Random House announced on Monday that its Delacorte Press imprint will release a revised edition of Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao this fall. The pub date is November 19, and there will be a 150,000 initial print run in hardcover.
In January, a firestorm over the YA fantasy novel’s themes and content erupted on social media. A number of YA writers and others disparaged Blood Heir five months before its scheduled June release for what they saw as Zhao’s insensitivity to the history of racism in the U.S., particularly by using slavery as a plot device in the tale of the character Anastacya, who has the power to control blood. After being falsely accused of murdering her father, Anastacya must flee the castle and hide in a land whose inhabitants fear those with the power that she possesses, while, with the help of a charismatic con man, she tries to clear her name.
Not only did critics condemn a slave auction scene in the original edition, but they also complained of characterizations that emphasized skin color.
In response to the criticism, Zhao, 26, who was born in Paris and raised in Beijing before emigrating to the U.S. as a college student, said that she had intended in her fiction to create parallels to human trafficking and indentured servitude in Asia, and requested that Delacorte postpone publication of Blood Heir. The press, which had signed a three-book deal with Zhao, did so, but made it clear that Delacorte supported Zhao and intended to honor the contract with her to publish Blood Heir.According to an interview with Zhao just published in the New York Times, Zhao reread her novel several times, “examining the plot and characters to see if the critics were right. She decided they weren’t,” but still made some revisions. Delacorte then sent the revised version of Blood Heir to scholars and to sensitivity readers to evaluate the text, and Zhao made further revisions based on their feedback.
Zhao’s editor, Krista Marino told PW, “The manuscript in the ARC was not final, and we were still revising when Amélie asked us to postpone the publication. We worked to further establish the nuances of indentured labor and trafficking within this fantasy world, without changing major plot points.”In an open letter posted on social media Monday afternoon announcing the news, Zhao stated, “In writing this novel I researched extensively on the subject of modern-day human trafficking and on indentured labor throughout the world, and specifically from my heritage. It became clear to me that my book was being read in a different cultural context from my own, and so I took the time to make sure the hallmarks of this global epidemic were being incisively drawn.”
Expressing her excitement over finally publishing Zhao’s “empowering and enthralling” novel, Marino said in a release that Blood Heir “[sheds] light on a global human rights issue [and] is true to her dual mission to raise awareness for important social issues and to write an engrossing story.”