The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport – ARC Review!

It’s all about blood.

The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.

The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.

For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.

Who trained her to keep that a secret.

But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.

Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials–a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that–if found out–would subject her to execution…or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather…and then she needs to kill them.

Mareen has been at peace for a long time…

Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ikenna is done. After the death of her grandfather, she is angry and feels like she’s burning from the inside out, something that is only made worse when she finds out her grandfather was murdered. To find his killer, she must train to become a Praetorian, an elite warrior. The trials are deadly, with only a quarter of the applicants surviving, but Ikenna has a secret weapon, something she has had to hide her whole life for fear of death. Through the trials she will face racism, misogyny as well as classism, but Ikenna has the strength, especially if it helps her find out who murdered her grandfather. But not everything is as it seems, and before long Ikenna may have to realise that those closest to us aren’t always our friends, especially if she is to get out of the trials alive.

The Blood Trials is one hell of a brutal book, and 100% not for the faint of heart so definitely beware before going in & be sure to read any trigger warnings. Davenport writes an incredibly realistic world, with equally real characters. The story is told from Ikenna’s POV and she is a character I instantly liked. She doesn’t take any bullshit, has one hell of a temper and is more likely to kill someone than ask questions, but when you realise the weight on her shoulders, not only from looking for her grandfathers killer, but having to prove all the people wrong who think she is the wrong colour, the wrong sex, you completely understand her behaviour. She can be a bit blinkered to things around her, but once she starts to question what she’s been told, she is quick to put the pieces together to work out who she can really trust. You can’t help but want her to succeed and I most definitely enjoyed following her on this traumatic and brutal journey.

Davenport also graces us with one epic cast of side characters. With this being quite political as well as brutal we have, not only Ikenna’s friends, her fellow trialist’s & the Praetorian’s who are training them, but members of the ruling council and Royalty from other countries. There’s a lot… but I never really struggled to keep everyone apart in my head. They’re all given their own personality, their own purpose to the story and, though some play a larger part than others, they all help further Ikenna’s story. My favourites had to be Reed, the Praetorian who takes an interest in Ikenna from the start. Never quite sure if she can trust him, Ikenna tends to keep him at arms length, until she doesn’t. As well as Selene and Zayne, Ikenna’s best friends, and the two people she relies on throughout the trial.

With the blend of sci-fi and fantasy, Davenport creates a unique and intriguing world. There are plenty of slower sections where Ikenna is internally thinking about the politics or the lore of her world and I thrived for those parts. We learn about the war that made her grandfather a hero, as well as the current political climate, which certainly adds to the tension of the story. On top of this we have Ikenna’s gift. She has plenty of questions, where it came from, what she can do with it, but mostly she is terrified of what would happen if people find out. Davenport uses both of these as plot devices to add to the tension and the mystery of the overall story. But by far my favourite parts of the book were the action scenes. The training to become a praetorian puts them all through their paces and I really enjoyed the physicality of the scenes and how Davenports writing style brought them to life.

When I say this book is brutal I want you all to realise that I am not over-reacting at all. There are graphically written scenes where people are blown to bits, ripped apart by creatures, eaten, as well as just the regular brutality our characters have to go through in the praetorian trials. The blood and gore may be a little too much for some people, but for me it just made the story that much more realistic as well as making me empathise with Ikenna more. Not only is she going through these torturous trials but she’s going through them having to deal with racism, misogyny, as well as people wanting to kill her for being there. She’s angry, and rightfully so, but Davenport makes sure that through her we get angry as well.

There is a romance arc through the book and, don’t shoot me, it felt a little too insta lusty for me. Like Ikenna went from thinking this person murdered her grandfather to banging him within the space of a few pages, and while I’m all for people making terrible decisions, it just felt a little too rushed and pushed for me. That being said, I did love seeing their relationship develop and I adored how the author didn’t have them sleep together and then instantly fall in love. They know they like each other, but also don’t 100% trust each other and it just made it feel that much more realistic.

The Blood Trials is the perfect book for readers who like their character’s filled with faults, epic world-building, intriguing magic systems and who aren’t afraid of a little blood and gore. The story ends on one epic cliffhanger and I am eagerly anticipating finding out what Davenport has in store for us next.

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