Blending fantasy and science fiction, N. E. Davenport’s fast-paced, action-packed debut kicks off a duology of loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.
It’s all about blood.
The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.
The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.
For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.
Who trained her to keep that a secret.
But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.
Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials—a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that—if found out—would subject her to execution…or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather…and then she needs to kill them.
Mareen has been at peace for a long time…
Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.
Magic and technology converge in the first part of this stunning debut duology, where loyalty to oneself—and one’s blood—is more important than anything.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An inspiring heroine risks everything to break the bonds of prejudice in this enthralling fantasy adventure. The land of Mareen eradicated blood magic from its borders years ago—or so everyone thinks. Ikenna has kept her mystical gifts a secret thanks to her loving grandfather, who taught her to harness her magic and fight with deadly skill. So when he’s tragically killed by someone on Mareen’s ruling Tribunal, Ikenna decides to join the Tribunal’s trusted guard…so she can exact her revenge. To join the guard, she’ll have to endure a series of cruel and dangerous trials (only one in four candidates survives!), in addition to rampant racism and misogyny. We were riveted by her fearlessness. N. E. Davenport’s meticulous world-building drew us into the story almost as much as the relatable Ikenna, whose tough exterior sometimes protects her too well. The Blood Trials will make your heart race and give you plenty to think about.
Davenport debuts with an ambitious epic that blurs genre lines, setting futuristic technology against a historical fantasy backdrop. In the predominantly white Republic of Mareen, 19-year-old Ikenna Amari's brown skin, courtesy of her Khanaian heritage, makes her a target of racism and bigotry. When she learns that her late grandfather, one of Mareen's most accomplished military leaders, was likely assassinated, a mourning Ikenna vows to uncover the truth. To that end, she applies to the Praetorian Guard, Mareen's deadliest, most elite soldiers. But to join their ranks she must complete life or death trials that kill most applicants and certain powerful people would be all too happy to see Ikenna among those who don't survive. Her only advantage is her blood-gift, a remnant of now outlawed magic that grants her swift healing and strange powers, but which must remain secret. As Ikenna battles both physical threats and Mareen's systematic racism and sexism, she's forced to reconsider where her loyalties lie, especially as war with the feared Blood-Emperor of Accacia looms. Glimpses of broader worldbuilding hint at the story's scope and set things up for the next installment, but may leave readers frustrated by the lack of answers. Still, this invigorating debut marks Davenport as a writer to watch. Agent: Caitie Flum, Caiti Liza Dawson Assoc.