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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Blood Princess by S.A. Gonsalves is a speculative fiction novel and the first book in The Bonds That Bind Us fantasy series. The story revolves around a princess named Sulwyn, abandoned by her parents, the King and Queen of the Empire, who embrace autocracy with a ferocity that bleeds its people dry through uncompromising demands of loyalty, obedience, and subjugation. Sulwyn becomes Kintana but is dealt another cruel blow when she is deceived and handed back to her parents. From here a political balancing act ensues, and falling one way or the other will be catastrophic. Sulwyn's loyalty to her parents must appear authentic in order to survive, even as she journeys on assignment to hunt down those marked as traitors of the Empire—the people she wants desperately to protect. To liberate. But magic is at work and so too are mechanisms far beyond Sulwyn's ability to deceive, and the price innocent people are forced to pay to strengthen another's power is the greatest threat of all.
I am very rarely caught off guard by plot twists in a genre like fantasy where it feels like there is nothing original left to recycle, but S.A. Gonsalves surprised me in The Blood Princess with exactly that. I need to rewind here a little before I get to that though because it took some time to get there. From a literary standpoint, the writing for the first several chapters is bumpy. More substance than style and less polished than many readers will be accustomed to. This is a long book and hanging in there requires some real trust on the part of the reader and I am going to tell you: it's worth it. Gonsalves' evolution as a writer happens almost in real time. The prose becomes tighter, the dialogue starts to feel authentic, and the telling morphs beautifully into showing. Give it time and you will see it also.
Aside from the protagonist, there is one other character who is fleshed out to the point where I could probably pick him out of a line-up. Daijiro, an aggressive protector who is a brute in every sense of the word, is the most savory of unsavory characters. As bizarre as it might sound, he turns out to be my favorite. Why? He has a defined personality and is a character so well developed I feel like I know him. And this is the point when Gonsalves' storytelling kicks into high gear and **that** twist occurs. It's a wonderful doozy and provides a very real possibility that the best is yet to come in this series.