In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.
When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.
A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.
** I’m writing this review from the eARC I received last month.
I admit I don’t know what all changes had been made as I did not read it before it was pulled from publication and then put back, so, there’s a lot I cannot comment on.
I’m simply rating it four stars because I really had fun reading it, but, I will go in-depth with my review, and I also have to say I’m certainly not qualified to be critical of it on certain important matters but I am happy to read the other reviews and listen to others to better understand.**
So, let me get onto my review now.
We start off with this scared young woman, a princess without a kingdom in a lot of ways, afraid of herself and what she could do more than anything else. Why? Because not only is she has what they call an affinity but a blood infinity, capable of great and terrible things. Still, she intends to bring her father’s murderer to justice, to win back her own right to be a Princess and live in the palace and there’s a very long road to get there.
Ana’s story is a bit of an Anastasia Romanov story, but, also, its own unique tale of Affinites, and has a lot of Russian folklore/traditional influences for the Cyrilian Empire.
Ana has been presumed dead after the tragic incidences that lead to the point in time where you meet her, but this has helped thus far in her search for her Father’s killer.
Ramson is a bit of an ass, but, he is definitely the one that made me grin the most while reading. He is in a lot of ways really not a good person, BUT with the potential for it, and he’s not strictly a bad person either, I would say he’s selfish and in the grey area for a good chunk of this book, but his development was probably even more satisfying to read about than Ana’s and that’s saying something for me.
Ramson is NOT an Affinite, and that is a nice counterweight to Ana’s affinity. Though he’s from the underbelly of the crime world, he is still more accepted in society than Ana, as she has a power that sets her aside.
Most if not almost all Affinites are indentured servants, the thing that sets them apart from others, what should make them more powerful, has been there downfall as far as the Cyrilian Empire is concerned. So, this is of course, when boiled down, slavery.
Ana never dared to open her eyes to that fact when she was living in the palace as Princess, but now that she’s on her own in the ‘real world,’ Ana is forced to see the truth. I love that she went from seeing things from how only privileged tend to view them, to seeing things how they actually are, she is understanding how her Empire, and more importantly, her Father had faults. She knows now that there needs to be change and that wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been accused of murdering her father.
Ana is naive in a lot of ways because until a year ago she led an incredibly sheltered life, and as an accused killer she’s also had to keep to the shadows, so, in this book we get to watch her have her eyes opened.
May was possibly my favorite character, Ana’s friend, a young indentured child looking for her mother, and though much younger than Ana, in a lot of ways, it was May who took care of Ana.
Ramson sees Ana as something to be used, she’s a means to an end and so he’s completely jaded and corrupt in comparison to Ana and yet the balance between them is so perfect and eventually, we do see this great development in him as we do in Ana.
The Affinites have been oppressed and enslaved and the Cyrilian Empire is to blame, the rest of the world has their own views of the Affinities but the moment they step foot into the empire, they’re forced into a ‘lawful’ employment contract. Now there could be a plot of bringing down every non-affinite, of making them pay for all the crimes that have been done against Affinites.
So the story’s focus is on the Affinites, and there’s more than just angry people wanting revenge, there’s the hint of revolution and Ana’s possible play in changing things if she can get her title back.
Now, for the bad parts, there were at times where Ana was so naive and impulsive that you did want to shake the crap out of her. And Ramson was a bit overly selfish, so again, wanted to shake him too.
But as far as the writing goes, there were a lot of stereotypes and cliches.
For me, that’s not a bad thing, but I know that it can be off-putting for many.
I’ve not read Six of Crows but I’ve heard there are some uncanny similarities to Ramson and…Inej? I think I’ve heard, so, that’s something to keep in mind.
Again, the cliches and stereotypes were probably the biggest issues with the writing style.
I thought this was actually a super enjoyable read, I felt that Ramson and Ana had great banter, and more than that, I felt like Ana went through a lot of character development.
-Slow Burn Romance ftw
-Grumpy Cinnamon Roll
-Scary Bloody Cinnamon Roll
-Affinites are amazing
-The injustices are well done and heartbreaking
-ALL THE THINGS PLOTS
-Similarities to other stories possibly therefore might be ‘overdone’
-Issues before it was pulled from publication and then put back out, not sure how well things were resolved as I didn’t read the other eARC
-Ramson may be too selfish
-Ana may be too naive
-Cliches in abundance
-Stereotypes in abundance
-At times Ana did feel a bit immature, but I would say that was because of her sheltered life.
Overall, I give this four cups of…hot chocolate. [See what I did there? Cause it’s holiday season?]
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager UK for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.
About the Author
Amélie Wen Zhao is a Paris-born Chinese national who fell in love with stories since she was old enough to hold a book. Raised in an international community in Beijing, she had the opportunity to grow up steeped in the values and teachings of three different cultures. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Les Misérables, and Wuthering Heights were among her favorite works.
It wasn’t long before she wanted to tell her own tales. After graduating from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 2014, Amélie began working as a finance professional by day, and writing by night. Her young adult fantasy trilogy, BLOOD HEIR, debuts in 2019 from Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House.
Amélie hopes to empower young readers with messages of acceptance, strength, and love through her works, and to continue to push the boundaries of young adult literature by exploring new, cross-cultural themes.