- Title: Bloody Spade
- Author: Brittany M Willows
- Series: The Cardplay Duology, #1
- Genre: YA Urban Fantasy, LGBT+
- Publishing Date: September 15th, 2021
- Publishing Co.: Indie
- Length: 450 pages
- Format: Paperback, Kindle Unlimited
- Acquired: Given free ebook to judge for WriteHive’s Indie Ink Awards
- Amazon Link: Bloody Spade
Bloody Spade is the first installment in an upper YA urban fantasy duology that follows a cat-eared thief and a softhearted girl as they navigate his wild magic, her hotheaded brother, a sinister plot, and the feelings they’re developing for each other. Suitable for fans of A Darker Shade of Magic and This Savage Song, or anime/manga such as RWBY and D.Gray-Man.
A girl full of heart
A thief touched by darkness
A hot-tempered golden boy
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 why, and can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?
Final Judgment: 4 Stars out of 5
Powerful teens and siblings Ellen and Alex work together on their foster father’s magic force–Cardplay–to protect the citizens from the evil aspects of the new magic. However, they have very different ideas of what this “protection” looks like. They butt heads attempting toward the same goal, eventually allowing a rogue force–BlackJack–to sneak in and steal something priceless from them. Will Ellen and Alex be able to mend their relationship and save the world?
First off, this novel has an incredibly unique magic system. Everything, from the police force to common vernacular revolves around this fact. Cardplay, Blackjack, Jokers, Spade, Diamond, Ink, etc. are all used to describe the people and their world. It’s something I have never before seen, and it is done with great precision and attention to detail. My only hang up with this system is that it feels like I should know more. Readers are thrown into this world and its terminology at high speed, with only the occasional tap of the brakes to explain a concept. This book almost feels like the second in the series, as readers are expected to pick up on the magic system and all it entails very quickly, and with little explanation. If you are not a hardcore fantasy reader, this book may be very confusing in the beginning.
Along with the intriguing worldbuilding, the characters also have a tendency to pique readers’ interest. Alex and Ellen share something that is rarely seen in today’s literature: Asexuality. Although not obvious at first, Alex’s Aromanticism and Asexuality and Ellen’s Asexuality both play a role in the plot and the characters’ interactions with each other. All aspects of their identities are handled with sincerity and authenticity–perhaps due to the author’s own bisexuality and asexuality! This representation is a huge step forward, and something that I believe our teens need to be exposed to, especially with powerful characters to whom they can look up as good role models.
The plot itself is moderately paced, as the reader is able to see into the mind and emotions of different characters. The writing style reflects each unique point of view, and allows for a more diverse reading experience as we clamber through this unfamiliar world.
Overall, an exceptional read with unique magic systems and diverse representation. I recommend this for regular fantasy readers (YA or adult), as understanding how the world works can be confusing.