The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport, is a fierce read about a young woman consumed by grief and anger who is determined to bring her grandfather’s killer to justice, and who ends up setting herself against a world controlled by rival evil (and incredibly powerful) governments. Though readers of YA may well appreciate it, it’s a book for adults–there is considerable, very detailed, violence, and a graphic sex scene.
Ikenna was ready to give up on her ambition to become one of the elite Praetorian Guard after her grandfather’s death throws her into acute depression. But when she finds out she was murdered, she becomes fueled by rage and determination to find the killer, and becoming one of the Guard will help her do that. The trials the would-be guard members, the best and brightest of the military recruits, are put through are brutal, and often fatal (which seemed really wasteful as a military strategy; this thought kept distracting me). Ikenna gives and gets horrible injuries, the body count is in the hundreds, and things seem pretty hopeless for her at many points in the story.
Ikenna, having inherited the dark skin of her grandfather’s family, faces awful racism, is a woman in a misogynist society, and is often self-sabotaged by her lack of emotional control born from anger and grief, but she has a secret advantage–she has a blood gift, from the old gods…one that her country’s greatest enemy uses as a terrible weapon. She can’t risk having it discovered, but she can’t help but uses it when needed, to ferret out secrets and heal herself from the many injuries the trials inflict on her.
In the course of the trials, surrounded by people she cannot trust, many of whom hate her (even without knowing about her blood gift) more death and guilt add to her burden, and a night of forbidden passion doesn’t help. But she perseveres, leaving a blood-stained wake, until, like opening a series of nesting dolls, she realizes at the end of the book that the fight she’s undertaken for justice, and her own right to exist, is much greater than she’d imagined.
Ikenna’s strong emotions are perfectly understandable, but don’t leave much room in her headspace for the reader to get to know other dimensions of her personality. (I would have liked more intelligence, and less emotional response….). And the pretty much non-stop violence of the trials, and the hate she gets thrown, and the betrayals she endures, don’t make for easy reading; it was all a bit much for me. I didn’t actually enjoy it much, though I never considered not finishing the book, because of wanting to know what happened. But having reached the end of the book, with the stakes becoming increasingly higher, Ikenna at last has reached a point where she has people on her side, and no longer has to hide who she is, so I’m pretty willing to give the second book at try.
So not a book for me, but if you look at the Goodreads reviews, plenty of people loved it…..
disclaimer: review copy received from the publicist.