Title: A River of Royal Blood
Author: Amanda Joy
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Series: A River of Royal Blood #1
Genre/s and tags: Young Adult, Fantasy, POC, LGBTQ+ characters
Content warnings: Violence, death, blood, animal death, and racism.
An enthralling debut perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone set in a North African-inspired fantasy world where two sisters must fight to the death to win the crown.
Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.
When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.
A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity.
With a sibling rivalry that leads only to death, a dark and intricate magic system, rich North African-inspired world-building and history, a page-turning plot, and a palpable romance, A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy certainly has all the elements for a great story. Reading this book was enjoyable and definitely enthralling! At the end of the book, I was left wanting more.
My thoughts on A River of Royal Blood
“Even if I had to become the wicked girl of my nightmares, a maelstrom of marrow and blood, I would do whatever it took to stay alive.”
A River of Royal Blood follows Princess Eva who is born with the magick of marrow and blood. Though she hates this magick, she must learn how to use it if she wants to live and ascend to the throne, because Queens of Myre are chosen only through the Rival Heir tradition, a tradition where sisters fight to death. The thing is, before the tradition can even start, someone tries to kill Eva. Believing that it was her sister behind the attack, she decides to try and learn her magick if she truly wants to survive. Looking for a decent mentor is hard though, since her magick is rare and hasn’t been seen since the first ever Queen of Myre who had the same magick as hers. Fortunately, she finds Baccha, a powerful fey who also uses the magick of marrow and blood. And so, Eva’s journey to learning about her power and their history, and preparing for the Rival Heir tradition starts. The journey is not an easy one, though. Along the way, she encounters more assassination attempts, deaths, secrets, revelations, and a grand scheme that seems much bigger than Eva first thought of.
The characters were interesting, and it was enjoyable reading the story through Eva’s perspective. However, I do find myself wanting more of some of the characters, particularly, Eva’s sister, Isa. They didn’t talk much in the book, and although Eva’s flashbacks mostly consisted of memories with Isa, it would have been nice to see them interact in the present. I really wanted to feel and witness that sibling rivalry and how twisted and complicated their current relationship is because of the tradition. The same goes for other minor characters: Falun, Mirabel, Captain Anali, Aketo, and more.
The romance had just the right amount of tension and intrigue, and although I like Aketo and his chemistry with Eva, I can’t help but feel wary of his character. There might be more to his background and his intentions and let’s hope we learn more of that in the sequel.
My absolute favourite thing about this book is the world-building. The Queendom of Myre, and the entire world of Akhimar, has such a rich culture and history that had me so invested. As readers go along the story, they find bits and pieces of the world through the places, the paintings in the palace, the different races and tribes (human, bloodkin, fey, and khimaer). I also love how the readers learn the history of their world along with Eva. As she goes through her lessons with Baccha, Baccha shares with her stories of how their world came to be, how their country was established, how the queens and the deadly tradition started, and even the start of their magic system.
Embracing oneself is a big part of the overall theme of this book, especially in Eva’s character arc. Eva detests here magick because she had witnessed just how dangerous it can be, even with her loved ones. All throughout the book, it’s been mentioned and discussed how she needs to embrace her magick of marrow and blood because it’s a part of her, not just a tool to wield or control.
The plot was definitely a page-turner. I wanted to know more about Eva and her magick, and just how she’ll survive the tradition. There were a few plot twists that I had already seen coming, and perhaps it’s because I quickly spotted several foreshadowings, so those definitely took away the shock value for me. The ending also left many questions and new mysteries, and I’m both frustrated and excited because of it. I can’t help but feel like the story could have been longer, but at the same time I’m now excited to get my hands on the sequel and continue Eva’s journey.
How about you guys? Have you read this book already? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!
(This book review was first published on The Nerd Daily.)