Bound by Blood and Sand (Bound by Blood and Sand, book 1) by Becky Allen
Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.
Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.
Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.
But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.
Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.
“Everything Jae had ever known was a lie.”
I've been waiting for something "in the vein of Tamora Pierce" for a pretty long time. What I truly love is that Bound by Blood and Sand does not claim to be Tamora Pierce, the next Tamora Pierce, or a combination of popular or similarly loved books. In fact, once the official synopsis hit "in the vein of Tamora Pierce" vanished. Though I do firmly believe that if you were—still are!—a fan of Tamora Pierce's work and the young adult fantasy genre that is more world building less “just another YA romance” this book is for you!!! Yes!
“Jae had so much power, and the very first thing she'd done with her freedom was kill.
But she'd grown flowers, too.
She could do anything.”
I won't lie, like some of Tamora Pierce works, Bound by blood and Sand does follow a formula. The old school formula of High Fantasy for young adult. Yet it has bold flavors of old and new, and Allen has created a compelling world and cast of characters. Best of all Becky Allen does not shirk away from going there. In her world there are people called Closest, their existence is worse then slavery. They are compelled by magic to obey the Highest. If they fail to obey their body is weighed down by pain. There is no option to not obey. They can not speak to anyone other than other Closests unless ordered otherwise. They must answer all questions asked and aren't even allowed to think traitorous thoughts about the Highest. In a society where you can order someone and they MUST obey you know there's gonna be some dark and scary things happening. What I said about Becky Allen not shirking away is that she addresses those dark things. The darker themes are not a footnote or a quick idea to fade away into a silly romance. Which I appreciate. (Defy I am judging and looking at you.)
Bound by Blood and Sand isn't just a wonderful high fantasy young adult title, it transforms into a discussion of human rights. The weight and power of knowledge. How simply controlling history you could suppress an entire people. The power of not only knowledge, but the of the belief of people. The struggle for freedom is always a story that I become swept up in.
“Tal was right, the cost of freedom would be high. But that didn't mean it wasn't worth paying.”
Now that I've laid the heavy stuff out there I have to say how much I loved Allen's writing. Normally desert settings don't do it for me. I'm a mountain and forest girl. While I might like the desert in pictures and a quick scenery change while traveling I am 100% certain I would hate to live there. So most of the time desert settings for fantasy bore me. Yet with every word Allen created a beuatiful and deadly world. Where the Wells are the only thing keeping the people alive. The desert could easily kill them without wells. So water and the Wells are where the power is.
The magic setup and the concept tickle me. Why would people chose to live in a desert where without magic wells you'd die? What's beyond the big well? More, more! Bound by Blood and Sand addresses the real history of the world so I except to find out more in the future books.
At first it may seem like the characters are standard issue for the genre, but many once developed had many layers. You began to question how the world was. For instant the Highest aren't all evil, but perhaps they have to be that way becaue of the laws of the current system?
In the end I don't want to spoil. So what I will say is that if you have been dying for a REAL high fantasy in the young adult genre this is a must. If you have missed Tamora Pierce's type of awesome then yes! Come forth and read this book. If you want to experience real High Fantasy this is for you! A fabulous setup for a series I am eagerly awaiting more books for! With world building like this fans will be happy!
Content Warning: Addresses sexual abuse, rape, slavery, and other dark topics. Deals with murders and the interpretation of justice. Mental control in which characters aren't even allowed to think certain thoughts. Abuse and so on. Yes, it deals with dark themes. However, I don't think it loses itself in it.
5/5 - Forget obsession this book consumed me.
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