By Crystal Smith
Published March 12, 2019 by HMH Teen
After checking out the description, I wanted to read Bloodleaf because it seemed to have a lot of tropes I love: a princess in hiding, banned magic, and a forbidden romance. Then I realized that it’s a loose retelling of the Grimm’s fairytale The Goose Girl, and that sold me on it, because I love fairytale retellings. I really enjoyed this book. It’s got a great heroine, a swoony romance, spirits, and blood magic.
Princess Aurelia of Renalt is in a precarious position. Although her mother is serving as queen until her younger brother comes of age, the true power in the kingdom is held by the Tribunal, an anti-magic group that burns anyone suspected of being a witch. It’s a fear-based regime, and Aurelia is hiding her blood magic, but not very well, because she’s widely suspected of being a witch. After an assassination attempt, her mother sends her to the neighboring kingdom of Achleva, whose prince she is betrothed to. On the journey there, she is attacked again and barely escapes with her life. She manages to make her way into Achleva, where she assumes a new identity and tries to figure out the plot against her.
Now calling herself Emilie, Aurelia starts to build a new life. She forges an alliance with a mysterious nobleman named Zan, tries to figure out the plot against her, and makes a friend, something she hasn’t had in years. She also has the chance to explore her blood magic without the fear of being executed as a witch.
Bloodleaf was a great read. Aurelia is a great main character, and I like how much she grows as a person throughout the book. She embraces her power and learns how to survive on her own. Unlike a lot of fantasy I’ve read, the magical system makes sense and works within the political context of the world. There are lots of twists and turns to the plot, and being familiar with the original fairytale, I guessed one of the plot twists, there’s a big twist at the end that was a complete surprise. The romance was a fun one, because I tend to like romances where both parties are keeping big secrets. I highly recommend it.
I received an ARC from the published via Amazon Vine.