My Rating: ★★★☆½
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? (via Goodreads)
You know when a book gets so hyped up that you see it everywhere on the internet? Bloodleaf was one of those books for me; I saw its cover on Twitter and Instagram, several of the Booktubers I follow were either planning to read it or had the ARC already, and others were showing their promo boxes complete with the book and bookish themed goodies. All I had was the fairy intriguing synopsis, the beautiful cover to admire, and the temptation of gorgeous pre-order gifts. So, once the price for the book dropped, I caved and bought into the hype and pre-ordered it. Haha I wasn’t worried too much that I wouldn’t like it because the synopsis mentioned blood magic and that reminded me of back when I played the Dragon Age games, so I figured there was a good chance I’d enjoy it! I’m always looking for a good book with magic and witches in it.
Things I Liked:
I really enjoyed Crystal’s writing style and how she crafted and weaved the plots and sub-plots together, so as the story unfolded you could see how everything fit. Some of the lore took a bit to absorb and adjust to, but that’s just me with most fantasy books. What really convinced me to read this first through audio was finding out that Nicola Barber was the narrator. I really enjoyed how she narrated for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, so there was no doubt in my mind that she’d do a fantastic job for Bloodleaf as well.
There are so many plot twists in this book! Some of them I was able to predict early on, but every time I realized that my prediction was correct, the story would continue and reveal that I was only half right. I’d be left feeling so proud of myself for predicting the plot twist, but it was even better being surprised that I was only half right. For example, without giving away any spoilers, I had figured out who the main villain of the story was very early on but didn’t fully realize the extent of his influence and manipulation within and outside the city walls. The twists and turns didn’t end there though; there’s an entire subplot that was only occasionally mentioned nonchalantly and later on we find out that it plays a bigger role in the whole grant scheme of things. It was insane and totally unexpected, but made sense once it was revealed.
I ended up liking Zan’s character more than expected; he turned out to be a very different character to how he portrayed himself in the beginning. I really enjoyed finding out about his backstory and the way it was revealed in general. Aurelia was a great character right from the beginning and I immediately took a liking to her. Her character arc was so enjoyable and I especially liked seeing her grow and find her confidence in herself and her magic. When she took charge of the situation near the climax of the story I felt so ridiculously proud of her, especially this one scene where she’s addressing a huge group of people and is profoundly moved by their reaction to her words.
Aurelia’s younger brother Conrad was so adorable and endearing. They have a rocky sibling relationship, but still show each other that they still care. Every time they did their little treasure hunt game it warmed my heart. I also really loved Kate; she was such a great friend and so kind to Aurelia even though they only knew each other for a short period of time.
Things I Disliked:
There were a few things that kind of bothered me throughout the story, but one major part in particular stands out above the rest. Probably partly because it’s still fresh in my mind as I write this, but definitely because it didn’t make any sense to me. Without spoiling anything, there’s a scene during the climax of the story where Aurelia is given a piece of information that was such a huge revelation, I was expecting for her world to completely change. Ever since the beginning, she’s had this belief that has helped shape her vision of herself, and then this piece of contradictory information is just laid out before her, but she doesn’t acknowledge it at all. Doesn’t even bat an eyelash. I was expecting her to need a moment to let it sink in, but there was none. I understand she was in a particularly high-stakes situation at the moment, but still, have some sort of reaction to it, at least.
Also, I wish the romance developed more fluidly and naturally; probably no admission of romantic feelings until the next book even. It felt a bit awkward and jarring to see them as close friends then suddenly there’s romantic feelings involved almost instantaneously, then that quickly progresses to the I’m-willing-to-sacrifice-myself-for-you level.
Although I did not enjoy this book as much as I’d thought I would, it was an enjoyable read that was pleasantly way darker than I had anticipated filled with so many crazy twists and turns that blew my mind. Wildly entertaining, unique and nicely paced with very interesting lore and magic system, I definitely recommend Bloodleaf if you’re looking for a darker fantasy with a gripping mystery. I’m definitely very curious to find out how this trilogy continues in the next book!
About the Author:
Crystal Smith is a writer, photographer, and artist who developed an early love of storytelling in a family of voracious readers. She resides in Utah with her high school sweetheart husband and two lively sons. When she isn’t writing or creating, she can be found re-watching Jane Eyre and Howl’s Moving Castle or reading ghost stories with all the lights on.
Have you read Bloodleaf yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and let’s fangirl/discuss!