Sunday, October 1, 2017

Early Review of The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives #1) by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Title: The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Khorasan Archives (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062459198
ISBN-13: 978-0062459190
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes used will need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

'There is no one but the One. And so the One commands...'

The land of Khorasan is slowly being overtaken piece by piece by a powerful and volatile group known as the Talisman. They are led by a man known as the One-Eyed Preacher.

'We live in the age of secrets and fear.
We live in the age of Ignorance.'

They began their campaign by taking control of the country's food supply by pillaging and razing villages, fields, libraries, etc. Then they started creating shortages. Finally, they determined who would live and who would die by controlling who would eat and who would starve.

'These were the days of the Talisman fist.
The fist that crushed everything to dust.'

Rumor has it that verses from the Bloodprint, the oldest written compilation of the Claim, is being sold letter by letter. The Claim is a magical text written in an ancient language whose verses, when spoken, have the power to make things happen. It's from the Claim that the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of talented and respected woman, gain their power. Arian, the First Oralist, knows more verses then anyone else as the verses of the ancient text have been passed down through the generations in her family. The actual text, however, hasn't been seen by human eyes for centuries leading some to believe it doesn't exist.

While the Talisman have left the Companions of Hira alone so far, it is only a matter of time before they will focus their attention on them. Women have been the victims of horrendous injustices at the hands of the Talisman. Any found to be unchaperoned are being sold into slavery.

Each of the Companions will be given a task/Audacy to preform. Arian has just been given hers...

"You will seek out the Bloodprint, where it may lead you. You alone have knowledge of its language, You alone can confirm its identity. And you will bring it to Hira."

This is the story of her Audacy.
I absolutely adored this story, but at the end, I was left with more questions than answers, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ms. Khan has created a complex and intricate world that I have no doubt was fully conceived and formed in her mind, but is not so easy for us, the readers, to comprehend at first. I highly recommend reading the synopsis before starting in on this one. Coming into the story I felt a little lost and wondered if this could possibly be the second book of the series. Alas, it is not there is just a lot to take in and the author doesn't rely on info dumps to get us up to speed. We need to patiently wait for the bits and pieces of information to be dispensed as the story and world slowly unfolds before our very eyes.

From what I can gather, the Claim is a little like the Force in Star Wars, but also very different. It appears to interact with Arian which makes me want to equate her to a Jedi. Yet, I'm unsure if that's because she can read and speak its language or if there is another reason. As not everyone knows the language of the Bloodprint, it's unclear if only a select few can wield its power or if anyone who can speak its verses can invoke its power. At one point someone declares, "The Claim is powerful within her."  Whether this is because she knows so many of its verses or because she's sort of bonded with the Claim is unclear. Then there's the little matter of what happens towards the end. I don't want to give too much away, but it made me wonder if I needed to rethink all I thought I knew. Most likely I do.

What draws the reader into this book is the journey, or rather the Audacy (I assume the author made this word sound like oddessy on purpose), are all the trials and tribulations Arian and her fellow Companion, Sinnia, must face. Their mission is secret, and they must rely on their knowledge of ancient legends to get them to where they need to go and to carry out their mission. Hidden cities and pathways must be found, and puzzles and riddles must be solved before the Bloodprint can ultimately be found and retrieved.

There is a lot going on to capture one's interest and imagination in this one. At one point the High Companion announced, "A task will be assigned to each of you [Companions], and you will each fulfill your duty." It's unclear if the series will take up exactly where this one left off--with Arian as the main protagonist--or if in the next book a different Companion of Hira will take on another Audacy and be its focus. Either way, I'm hopefully we'll learn more of the inner workings of the Companions and the Claim.

To add a little intrigue into the mix, there is some question as to whether Ilea, the High Companion who heads the Council of Companions, can be trusted. She confides in no one and sends each of the Companions on secret missions for which they are sworn not to talk to any of the others about. Perhaps like the Jedi Masters who had good reasons to keep things from Anakin Skywalker, Ilea, herself, has a good reason to keep things from her fellow Companions. There is a chapter breaks from the rest and focuses primarily on Ilea. In it she states, "She [Arian] thinks she's been fighting a war, but she doesn't know the war has yet to begin," and "She knows nothing of the deeper forces at play." We'll have to wait and see whether Ilea is trustworthy or not, but she definitely has an agenda, the question what exactly is it?

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It captured my attention and kept me on my toes all while maintaining a fast pace. With secrets and hidden danger lurking around every corner, this one was an action-packed magical thrill ride of a read full of twists and turns. While it does throw a lot at you before you fully know what's going on, this is one instance where patience totally pays off. I recommend you read the synopsis, make  note of the glossary (in case you need some help), and  hold on tight. You're in for a real treat. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing where this story takes us. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SMILE rating--a lady always tries to be polite so a smile should suffice (ie no heat whatsoever)  While there is definitely something brewing between Arian and the Silver Mage, Arian refuses to act upon it.

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