Title: Blood Heir
Author: Amélie Wen Zhao
Publication Date: November 19th, 2019
eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley/ Purchased a book as well.
“In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.
When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.
A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.” (Goodreads)
I received an arc of this through NetGalley before it was pulled from publication. I wrote this whole blog post as a way to form my own opinion of the controversy. My review still holds true and it was just as good the second time. There are some slight changes from the arc when it comes to the parts that were put under fire but I don’t think that either way is better. I think that either would have been fine but I can understand why she would decide to change them.
If you would like to know the changes (it will contain spoilers) then read on after the review section.
Blood Heir follows Anastacya Mikhailov who is on a quest to clear her name with the help from a conman. As the crown princess, she must do everything in her power to keep her identity hidden and also keep her deadly secret that she has the ability to control blood hidden as well. She is out for revenge and no one can stop her.
The book is supposed to be a retelling of Anastasia but with a fantasy twist. There are elements seen before in other books such as elemental magic and even a darker side of magic that includes blood. Although magic isn’t welcomed and those who wield it have found themselves being sold into indentured servitude.
The two main characters each have their own PoVs and both come from different but troubled backgrounds. I enjoyed getting to know Ramson and Ana throughout the book and really felt for them when it came to the losses they faced. My one complaint about Ramson was that he is described as a morally grey character when introduced to him but that doesn’t stand true and I wish it would have. I love morally grey characters. Another thing I didn’t really care for was how it felt like Ramson was feeling more than friendship between himself and Ana. Nothing ever happened but again, it made him seem less of a conman if he was tricking her in the beginning but characters can evolve over time. It just wasn’t for me.
The author’s writing is beautiful and sweeps you into this magical but political world. There are lot great messages hidden in this wonderful book.
Differences Between ARC and Book:
In the arc, May was described as, “”…tawny color of her skin, a shade darker than Ramson’s own North Bregonian complexion.”. She also had curly hair. In the newest version that is now published this whole quote doesn’t exist anymore. She is described with tawny skin a couple pages after she is introduced but not being compared to others. She also doesn’t have curly hair anymore, it is now just dark hair.
The author also changed May’s area of origin, no longer is she mentioned as Bregonian but now a new place called Aseatie Isle. Not sure what the reason for this change was.
When it came to the most controversial part, being compared to a Hunger Games ripoff, that scene is now a bit different. No longer is there any singing/lullaby. I think I much prefer the new version because it feels a bit more unique but also a more intimate moment between friends. I didn’t see anything wrong with the first version though.
Controversy (Written In February):
Blood Heir has been scrutinized as being anti-black, the term some have used, and many have also questioned whether the author plagiarized when it came to a certain scene and also a sentence the main character spoke. I know of one author that criticized this book for those reasons and has read it, but when it comes to reviews on Goodreads I can’t tell you if everyone has read the book. I will try to explain as best that I can when it comes to these accusations.
One accusation was about the magic in this book. It was compared to Six of Crows/Grisha Trilogy. The use of magic in both books are comparable as they both have people that can change flesh (although I don’t remember if this sort of magic was ever used in Blood Heir, just mentioned). When discussing plagiarism, the definition includes ideas and so if we are getting technical then the Grisha Trilogy wasn’t the first to include this sort of magic. An example would be X-Men which has been around.
Another accusation that brings up plagiarism is the quote, “Don’t go where I can’t follow.” This particular quote is pretty famous if you are a fan of Lord of the Rings. It is word for word but with a quick google search you can also find songs that have included phrases quite similar to the original and even a book that’s title is literally that quote. Now, I am not saying it is okay to do so but this author isn’t the first to take a phrase and include it in their book. One author that many people love, SJM, has been found to minimally change phrases or get ideas for scenes and a google search comes up with a lot of blog posts including details and one as recent as her latest book. The book Children of Blood and Bone has been compared to The Last Avatar. Writers tend to be inspired by other books, movies, experiences and write based on those things which is great. My point is that if one author is publicly being scrutinized then it opens up a can of worms and all authors should be scrutinized for taking ideas.
The scene that is being talked about the most is one that is being compared to The Hunger Games when Rue dies. I will say that I have not read that particular book but my husband recently has and so I ran the scene by him and we came to an agreement. The only thing that compares is the main character singing to a younger girl. In Hunger Games, Rue did not die out of sacrifice like May in Blood Heir did. They sang different songs, were in different settings, and also sang for different reasons. The author may have found inspiration from The Hunger Games, but again that goes back to the last paragraph.
When it comes to the race issue, I am white so my experience may be different than someone of color. I just want to address what I found in the text and explain my opinion on the subject. Again, I think that everyone is entitled to make their own informed opinion.
The character in question is May. She is described as, “…tawny color of her skin, a shade darker than Ramson’s own North Bregonian complexion.”. She is also described as having turquoise eyes and brown curly hair. Tawny is an interesting word to use and from just that and my experiences I wouldn’t know what race that would describe. May comes from South Bregonian while Ramson is from the northern part. I am not sure why Ramson wasn’t talked about more and why only May was mentioned. If the author made it more aware as to what nationality they were described as I am not sure. I can only say what is written in the book. There was mention of one of the indentured slaves being from the eastern isles and having jet back hair but I don’t recall any mention of his skin color.
Another issue was with the oppression in the book. The slavery was described as indentured servitude which has been used in many countries. The ones being oppressed were the ones with magic and not all magic users had darker skin than Ana. Ana was a magic user as well as others she knew that were high up in the hierarchy. There are many books that have oppression as part of their plot. The two I can think of that I have read recently are An Ember in the Ashes series and The Winners Trilogy. The ones being oppressed in these books did not have magic and were oppressed for being a different nationality than the ones doing the oppressing.
The author had said in a letter at the beginning of the book that she wrote the book due to feeling like an other living in America. She wrote it with her experiences in mind and I believe she also made a statement about writing it about the oppression still in place in her country of origin. There were a lot of underlying meanings written in Blood Heir about this topic. When it came to May’s death, she wasn’t just saving Ana. She was helping with a revolution to stop the oppression of the magic users.
I am not one to follow blindly and I read Blood Heir because I wanted to make my own informed opinion about the contents. I wrote this informative review because I feel that it was important and to give others another perspective of the issues some had with this book. Hopefully this was helpful to those that read this very long post!
There is a great video on this controversy on youtube which I will link here.