Blood Trials is a Sci-Fi series that follow Kenna Amari–a nineteen-year-old military graduate embarking on a brutal trial to join the Pratorieans, an elite military branch. Kenna has ulterior motives for undergoing the trials–her true mission is to find out who among the Pratoerins killed her grandfather.
Initially, I was all in for this plot, it reminded me a lot of Legend by Marie Lu (spoiler alert this also meant I clocked the reveal of the murderer). I was up for learning how this world worked and the trials. But the so-called Blood Trails turned into The Squid Games real quick and then this whole book fell apart for me.
Right out the gate we learn that the trials they undergo are intentionally fatal and I”m like….WHY WOULD THAT BE A THING? Tasks include surviving cannibals, cage-match beatdowns, and surviving extreme cold. WHAT DOES THIS TEACH YOU ABOUT BEING A SOLDIER?
Kenna is ethnically different from her fellow recruits and endures a lot of racism from their leader Chance and several other recruits. One of these brutally racist recruits seems to get redeemed at the end and is shown grace by Kenna ?
Kenna also gets tangled up with Reed. A praetorian who was close to her grandfather. We learn that Reed is ‘white’ passing. The book kind of treats this like a twist reveal but it’s not seen like that by the characters. It makes no sense. If Reed wasn’t actually passing why did he not tell Kenna so she could know she wasn’t alone? Why didn’t her Grandfather or anyone else mention it?
I feel like this duology should have been a trilogy because of the pacing felt. The last 20% felt like a different book. It’s such a jarring shift in narrative. By the time we get to the final chapters, it’s like I’m supposed to believe everyone is one big happy quippy found family. I see the vibe Davenport was going for but we (the readers) needed time to catch up.
My biggest gripe with this book is the way Kenna was written as a Strong Female Character–there was zero nuance. Kenna is a strong female character because she can outsmart, outfight and out-drink the boys. Her strength comes from her ability to be better than all the men around her. This is a way to write a strong female character but, to me, it’s the least interesting route.
This book does have some spice for the girlies. Davenport writes spice like a seasoned romance writer. Unfortunately, this scene added very little to the story. The scene happens out of nowhere and adds nothing to the plot. It just felt like a weak attempt at sexual tension.
Jeanette Illidge does an admirable job as a narrator but I don’t think her narration style was ideal for a book with so many characters. Because she doesn’t do a ton of voices– I got very confused toward the end and couldn’t tell who was talking.
Overall, I found this book intensely uninteresting.
Books about Black people existing in overtly white supremacist societies are not my jam but I am really over books about (typically) Black women risking life and limb to be accepted into a white supremacist group. Especially when there is a community of Black people two steps to the left.
I am just not the reader for it.
Jess and I had this idea of doing a Black SFF book club with our brother who only reads SFF and, if not for that, I would have DNF’d this book.
And, yes, it’s mostly on me for not reading past the first paragraph of the description.
I told myself I wouldn’t rant but my biggest problem with this book is that I never bought why Ikenna put up with the trials and virulent racism. She could have run to the Black kingdom in the first chapter and the stakes would have been the same since having blood magic is taboo there too. The titular Blood Trials didn’t make any sense to me. Not only do they add nothing to the plot but you’re telling me these people spend all this money and effort to make the best soldiers and then kill almost all of them? The trials added nothing to the story or world.
SPOILER: I went into this book knowing Reid was white-passing and I expected the reveal of his race to have more heft or be a turning point and it was just…nothing?
Shoutout to audiobook narrator Jeanette Illidge. I enjoyed her in a contemporary middle grade I listened to and her performance here solidified her as an auto-buy.
That said, I am interested in reading Davenport’s romance book, I think that could be a good move for her.