story that’s unafraid to venture into the darkest corners of fantasy.

By Justine Bergman
By Justine Bergman
blood of heirs

Blood of Heirs

by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

About

Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?

My Thoughts

‘We all have ghosts who walk in our shadows, Ran. Just happens some are louder than others.’

Blood of Heirs is Alicia Wanstall-Burke’s stunning Dark Epic Fantasy debut brimming with warring nations and abhorrent horrors lurking beneath the dense forest canopy. At its heart, it’s a tale of the everlasting battle between duty and forging your own path, set in a rich world where tradition and obligation take precedence. Following the lives of two young protagonists, readers are swept away on a journey drenched in destructive magic, dangerous mysteries, and lots and lots of grisly bloodshed. I went into this book with high expectations, all of which were not only met, but exceeded. There’s something special in the making here, and I’m excited to witness it unfurl.

This is the epitome of a character-driven tale, which transforms this sprawling epic into a highly personal coming-of-age story. We’re introduced to Lidan Tolak, the eldest daughter and heir of the Daari of the Tolak clan, and Ranoth Olseta, son and heir of Duke Ronart, through the use of alternating points of view. Where many stories risk falling flat using this technique, Blood of Heirs excels, presenting three to five chapter chunks dedicated to each at one time, allowing for better understanding and deeper connection to these finely crafted characters. 

Motivations and desires are clearly introduced, then carefully built upon as the story progresses, allowing readers to witness their evolution as their surroundings affect them. With how dark of a tale this is, it’s too easy to feel the strain of the hardships placed upon their young shoulders, things no child should ever be forced to endure.

‘People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t control.’

Readers are transported into a world of unrest, with enigmatic foes breaching borders and superstitions that define the very fabric of society. The two threads of this story are not apparently connected, but there’s always a feeling that there’s an underlying something that will cause them to converge. This book is an exquisite introduction into the universe the author has created, portraying different nations and the specific issues they face, giving readers a glimpse of what’s to come, and leaving the curious craving more. We’re not overwhelmed with an abundance of details, but instead presented with bits and pieces of a rich history along with the young leads. 

I thoroughly appreciated this, as I always find the learning curve of a new series a bit daunting, wallowing in my ignorance. This pilgrimage for the truth alongside Lidan and Ran was among my favorite aspects of this story.

Let’s talk about the writing itself for a moment. I’m still finding it difficult to believe this is a debut novel. Polished prose and well-thought plotting make this story a treat to read. I will admit I had a tough time initially getting into the narrative, waiting for the over-arching plot to reveal itself, but when it happens…it happens with a bang. Dripping with delicious tension–war, horrors, family dynamics, uncertainty, self-doubt–the pages kept swiftly turning just so I could see what would happen next. 

I was so engulfed in this superbly penned story that I read this book in two sittings. Palpable, visceral action scenes, and highly emotional moments of utter despair bring this dark tale to life in ways one would expect to witness from seasoned authors. If this is just the beginning, I’m very much looking forward to what the future holds for Wanstall-Burke.

Blood of Heirs has been on my radar for quite some time, and I’m thrilled I’ve finally gotten a chance to give it a read. A devastatingly beautiful debut, Wanstall-Burke is chiseling her way into the literary world with a story that’s unafraid to venture into the darkest corners of fantasy. It comes to a satisfying end, leaving readers teetering on the precipice of something extraordinary, and I cannot wait to discover what that something is. I highly recommend.

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Justine Bergman

web dev | dark fantasy enthusiast | indie advocate | coffee addict | gaming zealot | storytellers on tour co-manager | self-published fantasy month team member

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