The Blood Trials

Harper Voyager. (The Blood Gift Duology, Bk. 1). Apr. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9780063058484. $27.99. FANTASY
DEBUT The Republic of Mareen was victorious, barely, over the Blood Emperor and his armies years ago. As Mareen eschews the power of the gods for the advance of technology, the powerful War Houses still favor elitist ideals over anything else, as half-Khanaian Ikenna Amare has witnessed her entire life, due to her dark skin and gender. When she discovers her grandfather, the Legatus, did not die of natural circumstances, and that only the Tribunal could have killed him, she promises vengeance. She joins the Praetorian Trials, a deadly training ritual which only a scarce few survive, but Ikenna’s blood runs with power—a dark power that would jeopardize her search for the truth, and even her life—if it was discovered. With few friends, fewer allies, and all the odds against her, Ikenna knows her life may be forfeit, but she will take her enemies with her. Some readers will have trouble with the harsh racism and misogyny in the story, but it supports the themes of classism and discrimination faced by its bold but flawed protagonist.
VERDICT Davenport’s ambitious debut is gritty and bloody, and balances emotional arcs with fast action. Fans of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising and Evan Winter’s The Rage of Dragons will find similarities in Ikenna’s journey.
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