Mar 4, 2019

ARC Review--Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Perfect for fans of RED QUEEN and UPROOTED, Crystal Smith’s debut novel, BLOODLEAF, is an imaginative retelling of the Grimm Fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that takes a ghostly mystery and sets it inside an epic fantasy world.

Aurelia is the first princess born to the Renalten crown in two hundred years, destined to fulfill a treaty by journeying to marry Valentin, the prince of Achelva – Renalt’s greatest enemy. Rumors of an unwell, cruel prince abound, and the only thing that eclipses Aurelia’s apprehension of her impending marriage is her fear of those who’d kill her to prevent it.

When an assassination attempt forces Aurelia to use forbidden magic to save a stranger, she is driven from Renalt by the witch-hunting Tribunal and a mob out for blood. But before she can claim asylum in the court of her betrothed, her travel party turns on her, forcing her to trade places with her treacherous lady-in-waiting, Lisette.

Now penniless in Achleva and bereft of her identity, Aurelia must decide if she wants to surrender to her new life or fight for her old one, all while navigating the complicated ties binding her to the enigmatic prince, the unquiet ghost of an ancient queen, and a poisonous plant called bloodleaf.

Aurelia is a pawn in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war— and if she can’t extricate herself from it before Lisette marries Valentin in her stead, she may face losses far more devastating than her crown.

I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

I went into Crystal Smith’s Bloodleaf with very little knowledge on what it was about, other than a magical YA fantasy, one of my favorite kinds!  Not only that, but it’s also a retelling of the fairy tale The Goose Girl. It’s been years since I’ve read that story from the Brothers Grimm, so I basically went into this one with no clue to what the general story was about! With a bit of rough start, it wasn’t too long before I became engrossed with the words flowing off the pages as I journeyed with our heroine, Aurelia as she tries to save her kingdom.

Aurelia is a princess with magical talents, and in this world, magical talents usually leads to a quick and painful death, but since she is the princess, her mother has been able to hide her talents over the years. But now it is time for her to go to her betrothed across the lands and marry him. Aurelia was forced to reveal her powers in order to save the life of someone dear to her and basically exposed herself as a magic user. So she with her brother, and guard, ex-best friend and her father flee into the night. But more trouble and chaos ensues and it’s not long before Aurelia is left for dead, her guard gone, her brother taken by her ex-friend and father. She is left with no one.

Aurelia isn’t the type of princess to wait to be saved though, she ventures onto the kingdom where she is supposed to be headed. She wants to rescue her younger brother despite his animosity towards her. Aurelia assumes the identity of her maid who she was fond of and it’s not long before she meets Zan, the cousin to the crown prince, the man she is supposed to be marring. Zan needs her help with something magical as he was soon to learn she possessed such abilities.

Something is happening in the kingdom and Zan is trying to keep the barriers in place in order to protect it and everyone inside. He believes that Aurelia is the one to do just that.

I’m really wanting to go back and read The Goose Girl now! I know I read another version of a retelling of that one years ago, but it’s been sooo long since then and I don’t even have that particular book anymore.  But I’m always curious about the fairy tales that retellings come from, especially when they are unfamiliar ones. I love knowing the origins behind a retelling, no matter its form.

Bloodleaf was an interesting read. I will admit, I got off to a rough start with trying to understand the new world I was entering and the history that I would eventually learn played a key part in the story. While I can’t remember all of it in the beginning real well, it was nice that despite that, in the end, things were made very clear. There were just a few magical aspects that were confusing for me in the middle of the story, mostly pertaining to what Zan needed of Aurelia in regards to the magical wall. Even though I struggled to grasp what things were, I was able to follow along fairly well in that regard.

This story wasn’t without it surprises either. Oh my goodness, there were surprising reveals and events left and right! It was mind-boggling! But in the best possible way! I love a story that will keep you guessing ad take you utterly by surprise long before it’s over! This book definitely kept me on my toes, that’s for sure1

And what’s a fairy tale without a little romance? Naturally, we see something happening between Aurelia and Zan. I liked that it wasn’t a love at first sight kind of deal, which is common in fairy tales. No, these two were actually not overly fond with one another when they first meet. And I have to say that that is my favorite kind of meetings! I love it when they don’t love each other right away! But it’s not long before the animosity turns into friendship, and then later on, something much more, naturally!

The ending was quite the surprise as well! I naturally, forgot key details when something was happening and was completely blindsided by the end that happened! Just wow! I kept telling myself that this was a trilogy, but even that didn’t help because trilogies can sometimes involve other characters, as we all know! I will be curious to see what Crystal does next with this particular trilogy though. I felt like we were practically at that beloved "happily ever after" even though the words didn't appear, but it was fairly close I felt like. Perhaps the tiniest of threads that might be considered loose, will be the catalyst for the next two books. Only time will tell of course!

Bloodleaf was a unique and thrilling tale all on its own, but knowing that it stemmed from a fairy tale made it even more delightful! In true fairy tale fashion there was quite the heaping of darkness throughout the tale. The Brothers Grimm would truly be proud to have inspired such a remarkable tale from debut author, Crystal Smith. This is sure to be only the start to an amazing trilogy to come and I for one cannot wait to see what will happen next! Bloodleaf is the perfect read for fans of such fairy tale retellings or readers of the fantasy genre in general! 

Overall Rating 4/5 stars

Bloodleaf releases March 12, 2019


  1. this looks beautiful and wonderful and thrilling. How did I miss this? Need to look this one up

  2. this sounds good. SO new to me too. I think you mentioned a few things that I love.. the type of romance being the main one. I do struggle at times with understanding the world of fantasy books too. I am adding this to my list.

  3. I want to read this book SO bad!! That cover! Ugh, beautiful! And it sounds like it is an interesting read with lots of twists and turns. I like a world I really have to concentrate on and immerse myself in to understand it, makes it more interesting. I also love the enemies-to-lovers trope, and this book sounds like it does it perfectly. Great review, I'm glad you enjoyed it!!

    Emily @ Emily's Crammed Bookshelf


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