Update 02/01/19: I don’t think anyone has any idea how disappointed I am. When I was reading Blood Heir, I didn’t pick up on any of the issues regarding anti-blackness, and that is totally on me. I still really enjoyed the characters of Ana and Ransom, but I wanted to acknowledge my mistakes.
What I do not agree with is the claim of plagiarism. Just because Amelie decided to use common tropes in books and a guy who’s clever and angsty (Kaz Brekker is not the only male character like that who can exist!)..does not mean it’s plagiarism. I don’t agree that it plagiarized from the Grishaverse because literally 90% of bestsellers in fantasy revolves around magic-users being oppressed — every Cassandra Clare book (Downworlders are oppressed), Grisha, Throne of Glass, The Lunar Chronicles, This Savage Song — so why is this author of color being shamed for doing a similar story? Why did the person who called her out do it publicly and end up publicly shaming another author of color instead of messaging personally? Twitter’s call-out culture is getting out of hand.
I think out of all the 2019 releases that have been on my list for quite some time, Blood Heir has continuously stayed on the top spot. I mean when it’s pitched as a dark retelling of Anastasia where she’s a bloodbender, it’s pretty hard for it not to be.
I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy and let me tell you: IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. This book completely blew all the expectations I had out of the water, and I devoured the entirety of it in less than a day. In Blood Heir, Ana, the Crown Princess of the Cyrillian Empire, is accused of murdering her father and goes on the run to prove her innocence and get her revenge on his true killer. She’s an Affined — human beings with special abilities (think The Last Airbender) — who have been feared and abused for their abilities to control different elements. She enlists the help of Ransom Quicktongue, a conman who also has his own mission to clear his name and is most definitely as sharp-witted as his last name suggests.
Initially, I was irked by how insecure and self-doubting Ana was, but it was so worth seeing her grow as a person throughout the book. Blood Heir is a story of self-acceptance, and readers can clearly see how Ana grows from someone who doubts herself and sees herself as a monster to realizing that people can’t change what they’re born with, but they sure as hell can choose to do with what they’re given. Similarly, Ransom and his selfishness took a bit of time for me to warm up to, but again it was adorable seeing him soften once he realized what his true feelings for Ana were. I did think some parts were very repetitive — particularly how often she regards herself as a monster and what happens after she tries to chase after / save the ones she loves (like was that second one necessary??), but considering it was an Anastasia retelling, it made sense. The two characters involved had a lot of potentials, and I was especially looking forward to her reuniting with her family.
Despite these small details, I absolutely loved and adored this book. I am a sucker for morally grey characters, and from the first page, I was drawn in. The world-building was so good, and the writing was just absolutely magical. Amélie Wen Zhao is an amazing writer, and it was so hard for me to even think that Blood Heir is a debut novel. I especially loved relating this novel to Yona of the Dawn since it had similar elements wherein a princess was falsely accused of murdering her father and has to go on the run. I also appreciated how even though it claims to be a dark version of Anastasia, these characters feel like their own.
I definitely recommend picking this book up if you love political intrigue, historical fantasy, badass and morally grey characters, and slow-burn romance. This is a wonderful debut!
Trigger warnings for a lot of bloody scenes. Nothing too horrible, but I really do think it’s worth mentioning!