Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker. This book is out today. So, if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, be sure to go out and pick it up.
Thirty years ago, a young woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and New Orleans saw the greatest magical massacre in its history. In the days that followed, a throne was stolen from a queen.
On the anniversary of these brutal events, Clement and Cristina Trudeau—the sixteen-year-old twin heirs to the powerful, magical, dethroned family—are mourning their father and caring for their sick mother. Until, by chance, they discover their mother isn’t sick—she’s cursed. Cursed by someone on the very magic council their family used to rule. Someone who will come for them next.
Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good. An ancient spell is what killed their father and she was the one who cast it. For Clement, magic is his lifeline. A distraction from his anger and pain. Even better than the random guys he hooks up with.
Cristina and Clement used to be each other’s most trusted confidant and friend, now they barely speak. But if they have any hope of discovering who is coming after their family, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other and their family’s magic, all while solving the decades-old murder that sparked the still-rising tensions between the city’s magical and non-magical communities. And if they don’t succeed, New Orleans may see another massacre. Or worse.
Terry J. Benton-Walker’s contemporary fantasy debut, Blood Debts, with powerful magical families, intergenerational curses, and deadly drama in New Orleans.
***Thank you to Tor Teen for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
There was so much about this book that I liked. It had the potential to be a new favorite, but things didn’t quite come together in a way that made me love this one. The writing was good overall, and I think it set the ambience for the setting quite well. The dialogue and the internal monologues brought the characters to life in a way that felt realistic and consistent with my own experience of New Orleans, which was a treat to read. The story structure, however, was a bit all over the place. There were random additions of new POVs all throughout the book, and some of them felt more than a little pointless. It was almost as if the author didn’t trust his ability to make the reader understand the motivation of the villains. So, he added POVs from them all to make sure we got it. It felt choppy, unnecessary, and more than a little lazy.
I enjoyed the New Orleans setting, but I wish there had been more of it. I just didn’t really feel totally transported to the city, but I cannot quite put my finger on why. The magic was super interesting, and I loved getting to learn more about it and the minor gods and ancestors. However, I didn’t completely buy into the power structure of the magical community. It seemed a bit nonsensical. All of the roles had hereditary succession until it became inconvenient, which wouldn’t have bothered me if the story hadn’t placed such emphasis on the characters being motivated by their birthright to rule. I also found it strange that these few families ruled over the entire magical community of the U.S., seemingly without any other input from members in different areas. The world-building, in general, could have used a bit more polishing, but I did like a lot of what was presented.
The story itself was also a bit all over the place. I enjoyed each story thread, for the most part, but it almost seemed like the author didn’t really know what he wanted this book to be. The family drama was engaging, and trying to figure out all the secrets of this family was a fun time. The murder mystery was okay, but it was honestly my least favorite part of this book because it didn’t really feel like a mystery. The characters suspected who did it from pretty early on, and the rest of that plot line was focused on gathering evidence and getting revenge. I kept waiting for some big twist in the case, but I never really got it. Finally, there was the necromancy part of the story, which was my favorite. I wish it had been more of a focus, but I got the sense that we’ll see way more of it in the next book. There were a lot of elements like that in this story, actually. It had so many hanging threads to set up future stories that they seemed to overpower the narrative of this one at times.
The main characters were the twins Cris and Clem. Cris felt like she got more time in this book than anyone else, which was one of my problems with it. I just didn’t like her that much. I understood her motivations and felt sorry for the trauma she endured, but I never really connected with her, possibly because she was the lead on my least favorite part of the story, the murder mystery. She was constantly feeling sorry for herself and was steeped in guilt, grief, and rage, which hardened her into someone I really wouldn’t want to meet. Clem, on the other hand, was one of my favorite characters. He had so much anxiety and a horrible abandonment complex. I just wanted to hug him. His relationship with Yves was cute, but it was super insta and felt rushed. It also seemed a bit inconsistent with his character for him to get that close to someone so quick, especially when it came at the expense of helping his family at times. His story has the most potential for the future, in my opinion, and is the only reason I’m interested in reading a sequel.
The diversity and thematic content in this story were really good. It had great queer rep and included characters from so many different backgrounds. It tackled racism, homophobia, and intergenerational trauma in a way that was powerful yet also entertaining. The book was not subtle. So, if you are looking for something with a bit of nuance, this is not the story for you, but the social commentary did feel organic to the story while also saying some important things about our own world. The story also left me contemplating the blurry line between justice and revenge. Personally, I think the decisions of the characters tipped over that line, but I also understand why they took the actions they did. Regardless, it was an interesting thing to think about and apply to some of the problems we face as a society.
Overall, this was a decent introduction to a new urban fantasy series that has the potential to become a favorite. I wish the plot had been a little tighter and the world-building a bit more developed, but I still enjoyed my time with this one. I’ll be reading the sequel when it comes out because I NEED to know what happens with Clem. Therefore, I rate this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.
6 thoughts on “ARC Review – Blood Debts”
I’ve had my eye on this one. I’m a sucker for anything set in New Orleans.
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It has a lot of great stuff in it, but it was kind of all over the place. You can definitely tell the book was a debut, but I’m hopeful the author will improve as the series goes on because I really did like so much about it.
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Oh no… I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this one cos the premise sounds so good but after reading your review, there are a lot of things you mentioned that would probably really bother me too, particularly the messiness of the structure, the additional random POVs, and all of that. I think I might still keep an eye out for it but don’t think I’ll jump to read it. Great review, Chris!
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Yeah. The book was far from perfect, but I still liked it. I think the series shows great potential, and I’m curious to see where it goes next even though I didn’t love everything about this first installment. If you do pick it up, I hope you like it. 🙂
[…] Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker – 3.5⭐ – I didn’t love this one quite as much as I wanted to, but it was still a good read and a solid start to a new series. I just wish there hadn’t been so much going on. While reading, you could just feel the author setting up the entire series rather than just focusing on the story of this book. You can read all my thoughts in my review. […]
[…] Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker (3.5⭐) […]