Author: Crystal Smith
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 384 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Perfect for fans of RED QUEEN and UPROOTED, Crystal Smith’s debut novel, BLOODLEAF, is an imaginative retelling of the Grimm Fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that takes a ghostly mystery and sets it inside an epic fantasy world.
Aurelia is the first princess born to the Renalten crown in two hundred years, destined to fulfill a treaty by journeying to marry Valentin, the prince of Achelva – Renalt’s greatest enemy. Rumors of an unwell, cruel prince abound, and the only thing that eclipses Aurelia’s apprehension of her impending marriage is her fear of those who’d kill her to prevent it.
When an assassination attempt forces Aurelia to use forbidden magic to save a stranger, she is driven from Renalt by the witch-hunting Tribunal and a mob out for blood. But before she can claim asylum in the court of her betrothed, her travel party turns on her, forcing her to trade places with her treacherous lady-in-waiting, Lisette.
Now penniless in Achleva and bereft of her identity, Aurelia must decide if she wants to surrender to her new life or fight for her old one, all while navigating the complicated ties binding her to the enigmatic prince, the unquiet ghost of an ancient queen, and a poisonous plant called bloodleaf.
Aurelia is a pawn in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war— and if she can’t extricate herself from it before Lisette marries Valentin in her stead, she may face losses far more devastating than her crown.
Thank you to the author for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read a ton of Young Adult fantasy. More than 90% of the books I own/read are in the fantasy genre. Which comes to mean that I see a lot of the same elements over and over again in fantasy books. It’s not a bad thing, not at all, but it’s also refreshing when I read a fantasy book with unique elements. Bloodleaf is one of those books. Bloodleaf has many unique fantasy elements that I absolutely loved.
This dark and luscious tale will have you hooked from the first page. Smith’s writing blew me away. It was breathtakingly beautiful and nevertheless bewitching. I was captivated by the words that flew off the pages and made the world feel so real.The world Smith has built is phenomenal and deadly and all the while enchanting. It’s a fantasy world I could easily picture myself living in. The world is illustrated in such beautiful prose. And just to be clear, this isn’t a fantasy world where happy endings come naturally. It’s a dark world filled with daunting dangers and betrayal. But the way Smith describes the world is what makes me love it so much; the descriptions are not too much or too little and they make it feel like the world is alive, which is always a plus for me in fantasy novels.
What I also loved about Bloodleaf was the magic system. The magic system in Bloodleaf is incredible. To enter the second kingdom, Renalt, you must have a stamped invitation with the king’s blood to enter, or else you risk the possibility of death. This experience that Aurelia has to go through is so well-captured that I felt like I was right there seeing her cross into the kingdom. Actually, that’s what it was like for the whole book. The story, the characters, the hardships, all felt real and that is something I look for in books. I want the worlds to feel real to me and this world and the characters did not disappoint.
Princess Aurelia is a wonderfully flawed, yet strong character. She doesn’t want to do the blood magic oath, where her and three people she loves bound themselves to her with blood, where in order for Aurelia to die, her three protectors will have to die first. She would rather die than risk the lives of those she loves. But then the blood oath is completed and Aurelia goes on a daunting journey, using the name of one of her maids, to escape the Tribunal after she uses her forbidden magic to save someone. She fights for her old life, for her destiny, and for her kingdom. She learns so much throughout her journey, and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her in the second book.
And then there is Zan. Zan is a character I was easily swooning over. He’s intriguing yet mysterious and though he hides many secrets from Aurelia, he becomes someone she can’t live without. He’s charming even when he’s trying not to be. He overall fights for a good cause and wants to see the world change. And he sees Aurelia as being that person, with her magic and her will to change the outcome of her life.
Overall, Bloodleaf has easily become one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels. I loved the world, the character development (even the sad moments), and the uniqueness Smith brings to the fantasy genre. I’m one of the readers that is patiently (well, really, impatiently) waiting for the second book. If you are looking for a fantasy read that is gripping and intriguing with multiple fantasy elements, then Bloodleaf is a great book to read!