Blood and Bias
The Blood Trials Gives Readers an Unapologetic Heroine Unafraid to Fight for What's Right
The Blood Trials
by N.E. Davenport
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"In places like Mareen that suffer no love for the Pantheon, people like you survive by laying low in plain sight."
N.E. Davenport knows her stuff. The Blood Trials is a rich and diverse world filled with complex and flawed characters, and the mystery of a big bad (the Blood Emperor) will leave you dying to read the next book. Luckily for you, unlike me, you won't have to wait as The Blood Gift will be hitting shelves (digital and physical) on April 10, 2023.
Ikenna Amari is an orphan twice over. Her mother was killed when she was just a baby leaving her to be raised by her grandfather, Verne Amari. The book opens the night before Ikenna is set to graduate from the military training academy and still reeling from the recent death of the Legatus, leaving her with no family. If this wasn't bad enough, Ikenna is harboring a secret - one that could get her killed. Ikenna is blood gifted, a trait outlawed in Mareen, her home country. And with so much suspicion surrounding the nature of her grandfather's death, she's not sure who she can trust.
However, Ikenna will not let a little thing like a duplicitous nation of racists derail her from finding out the truth and seeking revenge. So, with her friends at her side, she joins the Praetorians, an elite group of soldiers charged with protecting Mareen by any means necessary. But before officially joining their ranks, she must first undergo the most harrowing trials of her life, where the price of her failure means death.
The allegorical "isms" in this book are very on the nose. Still, much deeper conversations are happening in the book, such as spirituality vs. technology, cultural identity vs. nationalism, the ethics of violence, nepotism, and generational legacy. The book delves into various forms of institutionalized biases and the consequences of such power structures. The book also looks at how bigotry can be quiet and almost unnoticeable. Overall, there is much criticism of the status quo.
Ikenna is unapologetically bold. There is a level of callousness in her, but at her core, she is exceptionally solicitous. Her headstrong pragmatism often war with her kind-heartedness. While she can be myopic and reckless, her sense of justice makes her a likable character, even if her decisions are frustrating. The reader also sees her growth as she walks the tightrope of learning how to utilize and continue to conceal her blood gift. It would be very easy for her to fall into "the Chosen One" cliche, but the rashness and singlemindedness with which she often acts humanizes her. (From lived experience, it is extraordinarily challenging to remain calm and think clearly when facing multiple forms of bigotry, particularly when occurring all at once).
This narrative is an exciting mashup of magic and science fiction. While the magical system of the blood gift is clearly at the forefront of the story, it spends much of its time juxtaposed with the technological advancements in Mareen society. I'm reserving judgment on the Patheon (the gods of The Major Continent) because there's time to address that in the second book. I genuinely wish there had been more detail on the government and military structure of Mareen. (This is my second read-through, and I'm still unsure about the internal working of the War Houses). However, it's certainly not a dealbreaker regarding the book's enjoyment.
This is an excellent read for anyone looking for an action-packed straightforward writing style. Figuring out the murder subplot makes it a good fit for those who enjoy whodunit. And while there is one spicy scene, it won't make or break the book, so feel free to enjoy or skip it.
Have you read The Blood Trials? Are you excited about the sequel? Comment below!