Star Rating: 4 out of 5
Plot Summary from Goodreads: The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins. Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death. The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted. This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story. But this is a story that must be penned in blood.
This was my December YA Fantasy BOM club book and I have to admit that I was not at all interested in it just based on the cover. (Yes, that’s a saying. Yes, I often judge books by their covers.) I misjudged this one a bit, as it’s a fast-paced, adrenaline rush of a book, mixing the tension of playing for keeps a la Hunger Games, and a creative magical system with loads of morally gray characters.
What I liked:
* While the very beginning was a bit slow, while the authors introduced the characters to us, from there, the pace ramped up until I was feverishly reading to try to keep up with the action. Lots of magical action scenes, which played the characters off of one another.
* I liked the distinctly drawn characters and how each had their own unique attributes, strengths and weaknesses. (Everyone in this story is flawed in some way, and some more than others.) It’s hard to write “bad” characters who can also be sympathized and empathized with, but the authors were able to achieve that here.
* I really liked the magical system and the layered story that was built on this ancient challenge. (That said, I kind of feel like this book would have been better written as a YA Fantasy where 2 of the main characters try to figure out the back story of the different landmarks and iconic items that appear during the tournament, to try to break the curse without having the actual tournament in play. More of a quest and less of a death-wish.)
What I didn’t like:
* There’s a lot of violence – probably too much for a lot of folks. If you have certain triggers, I would definitely review the list online of these, because there are a lot of them. (You can probably tell this just by skimming over the plot synopsis, but the challenge is played out to the death and there is definitely blood and gore and injuries and death, and the mention of suicide, so just make sure before you start to read.) While I do not personally have an issue with violence in what I’m reading assuming it’s an integrated part of the story, the entire premise of a competition to the death (even in a magical world) bothers me – and why I was not a Hunger Games fan. I have a hard time relating to this being an option in one’s life.
* I really dislike books that are part of a series with major cliff-hanger endings. This is guilty of that.
An entertaining read, but I’m not sure I will pick up the sequel of it since it will be a continuation of more of the same plot lines from where this book left off. I did enjoy it more than I thought I would, and I can see it appealing to readers who adored Hunger Games.