Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows is a fun, “if anime was a book” fantasy book. In Bloody Spade, we follow a world of magic users and their dark counterparts.
A girl full of heart
A thief touched by darkness
A boy with a fiery temper
An unwitting servant of evil
The era of magic was once thought to be a myth, but after the Reemergence ushered forces both dark and light into the mundane world, it has since become a harsh reality. Now those affected by this strange power—a specialized group of Empowered called Jokers, known collectively as Cardplay—must protect their world from the darkness that threatens to consume it, all the while fighting for equality in a society clinging to normalcy.
But the Reemergence was only the beginning.
When another influx occurs on the seventh anniversary of that fateful event, an unfortunate encounter at ground zero lands Iori Ryone, a teenage boy in possession of a corrupt and legendary magic, in the care of recent Joker graduate Ellen Amelia Jane. From him, she learns the Reemergence may not have been the inevitable natural disaster it first seemed.
Someone is trying to tear down the barrier that separates the magical realms from the mundane.
The question is, can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?
Bloody Spade is the first installment in an urban fantasy duology that follows a cat-eared thief and a spirited girl as they try to navigate his wild magic, her hotheaded brother, a sinister plot, and the feelings they’re developing for each other.
– Coarse language
– Blood and violence
– Moments of gratuitous violence/torture
– Body horror
– Anxiety/panic attacks
– Trauma related to kidnapping/physical abuse
– One instance of a non-consensual kiss (not intended to be romantic or sexual)
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy. They may not reflect the quotes in the published copy.
“Let’s see if curiosity can kill this cat.”
Bloody Spade was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. When someone says a book embodies anime aspects, it’s hard to know just what they mean by that. However, this book really does encompass that experience. You have magical girl-Esque transformation scenes, card game-based magic, and a fantastical world. Willows did a fantastic job with world-building within this environment. Everything is given to you in bits, instead of info-dumped onto you. I also appreciated that this magic and its use is new to the world as well. This allows you to learn along with the characters.
“Truly, whether adorned in glittering fabric and jewels, in uniform, or dusted with arena sands, beauty suffused every inch of her.”
Speaking of characters, Iori and Ellen are incredibly lovable. I do wish we got a more emotional point of view from Ellen. However, the gentleness she treats Iori with is notable about who she is as a person. On the other hand, her brother Alexander frustrated me to no end. While I am thankful he developed as a character, he is the reason that this review loses a half star from me. His protectiveness of Ellen bordered on toxic and unhealthy, and I didn’t love that. Iori has notable PTSD, and Willows wrote this well. As someone who suffers from PTSD, the experiences Iori has aligned with my own. It was interesting to read about this in a fantasy aspect, especially when so often this goes disregarded. The various triggers and the way his PTSD presented, while sometimes magical, was on point.
“How do you forgive something that’s taken everything from you?”
Overall, this is an exciting new series that I can’t wait to read more of. The characters are fun and memorable. The style of the book is new to me, and a fun experience to have. I can’t wait to find out more about what happens with all of these anime chaos children, and I hope you’ll give it a read too.
“But hunger made humans malleable. Throw them a bone, and they would squabble over it. Dangle a carrot, and they would follow. Promise a feast, and you would earn loyalty everlasting.”
Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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