who knows that, and also doesn’t always give into that when she knows it’s not a great time (though she does sometimes.) It gives her a balance between being allowed to feel a wide range of emotions and also having a maturity and measure of self-awareness that makes this feel more adult than YA.
The ending leaves for an interesting set up that will be interesting to explore further, so the sequel is on the list to read when it’s out.