Blood Heir book review: A retelling of Anastasia

What is this about?: Ana is Affinite, a Princess with the power to control blood. She is also determined to find her father’s killer and is on her way to finding out just what she’s capable of to achieve that. Including working (and threatening) Ramson Quicktongue, criminal to help her find the man she thinks killed her father.

What else is this about?: It’s an introduction to Ana, to her world.


This hot debut is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

So, Blood Heir has had it’s fair share of controversy. It’s spelled out pretty well here, but the details of it passed me by completely. It’s not my usual genre.

Per the article I linked to above, there’s a line from Tolkien in this that generated claims of plagiarism, and to be honest, I read Tolkien so long ago I can barely remember anything from it, and any similarities to the Hunger Games (to which is this being compared to) would have passed me by because neither the books nor the movies interested me.

What is Blood Heir about?

At its core, it’s about a search for a murderer, hiding in plain sight in Cyrilia. Ana is searching for Ransom when the book opens, lying her way into a prison to get information from him and the book does not let up from there.

Zhao has written this story with stellar pacing, to the point that Ana’s fear, the feeling that she is running out of time for something was felt as I turned every page.

From prison, Ransom and Ana strike a bargain that see them working together for their own ends and travelling through the country, giving readers a chance to see more of the horrors that Affinites endure. There comparison to the slavery — modern and historical — is impossible to ignore. Affinites cannot speak for fear of reprisal from their owners. There are those who become the hunters for fear of becoming the hunted.

Ana has never truly understood the horrors the Affinites endure and as she travels through the country she wonders what her father knew. I thought it was great that she began to question a man she still longed for approval from.

Her relationship with Ransom is antagonistic, and while something blooms between them by the end, I wasn’t convinced this book needed that. The push and pull between them, when they are out for their own ends, and helping the other to get there made for far more interesting characters. I will say though, it’s a slow burn — for me at least.

From my review, and the focus on Ana, you’ll see she held most of my attention in the book. That’s not to say Ransom didn’t have his own character arc, and developed across the book — I just liked Ana’s story more.

Where the book did stumble for me is the inclusion of characters like May, a young Affinite who was a plot device to get Ana to a certain place in the book and didn’t bring anything to the story for me. She had no real character arc and was essentially there to push Ana’s story forward. Part of the controversy around this book is that May was thought to be black, and her death was essentially for Ana’s benefit. Like the article pointed out, there is nothing about May that told me she was a person of colour, though I agree her role in the book was to die to push Ana’s story forward.

The last third of the book is where Zhao lets the true scope of her story out, and while the ending could have been shorter and tighter in terms of plot lines, it was entertaining to read. There are two books to go after all, and this is really just the beginning.


  • Tien says:

    “Her relationship with Ransom is antagonistic, and while something blooms between them by the end, I wasn’t convinced this book needed that.”

    Yes. YES, it does! ha ha ha

    I need me a bit of romance :p

  • Wow. Seems like I totally missed all the controversy surrounding this book. It does sound like a good story though.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    Oh, this does sound good! Have to admit the name Ramson Quicktongue is a draw–curious and quirky name, and even if he is a villain, I want to know more about him.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    I just read the controversy, and I hate the idea of “book influencers” making mean attacks based on the way they read the book. I didn’t know some had attacked Laurie Forest’s The Black Witch (which I loved) for similar reasons.

  • What strikes me about this controversy is that the ‘accusers’ haven’t seemed to take into account that other cultures have a history with slavery and human trafficking.
    And the accusations of plagiarism are an overrreach.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book

  • I don’t know about any controversy about this book so that wouldn’t influence my opinions on it. I think it would be an interesting read and something I wouldn’t mind picking up too.

  • Angela says:

    It’s good to hear that the pacing is well thought-out in this book, considering there are more books to go. Sometimes the first in a series can be slow.

  • I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this overall, even though it’s not your usual genre. I haven’t read this one yet but do vaguely recall there being some controversy about it that pushed back the publication. I hate drama so I have to admit I never actually read what the fuss was about.

  • Greg says:

    This sounds pretty good. I’ll have to check out that article and see what the controversy is about, but glad this one mostly worked. Hopefully the next two are even better!

  • Great review. Completely agree with you that some characters where just there and nothing really happened with them. I felt it was all too long. She does set a lot of things up but I’m not sure we really got a sense of what an affinite is or even a good world-building in terms of the world it is set in.

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