Blood of Heirs is the debut book by Australian author Alicia Wanstall-Burke and the first book of a series. This is a coming of age book, I'd categorize it as YA fantasy that is great for the grown-up audience. I am not a big fan of coming of age stories, but this one impressed the hell out of me. First of all, big kudos to Alicia for writing such a great story that is free of ever-so-irritating love triangles and keeping the romance element to an absolute minimum. One of the reasons I steer clear of YA except for the books that are vetted is the horrendous teen angst, excessive romance (or main plot being romance) and love triangles. That is a huge turn-off for me, and even the romance dose in the mighty Wheel of Time irritated me to no end. Romance and love triangle stuff aside, the characters are highly compelling and the storylines flow smoothly with brilliant twists and turns.
The two main characters are the youths Lidan, who is the daughter of a tribal chieftain, and Ran, the prince of a duchy. Lidan is my second young girl character after Mark Lawrence's Nona. She is such a tough cookie, so tough and determined, and her character growth is just excellent. Ran is a flawed and likeable young lad. There are quite a few side characters, some have brief parts but they are pretty vivid and alive. Their storylines go independent of each other and do not converge (but might in the next books! You never know.) Both plots are gripping and feature well fleshed-out side characters.
The setting is quite different, it is a pre-modern fantasy setting but different. Lidan's tribal society is fascinating and the whole setting there has a Bronze Age feel to it. All the tribal traditions and culture are impressively realistic and showcase great worldbuilding skill. I'd say the tribal part was on par with the tribal people in Malazan books (and I don't compare anything to Malazan so lightly!) Lidan's mother is one of the best side characters, she is a horribly abusive bully but so incredibly realistic, quite a few of her scenes made me flinch. She is not 100% bad, however, she is a grey character which is what makes her so intriguing.
Ran's country is medieval-like, with brutal laws and merciless traditions. There is lots of military action, siege battles and sorcery going on there and I gotta say I loved those parts being a battle and military fantasy lover. Lots of breathtaking action and suspense-heavy journey parts take place through Ran's arc. Very different characters and settings, but the switching between the two are so smooth you don't even notice.
Overall I gotta say Blood of Heirs is top notch in every regard. Not only the worldbuilding and the characters are quite impressive, but the action never lets up and there is not a single slow, dragging moment in the whole book. Even the non-action scenes and side quests kept me turning the pages like an addict. I adore Rothfuss's gorgeous prose but slogged through half of The Wise Man's Fear and in Blood of Heirs there was not a single page I can call a slog. This book is a stunning debut to say the least and even if you are no fan of coming of age stories, it is nothing like the "typical" coming of age stories and quite a thrilling read.