Blood Heir (Blood Heir Series #1)

Blood Heir (Blood Heir Series #1)

by Amelie Wen Zhao


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This hot debut, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes, 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.

Praise for Blood Heir

Blood Heir is cinematic storytelling at its best. A stunning new voice in YA, Amélie Wen Zhao has drawn characters who are as complex and captivating as the fantastical world she’s built. With a thrilling, slow-burn romance and a layered, twisty plot that hits the ground running, this spectacular debut delivers. Get ready for a retelling like you’ve never seen before.”
Adrienne Young, New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep and The Girl the Sea Gave Back

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525707790
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 11/19/2019
Series: Blood Heir Series , #1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 20,774
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Amélie Wen Zhao was born in Paris, grew up in Beijing, and moved to the United States when she was 18 to attend college in New York City, her current home. Blood Heir is her first novel. To learn more about her and her book, go to or follow @ameliewenzhao on Twitter and Instagram.

Read an Excerpt

The prison bore a sharp resemblance to the dungeons of Anastacya’s childhood: dark, wet, and made of unyielding stone that leaked grime and misery. There was blood here, too; she could sense it all, tugging at her from the jagged stone steps to the torch-blackened walls, lingering at the edges of her consciousness like an ever-present shadow.

It would take so very little—a flick of her will—for her to control it all.

At the thought, Ana twined her gloved fingers tighter around the worn furs of her hood and turned her attention back to the oblivious guard several paces ahead. His varyshki bull-leather boots clacked in smooth, sharp steps, and if she listened closely enough, she could hear the faint jingle of the goldleaves she’d used to bribe him in his pockets.

She was not a prisoner this time; she was his customer, and that sweet rattle of coins was a constant reminder that he was— for now—on her side.

Still, the torchlight cast his flickering shadow on the walls around them; it was impossible not to see this place as the fabric of her nightmares and hear the whispers that came with.

Monster. Murderer.

Papa would have told her that this was a place filled with demons, where the evilest men were held. Even now, almost a year after his death, Ana found her mouth running dry as she imagined what he would say if he saw her here.
Ana shoved those thoughts away and kept her gaze straight ahead. Monster and murderer she might be, but that had nothing to do with her task at hand.

She was here to clear her name of treason. And it all depended on finding one prisoner.

“I’m telling you, he won’t give you nothing.” The guard’s coarse voice pulled her from the whispers. “Heard he was on a mission to murder someone high-profile when he was caught.”

He was talking about the prisoner. Her prisoner. Ana straightened, grasping for the lie she had rehearsed over and over again. “He’ll tell me where he hid my money.”

The guard threw her a sympathetic glance over his shoulder. “You’d best be spending your time somewhere nicer and sunnier, meya dama. More’n a dozen nobles have bribed their way into Ghost Falls to see him, and he’s given ’em nothing yet. He’s made some powerful enemies, this Quicktongue.”

A long, drawn-out wail pierced the end of his sentence, a scream so tortured that the hairs on Ana’s neck rose. The guard’s hand flitted to the hilt of his sword. The torchlight cut his face, half in flickering orange, half in shadow. “Cells are gettin’ full of ’em Affinites.”

Ana’s steps almost faltered; her breath caught sharply, and she let it out again, slowly, forcing herself to keep pace.

Her disquiet must have shown on her face, for the guard said quickly, “Not to worry, meya dama. We’re armed to the teeth with Deys’voshk, and the Affinites’re kept locked in special blackstone cells. We won’t go near ’em. Those deimhovs are locked in safe.”

Deimhov. Demon.

A sickly feeling stirred in the pit of her stomach, and she dug her gloved fingers into her palm as she cinched her hood tighter over her head. Affinites were usually spoken of in hushed whispers and fearful glances, accompanied by tales of the handful of humans who had Affinities to certain elements. Monsters—who could do great things with their powers. Wield fire. Hurl lightning. Ride wind. Shape flesh. And then there were some, it was rumored, whose powers extended beyond the physical.

Powers that no mortal being should have. Powers that belonged either to the Deities or to the demons.

The guard was smiling at her, perhaps to be friendly, perhaps wondering what a girl like her, clad in furs and velvet gloves— worn, though clearly once luxurious—was doing in this prison.

He would not be smiling at her if he knew what she was.

Who she was.

Her world sharpened into harsh focus around her, and for the first time since she’d stepped into the prison, she studied the guard. Cyrilian Imperial insignia—the face of a roaring white tiger—carved proudly upon his blackstone-enforced breastplate. Sword at his hip, sharpened so that the edges sliced into thin air, made of the same material as his armor—a half- metallic, half-blackstone alloy impervious to Affinite manipulation.

And, finally, her gaze settled on the vial of green-tinged liquid that dangled from his belt buckle, its tip curved like the fang of a snake.

Deys’voshk, or Deities’ Water, the only poison known to subdue an Affinity.

She had stepped, once again, into the fabric of her nightmares. Dungeons carved of cold, darker-than-night blackstone, and the bone-white smile of her caretaker as he forced spice-tinged Deys’voshk down her throat to purge the monstrosity she’d been born with—a monstrosity, even in Affinites’ terms.


Beneath her gloves, her palms were slick with sweat.

“We have a good selection of employment contracts up for sale, meya dama.” The guard’s voice seemed very far away. “With the amount of money you’ve offered to see Quicktongue, you’d be better off signing one or two Affinites. They’re not here for any serious crimes, if that’s your concern. Just foreigners without documents. They make for cheap labor.”

Her heart stammered. She’d heard of this corruption. Foreign Affinities lured to Cyrilia with promises of work, only to find themselves at the traffickers’ mercy when they arrived. She’d even heard whispers of guards and soldiers across the Empire falling into the pockets of the Affinite brokers, goldleaves flowing into their pockets like water.

Ana had just never expected to meet one.

She tried to keep her voice steady as she replied, “No, thank you.”

She had to get out of this prison as fast as possible.

It was all that she could do to keep planting one foot ahead of the other, to keep her back straight and chin high as she  had been taught. As always, in the blind mist of her fear, she turned her thoughts to her brother—Luka would be brave; he would do this for her.

And she had to do this for him. The dungeons, the guard, the whispers, and the memories they brought back—she’d endure it all, and endure it a hundred times over, if it meant she could see Luka again.

Her heart ached as she thought of him, but her grief was an endless black hole; it wouldn’t do to sink into it now. Not when she was so close to finding the one man who could help her clear her name.

“Ramson Quicktongue,” barked the guard, drawing to a stop outside a cell. “Someone here to collect.” A jangle of keys; the cell door swung open with a reluctant screech. The guard turned to her, raising his torch, and she saw his eyes pass over her hood again. “He’s inside. I’ll be here—give me a shout once you’re ready to be let back out.”

Drawing a sharp breath to summon her courage, Ana threw back her shoulders and stepped into the cell.

The rancid smell of vomit hit her, along with the stench of human excrement and sweat. In the farthest corner of the cell, a figure slumped against the grime-covered wall. His shirt and breeches were torn and bloody, his wrists chafed from the manacles that locked him to the wall. All she could see was matted brown hair until he raised his head, revealing a beard covering half of his face, filthy with bits of food and grime.

This was the criminal mastermind whose name she’d forced from the lips of almost a dozen convicts and crooks? The man on whom she had pinned all her hopes for the past eleven moons?

She froze, however, as his eyes focused on her with sharp intent. He was young—much younger than she’d expected for a renowned crime lord of the Empire. Surprise twanged in her stomach.

“Quicktongue,” she said, testing her voice, and then louder— “Ramson Quicktongue. Is that your real name?”

A corner of the prisoner’s mouth curled in a grin. “Depends on how you define ‘real.’ What’s real and what’s not tends to get twisted in places like these.”

Customer Reviews

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Blood Heir (Blood Heir Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
BScott1992 5 days ago
This book was absolutely amazing! I had to wait so long to get my hands on this, and for once the wait was SO worth it. First read of 2020 and it was a solid 5 star read for me. Blood Heir follows Ana and Ramson on their adventures that keep weaving together in simple ways. They travel through cities together, overcoming enemies of all backgrounds to reach the Alchemist. This story had me turning the pages faster and faster to get more of these characters! Multi-leveled plot lines, intersecting stories that are delicately hinted at. All of it was amazing. Ana grows quite a bit through the story, with her sheltered past leeching away into the harsh reality of her kingdom. Though she is an Affinite, someone within the book’s magic system, she has never seen the way Affinites were truly treated until the events of this novel. It is an excellent story of growth and maturity, while maintaining integrity in a world that caters to depravity. Ramson is a classic morally grey character. His criminal background has made him into a heartless fiend, but one with deep secrets that I wish I had more insight to—in a good way! Nothing was lacking. I simply loved the character that much. The chemistry with Ana is perfect on every level. Ana and Ramson... Without spoilers, I’ll say this: I was in tears. The author did an EXCELLENT job of pairing these two characters. The cliche moments still felt fresh, and I didn’t see some things coming. I had to put the book down at one point as my heart broke in two. But worth it. So worth it. All in all, this book was excellent. I can not recommend it enough. This author is a new favorite.
thegeekishbrunette 4 months ago
eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley Blood Heir follows Anastacya Mikhailov who is on a quest to clear her name with the help from a conman. As the crown princess, she must do everything in her power to keep her identity hidden and also keep her deadly secret that she has the ability to control blood hidden as well. She is out for revenge and no one can stop her. The book is supposed to be a retelling of Anastasia but with a fantasy twist. There are elements seen before in other books such as elemental magic and even a darker side of magic that includes blood. Although magic isn't welcomed and those who wield it have found themselves being sold into indentured servitude. The two main characters each have their own PoVs and both come from different but troubled backgrounds. I enjoyed getting to know Ramson and Ana throughout the book and really felt for them when it came to the losses they faced. My one complaint about Ramson was that he is described as a morally grey character when introduced to him but that doesn't stand true and I wish it would have. I love morally grey characters. Another thing I didn't really care for was how it felt like Ramson was feeling more than friendship between himself and Ana. Nothing ever happened but again, it made him seem less of a conman if he was tricking her in the beginning but characters can evolve over time. It just wasn't for me. The author's writing is beautiful and sweeps you into this magical but political world. There are lot great messages hidden in this wonderful book and I am saddened that it will not be published at this time. It was a book I could get lost in and enjoy it for what it is.
Sailon 4 months ago
Blood Heir is a story presented as an epic fantasy that I just could not get enough of. Laced with intrigue, details and amazing world building, I found myself completed hooked and left wanting more. You know a book-cation is amazing when you turn the last page, shocked that the adventure is over and you have to wait for the next in the series. This was my first read by Amelie Wen Zhao but it won't be my last. Her imagination, originality and twist on everything I desire in my chosen read. I received this ARC copy of Blood Heir from Random House Children's - Delacorte Press. This is my honest and voluntary review.
marongm8 5 months ago
This book was received as an ARC from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I was hooked in from the very beginning to the very end. This book reminded me of Red Queen series and a lot of the His Fair Assassin series because of the drama and fantasy wars between two kingdoms. I also LOVED the fact that with all this fantasy it tied in with a murder mystery of who really murdered the emperor and then even more suspenseful when the main heroine Anastacya daughter of the emperor is framed for the murder because she is the heir to the throne and the kingdom's most powerful woman. Every page I read was a surprise and just when you thought you understood the book, a new direction is taken. This book will leave you with edge of your seat excitement. We will definitely consider adding this book to our YFantasy colllection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
apeape 5 months ago
I enjoyed this book. The world building was pretty solid, the character development was good, and the pacing was steady. The story is set in a Russian-ish country, Cyrilia, in a world where there are people called Affinites, who have magical affinities. The Affinites are not treated well in the Cyrilian Empire; they are used as slave labor, indentured to their owners, often in not quite legal contracts. Ana is the crown princess, and also a very powerful Affinite. When she gets framed for her father's murder, she flees the capital, vowing to find the real murderer and regain her place in the palace. She enlists the help of a conman, Ramson Quicktongue, and uncovers corruption and conspiracy threatening her country. There are twists and turns all over the place, keeping things moving at a quick and steady pace. There's a hint of romance to come, and I did appreciate the lack of insta-love! Ana is a strong character with plenty of flaws- really, she could be so dumb at times, but she did at least learn a bit from her mistakes. I quite liked Ramson- he's not a good person at all, pretty despicable in fact, but he grows so much over the course of the book that you can't help but like him. The ending is certainly left open- this is a planned trilogy, after all- but it's not so cliffhanger-y that you want to throw the book across the room. #BloodHeir #NetGalley
apeape 5 months ago
I enjoyed this book. The world building was pretty solid, the character development was good, and the pacing was steady. The story is set in a Russian-ish country, Cyrilia, in a world where there are people called Affinites, who have magical affinities. The Affinites are not treated well in the Cyrilian Empire; they are used as slave labor, indentured to their owners, often in not quite legal contracts. Ana is the crown princess, and also a very powerful Affinite. When she gets framed for her father's murder, she flees the capital, vowing to find the real murderer and regain her place in the palace. She enlists the help of a conman, Ramson Quicktongue, and uncovers corruption and conspiracy threatening her country. There are twists and turns all over the place, keeping things moving at a quick and steady pace. There's a hint of romance to come, and I did appreciate the lack of insta-love! Ana is a strong character with plenty of flaws- really, she could be so dumb at times, but she did at least learn a bit from her mistakes. I quite liked Ramson- he's not a good person at all, pretty despicable in fact, but he grows so much over the course of the book that you can't help but like him. The ending is certainly left open- this is a planned trilogy, after all- but it's not so cliffhanger-y that you want to throw the book across the room. #BloodHeir #NetGalley
QuirkyCat 5 months ago
Blood Heir is the first novel in a trilogy of the same name. And man! Did this novel ever live up to my expectations! This was the the debut novel of Amelie Wen Zhao, and I have to say that she is an author worth keeping an eye on. In a world where magical abilities are well known, we find our main character, Ana (aka Princess Anastacya Mikhailov), determinedly looking for vengeance. And who can blame her? She was framed for the death of her father, forced to go on the run, and further forced to hide her abilities. This novel brings magic and the tale of Anastasia together into one lovely series. It's complicated, political, and full of emotionally compelling moments, mystery, and declarations of revenge. In short, it was perfect. Warnings: This is a world where magical abilities aren't unheard of. Unfortunately, they're valuable and feared. The end result is that people with abilities are frequently captured and enslaved. This is a brutal system, to put it lightly. Blood Heir was an absolutely brilliant read, and is easily one of my favorite reads this year. Part of me actually hates that this novel just came out, because of the wait for the next installment. Ana's tale was gut-wrenching and beautiful at the same time. I just couldn't get enough of it. As I mentioned above, this novel reminded me a lot of the tale of Anastasia – with several twists, of course. Ana was accused and then framed for the death of her father. And while she survived the attempts on her life – despite the belief of the people thinking otherwise – she still has a lot of work ahead of her. She's determined to get revenge for both her father's death and for her framing. But that task is easier said than done. The action and abilities in this novel were brilliant. The fight scenes were well described, adding a new perspective on how magical abilities could be used in a fight. And how they can be feared. And let's not forget the politics, planning, and scheming that went on inside these pages. Because trust me – there was a lot of that. It helped to obfuscate the reality of Ana's situation and her attempts for revenge, making the journey more daring and dramatic. Personally, it was the romantic subplot that really pulled me in. I know, that surprised me too. But it was so compelling and so beautifully written. It gave the series a chance to have a moment of brightness in an otherwise darker tale. It balanced out the main plot perfectly for that reason. I loved everything about Blood Heir. I didn't end up reading this novel in one sitting – like many of the others that I fell in love with. But trust me, I was a very cranky girl at work waiting for my next break so I could get back to it! Now I just have to wait for news about the next novel in the trilogy.
Brooke Allen 5 months ago
"This isn't one of the fairy-tale books you read in your childhood, where the hero always wins in the end." I read an early copy of this book this spring. A lot of controversy initially surrounded Blood Heir, which was temporarily pulled from publication by the author when some people thought there were parts of the book that seemed racist. I thought it was a good book, and don't think it was ever the author's intention to produce anything racist. I think she had only good intentions of writing this book. Blood Heir features a princess in a Russian-like country who has to flee the palace after she was framed for murdering her father. She teams up with a con-man in order to try to take revenge upon the man who is actually guilty. The country is corrupt, and people with magic (the Affinites) are put into slavery. People of all races. This book does deal with governmental corruption, but I don't think it has anything to do with the African slave trade from over 100 years ago. Slavery still exists today. I found the story interesting and it kept me wanting more. I'd read the rest of the series if it ever is produced. It wasn't perfect (hence the four-stars), but it was an enjoyable book nevertheless. I hope to read more from this author in the future.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I'm very happy that Bloody Heir had an opportunity to be shared with the world. From the marvellous writing to the discussion of thought provoking issues, Blood Heir is the epic journey of Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess of Cyrilia, who will do whatever it takes to save her Empire - even if it means becoming a monster. Storytelling: A dark retelling of Anastasia, Blood Heir is the tale of Ana's search for justice after being framed by her father's death. I'm aware that I use these words a lot, but Amélie Wen Zhao's writing is simply enthralling. Her words captivated me from the very first sentence. There is something about her writing that made me fall in love - there is such a care in the storytelling and that transpires to the reader. Through words, you could feel all the emotions Amélie put in her story. Blood Heir explores the darkness of our world, dwelling on indenture and slavery, the power one exerts over another, the boundaries between good and evil, and the monsters that walk on earth. I actually kept highlighting quotes that focused on these themes (the topic of monstrosity is always a favourite of mine - one is always so sure of whom the real monster is that he/she never looks at the mirror, believing to be human and morally righteous). In the end, the reader is forced to think about the same questions than the characters. Ps. Don't you just love when a book/story makes you think critically? One has the power to change the world by unveiling and confronting the darkness that inhabits it. Characters: After being "locked up" inside the palace walls for years, following an incident that gave birth to the legend of the Witch of Salskoff, Anna is accused of her father's murder. Emotionally damaged and haunted by traumatic memories of being tortured in order to become "human" and lose her Affinity, Ana begins the journey to prove her innocence. In her search for the culprit, she travels through the Empire and comes to understand that the land she believed to be just and a home to all its inhabitants has been corrupted and is rot to its core. Monsters hid in the shadows, selling Affinities and forcing them to do their bidding. Throughout her journey, this new reality moulds Ana's view. She sees her father's mistakes and realizes that Affinities are not monsters, thus swearing to make the Empire a better place to everyone. She vows to fight against all the wrongdoings that ravage the Empire. I really enjoyed how much Ana grew. No longer sheltered by the life in the palace, the world is no longer black and white. Ana goes through a transformation that is strongly connected with acceptance - acceptance of who she is, of her Affinity, of what she can do. Ana isn't the only character that goes through some major transformations. Ramson Quickthongue, con-man and member of one of the most brutal criminal organizations in Cyrilia, also goes through a journey that obliges him to confront his past, to face his choices, and wonder about the path he wants to follow. Although his past is not as torturous as Anna's, it has also left several scars (physical and psychological) on Ramson, as the reader comes to learn as the story unfolds. World Building: If you are looking for a whole new world, build from the scratch , even if inspired by our own world, you will find it in Blood Heir. The Cyrilian Empire, the Kingdom of Bregon, the dangerous city of Novo Minsk (which did remind me of Ketterdam), among many other lands and cultur
Marta Cox 5 months ago
Three and a half Although I feel many readers will be excited by the idea of a fantasy story based perhaps loosely on the idea of Anastasia this is definitely not a romantic imperial story about Russia during a revolution. Instead it’s a journey of revelation for a young woman who has always been kept from the truth concerning the Empire and the corruption within it. Please do not expect romance or high fantasy but instead we get oppression, greed and slavery . I wanted to like Ana but initially just didn’t connect with her but upon finishing I feel her sheltered circumstances and upbringing prevented her from seeing ugly truths. However the blatant feel of racism was a pervasive undercurrent of this story as those different are persecuted and enslaved. It’s clear from the narrative that this isn’t the case worldwide but I struggled with the idea that so many were treated so badly which felt odd as actually they are perhaps so much stronger than those who cruelly oppressed them. This wasn’t a romance although there are possibilities in the future. It’s very much aimed at those who enjoy ‘clean’ stories although there are some pretty nasty incidents. However I did enjoy the story overall and although I don’t consider myself an expert on YA stories This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
jdowell 5 months ago
Zhao knocked it out of the park with this debut - I loved it! Hard to believe it's her first novel. This book just got better and better the more I read. Well-developed characters and an intricate plot. Anastacya Mikhailov a/k/a Ana, a princess, hides a secretive power. There are others in the Kingdom and surrounding lands who have various types and degrees of power, or Affinities. These people are known as Affinites. When one of the Affinites is discovered they are enslaved to serve masters who treat them badly. Ana flees the palace when the King dies and everyone thinks she is the murderess. While in hiding she travels the land in search of the real killer. She teams up with an infamous con man, Ramson. They strike a bargain and the fast-paced adventure is in full throttle. I have to say I had as much fun reading this as I did Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. I can't remember another fantasy I enjoyed so much. Many thanks to Amelie Wen Zhao and Delacorte Press through Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.