In Brighton, blood means everything. Long live King Magnus.
In the kingdom of Brighton, a President-turned-King offers poor teens the chance to join KEY, the King’s Education for Youth. Seventeen-year-old Reina Torres jumps at the chance to be of service to her country, wanting to learn more about Brighton’s history and future through the Media industry.
The King himself takes an interest in Reina, offering private interviews; he soon commands her to marry his cruel son. Reina, however, cannot ignore her growing feelings for Iris, a fellow KEY student, despite knowing the laws. Reina discovers refusal means punishment much worse than death, and why King Magnus hasn’t aged in decades, thanks to his KEY program.
Liz Long painted a grim and terribly close to home picture with The Blood King. The book is a clear political statement about the current state of affairs in The United States (the king is even written as appearing to have a slightly orange skin tone at one point). In this fabled kingdom called Brighton, there is blatant class warfare, racism, mysogyny, and homphobia interlaced in every way the king rules his land, and this is all very obvious from the start. Protagonist Reina Torres comes up from the ghettos that surround the heart of the Kingdom of Brighton and enters KEY. This is King Magnus’s academy that he uses to “help the underprivileged”. The feel of society in The Blood King is very similar to the society that is present in books like Ready Player One or The Hunger Games. It’s a struggle to survive, so education is a joke, and children are very well needed as a part of the workforce. Beyond this initial hook, the book was difficult to really sink into, so the reading moved slowly. The first half of the story was mostly predictable but certainly driven by morbid curiosity. Reina is clearly starry eyed during the beginning of her stay at KEY, painfully so. Her first love interest, Iris, developed very naturally, and the first twists in the book that I didn’t see coming were with her character, and immediately after she reveals her secret, the story becomes engaging again. After Reina undergoes horrific torment by the king’s hand, the plot seems to begin to allow for Reina’s character to open up into quite the heroine. However, she becomes quickly re-broken, and that was disappointing to see. Then equally as quickly, she is reignited and develops a second love interest that seemed to develop less naturally, and the story is fairly action packed from that point forward. It was hard to like Reina at first because she had her head in the clouds, and the objective point of the reader is a difficult spot to be in, watching her flow blindly into a system so clearly broken. Further, she does end up becoming a strong heroine, but only after being beaten and battered, and quite frankly across the genre, more women need to come into their strength because they are strong, not because they have been broken. The story arc felt off, like the climax occuring so late into the book, so because of that and the roller coaster of interest, I am taking this book down to four stars. However, by the end of The Blood King, Reina’s character and others took to growing in strides and evolved so much for the bettsr as people. The book seems a certain beginning to a marvelous second installment, so those four remaining stars are strong ones. If a reader is expecting a story arc that is classic in the way it is told, with each book of the series (in this case, a duology) having a climactic middle with rising and falling action on either side, they would be setting themselves up for disappointment. It must be kept in mind that this is only the first half. Therefore, it would logically only contain half of the action. The Blood King is a piece of literature not to be taken lightly, for how far from the truth is it, really? Not far, if you ask me, and I’m very curious to see how “King Magnus’s” Regime falls – both in Brighton and The United States.
The Blood King is currently available at Amazon here
Thanks you to Lady Amber’s Reviews and PR for the review copy.