cover image The Blood Trials

The Blood Trials

N.E. Davenport. Harper Voyager, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-305848-4

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. (Apr.)