I hope you’re all doing well. Today, I’m back with another book review, which is on Ausma Zehanat Khan’s adult fantasy novel The Bloodprint. It is the first in the Khorasan Archives series, and follows Arian, a member of the Companions of Hira, whose mission is to end the war started by the One Eyed Preacher and the oppressive spread of the Talisman. When it is thought that the Companions of Hira have discovered The Bloodprint, a script that can bring the One Eyed Preacher’s regime to an end, it is up to Arian and her second in command, Sinnia, to travel on a treacherous journey to find The Bloodprint, and bring it back to the council.
Generally, I think this book had a lot going for it. It comes across as being a feminist text, it’s set in a middle eastern setting and therefore the characters aren’t just white people; there is a lot of diversity, and it also looks at things such as religion, magic, and culture being important aspects of society and history. I think, as the start of a series, this has so much potential, and it was nice reading something with a lot of diversity, and a different perspective on the typical fantasy genre as a whole. I found that I was interested in the storyline the most, and I was curious to see what characters they meet on their journey, what else the world of Khorasan has to offer, and ultimately, what will happen when the characters finally get their hands on the Bloodprint.
However… I did have several issues with this book. Firstly, the world building. From the very first chapter onwards I found I was just a bit confused, and although I was intrigued enough in the plot to finish the book, it took me the entire month of May to get through! The Companions of Hira use an ancient scripture called the Claim to use their magic; however, it’s never explained what the Claim does, why it’s so important, and why these women are the ones who can use it. Throughout the novel, Arian is almost worshipped for being the First Oralist, but again… I didn’t know why that was so important.
Also, unless they are brought back in the books in the rest of this series, I kind of felt that bringing in loads of the companions at the beginning who weren’t actually that relevant to the rest of the story just added a bit more confusion for me. At the back of the book there is a list of characters, and many of them have “alternate” names that they go by; almost like nicknames. But I just didn’t understand why some had so many. This did unfortunately continue throughout the novel, with some of the other characters that they met along their journey. I could see why they added something to the story, but they weren’t always memorable. At one point, they meet the people of the young boy, Wafa, who Arian and Sinnia save from a slave train. They manage to save these people, but once they’ve been saved, I can’t actually remember what happened to them. Did Arian say goodbye? Where did they go? It just felt like they were there for no reason.
I had a bit of an issue with Khan’s writing style sometimes; she often told the story rather than showed it. For example, not only do some characters have other names they go by, but so do some buildings. She could describe these places in such a way that makes the reader feel like they’re reading about something special, but instead she often introduces them as “The Palace, also known as…” And this happened a lot. It annoyed me because I felt that Khan had so much more to give, and sometimes she was nearly there, but then it didn’t go any further.
*SPOILER AHEAD* There is a point towards the end of the story, when Arian and her friends have just found The Bloodprint, after breaking into a Talisman city, and they literally turn around to find they are going to get arrested. There seems to be no fighting, no attempt of escaping… they just give in. There is no explanation, and it just fell a bit flat for me. This wasn’t the only time that Khan just told the story, rather than showing it. The characters at this particular point had just been through a great big fight scene, so I can understand that maybe Khan had to start wrapping things up… but it just didn’t feel right. I had to read that part again, because I felt like I’d missed something.
The final issue I had was the fact that Arian’s love interest kiiiind of had to keep coming in to save the day. For a novel that prides itself on being a feminist story… this was a bit disappointing. There was a whole backstory between these two characters, and it was obvious from the get go that they would rekindle their love by the end of the novel. I’m all down for a bit of romance here and there, but Arian was more than capable of doing a lot of these things herself, instead of… whatever his name is. I know I should know it, but I honestly can’t remember!
Overall, I gave The Bloodprint 2.5/5 stars on Goodreads. Like I said, I really do feel it has potential, and I’m on the fence about continuing on with the series. Part of me hopes that the world building and Khan’s writing style will improve with time, but generally, I just felt that I didn’t really care about the magic system of the Claim, because it wasn’t established enough at the beginning. But, it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, so of course, I am left wondering what will happen next.
Have you read The Bloodprint? If so, what did you think?