(Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 12th 2019
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Romance, Royalty, Young Adult Fiction
Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?
Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith was exactly what I was hoping for! From the first page, I was engaged in the story and found I didn’t want to put it down. There were twists and turns throughout the story and quite a bit happens in this first book. I’ll do my best to not include any spoilers so if something comes across as vague…sorry.
The main character is Princess Aurelia and when we meet her, it’s clear she is struggling with who she is and what she is facing. As the first Renaltan princess born in two centuries …or at least the first one kept by the king and queen in that timeframe, the people of Renalt view Aurelia as an oddity. Not only that, her birth meant that her family needed to honor the treaty that ended a long war with Achleva by marrying the prince.
The world that Smith has developed revolves around magic and the tension that has existed between Renalt and Achleva. Within Renalt, the Tribunal has a level of power that creates a fear of magic. The group is extremely interested in Aurelia and the only thing that has protected her is her status as princess as they believe she is a witch. As the head of the tribunal, Toris de Lena, is considered an ally, Aurelia’s mother believes she is safe. The thing about Aurelia, though, is that she has the ability to practice blood magic and has always seen spirits so while her mother and a few people around her know that she is trying to learn how to control the magic, it puts her in constant danger.
When something happens that puts Aurelia at risk with the Tribunal, she is snuck out of Renalt by Toris and her guard Kellan along with her little brother, Conrad and Toris’ daughter, Lisette. Very quickly Aurelia realizes that Toris is up to something that puts her, Conrad, and Kellan in danger. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize it soon enough and she finds herself just barely surviving when she gets to the camps just outside of Achleva. The only thing that saves her is the fact that she has Kellan’s horse, Falada, which draws the attention of Zan.
Zan is a bit of a mystery at first. He wants Aurelia’s horse, but he isn’t willing to share why. When Aurelia turns down his money, he’s definitely taken aback but he isn’t going to give up. I really liked Zan, not only is he smart, but he’s willing to do whatever he needs to do to protect the people of Achleva and if that means taking the horse, he will…and he does. This kicks off the beginning of their relationship and I thought Smith did a great job telling their story but no matter how close they have become, they are both keeping secrets. Aurelia hasn’t told anyone that she is a princess and she doesn’t really know who Zan is until things take a turn. Zan is resourceful and although willing to throw Aurelia into the middle of the danger, he’s not exactly happy about it.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the secondary characters in this book. Early on, it’s no secret that Toris isn’t a good guy so you know pretty quickly he’s the bad guy. But I loved the addition of Nathaniel and Kate. They helped move the story along and they added a layer of interaction with Aurelia that shows her in a different light. This story does get dark at times – there is death, blood, and danger around every corner and Aurelia is right in the middle of everything. As she learns more about her magic and uses it to help Zan, she also learns more about herself and I loved seeing such growth in her character as well as how she is connected with the spirits surrounding her.
That’s about all I can share on this one without potentially giving anything away – hopefully it wasn’t too much rambling. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series that will keep you turning the pages, check out this one. As a debut, I thought Smith did a wonderful job developing the story and keeping my interest in what was going to happen with these characters. I will definitely be looking forward to the next book of this series!
Thank you to the publisher for the early copy in exchange for an honest review.