Title // Bloodleaf
Author // Crystal Smith
Publisher // HMH Books For Young Readers
Publication Date // March 12, 2019
Synopsis // Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
The Goose Girl is one of my all time favorite fairy tales, so when I heard about this book, I was beyond excited to start reading it! Factor in the fact that I was fortunate enough to hear Crystal Smith speak about it on a panel, I knew that I just couldn’t wait to get my grabby little hands on it! Although this book disappointed me in a few ways, as I was really hoping it would be a 5 star read and it wasn’t, I definitely enjoyed it overall!
This is definitely more of a loose retelling; there weren’t even geese! I was a little disappointed because I love the original fairy tale so much and I was hoping for more, but it definitely doesn’t have to be a bad thing, particularly if you’ve never read the fairy tale and are just going in for cool high fantasy!
I loved the premise and world that was immediately set up! The book opens with a hanging or someone for using magic, so that’s a shocking way to capture attention! I loved seeing Aurelia use her magic, and blood magic no less which is very dark and cool. I enjoyed seeing how she learned to become more powerful with her magic, and I loved her determination to overthrow the cruel tribunal who is against all magic.
I also loved the lore around the titular bloodleaf: a plant that is poisonous, yet produces flowers that can save someone from the brink of death. I loved seeing Aurelia and others use it, and particularly learning how its use has already affected her life.
Unfortunately, the farther I got into the book, the less I liked the world building to the point where I felt it was ultimately severely lacking. There seem to be two kingdoms, Renalt and Achleva, but also it seems like Achleva is just one big round city? I couldn’t really tell, but it kind of seemed like Achleva was just a city and Renalt was a kingdom on the other side of that city’s wall? So is Renalt swallowing Achleva? Also, the characters seem to travel very quickly between the two kingdoms, so it kind of feels like they’re just two cities, not two kingdoms? Also the two kingdoms are basically the exact same with their language, customs, traditions, and basically everything except one of them dislikes magic more.
I really enjoyed Aurelia as a character. I loved seeing how she was drawn to the magic even though it had always been forbidden, and it was so amazing to see her develop her powers and gain control to become incredible. I also loved seeing how much she cared for her friends and family, even if they may have been suspicious of her because of her magic. And I loved how she was so willing to do whatever it took to help everyone, even if she thought she might come to harm as a result or wasn’t sure how such drastic actions would affect her.
I really enjoyed the supporting characters as well! Of course Zan was such a great character, with his fierce desire to protect the city (city? kingdom? world?) even if it meant going against what other people including the king wanted, and I loved the hint of mystery surrounding him. I loved how he was physically disabled and called weak, but didn’t let that stop him from trying to help everyone.
I loved Zan’s friendship with his best friend, and Aurelia’s friendship with Kate. And I even really liked Aurelia’s complicated relationship with the girl who takes her place, which is a lot more fleshed out here than it is in the original fairy tale where that girl is simply evil with no explanation or deeper connection with the princess.
Overall, the world building was a bit lacking, but I really enjoyed this book, and will definitely be looking forward to reading the next book!