BLOODLEAF, by Crystal Smith, HMH Books for Young Readers, March 12, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
When I first started reading Crystal Smith’s Bloodleaf, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish. I’m glad I did.
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? —Synopsis provided by HMH Books for Young Readers
When you have a book that deals with magical rituals and those rituals involve blood, you’re likely to put off a few readers. I know that I was initially squeamish reading Bloodleaf. I truly considered putting it down, but as I kept reading, Aurelia’s blood-magic became another aspect of her character. The squeamishness subsided. What was left behind was a strong fantasy novel that reads as a standalone, even though it is part of a planned trilogy.
Bloodleaf would not work if not for Aurelia. Her insecurities and talents are nuanced and fresh. Her character develops naturally and her journey is compelling.
Author Crystal Smith’s prose is clean, as is her plotting. Her ability to foreshadow while maintaining mystery is to be commended. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.
Editor’s note: Due to some of the darker elements throughout Bloodleaf, I recommend it for readers 14 and up.
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