by Olivia Hofer
In her debut, Alicia Wanstall-Burke forgoes creating epic conflicts and sprawling wars fought to defeat a dark lord and instead focuses on two young characters, their immediate family, and the social structures they live in. Despite the relatively small scope, Wanstall-Burke creates an exceptional emotional impact through her powerful characters and manages to capture the reader’s imagination from the very first chapter.
Both arcs are independent of each other and don’t converge in this first
The fantasy genre offers varied ways to examine, comment and critique our own society. Besides the shared coming of age elements, both characters are trapped in a rigid system with familiar and well-known rules. Lidan is the oldest daughter of a clan leader, who, despite multiple wives, does not have a male heir. In a progressive world Lidan would be her father’s heir, but here women don’t become leaders, and her father still hasn’t given up hope for a son.
The second protagonist,
Blood of Heirs is well-executed, with smooth, pleasing prose and will bring a nostalgic comfort to the fantasy fan who grew up reading novels like The Black Company or even the less dark Wheel of Time
Both characters become the victim of tradition, authority and patriarchy. They’re torn between defying a rigid system and fulfilling the expectations of their parents and society. Unfortunately, Wanstall-Burke fails to dig deeper and explore these themes further, and as a consequence, neither the character development nor the plot are ground-breaking or innovative. Despite this, Blood of Heirs is well-executed, with smooth, pleasing prose and will bring a nostalgic comfort to the fantasy fan who grew up reading novels like The Black Company or even the less dark Wheel of Time which examine similar themes such as forbidden magic.
One aspect that sets Blood of Heirs apart from many similar novels is the world building. While science fiction often depicts planets with just one defining characteristic—think ice planets or desert planets—the fantasy genre often shows a world with an even technological development. How often do we encounter yet another version of medieval Europe? Looking at our own world, we know that parts of it can go through an industrialised revolution while simultaneously in other parts, cultures hunt with bows and arrow.
In Blood of Heirs an example of this can be seen by the regional divide, where iron is extremely rare in the south: Lidan’s clan use mostly stone-based weaponry, and they live in a way that is reminiscent of the Bronze Age. Further to the north, however, Ranoth has access to siege weapons and iron swords. The culture here lives in what could be described as a medieval area. Unfortunately, Wanstall-Burke, at least so far, has not explored the consequences of a world with varying technological and industrial advancements. Hopefully, the sequel will examine the clash of cultures, especially because our history suggests it won’t end well for Lidan’s part of the world. Much of the book feels like set-up for the sequel. Now the foundation is laid, and the characters and world are established, it remains to be seen whether the author manages to delve deeper into the aforementioned themes. If she does, it’ll be exciting to watch this series grow. While Blood of Heirs is not a must-read, Wanstall-Burke is an author who has the potential to become a name we recognise.