Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)
There are two types of people: bound and unbound. While the ideas of super human strength, super speed, and other such powers might sound like a blessing, it reality it is much difference. Society sees the unbound as a curse, and Neela Blydes knows this all too well. But, when the domain’s cardholder dies, Neela is thrown into the a contest of power and wits, that threatens not only Neela’s life, but the life of those she cares about. Why is a group of assassins after her? Does this have to do with her father’s death? Can he trust her new friend, Amil? Or is it all coincidence?
In an action pact first novel, we enter the domain of the cardholders. Reminiscent, in a way, to the Hunger Games, Battle Royale, My Hero Academia, and other stories that throw young competitors into a ring, Kaitlyn Legaspi perfectly captures the anxiety and confusion a 17-year-old girl might feel upon having an entire competition on her shoulders.
Neela is tough; she doesn’t want to appear weak, constantly standing her ground against her trainer, Brochlan, and her brother, Jacen, while trying to appear just as powerful as two well known assassins, Claec and Amil. But, while being tough, she doesn’t sacrifice her own principles: kindness before anger, sympathy before pain. This makes her a rising star in the tournament, and one that the reader (as well as the ficitonal audience) will cheer for along the way.
Card Holders: Red Blood serves as an introduction to the conflicts, ending with tear-jerking heartbreak that makes you want more. With the direction of the narrative, I wasn’t surprised over the terrible fate handed to Neela, but it still made me tear up all the same.
Yet, while the characters shine in Red Blood, what it lacked was some of the worldbuilding that I oh-so-selfishly desired. There was clearly an interesting hierarchy going on with the cardholders, the unbound, and the bound, but not all of it is laid out clearly. Neela is forced from being a vigilante into being a competitor by someone else’s hand, and even by the end of it all, I wasn’t entirely sure “who” the Queen of Hearts is supposed to be. Perhaps that is on purpose though, making me yearn to come back for more.
While the book is a marvelous introduction to the world of the Card Holders, it felt more like the first half of a bigger story. A true turning point didn’t come right until the end for Neela. Though, this obvious change in her does excite me for the next book.
Card Holders: Red Blood is definitely a fabulous start to this series! It left me with some anime vibes, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next book. Spring 2022 can’t come soon enough!
Card Holders: Red Blood comes out on February 19th. I definitely recommend everyone check it out!
Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.
What’s it about?
There are two kinds of people in this world: the bound and unbound. The unbound are born with unnatural, inhuman abilities. While having powers may come with its perks, to be unbound is to be cursed. Unbound individuals are treated as freaks, yet despite this, they hold the highest positions in the government: the Card Holders of the fifty-two domains.
When her domain’s Card Holder dies, unbound seventeen-year-old Neela Blydes is forced to participate in a tournament to find the unbound most worthy of leading the Queen of Hearts Domain. But the tournament isn’t as glorious as it seems. It’s a tournament that herds unique unbound called Specialists into deadly combat, a tournament where winning by default is nonexistent and killing is permitted.
As Neela progresses through the rounds with her life on the line, she forges new alliances and encounters dangerous unbound adversaries. Among them is a white-haired man with crimson eyes.
Dangerously familiar crimson eyes.