Fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Cruel Price, Throne of Glass and other high fantasy novels? This book’s for you. I had the pleasure of being an ARC reader for Divine Blood, a debut fantasy novel by Beck Micheals. This is an unbiased review that will detail what I liked about the book, didn’t, and overall thoughts.
First off, can we talk about this cover? I saw Divine Blood on Instagram, and the cover absolutely blew me away. It’s rare to see a trad published book with such a gorgeous cover, nevermind an indie published one!
You know what this cover communicates to me? Beck Michaels loves this book extremely. She must have put so much effort into the actual story if she gives us such a good cover. All of those things are true. Sometimes the pacing was dragging, but I urge you to keep reading, it gets really good.
Now onto the actual book.
Divine Blood is the kind of book YA Fantasy Lovers like myself love. Why? It’s well written, has an engaging plot, interesting characters, and a unique new world for us to explore.
Journey through the land of Urn, where creatures from all different races live: Humans, Azures, weewolves, elves, sorceresses, and my personal favorite, Celestials. Dyna is a “chosen one” archeotype that is refreshing from the standard “I don’t want to do this” whiny character or hot headed protagonist who doesn’t listen to anyone else.
Dyna is sweet and caring, which makes this book both enjoyable and slightly cheesy. She is the typical good girl who loves animals and people and has a heart of gold, so like a disney princess.
She lost her family at a young age due to this Shadow Demon, and is now determined to go on a journey to find and end it’s terror for good. There’s something about a character like this that makes a “chosen one” book enjoyable to read. She wants to go on this journey, she’s not forced into it by anybody. She’s kinda ditzy sometimes, definetly a “I need a man to protect and save me type” but nevertheless, Dyna is unique and enjoyable to read.
Characterization wise, she’s not the star. I don’t particularly feel a connection to Dyna compared to the two main side characters, Cassiel and Zev. Cassiel is typical fae brooding boy with a tough past but will soften to a girl, but I still really like him. His backstory is unique, not the typical “my mom/gf died and now I hate everything.” I’ll delve deeper into that backstory in the spoiler section of thise review.
Zev is super unique to me. He’s Dyna’s supportive cousin who follows her on her endevours. He’s comical at times, but has a very serious side to him that makes his character extremely intense and interesting to read. At first I didn’t care for him, but the vulnerability in his character made him a favorite of mine.
There are some other characters I’ll talk about in the spoilery section of this review, but now onto the actual plot!
The plot of Divine Blood is actually very intersting! It kind of reminds of the latter few books of the Throne of Glass series, but the journey itself stands on it’s own. Dyna, Cassiel, Zev, and some other amigos embark on a journey to Mount Ida. They’ll face obstacles along the way, but also learn more about each other and meet people along the way.
This book isn’t plot heavy. There’s really only a couple notable plot driven scenes in this book, the rest are used to flesh out the characters. I enjoyed that, even if it meant the pace dragged at times. It’s obvious that Michaels is setting this up as a series, and the actual chunk of the journey will come in later books, so it’s nice that I got to get attached to these characters before the action hiked up.
If you’re reading this book, beware, the story may not interest you until chapter 10. Once you pass that threshold, then it’s hard to stop reading it. Don’t put it down because it’s a slow development at first, it gets so much better in the middle and ends really strong. I recomend this.
Now, onto some deep dive spoilers!
Starting from the beginning, I was a tad bit confused to why Dyna wanted to go on this journey. Yeah, slay the Shadow Demon to avenge your family and save the world, but I wanted to see some more motivation. Dyna is a very soft-spoken character, so this decision seems very out of turn. I would have loved to see a motivator behind her actions other than “it killed my parents”. It killed other people’s parents too, but what set’s her apart?
Dyna is the Maiden, aka the person who can get to Mount Ida, the destination of this journey. That makes her a chosen one, but it’s important to understand that just because someone is the chosen one does not mean that is a sufficent answer to why they go on such a risky journey. Is it a love for adventure motivating her, a true will to protect people from the Shadow Demon, revenge?
That’s the kind of complexity I’m missing from Dyna. She is a Mary Sue almost. Sweet, beautiful, smart, lovable, chosen one, kind, and gracious girl that literally checks off every box, but what’s bad about her? Yeah, she’s clumsy, not that strong, but those barely count as vices. I want to see her be desperate for something, be selfish for once, do something that makes her seem human. Yes, she’s the Maiden, and I don’t know if that means she’s considered a Jesus of this world, btu even Jesus got mad and showed that darker side of what it meant to be human.
She’s passionate about going to Mount Ida, so in the next book, I hope I can see her make some difficult decisions and sacrefice something.
Her lack of complexity is what made Dyna kind of boring to me, slightly annoying at times. I know Beck Michaels isn’t incapable of developing a complex character who does bad things for good reasons because Cassiel and Zev are contructed like this!
Cassiel is a Celestial, or actually, a half human, half Celestial, which makes him an outcast in his comunity. He’s a Prince, but he hasn’t lived a happy life due to the prejudice of the pure breed Celestial’s against him. This is a fantastic backstory, and a unique one. His mom died but that’s not his problem: Cassiel always felt less than because he was told for his whole life that being part human made him less than. Kids that grow under these circumstances either grow to be bitter or insecure. Cassiel is bitter, but he has the vulnerability in him.
His feeling of “I don’t deserve to be loved” is such a great character trait! It provides ample conflict with Dyna and Zev, but it also leads to some important self reflection, and it allows Dyna to talk to him about worth, fleshing her out more too. When he was drunk, his little tirades were so cute, and it was nice to see him loosen up. But when he woke up and pushed Dyna off the best, it really showed just how insecure he is.
He’s also a good person. Hasn’t killed a human (until the end, at least), cares for Dyna, heals her when she gets hurt (which causes a very interesting and exciting problem), and geniunely wants everyone to be safe.
Zev is SO well fleshed out. He’s a funny, caring older brother type that loves Dyna and feels a deep loyality to her. But while this is the case, Zev is a half werewolf, aka a Lychen. That means he can morphe into a werewolf, but also occasionally becomes the Other, a dangerous and emotionless beast that destroys anything it can. When it almost killed Dyna and Cassiel, it unlocked a part of Zev that is ravenous, and his backstory of killing his father was heartbroken.
Zev is lowkey suicidal because of the guilt he feels about The Other. We first see this dangerous part of Zev when the pack of wolves try to kill him, yet he destroys all of them. I never saw Zev as a threat before this, but its growing alarmingly obvious that Zev is going to be a big conflict bringer in this series, and I have a feeling he’s not going to be alive by the end of it.
There were also some minor characters like Commander Von, who I really didn’t like. His relationship with Yuri was weird to say the least, she has a massive case of Stochholm Syndrome. The sorceress is so cool and I’m pumped that she’s one of the Guardian. The Elf Guardian sounds decent, I don’t know much about him, but that’s for Book 2 I suppose.
I don’t know how Dyna is planning to defeat the Shadow Demon. She can’t even fend off Von and the other humans, nevermind a Demon.
Now onto the love story. This was very slow burn between Dyna and Cassiel, and I liked it that way. Their relationship seemed natural, which I love. They remind me of a PG 13 version of Feyre and Rhysand from ACOMAF. That inn scene was adorable.
And let’s talk about the Blood Bond. That was a twist I saw coming, but still throughly enjoyed. Now, Cassiel and Dyna are basically married for life because he made a mistake while trying to heal her. Kinda cute, kinda concerncing. With that ending, I’m eager to see what she says. Will she be mad? Nah, I think she’ll be shocked and upset for a little bit, but then they’ll fall in love and be a power couple.
I LOVED Zev’s little thoughts about Dyna and Cassiel. He’s getting onto the fact that they’re Blood Bonded and that Dyna might be part Celestial now, but I love that he noticed. Very fun.
Dyna is kinda clueless. Is it normal for her to feel people’s feelings? It doesn’t seem so, so why isn’t she more distressed and confused? She questions it sometimes, but never lingers on the thought for too long. I thought that needed some more attention to be realisitc.
I liked this book! It was the first book I have binge read in a very long time, so thank you Beck Michaels for writing a book that has thrown me out of my book slump. I want more! I love your writing and the story so far, and I can’t wait to be an ARC reader for bonded fate as well. Everyone go buy this book right now!
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Thanks for reading,