Bloodsworn is the conclusion in the Ashlords duology and oh, so satisfying it is. Where the first book set up the conflict, this book dives deep into the conflict, and the fantasy world explanation comes front and center. This fantasy world feels brilliantly fresh, as the author likes to turn things on their head, giving the narrative a different spin. This book is lightning-paced, always engaging, clever, and just all around great. There are no fallbacks on love triangles or other tropes that have become so common in young adult fiction. Its ultimately hopeful message will particularly appeal to its young demographic.
Again, a tip of the hat to the author for effective and clever use of first and second person in the different chapter narratives.
This duology has been one of my favorite young adult reads this past year. Highly recommended!
Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Crown Books for Young Readers
Profanity/Language: 24 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name; 1 scatological word.
Violence/Gore: Attack on a fortress involving explosions, gunshots, deaths and casualties (non-graphic); description of soldiers bursting into fire; extended battle scene with death of soldiers and horses (minimal description); report of ways people died in battle; report of taking villages, no description; tackle and knock unconscious; verbal threats/faking torture to get someone to talk; human blood required for a phoenix rebirth, opening a door–knife used to slice hand; characters come upon corpses of “sort-of” men creatures, a little creepy; report and discussion of blood sacrifices throughout the book (not death of individuals, but usually the cutting of a hand, etc. to produce blood); recollection of stories of the underworld–that usually end in death; pursuit of character, injury to horse, tackle, magic involved; threat at knifepoint; extended siege of a city involving sword fighting, arrows, injuries, death, etc.; deity called the Butcher who takes blood sacrifices from the dead; extended battle scene between characters and a deity and its minions resulting in injuries and death; character knocked unconscious and bound in preparation to be killed; extended battle scene with injuries, death to horses and men, some description; verbal threat; gruesome scene in which row of hanging cuts of meat go as far as the eye can see, implication that much of it is from humans; character cuts hand to get blood and use magic force to kill another character; characters spontaneously ignite and burn; castle decorated with bones, skulls, etc.; people stand in line waiting to make blood sacrifices; creepy, skeletal animals; cut to hand to produce blood; battle with creatures resulting in injuries and death; character killed by sword; extended, multi-chapter battle with many deaths, injuries, some description; character shot; threat of death to millions; vials of blood seen; characters spontaneously combust; character kills a diety and watches as it dies, some description but no gore per se; character sacrifices self to kill someone; reports of violence;
Sex/Nudity: General reference to breeding phoenixes, soldiers; character thinks about kissing another character; character magically summoned when dressing after a bath and is only partially clothed (no details, somewhat humorous); characters hold hands; characters embrace; characters kiss; recall of trading kisses; character says she is going to court someone; characters kiss passionately (brief).
Mature Subject Matter:
Death, discrimination, slavery, war, treason, blood sacrifices, propaganda, abandonment of a child.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Report that characters have a drink together; drinking of wine at a government function/gala; someone is organizing a drinking game in the background of a scene.