Chelsea's Reviews > Blood Heir

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
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really liked it
bookshelves: 4-star, want-to-reread, next-trip-to-the-book-store

Update
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!

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

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.
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Reading Progress

February 5, 2019 – Started Reading
February 5, 2019 – Shelved
February 5, 2019 – Shelved as: on-deck
February 6, 2019 –
page 52
"“Curing an affinity was like trying to change the color of someone’s skin or the way someone loved.
Impossible.”


so far, I think this is quite good for YA fantasy."
February 6, 2019 –
page 210
"y'all, i am heated. this book is GOOD - it deserves to be read rather than censored by the YA twitter mob."
February 6, 2019 – Finished Reading
February 10, 2019 – Shelved as: 4-star
May 19, 2019 – Shelved as: want-to-reread
October 19, 2019 – Shelved as: next-trip-to-the-book-store

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Thompson I reaaaallly want to check this book out. I hope it becomes available, I'll snatch it up right away.


message 2: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Thompson I reaaaallly want to check this book out. I hope it becomes available, I'll snatch it up right away.


message 3: by Courtney (new) - added it

Courtney Thompson Holy crap comment glitching.


Chelsea @Courtney, I really hope you get to read it as well! :)


message 5: by MischaS_ (new) - added it

MischaS_ Very well said! I agree with you on every single thing. I wish I was able to write something like that. However, it always makes me so angry that I'm unable to do so... 😔

You're absolutely spot on.


Chelsea @Mischa, thank you! I'm surprised I was able to write something even close to coherent about this whole mess!


message 7: by Miriam (new)

Miriam preach Chelsea!! Amazing review!


Chelsea @Miriam, thanks so much! 😊


message 9: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily I'm soooo glad you brought up the tropes! So well said.


Chelsea @Emily, thank you! :)


message 11: by Kimberly (new) - added it

Kimberly I'm always wary when it comes to books. People have screamed that this book is bad but your review has literally obliterated every bad word I just read about this book. I'm getting this book. Thank you :)


Chelsea @Kimberly, it makes me really happy to hear that! :)


message 13: by Karen (new)

Karen Patrick Y'all, this is the best review I've read so far that provided a coherent explanation of why we should give the book a chance and I'm honestly feeling so bad for the author now. She deserved better!


Chelsea @Karen, agreed!! Thankfully, it did receive a new publishing date of November 19th, so we will be able to read Amelie's newly edited version of this novel :)


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