Hello! This morning, I had a two-hour delay for school because it was really icy. Where I live, we hardly ever get snow and seem to be incapable of handling the slightest bits of cold. It was really nice to have the extra time, though, and I was able to read a bunch. I even finished reading Bloody Spade, by Brittany M. Willows! It took me a little while to completely finish reading Bloody Spade, but I really enjoyed it, and I’m excited to share my review of the book with you all today!
Author: Brittany M. Willows
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: September 15, 2021
Genre: Young adult, urban fantasy, action & adventure, magic fantasy, slow-burn romance
Representation: gray-asexual female lead (ownvoices), pansexual male lead, aromantic/bisexual and demisexual/demiromantic deuteragonists. Among the supporting characters: gay, lesbian, transgender (trans boy + a nonbinary character who uses neopronouns). Racially diverse cast. Anxiety/PTSD rep.
Content warnings:– Coarse language – Blood and violence, some gore – Moments of graphic violence/torture – On-page character death – Body horror – Harassment/bullying – Vomiting – Poisoning – Amnesia – Grief/bereavement – Anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks – Trauma related to kidnapping/physical abuse – Parent death (discussed, glimpsed in flashbacks) – Car accident (discussed, glimpsed in flashbacks) – One instance of a forced kiss (not intended to be romantic or sexual)
*This review is spoiler free.*
A girl full of heart
A thief touched by darkness
A boy with a fiery temper
An unwitting servant of evil
The era of magic was once thought to be a myth, but after the Reemergence ushered forces both dark and light into the mundane world, it has since become a harsh reality. Now those affected by this strange power—a specialized group of Empowered called Jokers, known collectively as Cardplay—must protect their world from the darkness that threatens to consume it, all the while fighting for equality in a society clinging to normalcy.
But the Reemergence was only the beginning.
When another influx occurs on the seventh anniversary of that fateful event, an unfortunate encounter at ground zero lands Iori Ryone, a teenage boy in possession of a corrupt and legendary magic, in the care of recent Joker graduate Ellen Amelia Jane. From him, she learns the Reemergence may not have been the inevitable natural disaster it first seemed.
Someone is trying to tear down the barrier that separates the magical realms from the mundane. The question is, can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?
Bloody Spade is the first installment in an urban fantasy duology that follows a cat-eared thief and a spirited girl as they try to navigate his wild magic, her hotheaded brother, a sinister plot, and the feelings they’re developing for each other.
I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion and my review.
There were many things I liked about Bloody Spade, and a few things I didn’t love as much. For example, I didn’t love the pacing of the book, and the middle section was slow at times. On the other hand, what I loved most of all about Bloody Spade, was how unique the story is. Far too many young adult fantasies follow the same pathway, with a single protagonist, a bland romance, and side characters that exist solely to help the main character, and aren’t given stories of their own. Bloody Spade veers away from this in remarkable ways.
The story is told in a really interesting way. The book has many subplots that weave through and around the main narrative, giving everything an incredible amount of depth and meaning. This is also supported by the complex magic system Willows has created, and I loved reading about the Empowered, the people who have magic, and how they lived in the world of Bloody Spade.
Bloody Spade also has excellent diversity among both the main characters and side characters. The use of neopronouns in literature is, unfortunately, very rare to see, and it is sadly uncommon to read about LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy. Bloody Spade does a great job with the use of neopronouns. Neopronouns are a category of gender neutral pronouns, such as xe/xem/xyr, and are used by some who feel neopronouns better reflect their gender identity. There were also many LGBTQ+ characters in the book who openly talked about their identities, which was great to read about.
The use of the third-person, omniscient narrator was done really, really well. Instead of being confined to one perspective, the reader was really immersed in the story and in the world by being able to see the many different things happening in the plot, and in all the subplots. I’ve found that I sometimes prefer omniscient narrators, or at least books with multiple narrators to a single narrator, so getting to have more of the full story in Bloody Spade was really nice.
I really enjoyed reading about the characters, and I love how many characters had their own subplots, personalities and real character arcs. Alexander and Ellen Jane’s relationship was one of my favorites to read about. The two siblings are very much at the center of the plot throughout the book, and have had to go through a lot together. This ends up putting a lot of stress on the both of them and creating tension, especially when a certain Keeper falls into their life.
Iori, the Keeper of the Spade, was a tragic character to read about, and definitely one of my favorites. The layers to his character arc and role in the story never ceased to amaze me, and I really enjoyed learning more and more about him as the book went on.
I also loved the character Kyani so much, and I thought that she had an incredible story. Through her perspective, I was able to grasp so much more of the world Willows created in the book. Kyani is Empowered, and has very powerful magic. She faced a lot of difficulties because of her magic, and her arc shows how little protection Empowered people have, and how vulnerable they are in a society that doesn’t treat the Empowered very kindly.
Brittany M. Willows is a bisexual/asexual author and digital artist living in rural Ontario, Canada. Inspired initially by video games and the stories they told, she began building her own fictional universes and has no plans of stopping any time soon. When she’s not writing about post-apocalyptic lands, wild magic, or people gallivanting through the stars, she can be found hunched over a tablet drawing the very same things.
To keep up with the latest news regarding both current and future stories, and to find out more about Brittany or to delve deeper into the worlds she has created, check out the links below! She can also be contacted directly via these platforms.
Bloody Spade is a unique and entertaining fantasy novel, with an engaging plot and compelling characters. I really liked reading it, and if you like urban fantasy, slow burn romance, and are on the lookout for a YA fantasy with excellent LGBTQ+ representation, you should definitely check it out!