SPFBO: Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

Series: The Coraidic Sagas #1Rating: 8.45/10
Date of Publishing: October 27th 2018Genre: fantasy
Publisher: Self-PublishedNumber of Pages: 335

 

Blurb

Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness

 

 

Belle’s Review – 9/10

Hi my name is Belle and I am smitten with this book. Blood of Heirs is such a brilliant book from beginning to end. It is captivating and engrossing and sometimes horrifying (but in the really good way). 

I loved both POV characters, but Lidan will always hold an extra special place in my heart for how she fights so hard for the recognition and respect she deserves. Watching them both struggle with their various challenges – so different and yet so alike – kept everything engaging even though they don’t cross paths at all. There are very dark themes addressed throughout the book, including child abuse so please be careful reading if that is one of your triggers. The darker themes of the book were handled considerately though, and at no point did I feel like anything was happening purely for shock value, which is a really nice change from a lot of grimdark books. 

The world building was deftly handled. I enjoyed the contrast between Ranoth’s Medieval-level society and Lidan’s more tribal one. It was nice to have a book that shows not every part of a world develops at the same rate, something not often seen in fantasy unless the more advanced society is out to conquer. I’m looking forward to seeing how the two cultures collide, when and if that happens, and what the consequences of that are. 

The pacing throughout the book is fairly fast, there’s often not time to process what’s happening and there are large chunks where the tension is dialled all the way up. While that can be a little exhausting, it definitely kept me engaged and I was quite unable to put it down. This is not a series to be missed!

 

Jen’s Review – 7.3/10

This one is hard to summarize as it’s quite character heavy – we spend a lot of time getting to know our leads and building their place in this world. There are hints of a bigger over-reaching plot in the background that doesn’t really start to come into play until towards the end, but when it does, it’s with a bang, guaranteeing you will want to come back for the next book.

There are two main characters; at this point their stories are completely separate, only connected through their dealing with the Ngaru – which is what Lidan’s people are calling the humanoid creatures that are killing their tribesman.

Lidan – Erlon Tolak’s oldest daughter and currently heir to the clan, as there are no sons. She’s stubborn, prideful, and smart.

Her sections are full clan politics and learning to use her weapons etc. They’re never boring and we get a lot of insight into the world she lives in through her.

Lidan wants to inherit the rulership desperately – mostly for the freedom she thinks it will give her by allowing her to ride out with the Rangers. But if a son is born to her second mother, she will lose that opportunity and she, her mother, and her sisters, will lose any status privilege they have from Lidan being first born female.
Her mother Sellan, is a piece of work. She has plans and isn’t willing to give up the position Lidan’s birth position has afforded her. I found her abusive and awful, which I am sure was the point.

I had a hard time connecting to Lidan. The biggest stumbling block being Lidan’s age, she seemed way older even with the societal aging that growing up in this environment may have given her.

I usually give allowance for YA and pushing the boundaries of what could pass at 16, but at 12, it was a big leap for me. Especially for certain things, like the scene that took place during the Corron or breaking a horse (even a smaller horse) or her understanding the motivations behind her mother’s viciousness.

Ranoth Olseta (Ran) – Heir to the Duke Ronart is our second pov. He’s a little bit spoiled and thinks highly of himself – that chip gets knocked off his shoulder fairly quickly.

His sections are fun because he is in danger, fending for himself while on the run and there is a bit of mystery involved with his magic and an event that explains why its use is forbidden.

When we first meet Ranoth, he and his company of men, have taken a heavy blow to their position with the loss of a key hill in their battle against The Woaden army. This loss causes things to domino, ending with Ran in charge of the city’s defenses while his father is in the field.

Unfortunately for Ran, the Woaden army comes and with it, a Mage. This battle for survival triggers the magic in Ran, saving his life. Which sounds like a good thing, but really, is not good for Ran at all; magic is illegal in Orthian, and a death sentence if you’re caught practicing.

Again, I had an issue with the age, at 15 he is a little older than Lidan, so I could roll with the probability of some of his actions a lot easier. But there were a few things, like that any soldier would follow him unseasoned to hold at an important piece of land much less be allowed to lead it in the first place that were a little harder for me to swallow.

This really is a coming into your own story for both these kids. Both Lidan and Ran, can be considered privileged because of their higher-up positions in their families and in the community. The reality is that their responsibilities as heirs certainly doesn’t always give them the freedom or the best options you would think, sometimes forcing them into choices and to grow up even faster in a world that doesn’t give much leeway to children in the first place.

***

There were just a few minor issues for me- times when I felt information was held to keep the reveals for later (why didn’t Ran read the scroll sooner?), things that could have been explained better, places that leaped a little in logic (the conclusions that were drawn about the Chief/son at the Corron) and of course, the biggest one for me- the ages.

This definitely has a first book feel- where the bulk of the book was building to a conclusion that opens up possibilities and the world and being that it is very character heavy, the pacing felt a little up and down. This didn’t bother me that much though because the characters were involving, so my interest in this story was always at a high. I never once didn’t want to come back and find out how things played out. Which is saying a lot about the potential of future stories, when my biggest complaint was that the kids need to be a couple years older. 

Quick and fun read, I enjoyed it.

 

Nick’s Review – 9.5/10

There are certain books that you just know within the first 25 pages are going to be simply amazing. I could tell right away just from Alicia Wanstall-Burke‘s writing style that I was going to enjoy Blood of Heirs. Then I was introduced to two incredibly special characters, both with their own unique story line and I was absolutely hooked.  

The action in Blood of Heirs, the first book of The Coraidic Sagas, mainly takes place in two countries. Hummel is the first, where Lidan is heir to be chief of her father’s clan if only by default since his multiple wives have not been able to provide a male heir. That could change very soon however. Orthia is the other city where Ran is a commander stationed with his troops guarding the mountain pass that separates his homeland from their bitter enemy the Woaden Empire. We join his story as the Woaden are making serious inroads in an attempted invasion that is taking all of the Orthian troops’ efforts to hold back.  

The book alternates between these two main stories and does so very effectively in my opinion. They are also independent of each other but one has a sense that at some point in the future, they will eventually converge. Lidan is a conflicted character as all she really wants to do is ride horses and become a Ranger protecting her clan and home like her father. Her mother Sellan has other plans however, and goes to great lengths to see to it that Lidan is protected in order that she ascend to the position of power that is her birthright. Sellan is often brutal with her daughter and their relationship is one that can only be described as turbulent at best.  

Things are further thrown into flux when one of the wives of Lidan’s father becomes pregnant. If the child is a boy it could threaten Lidan’s place as the next clan leader and complicate her position with the clan. But before that can happen, something unthinkable occurs and Lidan is thrust at the forefront of a threat that neither she or her family could ever foresee.  

At the Orthian front, Ran’s forces are being pummeled into a retreat by the invading Woaden horde. The arrows that rain down onto the attacking army are being dissolved in midair before they can even reach their targets, and the battle seems to be tilting in the direction of the enemy. It soon becomes evident that the Woaden have enlisted the aid of a powerful mage who cuts a violent path through the Orthian troops and directly toward Ran himself. In his attempt to fight back the mage’s advances, Ran conjures a magic of his own that he did not know he possessed and kills the Woaden mage in an explosion of sorcery. When he returns to his home his father questions him on how he could kill such a powerful mage by himself and he is forced to reveal that he indeed did use magic to do so. As the Orthians are extremely superstitious of magic and it is strictly against their laws to practice, Ran’s own father imprisons him in a dungeon. There he awaits the swift and decisive judgment that are sure to result from his actions. Ran’s only hope is to escape somehow and flee before he can be executed.  

Could his newly-found magic be a tool to help him achieve this? What future lies ahead for Orthia if the Woaden invade again, this time with even more mages leading the charge and ones armed with even more devastating powers? Ran is torn between his loyalty to his homeland and protecting his own neck as he faces certain death for his unspeakable crime of performing forbidden magic.   

Blood of Heirs is a book that just floored me from the start and then had me obsessively burying my face into every free reading moment that I had. These are the types of books that make me thankful to be a reviewer because I get to be exposed to new independent authors who write amazing stories like this one. For one thing, the battles are extremely bloody and merciless. Alicia Wanstall-Burke goes into great detail with every arrow launched, every sword thrusted, and every fireball conjured.  

I was really impressed with the way in which she makes you feel as if you are directly in the middle of the action, reflexively ducking to dodge that incoming enemy hammer smash. The world-building was so unique in that the two main locations where the story takes place couldn’t be more different and yet the characters faced very similar personal issues. Hummel, where Lidan’s clan lives, is a very late Stone Age and pre-Bronze Age type of society where weapons are quite crude and basic. Ran’s country of Orthia on the other hand, employs much more advanced weapons and is more of a medieval type of society as far as technology and social structure goes.  

Yet as I said, both characters face issues within their respective families that force them to make incredibly difficult choices. So both in a way are very similar even though they come from totally different backgrounds and places in the world. This is where I thought the true brilliance of this book came through. Virtually anyone can relate to the theme of two people who appear very different at first glance, but in reality are much more similar when you get right down to it.

I really loved this book on so many levels and the characters just served to raise this story to another level as we see them put in terrible situation after terrible situation. Yet I always felt like they would persevere no matter what the odds were. One thing I will say is this is a very dark book and by no means a light read. Be prepared for violence aplenty, crude language, and some villainous characters who literally have no redeeming qualities at all. That being said, it is a book that I absolutely devoured in a short period of time and felt sad when I came to the final page.  

The only consolation I can take away is that I know that we are not done with this story and that Alicia Wanstall-Burke has much more to tell in future books. This is a series that has so many more questions that I need answered and I cannot wait until the next book comes out. In closing I just want to say that if you are looking for a really action-packed fantasy book with incredible magic and world building, then look no further than Blood of Heirs. You will find much to enjoy in this beautifully-written story. Alicia Wanstall-Burke is definitely a new author to watch. Get this debut book now, because it’s a cracking good read!

 

Timy’s Review – 8/10

I have to note, that I’ve read Blood of Heirs as an ARC back before it was released, and my review originally appeared on Grimdark Magazine.

Blood of Heirs is the ambitious debut epic fantasy novel and the first book of The Coraidic Saga by Alicia Wanstall-Burke. And while I wouldn’t place it in the grimdark genre, it has some elements/topics which might appeal to a wider audience liking their fantasy to be on the darker side.

I didn’t have much information about Blood of Heirs beforehand, but the Universe seemed to want me to read it, so I said damn it, and plunged into it. Not having expectations can be liberating and makes reviewing a book easier. Or it’s supposed to be that way. What I want to say is, Blood of Heirs is a fascinating, and really enjoyable read which will set high expectations for the next book in the saga.

In Blood of Heirs we follow two storylines. Lidan lives a somewhat secured life in Hummel, as the First Daughter and heir of the daari—the leader of the Tolak clan—surrounded by her nine sisters and his father’s four wives. Her mother is the first one, the dana who does everything to secure her daughter’s place in the society. In order to do that, she tries to keep Lidan away from danger, even though Lidan wants nothing more than to be a ranger, ride her own horse and train under her father’s warriors. At the beginning of the book Lidan is twelve years old and slowly starts to open her eyes to the world, and the fight that brews between her parents, finding herself in the middle of the conflict. On one hand she wants to realise her dreams and prove herself to her father that she is fit to be the heir. On the other hand she is trying to not upset her mother. Sellan is quite quick-tempered and thinks the only way to learn a lesson is through pain. The relative peace of the tribe is about to break, when monsters (ngaru) start to attack the rangers and the other clans. Lidan, even though she is only twelve, understands the world better than a kid should, and acts like a grown up when the need arises. She is easy to identify with: we’ve all heard our parents argue at one point and tried to hide from it. But Lidan can’t hide forever and has to stand between them to try to keep the peace as well as her own position in the family.

“It all seemed simple enough. It was a game, played by folk pretending never to move their pieces across the board. Could she play along and win? She knew she wasn’t ready for the consequences of losing…”

We also follow the story of Ranoth Olseta, the fifteen-year-old son of Orinth’s duke, Ronarth. He is eager to prove to his father that he is able to lead an army. On his way to Usmein from his father’s camp with his companion, Brit, they approach a lone farmhouse seeking shelter for the night. Instead of a good night’s sleep Ran ends up having a nightmare which will follow him for a while, a quite persistent ghost companion, and a “curse”.

“Ran despised her when she lingered and sorely missed her when she left, an awful seesaw of emotion tipping wildly back and forth as the loneliness of his existence settled in.”

Circumstances make him leave his home behind even though he has no idea where he can find a safe place. During his journey he meets Sasha, who saves his life and decides to go with him, though she really doesn’t have a reason to. Ran and Sasha not only have to fear recognition, but a monster also follows them through the mountains and forests. Ran not only has to deal with their pursuers, but has to understand—and accept—what happens to him. He has to learn to control his magic, and find out why monsters roam free in the forests.

Blood of Heirs being the first book of a series, acts like an introduction to the world, to the characters. Ran and Lidan’s paths don’t cross yet, but they face the same problems more or less with the appearance of the ngaru. Still, their worlds are so different from each other. While Lidan lives in the safety of her clan, surrounded by her family in an Asian/Middle Eastern-like society, Ran was raised in a city by a strong-headed father and a kind-hearted mother and a tutor who acts more like a real father should. They both want to prove their worth to their fathers and face situations during their journeys they are not quite ready to face. They see and fight horrors for which they are too young but from which they come out stronger.

Wanstall-Burke did a really good job on this book. The pacing is great and we simultaneously get action and learn about the circumstances the characters are in. There are twists and pleasant surprises and although I don’t really know what the bigger picture will be yet, both Lidan’s and Ran’s story have engaging arcs throughout the book. We get some answers and conclusions, but this book is mostly about their journey—Ran’s from his home to safety; and Lidan’s to the Corron, the meeting of the five clans, and to leadership. And while I read it in a few days and it could hold my interest from the start until the end, there was still something missing for me. I couldn’t really connect with either of the characters. The only ones who got any emotions out of me were side characters: Sellan for the way she acted as a mother and treated her own child bordering—no, not bordering, it is clearly child abuse—and the Crone who lives by the edge of the village and acts all mysterious. I really hope we learn more about their relationship. I’m sure there is more to it than we saw. The other rather intriguing character is the ghost girl who follows Ran and helps him when she can, urging him to take action. Ran, being a proud and stubborn fifteen-year-old of course refuses and learns the hard way instead. They also give a pretty hurtful punch to the gut. That ending was pure brilliance, and if nothing else, that ensued that I’ll read the next book when it’ll be published.

Personally, I wasn’t blown away by it, mainly because this book felt like a building up for the next book, the first leg of a really long journey. Enjoyable, but I couldn’t help but ask, “Are we there yet?” While getting to know the characters is important–and I really can’t say this book was dragging at any point–I just didn’t feel it. However, I can see many reasons why people will love this one. It is weird because there is hardly a thing I can criticise otherwise. In the last 20% things quickly escalate and events happen at neck breaking speed, where I was unable to put the book down.

Blood of Heirs is a promising debut fantasy novel by Alicia Wanstall-Burke which will appeal readers who like character-driven fantasy, a long journey full of danger and gritty fighting scenes.

Belle: 9/10   Jen: 7.3/10   Nick: 9.5/10   Timy: 8/10

Our official SPFBO 5 rating for Blood of Heirs:

8.5/10

Available: Amazon

Author website: https://aliciawanstallburke.com

 

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