Bloodleaf (Bloodleaf Trilogy Series #1)

Bloodleaf (Bloodleaf Trilogy Series #1)

by Crystal Smith

Hardcover

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Overview



“Enchanting, visceral, and twisty”— New York Times bestselling author of Ash Princess, Laura Sebastian

“BLOODLEAF feels like a classic in the making.” – Sara Holland, New York Times bestselling author of Everless

A roar of a dark and luscious epic fantasy that’s layered with heady romance, bloodthirsty magic, and ghostly intrigue—an absolutely wicked delight.

 
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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328496300
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 03/12/2019
Series: Bloodleaf Trilogy Series , #1
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 8,647
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author


Crystal Smith is a writer, photographer, and artist who developed an early love of storytelling in a family of voracious readers. She resides in Utah with her high school sweetheart husband and two lively sons. When she isn’t writing or creating, she can be found re-watching Jane Eyre or reading ghost stories with all the lights on. Twitter/Instagram: @crysrensmith
 

Read an Excerpt

1

The gallows had been erected in the shadow of the clock tower, partly so that the spectators could witness the executions without the nuisance of sun in their eyes, and partly so that the Tribunal could keep its killings on precise schedule. Order in all things, that was the Tribunal’s motto.
     I held my cloak tight around my chin, keeping my head down as the crowd converged in the square beneath the clock tower. It was a chilly morning; breath was billowing from my mouth in wispy clouds that rose and disappeared into the fog. I scanned right and left from under my hood, wary.
     “Good day for a hanging,” a man next to me drawled in a conversational tone.
     I glanced quickly away, unable to meet his eyes for fear he might notice mine. It wasn’t often that a person was determined to be a witch by such a trivial trait as the color of her eyes, but it wasn’t unprecedented.
     A murmur rippled across the crowd as two women were prodded up the stairs onto the platform. Accused witches, both of them. The first woman’s shackled hands shook so hard, I could hear the clink of her chains from my distant spot in the throng. The second, a younger woman with a sad face and stooped shoulders, was perfectly still. They were both dressed in rags, dirt caking their sallow cheeks and clinging to their matted hair. They’d probably been isolated and starved for days, long enough to turn them desperate and feral. It was a calculated tactic; if the accused witches seemed subhuman and unhinged onstage, it not only quelled the reservations of the scrupulous few who might doubt the Tribunal’s practices, but it also made for a more entertaining show.
     The man who’d spoken to me sidled in closer. “Fantastic fun, these hangings. Wouldn’t you agree?”
     I tried to ignore him, but he leaned in, repeating quietly, “Wouldn’t you agree, Princess?
     Startled, I found myself staring into a pair of purposeful, umber-colored eyes flanked by an unsmiling mouth and a cocked eyebrow.
     “Kellan,” I said in a heated whisper. “What are you doing here?”
     He set his jaw, shadows collecting in the hollows beneath his copper-brown cheekbones. “As I am supposed to be guarding you, perhaps you can tell me what you are doing here and answer my question and yours at the same time.”
     “I wanted to get out.”
     “Out? Out to this? All right, let’s go.” He made a grab for my elbow, but I snapped it back.
     “If you drag me away now, it will cause a scene. Is that what you want? To draw attention to me?”
     Kellan’s mouth twisted. He had been appointed as a lieutenant to the royal family’s regiment at fifteen and assigned as my personal guard at seventeen. Now twenty, he was long since oath-bound to protect me. And he knew the only thing more hazardous to my health than standing in the middle of a crowd of agitated witch haters would be alerting them to my presence. Though it pained him to have to do so, he relented. “Why do you even want to be here, Aurelia? How can this possibly be good for you?”
     I didn’t have a reasonable answer for him, so I didn’t reply. Instead, I nervously fiddled with the charm bracelet at my gloved wrist; it was the last gift I’d ever received from my late father, and wearing it always had a soothing effect on me. And I needed serenity as the black-clad executioner arrived, followed by a Tribunal cleric who announced that the great Magistrate Toris de Lena was taking the stage to officiate.
     Toris was a commanding presence in his starched collar and stiff black Tribunal coat. He paced in front of us, holding a copy of the Founder’s Book of Commands to his chest, the very picture of somber regret.
     “Brothers and sisters,” he began. “It is with great sadness we gather today. We have before us Madams Mabel Lawrence Doyle and Hilda Everett Gable. Both have been accused of practicing arcane arts, and both have been tried and found guilty by fair tribunal.” Around his neck hung a vial of red liquid. He raised it so all could see. “I am Magistrate Toris de Lena, bearer of the blood of the Founder, and I have been selected to preside over these proceedings.”
     “I don’t understand,” Kellan was saying quietly by my ear. “Is this some challenge you’ve put to yourself? Come stand in the midst of your enemies? Face your fears?”
     My eyebrows knitted together. Being arrested and tried and publicly executed was a very acute fear of mine, but it was only one black horse in my vast stable of nightmares.
     “My people are not my enemies,” I insisted even as a fist-pumping chant burgeoned around me: Let them swing! Let them swing!
     Right then I saw a dim shadow pass in front of the younger lady—​Mabel—​and pause next to her. The shadow flickered at her feet, gathering form from the morning mist until it became starkly clear. The air grew even colder in the square as the spirit pulled heat and energy into his cloudy form. It was a young boy, no more than seven. He clung to the skirt of the shackled woman.
     No one touched him. No one even looked his way. I was likely the only one who could see him. But Mabel knew he was there, and her face shone with something I could not name: perhaps pain, perhaps joy, perhaps relief.
     “I know that woman,” Kellan whispered. “Her husband used to come through Greythorne, selling books, at least two or three times a season. He died last year, one of those who caught that awful fever that went around the first part of winter. Him and a son, too, I think.”
     I knew Mabel too, but I couldn’t risk telling Kellan that.
     The tower clock showed it only a minute away from the hour, and Toris’s florid speech was winding down. “It is your time to speak,” he said to the women as the executioner situated a rope over their heads and around their throats. “Madam Mabel Lawrence Doyle, you have been tried and found guilty by fair Tribunal for the distribution of illicit texts and for attempting to raise the dead through use of magic and witchcraft, in defiance of our Book of Commands. By the blood of the Founder, you have been condemned to die. Say your last words.”
     I stiffened, waiting for her to point a finger at me, to call me by name. To bargain for her life with mine.
     Instead she said, “I am at peace; I have no regret.” And she lifted her face to the sky.
     A familiar scent drifted around me: roses, though it was too early in the season for them. I knew what it meant, but when I looked right and left, I saw no sign of her. The Harbinger.
     Toris turned to the second lady, whose whole body was shaking violently. “Hilda Everett Gable, you have been tried and found guilty by fair Tribunal for attempting to use witchcraft to harm your son’s wife, in defiance of our Book of Commands. By the blood of the Founder, you have been condemned to die. Say your last words.”
     “I’m innocent!” Her voice rang out. “I did nothing! She lied, I tell you! She lied!” Hilda pointed her bound, shuddering hands at a woman near the front of the audience. “You liar! You liar! You’ll pay for what you’ve done! You’ll—​”
     The clock struck the hour, and the bell reverberated across the multitude. Toris bowed his head and pronounced over the sound, “Nihil nunc salvet te.” Nothing can save you now. Then he gave a nod to the executioner, and the floor dropped out from beneath the women. I let out a cry, and Kellan pulled me into his shoulder to muffle it.
     The bell tolled nine times and fell silent. Their feet were still twitching.
     Kellan’s voice was gentler now. “I don’t know what you thought you’d see here.” He tried to turn me away to protect me from it, but I twisted from his grasp. Even though being near a transition from life to death always made my stomach turn, I had to bear witness. I had to see.
     Mabel’s body had gone completely still now, but the air around her shimmered. It was a strange thing to watch a soul extricate itself from its body, slipping out from the grotesque shell the way a fine lady might step from a muddied, cast-off cloak. When she emerged, she found her son waiting and she went to him. In the instant they touched, they were gone, moving from borderland into whatever lay beyond, out of my sight.
     It took longer for Hilda to die. She gagged and spluttered, her eyes bulging from their sockets. When it did happen, it was an ugly thing. Her soul tore itself from its body with what would have been a snarl, if there had been any sound. Hilda’s specter lunged at the woman she’d pointed at in the crowd, but the woman did not seem to notice. Her attention was on the sloppy sack of bones swaying at the end of the gallows rope.
     “Would you like to claim your mother-in-law’s body?” Toris asked the woman.
     “No,” she said emphatically. “Burn it.” And Hilda’s ghost silently screamed, dragging her intangible nails across her daughter-in-law’s face. The woman paled and put her hand to her cheek. I wondered if Hilda’s rage had given her spirit enough energy to exert a real touch.
     I didn’t envy the daughter-in-law. Hilda would probably remain in the borderland indefinitely, following her betrayer, silently screaming, clouding the air around with her hate. I’d seen it happen before.
     “Let’s go, Aurelia,” Kellan said. He used my name instead of my title; he was becoming distressed.
     The crowd was starting to get raucous, pushing forward as the bodies were dragged down from the stage. Someone next to me gave me a hard shove, and I stumbled forward toward the cobblestones, putting my hands out to catch my fall but coming down hard onto my wrist instead. I wasn’t down for long, though; Kellan was already lifting me to my feet, his arms circling me like a protective cage as he forced our way out of the mob.
     My hand went to my empty wrist. “My bracelet!” I cried, straining to look over my shoulder at the place where I’d fallen, though the ground could no longer be seen through the mesh of bodies. “It must have broken when I fell—​”
     “Forget about it,” Kellan said firmly but kindly—​he knew how important it was to me. “It’s gone. We have to go.
     I slipped from his grasp and turned back into the crowd with my eyes on the ground, pushing when I was pushed and shoving when I was shoved, hoping for any glimpse of my bracelet. But Kellan was right; it was well and truly gone. He reached me again and this time held fast, but I didn’t want to fight him anymore; the whistles had begun to blow. Within minutes the Tribunal’s clerics would be marching on the gathering, rounding up any who seemed to lack the requisite enthusiasm for the cause. There were two new vacancies in the Tribunal’s cells, and they were never left empty for long.

It wasn’t more than an hour later when I found myself standing in the beam of my mother’s antechamber skylight, staring at the half-finished confection of ivory gossamer and minute, sparkling crystals—​thousands of them—​that would soon become my wedding dress. It would be the most extravagant costume I’d ever worn in all my seventeen years; the Tribunal’s influence in Renalt extended even to fashion. Clothing was meant to reflect the ideals of modesty, simplicity, and austerity. The only allowable exceptions were marriages and funerals. Celebration was reserved for the events that curtailed one’s opportunities to sin.
     The dress was my mother’s wedding gift to me, every tiny stitch done by her own hand.
     I touched the lace of the one finished sleeve and marveled at its fineness before reminding myself how unhappy I would be the day I had to wear it. Every day brought the occasion closer and closer. Set for Beltane, the first day of Quintus, my wedding was now little more than six weeks away and looming large on the horizon.
     Sighing, I straightened and went through the door into the next room, ready for battle.
     My mother was pacing on the other side of her table, skirts rustling with each restless stride. Our family’s eldest and closest adviser, Onal, sat straight-backed in one of the parlor’s less comfortable chairs, sipping her tea with pinched brown lips and a carefully cultivated disdain. At the sound of the door, my mother’s blue eyes whipped toward me, all of her anxiety loosed at once, like the snap of a bowstring.
     “Aurelia!” She used my name like an epithet. Onal took another slow sip of her tea.
     I thrust my hands into my pockets. The gesture was supposed to make me look sheepish and repentant, of which I was neither. But this whole thing would be over faster if Mother thought I was remorseful.
     “You went to town alone this morning? Have you lost your mind?” She lifted a stack of papers and shook them at me. “These are the letters I’ve received this week—​this week!—​that call for you to be investigated by the Tribunal. Over there”—​she pointed to a separate pile of paper, two inches high—​“are the possible threats against you that my informants have gathered since the beginning of this month. And here”—​she pulled open a drawer—​“are the more poetic and fanatical predictions of your demise we’ve been sent since the beginning of this year. Let me read one to you, shall I? Let’s see . . . all right. This one contains a very detailed methodology of how to determine if you’re a witch. It involves a sharp knife and a thorough examination of the underside of your skin.”
     I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the severed kitten’s head I’d found in my closet last week, laid out alongside a poorly scrawled country prayer to ward against witches; or the red x’s that were scratched on the underside of my favorite saddle, an old hex meant to make a horse go mad and turn on its rider. I didn’t need to be reminded of how much I was hated. I knew it better than she did. “They want to peel my skin off?” I asked lightly. “Is that all?”
     “And burn it,” Onal supplied from behind her teacup.
     “One week until you leave,” Mother snapped. “Can’t you manage to stay out of trouble until then? I’m sure when you’re queen in Achleva you’ll be able to come and go as you please. You can go into the city and do . . . whatever it was you went to do today.”
     “I went to a hanging.”
     “Stars save me. A hanging? It’s like you want the Tribunal to come after you. We’re very lucky we have Toris there on the inside.”
     “Very lucky,” I echoed. She might think Toris, the widowed husband of her favorite cousin, was the crown’s trusted ally keeping the Tribunal in check from within, but I’d never be convinced that he didn’t enjoy the part he played up there on the gallows stand.
     “Aurelia,” she said, taking stock of me, head to toe. I knew what she saw: a tangle of pale hair and eyes that should have been blue but weren’t, not quite, erring more on the side of silver. Outside of those attributes, I was not particularly unpleasant-looking, but my peculiar traits and tendencies made me stand out, made me strange. And Renaltans were suspicious enough about me simply because I existed.
     I was the first Renaltan princess born to the crown in nearly two centuries—​at least, the first who hadn’t been given away in secret at the hour of her birth. It was my duty to fulfill the treaty that had ended the centuries-long war between our country and Achleva by marrying Achleva’s next heir. For 176 years our people believed that the lack of girls born to the royal family was a sign that we were never to truly align ourselves with the filthy, hedonistic Achlevans. Proof of our moral superiority. My birth shook their faith in the monarchy, the king and queen who had the gall to first have a daughter and then keep her.
     Sometimes I agreed with them.
     A knock at the door broke the tense quiet. Mother said, “Bring him in, Sir Greythorne.”
     Kellan came through first, looking around and then giving a wave behind him.
     A man stepped out from behind Kellan. He was dressed in crushed velvet the color of a twilit sky, with a golden sash crossing his chest and fastened by a brooch in the shape of a three-pointed knot. In his ear winked a rakish ruby stud; on his finger shone a silver signet depicting a spread-winged raven. He had a shock of gleaming black hair, untouched by the silver that should have accompanied his age. Startlingly colorful, he was like a lone stained-glass window in a world made up of plain leaded panes.
     He was an Achlevan.

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Bloodleaf (Bloodleaf Trilogy Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Mel-Loves-Books 13 days ago
“I was far more afraid of those who hated sinners than I ever was of sin.” Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith is a young adult fantasy that has been on my radar for a while. I really enjoyed this one. I liked the elements of surprise and the use of different kinds of magic and the witch hunt elements of the story. There were some really unexpected twists for me, and the story itself was different and exciting. I am definitely interested in finding out what happens next. I give this one 4 stars.
Anonymous 23 days ago
Good Reading
LuxBB 5 months ago
I really liked this book and the characters. I love books with magic and witchcraft that can tell a good story. Love and magic and kingdoms what more can you ask for
MinaTheFangirl 8 months ago
Things I Liked: I really enjoyed Crystal’s writing style and how she crafted and weaved the plots and sub-plots together, so as the story unfolded you could see how everything fit. Some of the lore took a bit to absorb and adjust to, but that’s just me with most fantasy books. What really convinced me to read this first through audio was finding out that Nicola Barber was the narrator. I really enjoyed how she narrated for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, so there was no doubt in my mind that she’d do a fantastic job for Bloodleaf as well. There are so many plot twists in this book! Some of them I was able to predict early on, but every time I realized that my prediction was correct, the story would continue and reveal that I was only half right. I’d be left feeling so proud of myself for predicting the plot twist, but it was even better being surprised that I was only half right. For example, without giving away any spoilers, I had figured out who the main villain of the story was very early on but didn’t fully realize the extent of his influence and manipulation within and outside the city walls. The twists and turns didn’t end there though; there’s an entire subplot that was only occasionally mentioned nonchalantly and later on we find out that it plays a bigger role in the whole grant scheme of things. It was insane and totally unexpected, but made sense once it was revealed. I ended up liking Zan’s character more than expected; he turned out to be a very different character to how he portrayed himself in the beginning. I really enjoyed finding out about his backstory and the way it was revealed in general. Aurelia was a great character right from the beginning and I immediately took a liking to her. Her character arc was so enjoyable and I especially liked seeing her grow and find her confidence in herself and her magic. When she took charge of the situation near the climax of the story I felt so ridiculously proud of her, especially this one scene where she’s addressing a huge group of people and is profoundly moved by their reaction to her words. Things I Disliked: There were a few things that kind of bothered me throughout the story, but one major part in particular stands out above the rest. Probably partly because it’s still fresh in my mind as I write this, but definitely because it didn’t make any sense to me. Without spoiling anything, there’s a scene during the climax of the story where Aurelia is given a piece of information that was such a huge revelation, I was expecting for her world to completely change. Ever since the beginning, she’s had this belief that has helped shape her vision of herself, and then this piece of contradictory information is just laid out before her, but she doesn’t acknowledge it at all. Doesn’t even bat an eyelash. I was expecting her to need a moment to let it sink in, but there was none. I understand she was in a particularly high-stakes situation at the moment, but still, have some sort of reaction to it, at least. Also, I wish the romance developed more fluidly and naturally; probably no admission of romantic feelings until the next book even. It felt a bit awkward and jarring to see them as close friends then suddenly there’s romantic feelings involved almost instantaneously, then that quickly progresses to the I’m-willing-to-sacrifice-myself-for-you level.
OpinionatedTurnip More than 1 year ago
What I Liked I definitely did a Twitter GIF reaction thread. Hop on in for like 70% gifs of people screaming. I joke about Aurelia making bad decisions but she's actually just very realistic. I love her relationship with her brother, even through the strain it undergoes. Kellan *heart eyes* and Zan *annoyed heart eyes* are both great possible love interests to read about, even though there is blissfully no love triangle here (YET???). I saw some twists coming but others not so much. I literally cried. Like three times. I think one of the best things about this book are how real everything feels, and how the descriptions make is feel like an actual place. The magic is mysterious to Aurelia so it remains mysterious to the reader until Aurelia learns it throughout the story. Her development in magic is done SOOO well, as she gradually improves her abilities. The ending is good and ties up the main loose threads, but there is clearly a sequel (a trilogy, in fact) so some things stayed unsolved. I CANNOT WAIT to get my grubby little paws on the second and third books!!! What I Would Have Liked to See I feel like it's weird to say "more men being killed" but like... that's for real. I also would have liked to see, and expect to see, more in-depth descriptions of family crests in the sequels. My Favorite! The depictions and descriptions of King Domhnall. That's all I have to say. TL;DR Princess and blood witch Aurelia must escape danger from all directions to save her life and the lives of those she loves, but when unforeseen magic threatens the entire world, sacrifices must be made.
PattySmith87 More than 1 year ago
My thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group, and Crystal Smith for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. Prepare to enter a beautiful, harsh world where magic is forbidden and to practice the ancient ways means certain death. Princess Aurelia can feel the magic coursing through her veins and to survive a coup for her throne she must escape to the neighbouring city of Achleva and pose as a commoner until she can figure out who is friend or foe. Led by a Harbinger, a terrifying ghost, who leads her along with clues, Aurelia tries to understand and use her magic to help unlock the secrets of both cities. Along the way she falls in love with a man forbidden to her, as she is already promised to someone else. She must put her family and the crown ahead of all her desires. Loosely based on the fairy tale “The Goose Girl”, Crystal Smith’s debut novel is a rich story that will satisfy any fantasy reader. This world is truly incredible. You have the blend of feudal law, which exacts a strict and often violent penalty for any infraction. You have the political machinations of different factions trying to gain power. There is the royalty structure which has kings and queens and princesses who are promised in marriage to a prince that they don’t even know. The paranormal elements of the ghosts who know too much and want to communicate with the living. Lastly you have the magic, “blood” magic that extracts a cost to those who draw on its power. Smith does an amazing job of combining all of these elements together to create this fantastical world. Inside of this world are colourful characters that come to life. The best treat is a strong female lead who must fend for herself while she is still discovering who she is. To sweep you off your feet is a love story that is like the cherry on top. Gives you all sorts of good feels. I found that this was a strong addition to what is getting to be a crowded field. I really found myself carried away with the story and had a huge smile at the end. Yup, colour me sucker for a great ending. Can’t wait for the next one in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With an intriguing premise and a lovely cover, this debut YA Fantasy novel is hard to pass by! Slated as the first book in a trilogy, this is an enjoyable read. It does start a bit slowly – well, there’s plenty of action (the first scene takes place during a public execution!), but Smith jams in a lot of world-building up front. This leads to a few clunky sections of pure information dumping, unfortunately. But, but the middle of the book, the pacing smooths out and the book really gets a lot better! Aurelia, our heroine and narrator, has her moments where she isn’t always the most sympathetic, but despite her contradictory actions, she grows on you as the book progresses. The plot, though exciting, follows predictable paths. The enemies are easy to see coming, so there are no real surprises to the reader. The secrets are equally easy to see through. Still, it’s fun to be right – though, hopefully the sequel will have a few more twists or surprises. All in all, this is an age-appropriate YA Fantasy novel (the violence is a bit high, but otherwise this would be okay for the younger end of the audience). There is a little set up for the sequel, but this is a satisfying read in its own right (no cliffhangers). I all in all did like it, and definitely plan on continuing on with the rest of the trilogy once the books are out!
marongm8 More than 1 year ago
Our teen patrons have been raving about the release of this book because of the fact it's focusing on a royal female that wants to break free of the rules of the throne. When I read the book, it immediately reminded me a lot of Aladdin except for the,fact that there is no sorcery and no three wishes from a,genie. Bloodleaf focuses on Princess Aurelia that possesses a gift that her royal bounty has forbidden her to use her gift when it's needed the most. When someone tries to assassinate her, she flees the country to escape and this new land creates bonds she always,wanted, falls in love with the man of her dreams but when old spirits continue to haunt her she is trapped between two worlds and is forced to make a choice. Will she give up the throne or choose the new life that royalty would've never have given her? When reading this book at first started to feel really similar to the plot of Aladdin but then when I further read into the story I started to really be invested in what will happen AuRelia and from one adventure to the next. The book ended with an open ending and I really hope this series goes on and see what adventures await Aurekia. This will really circulate well in our collection and that is why we are giving it 5 stars!
onemused More than 1 year ago
"Bloodleaf" is a new favorite. This YA fantasy is completely engrossing, thrilling, and absolutely amazing. Aurelia is princess of Renalt and has known since birth that she would be married to the Achlevan prince, Valentin, as part of a centuries-old peace treaty. This treaty has not been desirable and in the past, all females born to the family were sent away quietly in the night. For some reason, her parents kept her, and she knows she will soon fulfill the treaty. Aurelia is not well-loved by her people, who have been taught to fear magic. Renalt is really ruled by the Tribunal, a semi-religious organization that frequently kills witches, and witchcraft/magic is against the law. Aurelia has blood magic, which she has cultivated and studied in secret. Due to the strange silvery color of her eyes (unrelated to her magic), people suspect her of magic and thus fear/dislike her. As such, her mother fears for her life. Aurelia is forced to flee Renalt when she attempts magic in front of her subjects at a banquet to save a man’s life. The Tribunal is determined to kill her, but she escapes with a small entourage. However, the man who was supposed to help protect her and has supposedly been working for the crown from within the Tribunal turns on her, killing her guard and confidante, Kellan, and taking her younger brother, the Renaltan crown prince- and even worse, convincing him that Aurelia has betrayed him. Penniless, alone, and desperate, Aurelia treks nearer Achlev with Kellan’s horse and her bracelet of gems, which she barters for a night’s rest. One can only enter Achlev with a special spelled parchment which allows one to cross the wall. When a man, Zan, comes insisting on purchasing the horse, Aurelia is unwilling to sell and he convinces her to go over the wall with him. He steals it anyway and tries to pay her after the fact. Aurelia refuses his money, but she is now within Achlev. Soon, Aurelia learns from Zan that there is danger in Achlev, and only she may be able to help prevent the terrible destruction. In a haunting, elegant, and enchanting story, we follow Aurelia on her dangerous journey. There is a lot of death and betrayal in the story. With so many twists and turns, I could never have anticipated the directions the story would take. I absolutely loved every minute of it. This book quickly became one of my favorites, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next. The magic, romance, mystery- it’s all so beautifully well done. I highly recommend this book to YA fantasy lovers. You will not regret picking up this amazing read! I do want to add warnings for self-harm (blood magic), attempted rape, and suicide for readers who might be sensitive. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.