Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.
I think that the events of this book feel like the characters won the war, but then lost the battle.
In the Blood is the story of twin sisters who are separated by a great distance. Ottilde is locked in a prison camp after being captured during a war which took place before the start of the novel. Her sister Oriabel is locked in a castle with a group of odious captors.
Oriabel is a witch, masquerading as a person with healing powers in a society which has a Salem-esque fear and paranoia about, and general love of the burning of, witches. In spite of the apparent danger, she seems to go out of her way to do obviously witchy things in front of people. Ottilde is a famous (or infamous) warrior who for all intents and purposes may as well be genderless, and after a few brief action scenes at the start to demonstrate her badarsedness, proceeds to be extremely passive for the rest of the novel.
The story is split between the two locations, and I didn’t feel like they were all that connected. The characters seemed to be somewhat-psychically aware of things which were happening to the other, but I felt like the story lacked connectivity.
And then there’s the romance.
Now I am a bloke, and pretty blokey, and so some of this I might write off to me just not ‘getting it’ but I really didn’t buy the romance between the main male protagonist (Hito) and Oriabel. I’m sure that every girl who gets sexually assaulted, and then raped by a powerful male is just DYING to jump into bed with the next vapid nobleman who wanders along. (spoiler, not spoiler, this IS romance fantasy)
Oh how she lovingly tends to the wounds of the injured nobleman, stroking his kneecap lovingly. And now she’s drugging him – for his own good of course – so she can tend to his needs better. (what?)
And then just when I thought the author was building more of a relationship between them, BAM! Hito turns into an animal, discovers his beloved is a witch, discovers she’s being blackmailed by her rapist and loses his shit. But never fear, the conquering hero will ride to the rescue… from himself.
Erm… ok, that escalated quickly.
I… in spite of these gripes did actually enjoy – for the most part – this novel. I thought the world was well-described, and the different characters felt distinct from each other. I did however think that the author took a bit too tight of a lens on the small events in the world, rather than dealing with more of the grander world events, like more of the fallout from the war that just happened.
It’s a competent, if un-spectacular beginning to something, which reminded me of a lot of other books in this genre that I’ve read. It was somewhat reminiscent of Robin Hobb’s Assassin trilogy – which I disliked immensely – and a little of Gail Carriger – whose works I love. In spite of the things I may have disliked about it, it kept me interested until the end, and am willing to give any further books a chance.