Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
Perfect for fans of RED QUEEN and UPROOTED, Crystal Smith’s debut novel, BLOODLEAF, is an imaginative retelling of the Grimm Fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that takes a ghostly mystery and sets it inside an epic fantasy world.
Aurelia is the first princess born to the Renalten crown in two hundred years, destined to fulfill a treaty by journeying to marry Valentin, the prince of Achelva – Renalt’s greatest enemy. Rumors of an unwell, cruel prince abound, and the only thing that eclipses Aurelia’s apprehension of her impending marriage is her fear of those who’d kill her to prevent it.
When an assassination attempt forces Aurelia to use forbidden magic to save a stranger, she is driven from Renalt by the witch-hunting Tribunal and a mob out for blood. But before she can claim asylum in the court of her betrothed, her travel party turns on her, forcing her to trade places with her treacherous lady-in-waiting, Lisette.
Now penniless in Achleva and bereft of her identity, Aurelia must decide if she wants to surrender to her new life or fight for her old one, all while navigating the complicated ties binding her to the enigmatic prince, the unquiet ghost of an ancient queen, and a poisonous plant called bloodleaf.
Aurelia is a pawn in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war— and if she can’t extricate herself from it before Lisette marries Valentin in her stead, she may face losses far more devastating than her crown.
I went into this not knowing anything about Goose Girl, so I am not sure if it’s a great retelling of that or not. I do know that I read this book in less than 24 hours. That is impressive for me with fantasy. It was hard to put down.
Aurelia is a witch and also a princess in a place were witches are criminals. They still hang them in front of an audience. She uses blood magic and has to hide it from everyone. She was promised as a baby to marry Valentin, the prince in another kingdom. When a man shows up that also practices blood magic, Aurelia feels like she’ll be able to learn how to control her magic better. She doesn’t have to hide it from him. Things don’t go well and Simon was attacked with an arrow laced with the poison, bloodleaf. Aurelia just reacts and starts openly using her magic. She had just found a hidden bloodleaf flower which heals everything and she used it to save him. Her heroics cause a raid by the Tribunal. They want her to burn.
Aurelia escapes with a group including her guard, Kellan, and her younger brother, Conrad. The head of the Tribunal is helping her along with his daughter, Lisette, that used to be friends with Aurelia. On this trip, Aurelia is betrayed and left alone. She makes her way to Achleva which is surrounded by a magic wall. Once inside, she meets a young man, Zan, and his guard, Nathaniel. After awhile, Aurelia goes along with them. She keeps her identity a secret and goes by Emilie. Zan tells her that someone is trying to take down the wall and if that happens, all the energy there will destroy everything. Aurelia decides to help with her magic. Together, they must find a way to stop the sacrifices that will bring down the wall.
I won’t go into more because I feel like I might give something away. But I have to mention Kate. She is Nathaniel’s pregnant wife and I adored her. Her kindness stood out a lot even though she isn’t in a huge amount of the book.
I really liked this book a lot and gave it 5 stars. It wasn’t without its flaw, but I still loved the story. The ending isn’t a cliffhanger, so it can easily be a standalone or series.
Warnings for threats of rape (none happen), death of animals (horses), hangings, beheadings, and other violence.
Thank you to HMH Teen for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Have you read Bloodleaf? Is it on your TBR?