Review: Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke - 8/10*
In her debut novel, Alicia Wanstall-Burke has given us a page-turner. Blood of Heirs is a classic coming-of-age tale that doesn’t shy away from dark doings and bleak moments. Fans of grimdark will find much to enjoy here, though there is enough hope and nobility scattered throughout these pages that non-grimdark fans shouldn’t discount it simply due to the grim world and broken characters.
There are a great many things I like about Wanstall-Burke’s debut, foremost amongst them is the excellent pacing. This is a story that doesn’t let up. The narrative grips readers from the first couple chapters and doesn’t let go until the end. Sometimes, with this sort of pacing, books can feel a little shallow. I didn’t have that sense at all from Blood of Heirs, however. There is quite a bit of depth in this book, particularly for the two main characters, Lindan and Ranoth. While their narratives remain separate throughout the book, both characters are believable and at moments you ache for both. Wanstall-Burke has done an excellent job using the two as foils for one another, telling separate coming-of-age stories that have similarities but also stark and interesting differences. It’s hard enough to tell a single young-person-finds-their-way-in-the-world tale that feels fresh, to tell two in the same book is quite impressive and deserves accolades. I know I’m emotionally invested in a book not only when I grow to love the protagonists but when I have a visceral, negative reaction to the antagonists or other characters. I definitely had those sorts of reactions while reading Blood of Heirs.
There are a few elements of this novel that didn’t hit for me though. Before we get to those, I want to quickly share that there are depictions of physical and psychological abuse of a child that some readers may have difficulty with. The abuse makes sense as part of both the child and other character’s backstory, and it isn’t grotesque, but it does exist as an essential aspect of the plot. While I can’t criticize or call this a weakness, it did affect the way I received the novel. As for what didn’t work for me, I felt like the two main characters acted older than their stated ages. One main character is twelve, the other fifteen, but to me they felt more like fifteen and eighteen. It’s hard to write main characters in a non-YA book that are young, and I don’t think Wanstall-Burke was quite able to nail their characterization vis-à-vis their ages. I’m not sure why simply increasing their respective ages wasn’t an option during the composition process. I also found a key bit of the plot in Ranoth’s story, having to do with something he refuses to do for much of the book, wasn’t adequately explained.
Blood of Heirs is a gritty, dark coming-of-age tale that doesn’t give you much time to catch your breath. There are depictions of psychological and physical abuse that one ought to be aware of going in. For me, the raw nature of the characters emotions is what really makes this novel hit.
This one is worth your time. I’ll be grabbing the sequel. 8/10