BLOODLEAF by Crystal Smith
(I received this book for free, courtesy of Crystal, in exchange for an honest review).
[little to no spoilers]
I haven’t been this excited for a debut book in a long time! Crystal Smith weaves a haunting, sinister tale of freedom in a land where witches are persecuted, magic is deadly, and the lines between good and evil are blurred.
Short summary from Amazon.com:
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?
Aurelia is a unique main character, and accompanied by the hint of a love triangle, she is a girl that readers will fall in love with from the start. She is a witch that uses blood magic – meaning that she performs magic using her own blood. I must admit that at first, this concept disturbed me. Who wants to cut themselves every time they have to perform a spell? But, as I read on in the story, I realized that it is because Aurelia has to use her own blood that she is not as willing to use her magic as often as other MCs in the fantasy genre. Each time she performs a spell, it hurts her, so she must decide how best to use her magic. The quote on the front of the book sums it up nicely: “The strongest magic requires the greatest sacrifice.” Because of this extra challenge placed in front of Aurelia, in addition to everything going on in her life, I think this makes her an especially unique and intriguing MC.
Most everything about BLOODLEAF is unique, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. I can never enjoy a book if I don’t believe the world-building; I’m happy to say that Crystal Smith does a brilliant job on perfecting her world. While the persecution of witches reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials, the setting takes the reader back to the Middle Ages or Renaissance time periods. Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with the history of medieval times, and BLOODLEAF was a great combination of real-world medieval ideas and motifs with fantastical elements tied in. Plus, anyone looking for a not-so-average court drama book will enjoy this. Even though Aurelia is royalty, most of the book takes place out of the castle. So, Aurelia understands what life is like outside of a castle’s sanctuary and in her disguise, she can interact with “commoners” and people she wouldn’t usually talk to. She makes some new friends, including a kind woman and her husband, and a mysterious (and very handsome) stranger called Zan.
(Mild spoiler section about relationships. Feel free to skip it):
At the beginning of the book, we see Aurelia’s interactions with Kellan, a knight/guard in her court. It’s clear from the beginning that Aurelia loves Kellan, but she makes a sacrifice in order to protect him. (I won’t spoil anything!). The one aspect of the book I wasn’t a big fan of was that Kellan “leaves” for over half the book, and Aurelia starts a sort of hate/love relationship with Zan. Then, when Kellan returns, Aurelia doesn’t have any conflicting feelings about her relationships with Kellan and Zan. I expected Aurelia to be happy that Kellan, her lifelong friend, was back, but she seems to want to remain with Zan. I was left with a feeling of confusion at Aurelia’s relationship status, but this could be part of the author’s plan so she can expand on it in the next book.
(End spoiler section)
As a horse rider and lover myself, I absolutely love it when horsemanship is included in a fantasy book. There’s no doubt that Aurelia loves her horse, and it was great to see their relationship and interactions throughout most of the book. This book impacted me in many ways because of the powerful language and descriptions, but something happened to Aurelia’s horse that made me so sad and angry at the people who did it. It’s at this point when Aurelia decides that she has to do what she knows is right, and the part when I felt the most moved in the story. The imagery that Crystal uses is so vivid and in-your-face, that it makes the read that much better. You can almost experience what Aurelia is going through along with her.
BLOODLEAF features almost non-stop action and adventure, and Aurelia certainly contributes to a lot of that. She is a good female MC because, while she is feisty and strong, she is still relatable and has her moments. I was happy to see that she's not the typical warrior woman fantasy trope. Warning: prepare for much sadness throughout the book, and don't go getting attached to anyone. That's all I'll say. Even though parts of the book were so gut-wrenching, that didn't stop me from devouring the book in almost one day. I hate to admit it, but whoever said kill your darlings was right...it certainly made BLOODLEAF into a fast-paced and entertaining read.
All in all, I predict that BLOODLEAF will be the next big fantasy book series. In the future, I think because of Crystal’s masterful storytelling and the ability to evoke strong emotions from her readers, she will be on many readers’ “auto-buy” list. I am so excited to see what happens next in this medieval fantasy, and can’t wait to see BLOODLEAF become as popular as some of our favorite YA fantasy novels!
BLOODLEAF receives 4.5 stars out of 5.
Find Crystal Smith on Twitter and Instagram at @crysrensmith.
You can pre-order BLOODLEAF using my Amazon affiliate link below (disclaimer: I do get a very small commission from any purchase):
Hi, everyone! It’s Sadie, proud to be participating in my first blog tour with FFBC!
Check out the book info and synopsis of THE WARRIOR MAIDEN, then move on to a quick message from me, an exclusive Q&A with Melanie Dickerson, and a fun giveaway!
The Warrior Maiden (Hagenheim #9)
by Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: February 5th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retellings, Christian Fiction
From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a fresh
reimagining of the classic Mulan tale.
Mulan isn’t afraid to pretend to be a son and assume her father’s soldier duties in
war. But what happens when the handsome son of a duke discovers her secret?
Mulan is trying to resign herself to marrying the village butcher for the good of her
family, but her adventurous spirit just can’t stand the thought. At the last minute, she
pretends to be the son her father never had, assumes his duties as a soldier, and rides
off to join the fight to protect the castle of her liege lord’s ally from the besieging
Wolfgang and his brother Steffan leave Hagenheim with several other soldiers to
help their father’s ally in Poland. When they arrive, Wolfgang is exasperated by the
young soldier Mikolai who seems to either always be one step away from disaster…or showing Wolfgang up in embarrassing ways.
When Wolfgang discovers his former rival and reluctant friend Mikolai is actually
a girl, he is determined to protect her. But battle is a dangerous place where anything
can happen—and usually does.
When Mulan receives word that her mother has been accused of practicing
witchcraft through her healing herbs and skills, Mulan’s only thought is of defending
her. Will she be able to trust Wolfgang to help? Or will sacrificing her own life be
the only way to save her mother?
I’m so excited to be participating in the FFBC’s blog tour of THE WARRIOR MAIDEN by Melanie Dickerson. Stick around at the end of the post for an awesome giveaway, the link to the blog tour schedule, and where to find THE WARRIOR MAIDEN!
1. How did you get the idea for your book?
The germ of the idea started when I took my daughter to see Disney on Ice! I watched all
those fairy tales represented by princesses, and I thought, I’d really like to do an Aladdin
story and a Mulan story. I think I had done all the others! But when I started thinking about
how to do a Mulan story within the story world I had created in Medieval Germany, I knew I
needed a war, or some sort of military conflict, and I wanted to include a hero, and I wanted
that hero to be one of the Gerstenberg brothers from Hagenheim. I had to research the conflicts going on at that time in history. I also needed a villain. I studied the Teutonic
Knights and their ravaging raids on Poland and Lithuania, and boom, my story was born! I
created an ally in Poland for Duke Wilhelm so he could send his sons to fight on his behalf,
to save his castle and people, and I created a backstory for Mulan, a half-Asian child of war,
now living with Lithuanian parents, also sent to fight for the Polish duke. It wasn’t hard to
imagine Wolfgang falling in love with Mulan!
2. What made you want to start writing?
I loved stories, loved reading. I read so many classics when I was a kid. We were fairly poor,
and I went to a very small school, and the only books at the library were classics. I devoured
them. I also always had a great love for fairy tales, and I was a romantic from at least the age
of five, when I told my Kindergarten teacher who my crushes were. I started writing in
middle school, I think, although I don’t really remember. I did start writing romantic stories
in 6th grade that I would let my friends read. It was fun, and I dreamed of being a writer
from probably around the age of 12.
3. If you could live in one fictional world, where would it be?
My favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice, followed closely by Jane Eyre, but women had
really hard lives back then, and I’m not sure I could follow those awful social rules! I guess I
would pick the Medieval world of Ivanhoe, but only if I can be Ivanhoe’s wife and true love
and live in a castle!
4. Which fictional character do you most identify with?
That’s also a tough question. I identify a lot with most of my favorite characters. Definitely
Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet . . . just about any character I’m reading
about, but those are some of my favorites.
5. Name a song that is always stuck in your head.
Lately the songs stuck in my head are either the last song I listened to on the new
Switchfoot album, Native Tongue, or the last song I listened to from the new Lauren
Daigle album, Look Up, Child. I think those are their best albums. Switchfoot is just
my all-time favorite band, so I frequently have one of their songs stuck in my head,
more than any other band or song.
6. If you could give advice to aspiring young authors, what would it be?
I would say, there is so much great information on the internet for free. You can literally
study the blogs of successful writers from years and never run out of excellent material. So do that. And never, ever give up. It can be a long hard road to success in this business, so never give up!
Want to win a copy of THE WARRIOR MAIDEN for yourself? Then, click on the Rafflecopter below and follow all the rules to be entered to win!
Prize: Win (1) physical copy of THE WARRIOR MAIDEN by Melanie Dickerson (US
ONLY) or e-copy for (INT)
Giveaway Starts: 30th January, 2019
Giveaway Ends: 13th February, 2019
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melanie Dickerson is a New York Times bestselling author, a two-time Christy
Award finalist, two-time Maggie Award winner, Carol Award winner, two-time
winner of the Christian Retailing's Best award, and her book, The Healer's
Apprentice, won the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book. She is a
member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of
America (RWA). Melanie earned a bachelors degree in special education of the
hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher in
Georgia, Tennessee, and Ukraine. She lives with her husband and two children in
Thank you all for reading, and don’t forget to check out my bookstagram post of THE WARRIOR MAIDEN here!