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In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are deemed unnatural--even dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, is one of the most terrifying Affinites.

Ana's ability to control blood has long been kept secret, but when her father, the emperor, is murdered, she is the only suspect. Now, to save her own life, Ana must find her father's killer. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is one where corruption rules and a greater conspiracy is at work--one that threatens the very balance of Ana's world.

There is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to the conspiracy's core: Ramson Quicktongue. Ramson is a cunning crime lord with 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.

496 pages, ebook

First published November 19, 2019

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About the author

Amélie Wen Zhao

6 books2,240 followers
Amélie Wen Zhao(赵雯)was born in Paris and grew up in Beijing, where she spent her days reenacting tales of legendary heroes, ancient kingdoms, and lost magic at her grandmother’s courtyard house. She attended college in the United States and now resides in New York City, working as a finance professional by day and fantasy author by night. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her family in China, where she’s determined to walk the rivers and lakes of old just like the practitioners in her novels do.

Amélie is the author of the Blood Heir trilogy and the upcoming Song of Silver, Flame Like Night duology.

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Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,746 followers
Want to read
May 2, 2019
[30 Apr 2019]
Ladies and gentlemen, it's been confirmed: BLOOD HEIR WILL BE PUBLISHED! This is not a drill I repeat this is not a drill Blood Heir will be out November 19th 2019!

To the haters, I say:

According to New York Times, this is why and how Zhao finally decided to go ahead with publishing Blood Heir (if you want to know why it was cancelled, scroll down to the Jan 31 update):

[Zhao] reread her book several times, examining the plot and characters to see if the critics were right. She decided they weren’t.

In March, Zhao called her editor at Delacorte Press and told her that she wanted to move forward with the novel after all. She made some revisions, and “Blood Heir” is now scheduled to be released in November.

Ultimately, it’s true to my vision,” she said.

Zhao’s decision to move ahead with publication will likely reignite the fractious, ongoing debate about diversity, representation and “cancel culture” in the young adult literary world.

While some see the discussion about cultural appropriation in fiction as a necessary, if painful, step toward addressing the lack of diversity in publishing, others argue that the online Y.A. community has become too cutthroat, even intolerant, in its attacks on first-time authors who tackle challenging social issues or write outside their immediate cultural experience.

And here is the author's letter about her decision to publish:

Dear Readers:

I'm glad to announce that Blood Heir will publish on November 19, 2019.

In writing this novel, I researched extensively on the subject of modern-day human trafficking and indentured labor throughout the world and specifically from my heritage. It is a practice that thrives on societal complicity and complacency, and it is my hope that Blood Heir will confront the silence surrounding this epidemic that continues to affect 45 million victims globally.

Through important dialogue that occurred recently, it became clear to me that my book was being read in a different cultural context than my own, so I decided to take the time to make sure the hallmarks of human trafficking were being incisively drawn.

I hope to share a new perspective from my background as a Chinese immigrant living in America. I am excited for readers to meet my heroine, who believes in justice and is ready to fight for it with her wits, grit, and magic; and for them to have a chance to engage in further dialogue about these important social issues.

Thank you for your support.

I am so proud of this community for showing Amélie their support and for speaking out against bullying, and I am so so proud of her for staying strong and getting something positive out of the negativity sent her way.

If you're reading this Amélie, I just want you to know that your determination to stand by what you believe is right, and your strength against the narrow-minded bullies, is so inspiring, and I love you for it.

Whatever happens now, whatever anyone says, know that we are there to stand by your side. Know that there's those of us who will have your back in whatever comes next.

I really wanna hug you right now. You and the whole Goodreads community.

And to all who might read this: never forget to have each other's backs. And when you want to criticise a matter, first fully listen to what someone else might have to say, then and only then voice your critique and opinion of it.
I hope we all learn a lesson from this to not make assumptions about what someone else might be saying without full knowledge and attack them for it.

Mic drop.

• • • • • • •

[09 Feb 2019]
I need to say this, because we all need a little positivity and unity: I'm proud of you.

No, not the bullies who, in the name of criticism, aggressively attack others. No, I'm proud of you who rallied against such behaviour, to show that we don't support the shameful actions of the few.

You. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of us. Hell, I'm proud of humanity.
Don't let the few define or control us.

Here's an article by two authors who had similar experiences, giving their two very different view points on the matter: click to read the NY Times article
To quote author Jonah Winter from the article above:

To the online mob, I say, and encourage Amélie Wen Zhao to say, as did the Duke of Wellington in response to a threat to expose his extramarital affair, “Publish and be damned.”

And I do hope Amélie stays strong and patient against this unacceptable Twitter attack, and eventually gives us a chance to enter her beautiful world :)

• • • • • • •

[31 Jan 2019]
This reaction by people is RIDICULOUS!
The book has been pulled from publication because of a number of nearsighted Twitter reviewers.
People are unbelievable!

What happened, in summary:

“With a group of mostly American writers pillorying a novel few of them had read out of the misplaced conviction that the book was ‘about’ American slavery and handled that subject inappropriately; that therefore it was deeply racist; and that, further, its author was not only an offensive writer but a maniacally screenshotting danger to others.

They spread those claims far and wide to the point where they were echoed and amplified by influential members of the literary community in question. As a result, the book, which was intended as a comment on contemporary slavery in a part of the world most Americans know nothing about, probably won’t be published and won’t give American readers a chance to read the perspective of an Asian writer inspired by an issue of urgent importance to many Asian people.”

Now, here's the problem:
There are different ways to call out a subject you want to speak against, like racism, in fantasy.

A) You build a world where it's not a problem, like it's normal for characters to be bisexual or gay, and you show the reader the rightness if it. You accustom them to the fact that it's ok.
This is usually useful for writing for kids, whose ideas are just shaping and who you don't want to bring into too much of the fights of the world yet.

B) You build a world where it is a problem, but the character is speaking against it and trying to change it.
This strategy is the most common one and the most pleasing one for readers. It's typical and understandable and straightforward and doesn't require so much thought from the lazy reader.
So while many would say that in method A the subject was just bandied about and not a firebrand and so pointless, or say that in method C it was actually standing for it and not calling it out, method B is the easiest way which just satisfies too many YA readers.

C) And here's the most challenging one. You build a world where it is a problem, but instead of happy merry “I'm gonna give a speech and change the world”, you show the harms this belief brings.
In this method, you're focusing on the destruction brought by, for example, racism. The scars it leaves. So more than a revolution or a firebrand, it's a personal fight for the character to show how you can survive that hate.
And this strategy of calling out a trope is the most conflicting one, but also the one that leads the open-minded reader to the most thoughts and understanding.

“Most adult readers across genres understand that representing a morally repugnant position as part of a broader narrative is not the same as endorsing that opinion, but this is the sort of obvious-to-everyone-else point YA Twitter tends to confuse or outright reject.

And that is exactly what happens, repeatedly. Reading the tweets, I feel repulsed by some people and authors alike.
What they don't understand is that the world is not all like your neighborhood. A lot of people don't understand that many of the issues you have, perhaps, solved with yourself, or even ones you've never had, are still cultural issues in a huge percentage of the world.
And everything is NOT about you. If there's ‘slavery’, it doesn't mean ‘American slavery’. It's shining light on something in another culture in past or present so would you stop and read if you want to understand or stop and leave if you don't? What's the point of all this backlash and hate?

Or, for many people, it's like if it's telling a story set in the past or in a world where it's still a patriarchy and there's no revolutionary woman or a understanding man in the story that miraculously disagrees with it all, then the story is supporting the idea of women lesser than man, instead of maybe realising the fact that it's showing the harms it brings and that not everyone is so fortunate to live in a world where women can do anything for God knows I don't.

Yes, if for example slavery or racism is a sensitive subject for you which reading its effects will only unsettle you and you are quite aware of it, then don't pick up the book using method C.
I understand. I share those sensitivities for many things myself and just don't read the book. But that doesn't mean it's wrong in its way of calling out the trope. It's raising awareness in a different way.

And another thing is unaware people spreading rumours.

“But while some of the social justice concerns percolating within YA fiction are legitimate, the explosive manner in which they’re expressed within YA Twitter is another story.
Posing as urgent interventions to prevent the circulation of harmful tropes, the pile-ons are often based on selective excerpts pulled out of context from the advance copies of books most in the community haven’t read yet. Often, they feature critics operating on the basis of idiosyncratic ideas about the very purpose and nature of fiction itself, elevating tendentious interpretations of the limited snippets available to pass judgement on books before they have been released.

And that's one reason it's been a whole year since I've visited my Twitter or Instagram accounts. The social media is just unbelievably ridiculous in its harassments!

If a confused friend ever asks you to sum up the culture of YA Twitter in one sentence, ‘Imagine a white woman explaining that she is spreading unverifiable rumors about a first-time author of color in order to protect people of color’ will do nicely.”

So while I have not read Blood Heir, it's pretty clear to me it's using something between methods C and B, or perhaps starting from C and leading to B, I'm not sure, but I'm sure that IT'S NOT SUPPORTING RACISM FOR GOD'S SAKE.

I'm so sad to read this letter by the author, I feel ashamed. *shakes head*
I still want to read this book. Without a doubt.

To the book community,

I want to start by saying that I have the utmost respect for your voices, and I am listening l am grateful to those who have raised questions around representation, coding, and themes in my book.

I emigrated from China when I was 18. Drawing on my own multicultural upbringing and the complex history of my heritage that has incidences of bias and oppression, I wrote Blood Heir from my immediate cultural perspective. The issues around Affinite indenturement in the story represent a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my owrn home country. The narrative and history of slavery in the United States is not something I cultural context. I am so sorry for the pain this has caused.

It was never my intention to bring harm to any reader of this valued community particularly those for whom I seek to write and empower. As such, I have decided to ask my publisher not to publish Blood Heir at this time, and they have agreed. I don't wish to clarify, defend, or have anyone defend me. This is not that; this is an apology.

With the feedback of the community, I feel this is the right decision.

Thank you.


The quoted sections are from the Tablet Magazine article which you need to read:

• • • • • • •

[Initial review]
Let's all take a moment and raise our glasses to Amélie Wen Zhao!
Why? I'll tell you;

In a world where the princess is the monster, oppression is blind to skin color, and good and evil exist in shades of gray...

Um. Thank you?? Grey morality and the exploration of what is evil or monstrous and also equality has always been the strongest point of a book to me!
So basically it's already a must read; but that's not even the start of it...

...comes a dark Anastasia retelling that explores love, loss, fear, and divisiveness, and how ultimately it is our choices that define who we are.

Keywords to focus on: dark, Anastasia retelling, loss, fear, choices, identity!

The best part, however, is the message she wants to convey with this book! I was totally moved after reading her letter to the reader:

I am an immigrant. I am a woman of color. And I am an “Other.” In my time in the United States, I have never experienced the sense of crushing fear about my identity that I have recently. “Get out of my country, communist!” is only one of the slurs I’ve had screamed at me from across the street. What I’ve experienced personally and seen across social media outlets and national television broadcasts has all amounted to a hyperawareness of my foreignness, my Otherness, and the possibility that because I am different, I am not worthy of belonging.

Blood Heir explores the demonization of the Other and this experience of not belonging. Ana’s journey examines how one can internalize hatred and fear, how that can warp one’s core and turn it into something cruel and twisted. But ultimately, her story is one of self-acceptance, and of the realization that we cannot change who we are nor what we are born with, but we can choose what we do with what we are given. And like me, Ana chooses to fight for a better tomorrow.

So I gave magic to my girls who were told they were monsters. I gave my children of color the ability to fight oppression. Because in a world where there is so little I can control, I want to put hope and power in their hands for once—and in a world where those deemed “different” are often cast out and made to be monsters, I want them to win.

I don't think there are any words that could describe how I'm feeling right now; about this book, about the author...
I'm filled with respect, wonder, and love, and I know that I will love this book with all my heart.
Counting the days until June 4th 2019; already added to my calendar!!!
Profile Image for Amélie Zhao.
Author 6 books2,240 followers
December 10, 2018
Update: So, the cover is live! Andddd it's time for me to hide and never come on Goodreads again! Just kidding. Sort of?

I wanted to share the Dear Reader letter that we included in the ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of BLOOD HEIR. It touches upon why I wrote BLOOD HEIR, and who I wrote it for.

Dear Reader,

Four years ago, I began writing a story about a corrupt empire steeped in winter, filled with morally gray con men, deadly assassins, twisted villains, and above all, a girl named Anastacya, who has the power to manipulate blood and who believes she is a monster.

It took me two years to realize that the monster in the story is me.

I am an immigrant. I am a woman of color. And I am an “Other.” In my time in the United States, I have never experienced the sense of crushing fear about my identity that I have recently. “Get out of my country, communist!” is only one of the slurs I’ve had screamed at me from across the street. What I’ve experienced personally and seen across social media outlets and national television broadcasts has all amounted to a hyperawareness of my foreignness, my Otherness, and the possibility that because I am different, I am not worthy of belonging.

Blood Heir explores the demonization of the Other and this experience of not belonging. Ana’s journey examines how one can internalize hatred and fear, how that can warp one’s core and turn it into something cruel and twisted. But ultimately, her story is one of self-acceptance, and of the realization that we cannot change who we are nor what we are born with, but we can choose what we do with what we are given. And like me, Ana chooses to fight for a better tomorrow.

So I gave magic to my girls who were told they were monsters. I gave my children of color the ability to fight oppression. Because in a world where there is so little I can control, I want to put hope and power in their hands for once—and in a world where those deemed “different” are often cast out and made to be monsters, I want them to win.

Thank you for reading.

Amélie Wen Zhao
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,939 followers
November 23, 2019
This book was so damn good!! (If a friend has a physical copy of the arc before the author was bullied, message me, I want the original!) The book had some major sad parts in it!! 😫

I’m looking forward to the next book!!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾


UPDATE: This was not the day to get this email about my pre-order being void!! (And don’t preach on my post or you will be deleted. I’ve put up with enough bullshit in my 40+ years!!) It will be back to happy days when I read another great book ❌⭕️

I guess I should have stayed on Netgalley so I could have read this!!!! I have been wanting this book sooo bad but some assholes bullied the author into pulling her book!!!

This is a free f*****g country people!! I would like to decide for myself whether I might like a book or not!! I have read plenty of books with slurs, rapes, genocide etc etc etc! Do you see that shit pulled? No! As well it shouldn’t! So thank you to all the bastards that can’t get a life and ruin things for other people!! Oh, and you all can kiss my ass!!

PS! If you don’t like this post then unfriend me, you wouldn’t be any different than the dickhead boys and girls that dropped my friendship while I was out battling cancer! Yeah, you big wigs on GR that I would LOVE to call out for your uncaring asses, but I won’t - I have better things to do!!

I’m sorry to the author and I hope you change your mind! And I’m sorry for anyone out there that might be trying to tell their story and it gets pulled as well!

PSS - I hope I find hundreds of likes on this post to show we don’t tolerate bullying in any way shape or form! We all had the right to rate this book from dnf to 5 stars!! Just think about that! Glad I don’t have Twitter, wish that shit would shut down too!


Royally Pissed!!!!!!!


Omg!! I keep finding beautiful cover!!! They dare to be so pretty!! 😫

I pre-ordered it too!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
917 reviews282 followers
Want to read
April 30, 2019
Added to post April 30, 2019
GOOD NEWS!! Zhao is publishing Blood Heir AS IS in November! http://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/books/amelie-wen-zhao-blood-heir.html
Added to post Jan 31, 2019
**Show your support for publication by purchasing a pre-sale copy of Blood Heir from your countries primary bookseller**
Added to post late Jan 30, 2019
Added since author Amelie pulled her book from publishing...
Folks this is just mob-style bullying. The book is fantasy, not non-fiction or even historical fiction. The book might as well be banned, burned or censored. I cannot believe that some people's opinions have persuaded the writer to pull the novel. Not only that but Blood Heir was being published by Random House for goodness sake! It's not like it hasn't been edited, proofed, etc. Saying that authors can't kill off minority characters or touch on certain subject is absurd. Creativity should be about freedom of art in any form as the creator chooses. Social media is out of control and this is a sad day for publishing and free speech.
Posted afternoon of Jan 30, 2019
Yes I have an eARC.
Usually I don’t read books months before they are published; however, due to controversy’s I may make an exception here and read this very soon...
Three things to say in advance:
1) many people are upset that a young black girl dies in this story. Is this to say we can never have a minority killed off ever again? Cause that seems wrong.
2) The is zero, ZERO proof that the writer is screen capping or ‘listing’ reviewers who give her poor reviews. The rumour is based one on twitter post by some random chick who won’t give provide any sources. That’s not journalism folks. It’s just flat out, ridiculous rumour. Don’t accuse someone if you don’t have at least a shred of proof (and no your word is not worth crap on Twitter, sorry but it’s not)
3) The line from LOTR many have mentioned being used in this book has been used by a dozen or more fantasy or other genre books over the years. I don’t think you can claim that “don’t go where I can’t follow” is so iconic that it can never be used again... it’s a very symbolic phrase perhaps but I see no reason why this concept can’t be revisited many times over in literature.

PS: I have NOT yet read Six of Crows, so parallels to it I won’t be able to speak to even when I do read this one...
Profile Image for Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰.
173 reviews2,745 followers
December 16, 2019
"You focused on the battle and lost sight of the war.”


The first three chapters were a solid 5 stars, everything after felt like reading a completely different book.

This was not it, chief.
Firstly, this review is not going to talk about or explain the controversy behind this book... If you want to know why it got pulled and then set to be re-published, there are so many great reviews and articles out there that explain the situation. All this review is going to be is just that... a review.

Sooo... it happened again. I got excited over something and ended up severely disappointed. Honestly, a lot of the issues I had with this book are similar to the issues I had with Wicked Saints. I was really just bored out of my mind.

Blood Heir is promising. Its premise and magic system is really refreshing (although it has very similar inklings of the Grishaverse), I think had the execution been much better, this would have been a great new take on YA Fantasy. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

"My name is Anastacya Mikhailov. Except it wasn’t. Anastacya Mikhailov was the name of the Crown Princess of Cyrilia, drowned eleven moons past in her attempt to escape execution for murder and treason against the Cyrilian Crown. Anastacya Mikhailov was a ghost and a monster who did not, and should not, exist."

I'm going to start off with what I enjoyed, because I did actually enjoy a couple things. The writing in this book was really phenomenal at times and if it weren't highly repetitive in its nature, this might have even been a three star read. I also really enjoyed the action in this book. The main reason I kept reading though was because of the narrative dealing with human trafficking. It was the main reason why I picked it up this book. I think if anything deserved for this not to be a DNF, it was this one fact. Okay, moving on.

“This isn’t a revolution. This is a massacre."

My first issue with this book was the characters. I did not like a single character. Everyone just felt unpleasant and unkind. Ramson started off a jerk, and although I could see how the author intended for their to be development in his character, he ended up as a jerk too. Ana was immature and often made hasty decisions - this is a trait that I absolutely cannot stand with main characters. I mean... give me a powerful female lead that isn't a clutz, a damsel in distress or childish and you'll have me hooked. Every character that came along irritated me in some way.

The predictability was at an all time high, folks. I mean... I made notes on my kindle on what I think would happen to certain characters or situations or "twists," just so I could play a game with myself later on to see if I got it right. I predicted 90% of the events correctly in one way or another. Also, the fact that I took that amount of time out just goes to say how bored I was throughout reading. I wasn't hooked or reaching for my kindle every chance I got.

The next major aspect that pissed me off was the flashbacks and character history became too much. What makes a great Fantasy for me? If an author manages to embed the character's backstory and "reasons why" within the narrative. There were entire chapters full of only flashbacks... I didn't find this necessary in the world building and although some of them were key to understanding the motives behind characteristics of the story, all of them were drawn out.

The pacing. This was the internet explorer of YA fantasy books that I have read this year. Was that a tad harsh? Yes. Am I going to take it back? No. Everything in this book felt like it took forever to reach there.

While the writing in this book was great, the dialogue was certainly not. There were a lot of cliche statements, tropes between characters that have been repeatedly done before. Some conversations were so jarring and uncomfortable, I visibly cringed. My last issue was the chemistry (or lackthereof) between the two main characters. I didn't root for them, it felt forced to me.

Overall, this book was meant to be amazing to me. I was anticipating it for a while and I just could not get passed a couple things. It felt like the entire novel was a case "yeah this is okay, but...."

The images above are taken from an art account, and other than the edit, credit to this talented person.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,302 reviews43.9k followers
March 26, 2022
Another fast pacing, mostly entertaining, dual POVed, full of action, heart throbbing, dark, debut trilogy’s first book is consumed and the first time hero between antihero kind of cunning, con-man stole the show and I loved everything about Ransom Quicktongue ( I’m not sure about his nickname, too many times it gave me hard laughs maybe I drank so much Moscato or charmed too much for expecting more memorable last name for this character) I found myself pray for reading this character’s own book, reminding me of straight version of Jack Sparrow who doesn’t apply eye-liner meets OUAT’s Captain Killian Hook (Irish charm Colin O’Donoghue) meets Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt’s Ocean’s Eleven character because both cute boys are blond!)

The story takes place in the Cyrilian Empire where the Affinities started revealing and are considered as threat because if they don’t control their supernatural powers, they may bring massacre and bloody death to their land. And unfortunately our crown princess Anactacya Mikhailov has the most dangerous Blood Affainity which forces to hide herself behind the palace walls, living in the shadows. When her father has killed and she was convicted as his murderer, entire situation has been changed. She runs away from her dungeon and she is determined to find the killer who did this to her father and clear her name which makes her become a partners in crime with a dangerous con-man, Ransom Quicktongue (Yay, we met again!)
So get ready for the adventure and read unique, exciting, riveting retelling of Anastasia.

What I liked about this book:
Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. Ransom. ( Okay, I need to stop it right now! But I’m so sure I’m all set to pay some ransom to read more adventures of this flirty con-man!)
Disturbing affainity trafficking parts, the kidnapped or forcedly taken people’s exhibitions to their buyers as if they’re cage animals are one of the heart wrenching parts of the book which is also the reflection the illegal human trafficking industry generates $150 billion in the present time!
Quick tempo, mystery and fast action parts always keep your attention alive and you want to read more, biting year nails and hands and finally entire arm.
Here is my so way too much intrigued photo when I'm reading Ransom's parts:

What I not so liked about it:
Ana is not my favorite heroine. I didn’t like her but I didn’t hate her either. Maybe she is overshadowed by Ransom and became a murderer when she was so young and left alone in the dark without knowing how to use her powers and how to relate with people. She is so temperamental, a little naïve, confused, lost but also powerful and dangerous. I think at the sequels we may witness her changing, growing so we can decide about her definite characteristic attributes.
Foreseeable, not too surprising turns and twists: Yes. You may imagine most of them but they are still okay.
I took several breaks from my reading because my mission was finding what the hell happened to me during the last mercury retrograde in Scorpio. At my breaks I resumed my reserach.

OVERALL: Ending is satisfying and I loved Ransom (I forgot to tell you, right, oh silly me!) and as a couple I loved Ana and his connection. This entertaining, fast paced story gave me delightful time, so yes I want more and I’m gonna read the other books happily and voluntarily. I hope we don’t have to wait too long.
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
Want to read
November 19, 2019
EDIT: Another November 19th 2019 publish? What's going on? However, seeing that the author most likely rewrote parts of the book... I'm a bit hesitant to read it. It almost feels like self-censoring. I'm very conflicted about this.
My hopes right now? I really need a review from someone who had a chance to read the first version.

EDIT: I made the mistake that I went back to Twitter to have a look what's new. I should not have done that. They are trying to turn this all around and make the two authors who tried to destroy Zhao (you know fair competition) the victims in this! Let me tell you; they are not the victims. They started this without reading this book. (Just disclaimer: I absolutely disagree if anyone is threatening them. That is a wrong thing to do. Take the high road in this. Say why you disagree with what they did; you can get angry (I'm still angry); pledge to never read anything from them (DO NOT RATE their books without reading! Be better than that) but certainly, do not attack them.)

Let me tell you; I was excited about this book. I still am, and I hope it will be published one day. Because even if the author did some wrong in the way she wrote about certain things I would like to see it for myself and create my own opinion.

The only good outcome of this controversy is that I've spent hours reading about slavery in Asia and slavery in the 21st century. And let me tell you, we need to talk about this issue more!

I wanted to write a nice summary of why I think that the backlash against this author and her unpublished book but I cannot do it without my emotions running high.

If you want to read more, I suggest reading this review: From Mary S. R. I think it's absolutely spot on. And I could not do a better job!

Or if you would like to watch a video, I recommend this one: by Francina Simone. She did a wonderful job with that video.

And now, I have only one thing to say. Only a few people read this book, and the majority of the backlash came after people read some outtakes written in a review. Let me tell you, if you go and take only part from almost any book, you can create a controversy! You are judging it without seeing the whole picture, without reading how the author addressed those scenes. You know, maybe those scenes were the moment when the MC realised the system was wrong? Maybe not. But we do not know. And now it seems like we won't find out.
September 9, 2020

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It's impossible to discuss this book without addressing the controversy surrounding it. Basically, publication was delayed and digital ARCs were pulled after some preliminary readers alleged that there were passages in this book that were, according to the articles I read summarizing the issue, "anti-black." After a small but vocal minority of people decried this book-- either overtly or subtextually-- as being racist or problematic, the author took it upon herself to remove the book from circulation and make the necessary edits before resubmitting the book.

I have a few thoughts on this:

A lot of people who were talking about this book being racist hadn't actually read the ARC and were just quoting the statements of the people who had. My friend Alice has an original copy that she was comparing against the finished copy at the time of my reading this, and the final changes aren't even that different from the original and don't even seem to be describing traits that are obviously black, in my opinion. Yes, people of color are oppressed in this world, but it seemed to me that the descriptions in the book were more typical of what you might expect to see of someone who was Middle Eastern or maybe Mongolian, and not someone who was black, which would make sense since this is set in an alternate Russia. I'm honestly shocked people came at this book so hard when there are other books that are much more problematic that get a free pass-- not saying either is right, but why this book specifically? Especially when nobody I saw even seemed to be considering that the PoCs might be Asian and not black.

Second, people are saying that the decision to edit was the author's choice-- and while that is true, I don't think that she would have pulled her book if she hadn't been at the epicenter of some pretty ugly allegations and hardcore negative feedback. It's the right of people to read and interpret the book as they choose as readers, but I also think it's foolish to suggest that this was an isolated event influenced solely by the author's agency and the controversy surrounding the book had no influence on her decision. Should she have pulled it? I personally don't think so. There's always going to be controversy and if I, as an author, pulled one of my books every time someone found something problematic in them, I'd have no active books available for purchase. That said, I've also pulled some of my books from publication because I felt like I couldn't really stand behind their quality as an author, so it's possible that the feedback did make Zhao second guess herself and want to do better.

Anyway, let's get into the book. BLOOD HEIR is, like many books coming out these days, set in a world where magic is suppressed or forbidden, with an autocratic kingdom rife with corruption. There's a hint of Avatar: The Last Airbender in here, in that different Affinites have different abilities and some of them are more feared or reviled than others. The heroine, Ana, is one of these: she's a blood Affinite and can possess people's bodies and rip them open from the inside out. She's hardcore.

BLOOD HEIR is also a dark retelling of the Anastasia fairytale (I'm calling it a fairytale because the story we know and love has been debunked-- they found bones that were a DNA match for the princess, thus putting an end to the parade of hopefuls). Ana's father was murdered, and Ana herself was framed for it. She's on a quest to unmask the real culprit, save her brother and her kingdom, and exonerate herself in the process. But it isn't that simple, as she finds out, when the man she visits in jail for information turns out to be a snake of a con artist who is more than happy to throw her under the bus. Enter Ramson, the morally grey hero who has a dubious past of his own.

BLOOD HEIR is so dark and has actual stakes. There's some truly chilling scenes in here, and they're all beautifully written. Until about 70% of the story, this moves at a break-neck pace. Then it hits a slow point, but recovers in the end, which opens the door to a sequel in which I'm sure Ana will have to come to terms not just with her powers but also some new and daunting responsibilities. BLOOD HEIR is actually a lot like how I had expected books like CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and THRONE OF GLASS to be, only I thought both of those sucked, whereas this one was awesome.

This is how you write about oppressed magic and have a morally grey but kick-ass main protagonist, who gets shit done and also has a bit of romance on the side, but doesn't let herself get distracted by it. Ana would certainly never look at a bag of candy left for her by a stranger and think, "OH BOY, YUMMERS!" without stopping to ask herself where it came from (*stares hard at Celaena*).

If you were put off by the controversy, don't be. This is pretty typical YA fantasy fare, maybe a little darker than most, but engaging and well-written, with a heroine who doesn't suck and has to make some pretty miserable choices over the arc of her character development. I liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3.5 to 4 stars
Profile Image for Ian.
Author 3 books227 followers
February 21, 2023
Though I have no interest in the book, after the ridiculous decision to capitulate to the sanctimonious cretins of the Twitter Mob (engaged in their habitual performative outrage on the internet) I feel compelled to offer the following free advice to the author:

If you allow envious rival authors and agents to claim for themselves the right to determine that your writing is secretly “coded” to mean what they want it to mean, rather than what you intend for it to mean, you will learn the hard way that you’ll never successfully appease these people. They will simply move the goalposts whenever they feel like it in order to sabotage you, knowing that you lack the backbone and conviction to stand up to an orchestrated bullying campaign.

By caving in to the toxic Twitter Mob that was set upon you, not only have you damaged your credibility as an author (and lost more potential readers for your book than you’ll gain, through self-censorship), you’ve also made the mistake of emboldening the perpetrators. Making these resentful people feel powerful will only make things that much worse for the next rival author they choose to victimise in order to derail their career.

I think it’s very telling that the overwhelming majority of people who have welcomed your decision on social media are NOT black. In fact, if you check the responses to the apology you posted on Twitter, you’ll find that many black readers and writers are disappointed that you’ve allowed yourself to be bullied into not publishing the story you wanted to tell. Maybe you genuinely believe that the self-appointed spokespersons for black people who instigated the campaign against you really do speak for all of us—in which case, I’m afraid you’ve been duped. They only speak for themselves, whether they like it or not.

As for the baying “hordes” of the Twitter Mob who haven’t even read your book, yet claim they have been hurt by its content, I put it to you that these people are either liars or in need of psychiatric help (probably both). Whatever the case may be, you and your book would have been better served by ignoring these self-important people rather than giving them the attention they sought. While social media may amplify the amount of noise they make, it’s worth remembering that they are a statistically insignificant minority.

Finally, I’m not going to try to persuade you to change your mind. If you feel comfortable refraining from telling the stories you want to tell, in order to write what the Twitter Mob want you to write (presumably to gain the acceptance of the toxic element within the YA “community”), so be it. But be assured that some of these individuals have ulterior motives, and do not have your best interests (as a writer or a person) at heart.

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Profile Image for Sunny.
277 reviews255 followers
December 14, 2019
I was just expecting so much more...???

I'm delighted that Amélie Wen Zhao got a chance to express her feelings throughout this novel! She has defined the purpose of this novel many times to the public. She wanted to write a book that paralleled the torture of human trafficking. And quite frankly, anyone who has this much of a personal meaning to their own story deserves to tell it.

Here's the thing... Zhao's writing is not anything unique. It’s not any different from all the other YA Fantasy authors whose books also did absolutely nothing for me. But mediocre writing is always something I can get past as long as I see a good potential story. Zhao wanted to articulate the struggles of human trafficking. And she did this by telling a story about a world where people who possess magic are constantly looked down upon and brutalized. This trope is one of the most overused tropes in Fantasy. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series follows this plot. But at least his magic system is somewhat original, and with a more emotion-provoking writing style. Sarah J Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Maria Snyder, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time also does this. Let's not forget Children of Blood and Bone and the Broken Earth Trilogy. Let's be real, the list of fantasy books that follow this trope is very lengthy.

There is nothing wrong with authors following common tropes as long as they take a somewhat unique turn on them. But considering how Zhao has passionately spoken about human trafficking, I thought this book would follow a more original storyline and have many gut-wrenching scenes. Not only did most of the many author’s/books mentioned above used this trope better, but they also managed to tug at my heartstrings more.

May was the only character I had an emotional connection to in this novel. Not to mention the main character made so many irrational decisions. And the author likes to claim this novel has an enemies to lovers trope, but it’s really just the female character yelling something insulting at the male character every time he tries to talk. Enemies to lovers tropes need to have actual chemistry, but there was none present in Blood Heir.

I most likely won't read the sequel. But kudos to the author for finally deciding to put her work out there for others to read and enjoy. Never succumb to mob mentality.

I’m glad the author decided to publish a novel that is clearly personal to her. Considering she wrote this novel based on the high amount of human trafficking that occurs throughout the world, I hope not much has changed since her original arc. I fear that people’s unnecessary bullying and judgment of a book they never read might have affected the openness that would’ve been apparent in the author’s original draft. I wish I could’ve had the chance to read the arc version before she was bullied into making changes. But nevertheless, I will respect the author's decision with the choice she made. I hope this version is still as close to her as the original and is not something she decided to settle with.

On another note, I appreciate when people recognize they might have made a mistake and are trying to fix the issue at hand. I don’t believe in banning books, or in this case, pulling it from being published. Books are meant to be praised and critiqued. And many of us did not get a chance to do that for ourselves. As a minority, her voice deserves to be heard. Believe it or not, slavery still occurs all over Asia. I know because I am Asian. So I hope author Amélie Wen Zhao gets the chance she deserves to publish this novel. And I hope people get a chance to review the book AFTER they've read it.

P.S. I see all you hypocrites calling this author out for what she did whilst praising authors like Suzanne Collins and Sarah J Maas who wrote similar scenes in their books. If you’re not going to call those authors out for the way they treated their minority characters, then you don’t get to harass Amélie Wen Zhao for doing the same. Get your beliefs straightened out.
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
January 7, 2020
The first book of 2020 and... I liked it? Even if this review may focus a bit more on the things, I did not like (why is it so much easier to write a review pointing out the things I did not enjoy that those I did?). However, I have to say that this review is very far from perfect, I had a tough time writing it, and I'm not 100% happy with the result. And in the end, I had to cut parts of it because I've run out of characters.

Okay, I liked it a lot, I enjoyed reading it, and while it's not perfect and I'll have a lot to talk about, I still consider it a very good book. And I cannot wait to read the next one. So, when is that one coming out?

In terms of a retelling, this is more of "inspired by" and very loosely. Anastacya is clearly Anastasia; however, she only has a brother and no other siblings. Cyrilia is inspired by Russia, same with language (more on that later), then you get bits of Russian Civil War with Red Cloaks vs White Cloaks, but that will probably play a bigger role in next books. But otherwise, the author took these things and set them into a fantasy setting.

The writing was really good, and I have a hard time believing that this is a debut! Well done and I sincerely hope that we will get more books from this author beyond this trilogy. The thing that was sometimes dragging it down was an overuse of cliché sentences which were unnecessary to the story especially since it feels like the author has the means to write the story well without relying on those.
But I'm really happy that the story started with action and it did not seem that the action really ever stopped. All the time something was going on, and I do not think I ever felt like something was there just to *fill* space.

The flow of the story was great; I was always eager to turn the next page to see where this is heading. But, I cannot say that this was an unpredictable book; in many instances, it seemed very predictable. But, since it was so well-written, I did not mind that. What I did mind (sometimes) were unnecessary flash-backs.
Some of them were fine, but when they came in a middle of , it was torture for me to have to read a flash-back which I was not interested in to know what's currently happening. I felt like the author did a great job at building up the characters; I did not feel like she needed all of those flash-backs to do so. (Yes, some were necessary but not all.)

So, then the characters. I liked Ana. She is the "lost" princess who was accused of murdering her father. It's been a year since she fled the palace, and it surprised me how naive she still was about the reality of her Empire. She's clearly seen how those with Affinity are treated there, but she needed Ramson to drag her through it to finally understand.
It was interesting to see her slowly grasp the whole horror of the situation, and while she had a pretty bad time with her Affinity, Ana was still not ready to accept that her Empire was rotten.
I had my issues with Ana, mainly that I had no idea how any of her plans could end up any other way than with a failure. That's the naivety once again.
But I have high hopes for her in the future, and I sincerely hope the author does not turn her into an invincible superhero.

“Don’t die,” he said.
“Don’t get kidnapped,” she replied.

Ramson. I also liked him, but for a wicked con man, he did not seem like one. For someone who spends months in jail, he was surprisingly fit. He also had some hilarious banter with everyone which works as a bit of lightening up the mood. But he could ease up on the "darlings", I did not feel like that suited his character.

You focused on the battle and lost sight of the war.

Then little May, she’s hands down the fiercest character in this book. I thought she would tear Ramson to bite-sized pieces.

Plus I sincerely hope that we will see more of Linn, she seemed like a fun character!

I honestly did not feel much of a romantic vibe between Ana and Ramson, and thankfully, it was very much on the background of the story, and it’s not distracting. However, the couple I’m shipping the most is Linn and the Yaeger she fought against at the end of the book. There is no romance between them, but I want it.

Those with Affinity in Cyrilia are hated for it, pushed aside, seen as less than human. More like machines sold to work. Other nations mentioned in the book do not see them in the same way, but Cyrilia does. The criminals even try to lure Affinites from other countries to Cyrilia and then force them to sign a working "contract" where they are then treated basically as slaves.

There are different types of Affinity. Some can make fire; others can control earth and grow flowers or chuck huge stones on their enemies; others can fly. And then there are the more complicated. There are many types of Affinity from what I can say. It actually reminds me a bit of Shatter Me series. However, so far, I lack some explanation to why some have Affinity, and other's don't. Ana seems (so far) to be the only one in her family with Affinity. I sincerely hope that the author is going to address this in the second or third book. I do not mind that there is no explanation for Affinity in this book, but I would be disappointed that there were none in the whole series.

Also for Ana's Affinity, she first learned that she had it when she was rather young , and she was conditioned to view herself as a monster which she continues to do so even during this book, and a change comes only at the end of the book. I'm very curious to see what she'll be able to do when she trains.

The main villain. Who is it even? There are at least two villains who

I have to say that my favourite moment appeared almost at the end of the book. I thought "oh, that ended well" only to be slapped in my face. What was I thinking! Of course, that's not how it's going to end.

As I mentioned above the inspiration by Russia is clear. Even the “language” or the way some things are called are clearly inspired by Russian. But even before this book was published, I had an issue that in Russian Ana would be MikhailovA, not Mikhailov. And I kept wondering this was disregarded by the author who did not know or she simply decided to do it differently. But since Anastasia was rewritten to Anastacya, I decided to believe that all that was done on purpose by the author.
And despite the clear influence of Russian, I won’t use the author-butchering-foreign-language shelf I would normally use. The only reason why I decided against it is the fact that this is clearly fantasy fiction. It does not call the country Russia, the map is not remotely similar to Russia, and it’s neighbours. I’m going to view it as a pure fiction with some inspiration drawn from Russia and the Russian language.

*note: I did not want to make this review about the whole drama; it should be about the book itself. So, here is just this short statement what I think about it after reading the book. I purposedly left the whole "rant" as a separate review because I do not feel like the drama was caused by this book but rather by someone with malicious intentions.*
As to the controversy, I still find it completely unfounded; however, when it was announced that there was another round of editing after the drama, I was a bit anxious whether I should or should not read it. It felt like the author was forced into self-censorship.
Then I realised that I would be the biggest hypocrite if I did not read it since I had so much to say when the book was attacked.
Someone already wrote to me that they will be doing a comparison review which I cannot wait to read. And if anyone else is writing one as well, please, let me know!
I suspected that certain things were changed while reading and after looking at some of the first reviews for the "first" edition, it seems that I was right. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
December 5, 2019
i dont really have much to say or any deep thoughts about this other than, for a debut novel, this is a decent effort.

this isnt the most original novel as many key points of the plot are recycled from other YA fantasies (major grishaverse vibes). some characterisation is lacking (one vital character doesnt even show up until the very end, leaving me super confused about their motives for everything) and the writing is just okay.

yet somehow i enjoyed this. its a quick, easy read and perfect for those who enjoy the ‘magical individuals fight against oppression from nonmagical rule’ trope. which i do. and i have the say that the highlight for me is ramsom - i basically read this for him. but we all know i have a soft spot for the whole tortured bad boy act. lol.

i think this is a pretty good beginning and leaves room for the series to grow, so im interested in how this story will progress!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
February 16, 2019
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a REAL and HONEST review.

To the people who didn't give this book a chance because of other people's opinions or the ranting on twitter - shame on you. Also, fuck you because this book was so fucking good.

ALSO, tons of spoilers in this review. I didn't feel like hiding them or nothing. So read this at your own risk people.

Now I know Amelie pulled this book but since I got the ARC anyways, I wasn't going to waste this opportunity. I wanted to form my own opinion on this book and see what the hell was causing these people to be butt hurt. So, I didn't even hesitate one bit - turned on my iPad and clicked the book. Boy, was I not disappointed one fucking bit.

Blood Heir is a dark retelling of Anastasia. You know that princess? She has a movie and seems to be pretty famous.

In it, you will meet Anastacya Mikhailov, aka Ana - who just happens to be a crown princess and a monster. She's a monster because she's an Affinite and her Affitnity is blood - which basically means she's a fucking bad ass and can control or kill anyone by their own blood. She's one person you don't want to piss off.

Blood isn't the only Affinty in this world. No, there's wind, flesh, mind, fear, and so much more. Kind of like avatars or whatever. Honestly, I was hooked from the beginning. Blood Heir reminded me of so many freaking books.

I got Hunger Games, Throne of Glass, Red Queen, Divergent, and so many other freaking YA book vibes. Heck, one of the characters reminded me of Flynn Rider from Tangled - he's also a favorite character of mine.

Speaking of characters, other than meeting the bad ass princess you meet Ramson. God, I loved him! These two meet each other at a prison, mostly because Ana wants to free him so that she can find the person who murdered her father. She wants to redeem her name and her title.. all while trying to figure out why everything happened the way it did. Besides her little revenge plan, Ramson is plotting his own. He was also betrayed and wants to know who and why it all happened.

So much freaking betrayal happened in this book. As well as death - a lot of people freaking died. The twitter people ranted about unnecessary deaths but I claim bullshit on all of that. Yeah people died and they happened to be characters that I fell in love with.. but it wasn't like a fucking piano fell out of the sky and they just died. No, they didn't. May and Fisher died protecting a loved one. Even though their deaths happened at different times.. it helped shape both of the MC's to what they are now. Then there's Ana's brother, Luka, and that death definitely shook me to the core. I didn't see it coming and I just know that his last words spoken to Ana will definitely change her into a better person.

Throughout the book, Ana is seeing the world in a different view. Yes, she grew up in coddled in a castle. She had no idea how people were treated outside of the palace. She probably didn't care either. It doesn't matter that she was abused while living in the palace either. Once she was out and saw how her people were treated - her eyes were finally open. She wanted to fix everything that was happening.. and in order to do anything - she needed to be in power. Or at least talk to her brother, who was in power at the time.

Besides all of that, I was shipping the crap out of Ramson and Ana. There was so much tension between them and little flirting moments. I hope there's something going to happen between them in the next book because they are getting closer. They are choosing the other person instead of themselves now. Even if she chose to save her brother at one point - it's them, always.

We also get to meet a bunch of side characters. May, Fisher, Linn, and Yuri are just a couple that I'm remembering off the top of my head. I loved them from the first moment I met them. They kind of remind me of airbenders or whatever.

May was so protective of Ana. I loved her smart mouth so much because she wasn't afraid. I smiled so much when she told Ramson to shut up. Her death definitely reminded me of Rue's but her personality and spirit were inspirational. I hope I grow up to be like her one day.

Then there's Fisher, who we only really get to meet through Ramson's flashbacks. He definitely put him in his place from time to time. He was trying to get him to open up his eyes. To see how the world works and who matters and who does't. It sucks that seeing his friend die was what brought him down a dark path - but at least that path led him to start making the right decisions.

Linn was such a bad ass. When you first meet her, she is being auctioned off. After being rescued, she saves both Ramson and Ana's life a couple of times. Her wind power is freaking awesome and definitely unappreciated. I can't wait for her to be reunited with the revolution, Ana, and Ramson.

Then there's Yuri. Now him and Ana were best pals in the palace. After her escape from the palace, they run into each other at the auction. He's in charge of the revolution (or so we think at this point - haven't meet everyone yet) and he's pretty much a bad ass in his own way because he has fire power!

Overall, I loved this book. I fell in love with each and every character. I enjoyed getting to read about their journey and I can't wait for the next book to come out. I also can't wait for EVERYONE else to get the opportunity to read this book.

Profile Image for Laura Thalassa.
Author 37 books17.5k followers
Want to read
February 5, 2019
“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”
–Adlai Stevenson

That's all I'm going to say about this one.

Be kind, y'all. <3
Profile Image for Zainab.
384 reviews528 followers
August 7, 2022
Not trying to diss or anything- I actually really loved this but I read it as 'clown princess' and not 'crown princess' and I'm just-


Okay so about the book; it's fantastic. I genuinely enjoyed it and it's quite apparent in the fact that I read it in almost one sitting and I've got finals in less than a week.

This is the second retelling of Anastasia I've read this year and boy oh boy I'm in love with them.

I think the best part about this book was Ramson. The guy is witty and smart and I love him.

The book is written beautifully, I loved the whole setting, the characters, and the worldbuilding.
Can't wait for the second book!
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
1,091 reviews803 followers
May 2, 2019
UPDATE: It has a new release date everyone!

"Your Affinity does not define you. What defines you is how you choose to wield it."

As many of you may know by now, this book has apparently been embroiled in a rather intense controversy. I say apparently because I personally have only heard of the incident through second hand sources here on Goodreads and have not in fact been following the issue on Twitter. So please understand I cannot to speak to that issue. I am just here to give my honest review on the book I read.

*Note: Not spoiler free*

This book tells the story of Ana, the fallen princess for Cyrilia, who, due to her affinity for controlling blood, is forced to flee the palace after being accused of murdering her own father. She embarks on a journey for justice, seeking to find the man truly responsible for her father's demise, which after a long search puts her on a collision course with Ramson Quicktongue - con-man extraordinaire. An uneasy alliance is formed as these two journey through the kingdom in search of justice and vengeance.

So I'll say this, the writing itself is rather average. There is nothing particularly stellar or memorable about the style of writing. But it gets the point across and still carries the story along just fine.

For those who want the warning, yes this book does contain bloodshed and violence. I mean, it's called Blood Heir. It'd be more surprising if there was no bloodshed. And yes, there is mention of slavery, or, as it is referred to in this book, Affinite indenturement. That being said, it is not slavery based on race or skin color. Because in the book it did not seem to matter where the Affinites were from or what they looked liked, if they had a useful affinity they were captured by Affinite brokers, essentially slave traders, and sold to the highest bidder.

Now I want this to be clear, although slavery does take place in the book, in no way does this book treat slavery as anything but something morally wrong. Though our protagonist Ana is certainly quite ignorant to how significant of an issue it is in her country. Due to her privilege, she has never truly come face to face with the crime and corruption that runs rampant through the cities. She initially believes the issue far and few between, blindly believing that the Whitecoats, the Imperial Guard, protects against threats such as Affinite indenturement. But it does not take too long after the book starts, for her to realize just how wrong and out of touch she is.

Another one, she thought helplessly, and it was as though the world she had seen for the past eighteen years were slowly peeling away to reveal the truth of what it was. How many times had she purchases something from someone who might have been forced into a sham contract? How many indentured Affinites had she waved at in the crowds when she had traveled with her father to see her empire as a child?

If Affinite indenturement was so rampant, why had she never heard it discussed in the Palace, at Court, with all of Papa's Imperial Advisors? Why had none of it been mentioned in textbooks?

I'll be honest, initially, I was a bit annoyed with Ana for being so naive, but after I read the passage above I came to realize that it was done purposefully. It is part of Ana's journey, discovering the wrongness of her world. Understanding that because of her privilege she was shielded from the horrors that everyday people had to face. Because, although she certainly suffered for being an Affinite, there were those out there who suffered just as much, if not more. Because unlike her they did not have a warm bed to go back to or a proper roof over their head. They did not have anyone, servants or family members, to take care of them after they were beaten or sold or abused.

The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing there is a problem. And this was Ana's moment of recognition.

There was nothing, absolutely nothing, forgivable about human beings who chose to put children in cages.

For those who are upset saying that it was wrong of the author to kill off May, I just have to say that this has been a long used plot device. The killing off of a character close to the protagonist to propel them towards a greater purpose. And in no way did it feel like the author killed May simply because she was a person of color. If anything I think it more because she was a child, an innocent child who had absolutely no say in being born with an ability. But because of it she was stolen from her homeland and forced into slavery. She died after standing her ground, imploring Ana that no matter what she would not abandon her fellow Affinites to the auction house. She died protecting someone she loved, Ana. I do not consider that a pointless or meaningless death.

Ana & Ramson
Thank you for coming after me. Thank you for fighting for me. Thank you for saving my life.
"Don't die, Witch," he said.
"Don't get kidnapped," she replied.

I adore these two. Their threats. Their banter.

But their serious talks were just as important. Such as the moment where Ana asks Ramson if he was ever an Affinite broker. To which he answers, no, he was not. And yet he also makes it clear that he is in no way truly innocent. Because although he never did so himself, he knew it was happening and did nothing. He continued to work for the man behind it all. And that was its own sort of wrongness. Guilt by association.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book is in fact how gray everything was. Ana and Ramson both, at their cores, have goodness in them. But they have each done their fair share of terrible things. Killed, lied and hurt people. All in the name of justice and revenge. And while I certainly rooted for them the entire time. I know they're not innocent. They may not be the heroes the people want, but they are the heroes these people need. And I hope to, eventually, continue to follow them along their journey to fix a world so wrong.

I received a free ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thank you to the publishers for providing me with a copy to read and review.

So apparently this book has been retracted from publication?

That’s very disappointing. So far, I’m enjoying the book. Though it’s being put on hold, which I assume it is because if I remember correctly The Continent offended a lot of people and still managed to get published eventually.
Original blurb
In a world where the princess is the monster, oppression is blind to skin color, and good and evil exist in shades of gray... comes a dark Anastasia retelling that explores love, loss, fear, and divisiveness, and how ultimately it is our choices that define who we are.
Profile Image for chloe.
244 reviews28.5k followers
May 20, 2020
blood heir had such a strong start and i became super invested in the story really quickly. i was so excited because i thought this could potentially be a 5 star read. unfortunately, as the story progressed i found it to become a little repetitive and i wasn't as invested in the story. it definitely had a lot that i loved about it (the complex characters, the affinities, the banter, etc.), but like i said, my interested dwindled as i kept reading. i will say i did switch to the audiobook at around the 150 page mark which most likely affected my reading experience too (i definitely preferred reading this physically)
Profile Image for Josh Hyung (조슈아).
114 reviews1,286 followers
January 3, 2020
We are all heroes in our own eyes, and monsters in the eyes of those who are different. —Linn

This is another instance of unwarranted hate. It's sad how Twitter almost crushed the dreams of a promising author who only wanted to retell one of the dark periods in Chinese/Asian history. Overly sensitive influencers disregarded Amélie's standpoint, accusing her of Black discrimination (and plagiarism). Now that I've read the ARC and final manuscript, I feel very indignant. But I'm also glad that the author chose to publish her book in spite of all the drama. If anything, negative publicity is still publicity.

Blood Heir is a fantastical reimagining of Anastasia. Anastacya Mikhailov is the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire, a place where magic is feared but exploited. Because of her dark ability to control blood, Ana is forbidden to leave the palace and has a terrible childhood. One day, the emperor dies of poisoning, and Ana is the immediate suspect. Before her execution, she flees the palace dungeon and formulates a plan to clear her name. Surprisingly, the only person who can help Ana is a con man named Ramson Quicktongue. Regardless of their different objectives, the exiled princess and the notorious criminal team up and discover a shocking conspiracy.

This book was anything but anti-Black. In the ARC, the Author's Note discloses the story's inspiration: Amélie's identity conflict as a Chinese immigrant. Ana, who is constantly called a monster, signifies the demonization of the Other, which is a derogatory term that typically refers to people from the East. So from the get-go, the "monsters" in Blood Heir aren't Black. It's silly to assume otherwise just because the book was published in the USA. Did the bashers read the Author's Note? I guess not! No offense, but Blacks aren't the only ones who have a history of slavery.

As for the plagiarism issue, some parts of the ARC were indeed similar to The Hunger Games. One of the characters died, and Anna sang a nursery rhyme and buried them in lots of flowers. However, the final edition had a different version, probably just to please the haters online. Nonetheless, this doesn't mean that Amélie was guilty of plagiarism. Haven't you guys heard of the words "trope" and "cliche"? If using tropes and cliches were grounds for plagiarism, what would happen to the YA genre?

Now that I've refuted the major allegations, it's time to discuss my actual reading experience. Ironically, I buddy read this book with an influencer. But he wasn't part of the controversy; I think that he did his best to avoid it. Hahaha. I'll call him JG for anonymity's sake. JG and I read Blood Heir for almost a month, and we updated each other regularly on Instagram. It was a cathartic process because I had complaints about daddy-hating Ramson and his slow-paced backstory. Moreover, I needed someone to talk to whenever someone died. Dear Amélie, how could you be so heartless!? LOL

Ana's blood magic wasn't new to me because I was familiar with bloodbending in Avatar: the Last Airbender. However, I liked Ana's active compassion for the oppressed. When she witnessed the corruption outside the palace walls, she promised to do everything in her power to stop it. Also, Ana's facade of coldness made her vulnerability more remarkable. She genuinely loved her family even though they had failed to protect her. Finally, I loved that she never gave in to her growing feelings for Ramson; there wasn't a single kissing scene in this book! <3

JG and I had two favorite protagonists, but I can't tell you their names because neither of them survived! All I can say is that both of them were very dear to Ana. I expected their demise because a happy ending would be unrealistic. Still, it hurt to see the author confirm my suspicions. If another beloved character dies in the sequel, I might send a love letter to the author. xD

The best part of the book was its colonial discourse. As an Asian reader, I found it very relatable. If you Google "slavery in the Philippines," you'll learn that "modern slavery" (e.g., human trafficking and debt bondage) is prevalent in my nation. Many countries in Asia have the same problem, so novels that seek to address it are more than welcome. Slavery is a global dilemma, and the habit of "Othering" makes matters worse.

Blood Heir was one of the most thought-provoking books I read in 2019. It didn't always please me, but it was worth my time and money. I sincerely hope that book two will have a basher-free publication next year.
Profile Image for Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink*.
373 reviews449 followers
Want to read
April 30, 2019
I'm more interested to read this now just because of the controversy.

There is a lot of drama in the book world and some authors should address the issues raised in their books but I am not sure that the issues raised are enough to justify pulling the book from publication.

Not everything in the world is looked at through American eyes and it seems that a vocal majority has cowed this author into submission.

EDIT: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/bo...

This will be published on November 19, 2019.
Profile Image for Lucie V..
1,012 reviews2,051 followers
October 4, 2022
✅ Russian inspired
✅ Magic/powers
✅ Action and scheming
✅ 2 POVs
✅ Pace (except for the flashbacks)
✅🆗 Plot (good, but predictable)
✅🆗 Characters
🆗 Flashbacks
🆗 Kind of romance…

3.5 stars

Anything you want, you have to take it for yourself. And you, Kolt Pryntsessa, were chosen by the Deities to fight the battles that they cannot in this world.

After being framed for her father’s murder a year ago and barely escaping, princess Ana is desperate to find her father’s killer to get her revenge and clear her name. The official story is that she drowned while trying to escape justice. The truth is that someone helped her escape the dungeons before she was executed. Ana ends up making a deal with renowned conman Ramson Quicktongue; she will help him get his revenge over the people who betrayed him and sent him to prison if he helps her find her father’s killer. But can Ana really trust Ramson or not? Is he good, way down deep inside or not?

“This isn’t one of the fairy-tale stories you read in your childhood, where the hero always wins in the end. You’ll have many battles to fight, and you won’t win them all. And at the end of every single day, you’ll always face the same choice: keep fighting, or give up.”

To call this book a retelling would be a little far-fetched. I would say that it is inspired by the story of Anastasia, but the general plot and even the family members are different. Some characters have the same name, the Cyrilian Empire is definitely inspired by Russia, but that's about it. Ana only has one brother and she is trying to find her father's killer so she can clear her name and go back to her rightful place at her brother's side.

Perhaps all monsters were heroes in their own eyes.

In this world, some people have special powers. They are called Affinites, and are being exploited and sold as slaves. Some of them have a good job, but most of them are feared, ostracized, and treated badly. Because of this injustice, there is also a hint at a civil war to come in the next book maybe: white cloaks (palace guards) against red cloaks (rebels). The red cloaks want equity for the Affinites and they want to get rid of the corrupted monarchy.

“You’re the most famous con man in Cyrilia,” Ana replied drily. “Slim chances are your friends. You’ll make it work.”

The “romance” (if it can be called romance…) was not the best. For most of the book, Ana and Ransom’s relationship is based on a shaky trust and they slowly learn how to rely on each other. There is a tiny little hint of romance near the end of the book, and after re-reading this book, I realize that the romance did seem a little forced. Ana and Ramson were together for a few weeks only, and we did not really see their relationship evolve. We saw how Ramson started off thinking only about himself and being willing to sacrifice Ana, he then got to know her and started feeling guilty at the idea of selling her for her abilities, but the romance part near the end where he feels like dying because he thinks she's dead felt a little over the top. The intensity of his feelings came out of nowhere, even in his chapters, there was no hint of him feeling so strongly about Ana.

You focused on the battle and lost sight of the war.

Both characters are nice, but they lacked some depth. I like the fact that Ana is struggling with accepting her ability. She is not all-powerful, and she knows that it is a curse as much as it is a gift. I see the potential for character development in the next book (hopefully). I liked Ramson more than Ana actually. He was more complex and more level-headed than Ana who just wanted to rush everywhere without seeing the bigger picture and without a real plan. I also enjoyed the morally grey part of Ramson, he did bad things in the past, but he is not a bad guy, he now wants to get his place back in the criminal organization he was part of, but at the same time, he wants to help and protect Ana… I did enjoy his chapters and his roguish side.

Even though Ana and Ramson are the two main characters, my heart melts for little May. She is the fiercest character in this whole book and she does everything with her whole heart and conviction. I admire her resiliency and her capacity to still hope for a better life and a better world, even after being ripped away from her mother and sold as an Affinite slave. Linn is also a very interesting character that we did not see enough in this book. I really hope to see more of her in the next book.

The writing is good, not too cheesy as it is sometimes the case with YA fantasy novels, but there were many cheesy quotes and sentences in the dialogues. It was not a bad thing, it's just that it was a little too much sometimes, and it did not add anything to the story either. There is a lot of action in the second half of this book and I was eager to know what would happen next even though most of it was predictable. One thing that was getting (slightly) on my nerves by the end of the book was the flashbacks. Some of them were interesting and helped me better understand the characters, but some of them were a little boring, and I wanted to skim through them, especially when they happened right in the middle of the action.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book and will definitely give a chance to the second book.

“There is good and bad in everything, Ana. And it is the good of this world that makes it worth saving.”

Follow me on Instagram 🙂

Fanart by K.night
Profile Image for give me books.
204 reviews2,944 followers
April 18, 2023
Bardzo przyjemna fantastyka z ciekawie wykreowanym światem i polityką.
Profile Image for Aliyah ♡.
159 reviews361 followers
September 8, 2021
“Perhaps monsters never meant to hurt others, either. Perhaps monsters didn’t even know they were monsters”

Spoilers will be blocked off with 🐯🐯🐯
Buddy read with Foteini <3

Subjective grade- 70%
Plot - 75%
Writing & dialogue- 80%
Worldbuilding - 80%
Character development - 90%
Character relationships - 88%

Blood Heir follows Ana, a princess who is framed for her father, the emperors' death. On her venture to find the man who actually killed her father, she crosses paths with Ramson Quicktongue, a criminal prodigy. The two journey on an adventure full of betrayal, romance & bloodshed.
Oh, and there’s also May. 👀

Subjective grade- 70%
The Blood Heir was average at best. There’s nothing worthwhile about it but don’t get me wrong, it was an alright book.

I couldn't stop myself from comparing Ramson to Kaz Brekker. Like y’all, Ramson of the Quicktongue and Kaz would be like besties. Except they’d end up double-crossing each other but that’s beside the point. The way they act, the way they think, the way they present themselves… I couldn’t help but make comparisons.

Character development - 90%
Ana’s development was pretty solid. At the beginning of this book, we see her with a potentially powerful affinity. Oddly, she considers her powers as ‘monstrous’ and thus herself as a monster. Over the course of this book, she grows and comes to terms with her powers and learns to think of it as not monstrous but liberating.
And I fucking love that.

Plot - 75%
Solid plot. But why the average rating? You might ask. It's because THIS SHIT BE GOING IN CIRCLES!
I am not here for these characters to be going back to square 1 every damn time. Do you know what else I’m not here for? This girl over her Ana going around making dumbass decisions. Half this book was me screaming “ARE YOU MAD BRUV?” To my book, in hopes, her 2 brain cells would cooperate and for once, just once not make another dumb ass decision. I am up to HERE *reaches above my head* with this girls nonsense.
*looks around*
Anyway…. At least the plot twists were good, and the overarching contention. This almost makes up for everything else.

Worldbuilding - 80%
When I say I had no clue what half the words being used meant in the first 20% of this book... then when I finish the book I find a glossary at the end.
Aside from that, the world-building wasn’t all that insightful. But seeing as it wouldn’t have done much for the book, it isn’t a big concern of mine.

Spoilerish thoughts:
Ok so I know May’s death was supposed to be emotional and heartfelt and stuff but all I could think about was how she’d no longer be in the way of Ramson x Ana time. Evil, I know. And that one quote:

“Please, May. Please. Don’t go where I can’t follow”
“I’m always here, Ana. You’ll find me in the stars”

Yeah, that was actually cute. Got to admit.

As for the plagiarism complaints, are these people serious? What, cause Ana put a flower into dead May’s hand, all of a sudden the author plagiarised The Hunger Games. I’m sorry, huh?? The bar is so low.

Also, this book could’ve easily been a stand-alone. But now I have to sit through two more books of Ana trying and failing to get her kingdom back if I want to witness a proper ending. Ughhh.

Overall, 3.2 stars. Wouldn’t read this again, but the sequel is fair game.

Slightly intrigued, slightly disappointed.
Review to come later, I promith.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,144 reviews593 followers
May 27, 2019
A newly edited version of Blood Heir is going to be published November 19th of this year. While I stand by my opinion that nothing about the message of this book needed to be changed, I'm happy that we will be provided a chance to read this story. Amelie deserves to have her book read, so look for it on shelves this Fall!


Curing an affinity was like trying to change the color of someone’s skin or the way someone loved.

Imagine this: ever since you’ve been a little kid, you’ve dreamed of being an author, of walking into a book store and seeing your name on the cover of a book.

As you grow up, you hold onto this dream. As you write, you put your blood, sweat, and tears, your heart and soul into your story. You doubt yourself, you wonder if a career in writing is unrealistic.

And then, it happens: you get the call. Someone wants to publish your book. Your hard work has paid off and your dream is going to be a reality. You’re only months away from seeing your book on shelves - people are already reading advance copies!

Then you hear it: whispers from bookish circles of the internet, especially twitter, proclaiming your book as racist, anti-black, and full of blatant bigotry.

This is what happened to Amelie Wen Zhao. The problem? Her book is none of those things.

Being the lovely person that she is, Amelie immediately was concerned by these rumors. As a woman of color who wrote her novel to address themes of oppression, she feared that she had hurt people in the book community, feeling she must not have understood the culture relating to American slavery and must have accidentally written it in an offensive manner.

So rather than risk hurting people, Amelie decided to willingly pull her book from publishing. She self-canceled her dream because of a few assholes on twitter with nothing better to do than spread rumors about a woman of color on the cusp of success.

There is nothing wrong with this book. Amelie does not need to change one thing . The people who made her feel like she needs to are nothing more than bigots who have somehow convinced themselves that by censoring voices, they are crusading for justice.

A huge debate that has come forward since the controversy with this book emerged is that of Americentricism.

Basically, the accusers felt that because Amelie’s book dealt with slavery and human trafficking that it must have a basis in American slavery.

Amelie immigrated to America at age 18. She grew up in multiple cultures—Paris, Beijing, and China. As per her note on twitter, the slavery and human trafficking in her novel was based on her own experiences with these horrors in Asian countries.

What is wrong with this? Why can’t she write about these things in a way that is inspired by her experiences in cultures outside of America?

America does not have a monopoly on slavery. It is simply narrow minded to think that the only way to write about atrocities like this is through the lens of American history when sex trafficking and human trafficking are still abound in many places.

And it’s not like Amelie wrote about these things in a way that condones them. In fact, she writes about them in a sensitive, nuanced way:
The broken pleas of the grain Affinite tore at her. There were so many things wrong with this picture, jarring with the way she’d always seen her world.
The Imperial Patrols, dragging a helpless girl away to the prison wagon.
The onlookers, complicit in their silence of the supposedly criminal act taking place before them.
What kind of an empire had her father ruled?
Like the Windwraith, she felt no victory at the Steelshooter’s defeat. It didn’t matter that a condemned girl had fought her way out and won tonight. No matter what, a body lay cooling on the floor. No matter what, a life had been lost. And until all of the auction houses and brokers had been burned to the ground, so Cyrilia would keep on losing.
For all these years, he’d taken the cowards way out, refusing to sink to a level as low is the brokers under Kerlan’s command. Yet standing by and doing nothing was another form of evil, he realized as he dropped his gaze to the ground. And fate had rewarded him in kind anyway.
Ransom was silent.
Children in cages. Fury like she’d never felt smoldered in Ana‘s chest, and the blood all around glowed like embers as her Affinity burned with a vengeance. This was the reality of her empire. For so long, she had made excuses for the Whitecloaks, for Affinite indenturement, for the gaps in her empire’s laws that allowed for all of this to continue to exist.
But there was nothing, absolutely nothing, forgivable about human beings who chose to put children in cages.

Another criticism leveled at Blood Heir is the fact that it is apparently not okay to write about people being persecuted for magical powers now? I guess we need to boycott the entire fantasy genre then, because I can think of 10+ books off the top of my head that feature that trope. People oppressed for magical abilities being used as an allegory for racism and current political climates is nowhere even close to a new idea, and this can often be a great tool to get readers thinking.

People also took issue with the fact that a young “black” character (she is only ever described as tan or bronze skinned) dies at a slave auction—having read the book, this is a gross oversimplification. Ana, the main character, breaks into the auction to save the young girl, May, and while escaping and attempting to rescue a number of prisoners, May is accidentally shot and killed trying to help them get out.

It’s written to be an incredibly tragic event, and Ana cares deeply for this young girl. May is not just a tool for the plot; her character to me reads as a commentary of the tragedies that happen in wars and revolutions. Children are not spared from the tragedies that abound.
Nine Affinites. Nine lives, in exchange for May’s. Was it worth it? How did one balance the significance of a life against another? Was there even a way to measure?
Ana pitched her voice low and cast her words to cut. “Do not speak of May as though she were sacrificed to be made, in these battles and wars you seem to perceive as a game.”

Oh, and people were also trying to say Blood Heir plagiarized other popular fantasy novels. The word those people were looking for was not plagiarism but tropes—nice try, though. Having a line from a popular fantasy series as a nod to your love and respect of it is fine as long as you don’t overdo it.

Mostly, this whole fiasco just makes me sad. There is much love and passion in this book. It’s not just another haphazardly written YA fantasy novel. I can see how much of herself Amelie put into this book—just look at her author’s note here on Goodreads.

This book is a narrative of self-hate and monstrousness—in her author’s note Amelie describes the monster as herself, her fear of her identify, the way society conditions people to hate the things about them that make them different. Both main characters come from tragic backstories and are coping with trauma, Ana coping with the shame she feels in relation to her Affinite ability that she has been conditioned to hate.
“Run, and live."
Live. That felt like an impossible task.
“She never meant to.” Her voice was soft as a sigh, and as she gazed into the flames, her face was a well of sadness. “She never meant to hurt anybody.”
The confession was unexpected, and struck a chord deep within him, one he kept buried beneath the great legend of Ransom Quicktongue he’d built for himself over the years. He knew, bone-deep, the feeling of hurting someone and being helpless to do anything about it.
And the ones you hurt tended to be the ones closest to you.

I wasn’t in love with this book at the beginning, but as we see Ana and Ransom grow through the story and begin to accept parts of themselves they had previously been so ashamed of, I really found myself growing fond of the characters. The romance is a tension-filled slow burn that feels extremely earned.

This is a good debut for YA fantasy. It’s not perfect, but it’s promising. Amelie deserves to have her book be read.

I think this whole incident is really indicative of larger problems in the YA community. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the past, I could see where the criticisms were coming from, but I think the targeting and censorship of this book has no basis in it having actual problematic content.

This idea that if something doesn’t agree with our small view of what the world should be, then it should be canceled and obliterated from the community is such a toxic mindset.

As a reviewer, I give plenty of one stars. I criticize the messages of books all the time and I acknowledge the fact that books have the power to perpetuate harmful ideas.

But the thing is, those books have a right to exist. My job as a reviewer is simply to call attention to what I see in a text based on my own personal viewpoints of the world. I would never dream of thinking that my opinion on a book would merit it not being published.

You can disagree with someone, but the thing is, people have a right to their opinions, no matter how flawed you may think it is. People have the right to publish books you might not agree with.

I know it’s fun to be like “oooh tea” every time we label a new book as problematic. But we need to acknowledge that the way we talk about books, the way we label them as not worthy of our oh-so-progressive YA community, is just as fucking problematic.

So basically, the gist of what I’d like to say in this review is that the YA community needs to get off of its high horse.

I really hope that Amelie changes her mind and that you all get the chance to read this lovely story.

All quotes taken from an uncorrected proof courtesy of the publisher.
Profile Image for ✨faith✨trust✨pixiedust✨.
399 reviews381 followers
April 18, 2020
So, I'd say there was an improvement, to say the least!

It's amazing how changing so little made the story on the whole so much better. Really, this official version had the same shape as the original, with all the same plot points and all the same destinations, but sometimes the motivation behind something was changed or the attitude surrounding it, and that made it all feel more well-rounded, more real, and more human. Issues I'd had with the original were fixed without changing much, especially regarding the villain.

I'd say the biggest, most obvious differences were the backstories for Ana and May. May was super shaky before (and not because she was ~inaccurate and racist~ rep). No, she fell flat for other reasons. But the new and improved May, May 2.0, was so emotionally resonant and all it took was giving her some kind of non-Ana motivation. Her quest for her lost mother was way more believable and grounding. Now I'm excited to see where that plot thread goes in future books. The other big backstory change was Ana's, and I wasn't as enthusiastic about this one. I liked it, but I hadn't had much of a problem with the first. I see why Zhao might want to change some things, as it makes her relationship with her brother feel shown instead of told, especially considering the fact that their on-page interactions are quite limited. It wasn't a bad change, I just didn't see why it was entirely necessary.

Ultimately, I liked this version way more than the last. The original was fun and a bit popcorny, but it lacked some much needed depth and coherent themes, and this revision really delivered on that.

I was surprised that Zhao didn't really change anything regarding the "controversy" other than the obvious changes to May, but perhaps since the controversy was unfounded there really weren't any necessary changes to be made. I would say that I wish she hadn't been forced to edit, but the end result was so great that I can't really let myself. I'm glad she got this second pass through, because the story is better for it.

But does Yuri really need to be a love interest now? Childhood friend love interests are so Mal, and we all know what the consensus on him was.

(below is my review of the original ARC)

I received this eARC from Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of this book in any way. All quotes are taken from the uncorrected proof and are subject to change.

I will not be officially rating this eARC because of the promised revisions, but if I had to, I’d definitely say 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars. This is a review for the original ARC, long before the controversy that made Zhao pull her book, revise it, and release new ARCs. More on that controversy later.

Obligatory Summary

Ana’s deadly Affinity to blood makes her, at least in her own eyes, a monster. And when she’s framed for the mysterious death of her father, it might as well be true. But to clear her name, she needs the help of Ramson Quicktongue, an infamous crime lord and the only person who can find her father’s killer. But he has secrets of his own and plans to get his revenge, and Ana might be just what he needs to regain his position.

Who, in the end, is the monster?

My Thoughts on the Book

In the face of fear, one could choose to run, or to rise.

This wasn’t the most original book I’ve ever read. It has the hallmark features of a YA high fantasy retelling about royalty:

- A princess with a dark secret (usually dangerous magical powers and knowledge regarding a dead parent)
- Said princess pretends to be a peasant / doesn’t reveal her true identity to those around them, usually the love interest
- The love interest is a Bad Boy™ with a shady past but he’s sarcastic enough to be charming
- A friend dies
- The MacGuffin leads to yet another MacGuffin
- ~BeTrAYaL~
- One or more masked ballroom sequences

Cliche? Yes. But bad? I actually quite enjoyed it for what it was. The main characters had a great rapport, the setting was clear, and the plot kept you moving forward. If you like Bloodleaf, Shadow and Bone, and Six of Crows, then you’ll probably love this.

Specifically, Ana felt like a merge between Alina from Shadow and Bone and Aurelia from Bloodleaf. Ramson felt like a merge between Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows and Nikolai from the Grishaverse as a whole. Ramson’s side of things had a very Ketterdam vibe to it, while Ana’s had a Ravkan, Grisha aesthetic. Even the Affinities and their classifications bore a great deal of similarities to the Grisha. Cliche, however, doesn’t always mean bad, if the cliches are still entertaining. I didn’t mind any of these similarities. I still enjoyed the story.

“Your heart is your compass, and even the strongest wind can’t change its direction.”

I did, though, flip-flop quite a bit, I have to admit. I was generally quite engaged (it even took me out of a 3 month slump!!) but a single issue pervaded almost every aspect and really made me want to unofficially rate this 3 stars instead of 4.

It felt undeveloped. Not all the time—and there was definitely a lot of well established foreshadowing and character building—but some sequences that could have expanded on the characters and their dynamics, or breathed more life into the world or setting, or even just explained some of the plot, were just…sloppy or barely there or not there at all.

This had heart (a lot of it) and clearly a great deal of hardwork—and it shows! It really does! But it also has some missed opportunities and skipped time. Five whole days of travel with our two leads (who aren’t very well acquainted by this time in the story) occurs without any page time. So much could have happened in those five days, even if it’s just relationship building or backstory sprinkling rather than dumping. It made some parts of their relationship feel unearned or unrealistic. Besides that, Ana herself is kind of an idiot but I don’t think it’s her fault. What she does or does not know, based on her own experiences, is vague at best. We know she was isolated from the world at a young age, essentially tortured by her tutor, and taught to fear and hate herself. But somehow, she sees or perceives the world as an entirely different place than what she has known it to be, and not necessarily in an optimistic, trying-to-see-the-good-in-life kind of way. She believes or knows some things that she reasonably wouldn’t have known, or holds strong opinions about topics she would likely never have been introduced to. And when she has been introduced to topics, even going so far as explaining how she knows about it earlier in the book, when confronted with that same thing again, she seems to be completely blindsided. It really makes no sense at all.

But I liked it. And I’m mad about a certain thing that my Winter Wars girls know all about. They know my fury, and that it stems from love.

The Controversy

The TL;DR of the thing is this: Zhao wrote a book about indentured servitude and how it’s evil, sent out ARCs to the harsh, cruel world, and the harsh, cruel world of Book Twitter claimed it was inaccurate and insensitive representation of African slavery. Perhaps I’m being biased, however, because I think those people who claimed that were entirely wrong. Because I read the book, and very few of them did.

A better, less biased TL;DR is this: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/bo...

Amélie Wen Zhao wrote a letter to the readers of her original ARC, and I’m certain that if most of the people flinging accusations at her had read it, they wouldn’t have said half the things they said. It goes a little something like this:
Dear Reader,

Four years ago, I began writing a story about a corrupt empire steeped in winter, filled with morally gray con men, deadly assassins, twisted villains, and above all, a girl named Anastacya, who has the power to manipulate blood and who believes she is a monster.

It took me two years to realize that the monster in the story is me.

I am an immigrant. I am a woman of color. And I am an “Other.” In my time in the United States, I have never experienced the sense of crushing fear about my identity that I have recently. “Get out of my country, communist!” is only one of the slurs I’ve had screamed at me from across the street. What I’ve experienced personally and seen across social media outlets and national television broadcasts has all amounted to a hyperawareness of my foreignness, my Otherness, and the possibility that because I am different, I am not worthy of belonging.

Blood Heir explores the demonization of the Other and this experience of not belonging. Ana’s journey examines how one can internalize hatred and fear, how that can warp one’s core and turn it into something cruel and twisted. But ultimately, her story is one of self-acceptance, and of the realization that we cannot change who we are nor what we are born with, but we can choose what we do with what we are given. And like me, Ana chooses to fight for a better tomorrow.

So I gave magic to my girls who were told they were monsters. I gave my children of color the ability to fight oppression. Because in a world where there is so little I can control, I want to put hope and power in their hands for once—and in a world where those deemed “different” are often cast out and made to be monsters, I want them to win.

Thank you for reading.

Amélie Wen Zhao
Don’t believe me? She shared it on Goodreads a whole year before the hate hit its climax. And what was that hate but another representation of Zhao’s Otherness and the world trying to take her voice away? What does it mean for a foreign woman of color to feel like a monster because of the irrational opinions of others, only to have the very work that helped her overcome that self-doubt be criticized for the same purported problems? And what, then, does it mean for her to come back stronger and fight for her book’s publication?

But you know what I find most interesting? That in the new ARC, which I haven’t read, she changed the letter.
Dear Reader,

Growing up, I learned to make sense of the world around me through stories. And yet, I struggled to find ones that fully represented me, with all my identities and histories and the various cultures I grew up with. So I decided to write my own.

Blood Heir is an amalgamation of characters from different kingdoms and cultures representative of the international community in which I was raised. I set this story in a cinematic world brimming with my love for fantasy, yet also rife with corruption and plagued with human rights violations in a broken system of law. The theme of oppression in Blood Heir draws upon the practice of indentured servitude that directly affected my own family history, as well as the global epidemic of human trafficking that continues to exist today in many forms. In a vast and powerful system set up against the powerless, I wanted to give each and every one of my characters the chance to fight back.

I’m so thrilled to be sharing a piece of my heart and mind with you. I hope my book can introduce a new perspective to readers to recognize the hidden tragedies of our humanity, and to confront this beautiful, broken world of ours with hope and bravery.


Amélie Wen Zhao
A stark difference. Gone are the personal ties. This is an explanation, not an apology. And I couldn’t be more proud. She isn’t backing down, she isn’t cowed into submission by the haters. She’s standing taller, if not more distant, and pushing for her own story.

Amélie is her own monster, just as Ana is a monster in her world. They’re both pushed down, made to fear the world and its reaction to them. It takes a lot of courage to openly discuss those kinds of fears, especially in a time as turbulent as this, where politics split the Western world so starkly and fears run rampant. But isn’t this kind of open honesty what we need right now? We need personal stories of struggle and oppression, even if they’re told through metaphor, to give people a space to reflect and analyze. That’s what fantasy does best. It allows you to explore the world at a deeper level but at a distance; it’s a parable of our world, a microcosm used to explain ideas and concepts without the complications of a direct comparison. It’s infinitely useful, and as Zhao put it, a way for those deemed Other to see themselves in fiction.


The book isn’t bad. It does what it intends to do, and it does it without claiming to be anything but what it is: an own-voices story about a girl oppressed by a corrupt world fighting for the chance to be free: free of hate, free of fear, free of oppression.

“We are all heroes in our own eyes, and monsters in the eyes of those who are different.”

I’m going to read the published book. I want to know what Zhao changed, and if it was necessary to change it. See you in part 2.
Profile Image for Lucy.
417 reviews625 followers
December 21, 2022

I have the sequel to this and could not remember the first book at all. I think i actually preferred this book the second time around.
I love Ana’s affinitey and I really enjoyed learning the more darker affinites too. Also enjoyed Ana and Ransom with their bickering .

”dust and stars… we are but dust and stars.”

Principal review:


"Choices were for those with privilege and power. When you had none, all you could do ws survive."

For me this book started off really strong, with an excellent beginning and middle. Ana is thought to be dead; accused of killing her father, the Emperor, she has fled from the royal palace to get revenge on the person who caused his death, and show the empire that she was framed. While doing this she comes across a member of an important crime gang that runs the underbelly of crime and the human trafficking in the empire. Together they must get revenge on those who have wronged them.

In this world, some people have affinities- these are special powers. Ana has a very powerful affinity for blood which has caused fatalities in the past. Her affinity caused her father to keep her hidden from public life, so outsiders do not know the shame of having an Affinite princess. In this world, those with affinities are treated as less than human and second class citizens, and those without affinity's enslave affinites and traffic them to others in the land.

I loved the magic system in this world, especially in a world where if someone does have an ability they are seen as "less than" rather than ruling and all powerful. This book had a deep emphasis on the effects of human trafficking and the devastating consequences that happens to these people. I loved the involvement of politics and the realisation Ana has of how the world really is, the unfair treatment and disparity between who holds the power. Much of this book is Ana's realisation of her sheltered life and learning the corruption in society and how her family, as the ruling members, have influenced this.

This book focused a lot on how your choices make you, not your predisposition. It also showed the importance of hope and self-acceptance in a world that sees others like you as 'less than, exploring feelings of fear and hopelessness. In addition, I adored the wintry and Russian folklore themes in the book.

The issues of this book fell in the last 50 or so pages. There was just one bad thing happening after another which was frustrating, but also consecutive, that it had me rolling my eyes. In addition, it appears that nothing has got resolved and our characters are back at square one.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
967 reviews849 followers
December 20, 2019

Stellar world building. Super writing. A unique twist on several magic tropes.

Writing: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Main characters: ★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2

Intricately plotted, gorgeously written, and extremely strong in character development and setting, Blood Heir is an impressive debut.

It reminds me of the joy I had when reading Leigh Bardugo for the first time—great writing surrounding a great world. In fact, there are echoes of Grishaverse in Blood Heir. The dual POVs felt like Six of Crows—in a good, subtle way—and the world held flavors of Old World Russian. BUT, as is pointed out in Bardugo's work, this world remains fictional. Any comparisons drawn between fictional countries and real ones are on some level assumed by the reader.

Anastacya "Ana" Mikhailov, the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire, has a terrifying secret. She is an Affinite, a magic user. And not only that—her affinity is for blood. In an empire where Affinities are trafficked, labeled, abused, and treated as a subclass, the princess is raised in hiding by the crown family and forced to deny her abilities in the name of the crown.

That is, until her father is killed in front of her and she is framed for his murder.

Now on the run and presumed dead, Ana lives for her revenge and swears to find her father's murderer. She hunts down the only man in the realm with the ability to track anyone—Ramson Quicktongue.

Quicktongue is no Affinite, but he is the most corrupt con man in the kingdom with nothing to lose. Recognizing Ana's worth, he agrees to help her. But there may be nefarious reasons behind his help, and all is not what it seems...

This dual-perspective debut absolutely crackled with vitality. I loved the world. I also loved its discussions on human trafficking, and its reflections on people vs. people (Affinite vs. "normal") as it reminded me of so many history lessons from multiple different countries, time periods, and backgrounds.

Things I loved:
The world building. The writing. The discussion of human trafficking in a YA setting and the ramifications this had on the characters—I, as a woman, found myself identifying with that part of the discussion—and the strong moral compass of the main character, Ana. I also loved Ramson.

Things I didn't love:
Parts are a bit slow compared to others. I also found it very hard to connect with Ana. This might speak to my jaded, pessimistic nature, but I found her too naive and clear cut to relate to. She always wanted to believe the best, and was always shocked when the worst happened. I think part of it is an age thing (Ana reads young to me), part of it is a glass half full/half empty thing, and then part of it is Blood Heir being #1 in a series, and having a lot of intentional room for Ana to grow.

Thank you so much to Delacorte Press for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for rin.
411 reviews483 followers
Shelved as 'maybe'
January 26, 2019
here's a concept: before you start writing "russian inspired" books that has russian names in it, spare five minutes and research russian naming conventions 🤪🤪🤪 the way you form last names is literally. in top results of google.

plot twist: russian language is gendered. a woman wouldn't have a male last name no matter how much you want her to.
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