Note how the cover shows the fantasy element with the spears coming from her right knuckles but has the science fiction in the background and her clothes. Pretty great design!
The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport was a 2022 debut science fantasy novel. It's what people want to call New Adult, as it follows a woman post-high school/early-college. It's the first in The Blood Gift Duology; the second book (The Blood Gift) just hit shelves this spring.
Kenna is the granddaughter of the recently murdered leader of a council-lead government. The technology is very futuristic, but Kenna also has a secret blood magic gift, which is banned. In order to solve her grandfather's murder, she signs up for a post-grad military program to become an elite warrior called a Praetorian. To become a full member, applicants must pass the blood trials, named for the extreme and deadly selection process. Think Hunger Games x Navy Seal Training x Magic. As the trials continue, Kenna is targeted and often only survives assassination attempts due to her magical blood gift. As she uncovers who may be behind it all, she questions everyone around her.
This book was fine. The POV stayed with Kenna, and was deep POV, which I like. The worldbuilding was interesting and unique, though left me with many questions. I liked the romance element and the magic system. I also enjoyed the characters, especially Kenna. She was often angry, and I like seeing books which allow a female character to be angry.
I had problems with this book. Number one, why kill off hundreds of your best warriors while picking your elite fighters? Aren't you killing perfectly capable soldiers, even if they aren't going to be in the top squad? Seems like a waste. This was never questioned. My other major issue was that the plot resolved at the 70% mark, and then a new plot began and didn't wrap up at the end. It felt like the duology was originally a short trilogy that got repackaged as two books to save paper or something. I really disliked that. My last big complaint was that the plot itself felt very familiar. I read a slew of "Hunger Games x Other Element" novels in college, one being Hunger Games x SATs, which was the most similar to this. It made this book predictable on a plot level.
This book is for you if you like science fantasy, if you like Hunger Games x Navy Seal Training as a concept, and if you like murder mystery as a central element. It's not for you if you'll be bothered by the story ending and then starting anew at the 70% mark, if you don't like fight-to-the-death plots, or if you're not in the mental space to read about men physically attacking women.
Have you read The Blood Trials? What did you think? Should I give the sequel a chance? Let's discuss in the comments!