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The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives) Paperback – October 3, 2017
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“The Bloodprint is somewhere between N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin. You’re going to love it.” (Saladin Ahmed, author of Throne of the Crescent Moon)
“The Bloodprint...is nuanced in showing the value of history and religion and the damage willful ignorance can inflict. And if it’s plot twists you’re after [it] has plenty of them — and an exciting cliffhanger, too.” (Washington Post)
“Khan’s latest is a tale that will grip readers from the start. With beautiful, vibrant storytelling...Khan’s first installment in her new fantasy series is truly remarkable.” (RT Book Reviews)
“For fans of complex fantasy series with a girl-power theme.” (Booklist)
“The Bloodprint is extraordinary. The book is wonderfully written; its poetic prose and mix of history, faith, and adventure reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic Odyssey...this time with a pair of women warriors at the helm.” (S.A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass)
From the Back Cover
A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.
But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her fellow warrior, Sinnia, skilled fighters who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: the Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.
Finding the Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal boy they freed from slavery and a man that used to be both Arian’s confidant and sword master—Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.
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Arian’s homeland has been overtaken by the Talisman, a new organization that promotes an ideology of fear, ignorance, hatred of difference, and misogyny. As Companions of Hira, Arian and her friend Sinna are some of the few who openly fight the Talisman. They’ve spent the last decade traveling Talisman territory and freeing women from slave chains, but their efforts have not been enough to slow the Talisman’s rise. Then the leader of the Companions of Hira gives Arian a new quest: to locate and retrieve the Bloodprint, an ancient text that has the power to defeat the Talisman once and for all.
The heart of the Companions of Hira’s power lies in their knowledge of the Claim, the magical words of a sacred scripture. However, I kept wishing that I knew more about the Claim and the religion and magic of the world. For a book where the religion is so central to the plot, we sure don’t know much about it. For instance, who even was Hira? Where did the Companions come from? I’d guess that the author has much of this worked out, but it didn’t come across while I was reading The Bloodprint, which created problems with the world building. Another example would be how the narrative casually mentions about halfway through that the Companions of Hira are supposed to be celibate. This was after we’d already seen at least two Companions of Hira having sex. Why didn’t we find this out earlier?
Structure wise, The Bloodprint is basically a treasure hunt. Treasure hunt plot lines can be a ton of fun, but I generally think they need pretty snappy pacing. The Bloodprint dragged for over the first half and didn’t really pick up until Arian and her friends were beyond the Wall and in the dangerous lands beyond. I also kept feeling like Arian wasn’t driving the plot but was being driven along by it; she kept being manipulated and directed by other characters. Ending on a cliffhanger didn’t help the issues I had with The Bloodprint‘s structure, and it prevented the book from feeling like it had a plot arc of its own. I feel like this is part of a larger manuscript which was cut into pieces to make individual books.
On the topic of structure, I needed for The Bloodprint to have a stronger emotional heart. I would have liked to see more focus on Arian’s relationship to her missing sister (which is a major factor of her character motivation) or with her friend Sinna. Or how is her forming a friendship with Sinna disrupted by the trauma of her missing family? The Bloodprint had a lot of potential for a strong, emotional heart to the story, but I felt like none of them were ever fully developed. The closest it came was with the romance subplot.
I did not like the romance subplot. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that I’m a hard sell when it comes to romance subplots. Often I’m just indifferent to them, but I hated this one. The love interest was so controlling! And he keeps saying that Arian “betrayed” him but then it turns out her “betrayal” was that she wasn’t willing to give up her position as a Companion of Hira. I was so done with this guy.
But back to the topic of Sinna. I had some concerns about her character. She’s basically Arian’s sidekick and she’s the only black character in the novel. I was sort of worried that she’d fall into the stereotype of black best friend/sidekick and never move beyond that. I wanted her to have her own distinct character arc and a tangible effect on the plot. She had neither. In fact, she disappeared towards the end and Arian didn’t seem to care much? It felt like everyone kind of forgot about her.
There were also a couple of minor villains who fell into stereotypical tropes. One’s an evil albino, although there’s a couple of other (even more minor) albino characters who aren’t portrayed in a negative light. Another is a man who molests and murders boys. I really hope the idea behind him is that “gay people = child molesters” but with the lack of queer characters, it’s hard to tell. Anyway, it gave me flashbacks to Dune and not in a good way.
One of the most interesting elements about The Bloodprint was how the Talisman had parallels to the Taliban; I don’t think it’s an influence I’ve ever seen in fantasy before. I do love how this story is centered around a female character who’s resisting patriarchal authority, although I did chafe at reading about such a violently patriarchal world where the heroines were under the constant threat of rape and brutalization.
Probably the most frustrating thing about The Bloodprint is that I could see the shape of a truly great fantasy novel within it, but the story wasn’t quite there yet and might have benefited from another round of edits.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
'There is no one but the One. And so the One commands...'
The land of Khorasan is slowly being overtaken piece by piece by a powerful and volatile group known as the Talisman. They are led by a man known as the One-Eyed Preacher.
'We live in the age of secrets and fear.
We live in the age of Ignorance.'
They began their campaign by taking control of the country's food supply by pillaging and razing villages, fields, libraries, etc. Then they started creating shortages. Finally, they determined who would live and who would die by controlling who would eat and who would starve.
'These were the days of the Talisman fist.
The fist that crushed everything to dust.'
Rumor has it that verses from the Bloodprint, the oldest written compilation of the Claim, is being sold letter by letter. The Claim is a magical text written in an ancient language whose verses, when spoken, have the power to make things happen. It's from the Claim that the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of talented and respected woman, gain their power. Arian, the First Oralist, knows more verses then anyone else as the verses of the ancient text have been passed down through the generations in her family. The actual text, however, hasn't been seen by human eyes for centuries leading some to believe it doesn't exist.
While the Talisman have left the Companions of Hira alone so far, it is only a matter of time before they will focus their attention on them. Women have been the victims of horrendous injustices at the hands of the Talisman. Any found to be unchaperoned are being sold into slavery.
Each of the Companions will be given a task/Audacy to preform. Arian has just been given hers...
"You will seek out the Bloodprint, where it may lead you. You alone have knowledge of its language, You alone can confirm its identity. And you will bring it to Hira."
This is the story of her Audacy.
>>>>> My Review: <<<<<
I absolutely adored this story, but at the end, I was left with more questions than answers, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ms. Khan has created a complex and intricate world that I have no doubt was fully conceived and formed in her mind, but is not so easy for us, the readers, to comprehend at first. I highly recommend reading the synopsis before starting in on this one. Coming into the story I felt a little lost and wondered if this could possibly be the second book of the series. Alas, it is not there is just a lot to take in and the author doesn't rely on info dumps to get us up to speed. We need to patiently wait for the bits and pieces of information to be dispensed as the story and world slowly unfolds before our very eyes.
From what I can gather, the Claim is a little like the Force in Star Wars, but also very different. It appears to interact with Arian which makes me want to equate her to a Jedi. Yet, I'm unsure if that's because she can read and speak its language or if there is another reason. As not everyone knows the language of the Bloodprint, it's unclear if only a select few can wield its power or if anyone who can speak its verses can invoke its power. At one point someone declares, "The Claim is powerful within her." Whether this is because she knows so many of its verses or because she's sort of bonded with the Claim is unclear. Then there's the little matter of what happens towards the end. I don't want to give too much away, but it made me wonder if I needed to rethink all I thought I knew. Most likely I do.
What draws the reader into this book is the journey, or rather the Audacy (I assume the author made this word sound like oddessy on purpose), are all the trials and tribulations Arian and her fellow Companion, Sinnia, must face. Their mission is secret, and they must rely on their knowledge of ancient legends to get them to where they need to go and to carry out their mission. Hidden cities and pathways must be found, and puzzles and riddles must be solved before the Bloodprint can ultimately be found and retrieved.
There is a lot going on to capture one's interest and imagination in this one. At one point the High Companion announced, "A task will be assigned to each of you [Companions], and you will each fulfill your duty." It's unclear if the series will take up exactly where this one left off--with Arian as the main protagonist--or if in the next book a different Companion of Hira will take on another Audacy and be its focus. Either way, I'm hopefully we'll learn more of the inner workings of the Companions and the Claim.
To add a little intrigue into the mix, there is some question as to whether Ilea, the High Companion who heads the Council of Companions, can be trusted. She confides in no one and sends each of the Companions on secret missions for which they are sworn not to talk to any of the others about. Perhaps like the Jedi Masters who had good reasons to keep things from Anakin Skywalker, Ilea, herself, has a good reason to keep things from her fellow Companions. There is a chapter breaks from the rest and focuses primarily on Ilea. In it she states, "She [Arian] thinks she's been fighting a war, but she doesn't know the war has yet to begin," and "She knows nothing of the deeper forces at play." We'll have to wait and see whether Ilea is trustworthy or not, but she definitely has an agenda, the question what exactly is it?
Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It captured my attention and kept me on my toes all while maintaining a fast pace. With secrets and hidden danger lurking around every corner, this one was an action-packed magical thrill ride of a read full of twists and turns. While it does throw a lot at you before you fully know what's going on, this is one instance where patience totally pays off. I recommend you read the synopsis, make note of the glossary (in case you need some help), and hold on tight. You're in for a real treat. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing where this story takes us. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SMILE rating--a lady always tries to be polite so a smile should suffice (ie no heat whatsoever) While there is definitely something brewing between Arian and the Silver Mage, Arian refuses to act upon it.
I just want to read a fantasy with two female leads who have a friendship as good as Frodo and Sam. Is that so much to ask?
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