Aela Crane is a corsair with a spear gun and a family made up of her fellow crewmates. The past she’s put solidly behind her comes back to bite, though, when it’s the very reason the king blackmails her into going on a monster hunt. Del, one of the soldiers who accompanies her, is not all he seems to be. And Brynne is a merchant’s daughter who finds herself betrothed to a prince she doesn’t know. Aela’s and Del’s story eventually intersects with Brynne’s in satisfying and surprising ways.
Fantasy is my absolute favorite genre. That means I ask a lot from it. I want it to grow with the times rather than ask me to keep reading the same Tolkien derivatives over and over, especially when authors think it’s still okay to make 90% of their cast male. That means Run in the Blood came as a breath of fresh air. Not only are two of the main characters women, but Aela is a woman of color. The setting is fun and unusual, too. It’s vaguely medieval, sure, but there are pirates and a very cool capital city (whose name I can’t remember right now, sorry) built into a mountain. It’s just similar enough to be exciting, just different enough to catch my attention.
It’s so rare that I love every narrator in a story, but here, I love all three in different ways. Aela is a joy to read about. She’s brash and a bit of an antiheroine and pretends to be untouchable even while her heart is what drives her. I want her to get everything she wants in life, even if she hasn’t quite figured out what that is yet. Del is an intelligent sweetheart who loves his library and basically wants to protect everyone. And Brynne finds herself in an entirely new situation, one she’s unprepared for and not sure she wants. She’s kind and smart, and I love watching her make a place for herself. As a cast, they gel and complement each other really well.
And that’s because a theme that runs strongly throughout this is friendship, which is one I love to both read and write about. In a fantasy setting, it makes a nice change from characters who are backstabbing each other and grappling for power. This doesn’t seem to explicitly be the first book in a series, but the epilogue certainly provides a nice jumping-off point. I hope there are more books to come because I’d love to see what Aela, Brynn, and Del get up to next!
That’s not to say there aren’t issues. One of my pet peeves in formatting is when one character’s actions are in the same paragraph with another’s dialogue, and this happens here. Sometimes I had to read these paragraphs twice. Not sure if that will be fixed in the final version. I also think the middle section—where Aela trains and Brynne learns more about what becoming a princess asks of her—could have been longer and better developed. Honestly, though, these are so minor that didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
I heartily recommend this one, especially to fantasy fans who are looking for more female-driven stories or readers looking for something a little bit different. Though I don’t think diversity could ever be a bad thing, it’s a very natural part of this story. It seems like Ross paid close attention to how they represented characters of different race, sexuality, and ability.
Many thanks to NetGalley, A.E. Ross, and NineStar Press for the advanced e-copy. Even though I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, I already ordered the paperback so I can reread it and then loan it to my friends. That’s how much I loved this book.