Bloody Spade Review

Hi everyone! I’m slowly but surely trying to make my way back to blogging because…well…I miss it! I’ve been kept busy recently with work and other commitments, as well as a huge reading slump, but I’m finally back in the reading mood, and particularly in the mood for reading fantasy which I haven’t felt in a while! But today I’m back with an ARC review for a book I absolutely adored and that I genuinely haven’t stopped thinking about since I started reading it – Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows!

Title: Bloody Spade

Author: Brittany M. Willows

Pages: 358

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis: 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.

I’ve had this book on my radar for a wee while, because the concept of an anime-esque fantasy novel combined with the author’s own amazing character art (which you can check out on their Twitter), so when the author reached out to ask if I’d like an ARC copy, I of course jumped at the opportunity! Despite my reading slump taking hold throughout the month of July, I found myself constantly thinking about the book and the characters whenever I had set it down, and even now after finishing the book, I still can’t get them out of my head!

Bloody Spade follows Ellen Jane, recent Joker graduate and magical ‘crime’-fighter, who sneaks her way into a dangerous Void-related mission only to find her fate entangled with that of Iori Ryone, the notoriously dangerous cat-eared Keeper of the legendary corrupt Spade. But as the pair grow to trust each other, danger is lurking on the horizon in the form of infamous Blackjack organisation who are trying to unearth something that will change the world as they know it.

First and foremost, something I absolutely adored about this book was the characters. I’m a character-driven book lover through and through and Brittany honestly did such an amazing job in this regard. Not only do we have a diverse cast of queer characters – Iori is pansexual and Ellen is asexual, and there are trans, sapphic, aromantic and demiromantic demisexual side characters too, with one of them even using neopronouns – but the way that the characters develop and interact just made my heart so happy! I adore books that show the characters mingling as friends and showing the banter between them, as well as showing them in a more relaxed location like their homes, and I was so excited to see this happen in Bloody Spade and it made me grow all the fonder towards the characters! The characters were also messy and morally grey but you couldn’t help but feel for all of them and all that they were going through and I really enjoy when you don’t know which ‘side’ to root for because you really do understand them both.

The world building was also super original – I loved how inspired it was by anime and it really did remind me of some of my favourite shows growing up, especially the whole magic-girl transformation scenes, they were so much fun! The fact that so much of it was based around playing cards and other ‘games’ was really interesting, and I really hope we get to see even more of that in the sequel! I liked how there were the four suits of a deck of playing cards and how there were Keepers of their specific powers and how the dynamics between them were explored. The almost at times grimy urban fantasy setting did a great job juxtaposing the shine and sparkle of the magical academy and the magic used by the characters, making for a really interesting playing field.

The plot was a lot of fun – it was at times a bit dark but overall it was really action-packed and there were definitely lighter scenes in there so that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I was in a huge reading slump for most of the time I was reading that, and I think it was for that reason that I found it a bit slow to get into, but once we hit the halfway point I did not want to put the book down at all! I loved the action scenes and the feistiness of the characters really made the story fly by!

I’m already dying for a re-read of this book since I know it’s still quite a wait for the sequel to come out, and you can bet that I’ve already pre-ordered a physical copy for that reason, because I loved it so much! I can’t recommend picking up this YA debut enough and I can’t wait to see where Iori and Ellen’s story goes from here!

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