“[R]omance, danger, and magic make for a winning combination that will keep readers glued to the pages long after bedtime.”–School Library Journal "A multifaceted scheme, mistaken identity, and a simmering romance will keep readers riveted and dying to know how it all unfolds. The exploration of the land’s religion and people’s conflicting understandings of it seems to be a reflection of the real world, lending the story a deeper commentary without sidelining the main plot. An excellent choice for fans of smart, independent female leads, intriguing fantasy worlds, and a race against the clock to defeat evil."–Booklist "The plot is breathlessly fast, complete with creepy spirits, a satisfying romance, and complex but clear political twists and turns....Political, romantic, magical, timely, yet also traditionally appealing." –Kirkus "[A] riveting read....rife with surprising twists....This novel is a well-developed page-turner that will have fans of both the fantasy and mystery genres rushing to finish."–Bulletin of the Center for Children's BooksEarly praise for Bloodleaf: “Enchanting, visceral, and twisty, Bloodleaf is a phantasmagorical wonder that will keep you guessing until the very last page.”–NYT bestselling author of Ash Princess, Laura Sebastian “Eerie, immersive, and fascinating, Bloodleaf feels like a classic in the making. Readers will be pulled deep into Aurelia's world, and lose sleep alongside her as the deadly mysteries close in.”–Sarah Holland, NYT bestselling author of Everless “Smith weaves together mystery, adventure and a reimagined fairy tale in this bewitching debut. An irresistible, spellbinding story.”–Rebecca Ross, author of The Queen’s Rising “I am all in my feelings about this book. This book got under my skin and poked at my soul. Bloodleaf is gritty, raw, and dark but it is also beautiful and powerful. Crystal Smith is like the George R.R. Martin of YA. A roundhouse kick to the heart and readers will ask for more—Crystal has a new fan!”–Kim Brock, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH “Bloodleaf provides food for thought on our world even while immersing readers in a fully imagined world of its own. The combination of magic and political intrigue make it a great choice for fans of Victoria Aveyard or Susan Dennard.”–Leslie Hawkins, Spellbound Children’s Bookshop, Asheville, NC “I was so absolutely enthralled with what was going on that I wasn't even thinking more than a sentence ahead. Highly Highly recommend!!”–Nichole Cousins, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH “Bloodleaf is one of those rare stories that truly grabbed me from the very first paragraph and never let me go. So much more than a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale the Goose Girl, Crystal Smith has woven a tale of identity, secrets, adventure, magic, and love that I just adored. I cannot wait for what comes next!”–Lauren D’Alessio, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA “Unusually convincing romantic tension and exceptionally dynamic character development.”–Kenny Brechner, DDG Booksellers, Farmington, ME “Bloodleaf is an intriguing and suspenseful fantasy, sure to be popular with teen and adult readers. I loved it and am already looking forward to book 2!”–Holly Frakes, Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, MI “Being strong means making important choices in a moment— Aurelia has to abandon her emotional and physical comforts, and her family to save her kingdom. Through complicated magic and courage, Aurelia shows us how believing in yourself, while not being selfish, conjures up a power that brings justice to her world.”–Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, NY “A YA fantasy page turner, Bloodleaf captures all the excitement of a strong princess fighting for her country and her life while exploring her identity.”–Jen Kraar, City of Asylum Books, Pittsburgh, PA
Gr 9 Up–In fear for her life following an assassination attempt and accusations of practicing witchcraft, Princess Aurelia is sent to the neighboring kingdom of Achleva to meet her future husband, Valentin, and gain some protection against the charges levied against her. Shortly before she arrives at the city gates, Aurelia's escort turns on her, demanding her documents of introduction and takes her brother and sister (who plans to assume Aurelia's identity) to the castle. She narrowly escapes death and eludes her escort long enough to hide in the poorer section of the city. Befriended by Kate, a seamstress, and her husband Nathaniel, Aurelia manages to live incognito for some time until she meets Zan, a quiet and somewhat mysterious young man who seems to know a great deal more about the castle and the royal family than a street rat should. The writing is strong and engaging if sometimes convoluted. However, romance, danger, and magic make for a winning combination that will keep readers glued to the pages long after bedtime. VERDICT A lovely, dark, and twisted fantasy for those of who have never quite outgrown fairy tales.—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage Public Library, AK
Magic and royalty interweave with contemporary concerns in this dark fantasy.
Renaltan princess Aurelia is a witch. She studies forbidden books and avoids contact with the ghosts she sees while trying to hide her powers from a magic-fearing populace. She'll be safe once she marries the prince of another monarchy, quelling a centuries-old feud, but secretive, scheming powers knock those plans awry. Fleeing to the magically fortified city of Achleva she pretends to be a commoner with uncommon magical skill as deadly machinations swirl around her. Aurelia's and her friends' skin colors range from pale to dark brown, but racial identities don't come into play in the story. The plot is breathlessly fast, complete with creepy spirits, a satisfying romance, and complex but clear political twists and turns. The plot is purely fantasy, involving a cure-all that only comes after bloodshed, a horrifying ghost called the Harbinger, and the violent undoing of protective spells. However, some aspects—a protective but deadly wall, corrupt leaders who manipulate a repressive, pleasure-denying religion for their own ends, and King Domhnall, a hypocritical, whoring, "very stable genius"—will feel immediately relevant to savvy readers. The mythology feels classic yet fresh and interesting, though descriptions of "blood magic" (where practitioners often make themselves bleed) might warrant a trigger warning for self-injury.
Political, romantic, magical, timely, yet also traditionally appealing. (Fantasy. 14-18)