Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall Burke
Lidan Tolak is the
fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading
her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins
to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she
has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut
through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove
her worth, but simply to survive.
Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.
Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?
The Blood of Heirs is the first in the The Coraidic Sagas and tells the story of two teens from very different backgrounds. Lidan Tolak is the strong willed first daughter of Daari Erlon Tolak, whose clan lives in the village of Hummel. The other is Ranoth Olseta, son of the Duke of Orthia.
With these characters comes two very different worlds. Lidan comes from a horse riding stone age culture, which appears to be similar in some respects to a kind of Celtic/Aboriginal background, whilst Ranoth comes from a medieval background full of castles and keeps, and more culturally advanced, particularly with the weaponry that is used.
This separation of the characters, both environmentally and culturally also remains a factor with the structure of the storytelling in that it is told from two different viewpoints, with the narrative alternating at regular points to focus on each of the characters for a period of time.
Lidan’s story begins quite innocently. She is an adventurous girl who wants nothing more than to be a ranger, which goes against everything that her mother, Selen, the First wife of the clan has planned for her daughter, the heir of the Tolak Clan. She steadfastly refuses to let her daughter participate in any of the activities that she needs to do to train as a ranger, and continuously badgers and berates her throughout the whole of the book.
Ran’s story is quite different! He is the heir to the Orthian throne, which is engaged in an endless war with the Woadans in a place called the Dispute Territories. During his first battle, he is put in charge of a regiment of soldiers. However, instead of taking the usual turn and showing how brilliant Ran is at military strategy and being the leader that he is meat to be, Alicia Wanstall – Burke completely takes an about turn and the battle is a mitigated disaster, subsequently leaving the Orthian Army no other choice than a quick retreat, and the loss of a key position o n the battlefield. Ran is subsequently told to return to the city of Orthia, in the company of Britt Doone. Whilst travelling, they come upon a mysterious cottage which is inhabited with a strange ghost. This encounter with the ghost is crushing and changes Ran’s Life forever.
Similarly, with Lidan, there is a parallel event in which a climactic encounter with a strange beast called a Ngaru leads to a change in her life and recognising her ambitions.
Both these events in the character’s lives set the narrative up to tell the story of our two main protagonists, and whilst they are both different there are parallel themes running through each of their fates.
The Blood of Heirs is a character driven tale that moves along at a really good pace. One of the things that I found when I was reading this book was that I could not help but compare the two storylines and which one that I enjoyed the most. I have to say that whilst I enjoyed both of the storylines immensely, Lidan’s was the one that stood out as being my favourite storyline and I could not wait to return to her each time. She is just so well defined that she seems to walk off the page. It is not that I did not like Ranoth’s story, quite the opposite in fact. His storyline was equally as immersive and there were a number of things that I wanted to find out, like why was the ghost from the cottage haunting him, and would he survive the events that were happening to him. It’s just that I wanted to discover the next part of Lidan’s narrative that little bit more.
There are many things to like in this book, which totally took me by surprise. Alicia Wanstall – Burke writes fantastic prose that immediately hooked me into the story. Her descriptions of the worlds that she has set the story in instantly transported me to the world that the characters inhabit, and at once I felt at home in the environments that Lidan and Ran live. In addition to this, Alicia Wanstall – Burke seamlessly moves between the two different settings, and never once did this cause any conflict with the narrative. As well as these aspects of the prose, Alicia Wanstall Burke writes some terrific action scenes, with the standout being the battle between the Woadan and the Orthians when they attack the city. I literally could not stop turning the pages until it was done.
Furthermore, she writes such brilliant characters. Not only are both Lidan and Ran full of life, but I was instantly invested in their respective stories and the development of each of the protagonists.
However, not only are there good, solid protagonists, but the supporting characters are really well developed too. And I think that this is one of the reasons that I enjoyed Lidan’s story a little more than Ranoths. Lidan’s story, for me had more of a supporting cast that fleshed out her story. Particularly Selen, who is one of the best villains that I have read in a story. She is vicious, vindictive and ambitious. She will happily do whatever it takes to achieve her goals, effectively transferring her ambitions to her daughter. There is such a toxic relationship between mother and daughter that whenever Lidan and Selen meet, sparks fly off the page. I have got to say, each time Selen entered into the story (stage right) I wanted to boo and hiss at her, as she is just so bloody evil!
On the other hand, Ran has a ghost that haunts him, which he met in the cottage. And whilst she doesn’t have the same solidness as Selen, this does provide us with a certain amount of conflict and mystery as to why she is haunting him.
Throughout the book there are monsters, ghosts, witches and curses which have an impact on the story, particularly the Ngaru, which connect both plots as they feature heavily in both Lidan’s story and in Ranoth’s
Whilst the story is mainly character driven, the plot did not lag in any way. It was pretty even throughout, with good development for each of the characters and significant events having an impact on each protagonist respectively. Now again, you have to admire the structure of the book in that there are two parallel plots, that whilst distinctive, have an impact in each aspect of the two stories.
There is magic in this world, an it is interesting how it inter-plays with the world. In Lidan’s story, magic does play a back seat to the story and only interjects itself very briefly on the world, whereas in Ranoth’s story, magic is an integral part of the story and has a significant impact. Throughout the land of Orthis, magic is feared and reviled. It is the primary antagonist in Ranoth’s story and when he meets a Woadan mage, things take a dramatic scene.
However, one thing that I have to mention that, for me, there were times where I did not know where the story was going and how the two stories would come together, or if they even would!
As a final note, I have had this on my Kindle for ages and it has been languishing on my TBR for I don’t know how long. However, this book seemed to be raising its head above the parapet with a life of its own and telling me to read it. My interest was piqued when I saw a recent review by another book blogger/book tuber that I follow giving it a favourable review, and I thought “Hang on a minute, I have got that on my Kindle!”. And then purely by coincidence, I was contacted by the author on Instagram asking if I would be interested in reading it, so I felt that it was about time that I did. I ended up also getting it on audio as well, so that I could continue with the story whilst I was out and about – that’s how much it got me!
Blood of the Heirs is a brilliantly realised fantasy debut, and one that will have you hooked from the beginning. It is full of brilliantly realised characters and an interesting parallel dynamic of two differently similar stories (yes, I realise that this is a complete oxymoron!) and I cannot wait to see how the story develops.