“Blood of the Ràej” by Hayley Rae Johnson

This is a Young Adult fantasy tale about a world where magic is held to a restricted level because of a history of repression by the Ràej, a dynasty of magical rulers. The main character, Terhese, is a secret descendent of the last king, with all sorts of forbidden magical talent she doesn’t even know she possesses. This creates the main conflict of the story, as she tries to learn about magic without revealing her abilities

The secondary conflict, as we expect from YA literature, is social. Our heroine was brought up in a lower-class,  completely unmagical household, and her introduction to the Academy of Magic is hampered by her lack of social graces.

This is generally a well-written story, but there are some rather strange lapses. For example, this is a post-medieval society, yet a couple of times a character goes “out for a smoke,” and items like hair gel are mentioned.  There is a lot of time taken up by socializing, partying, and interaction with handsome young men. This is standard procedure for a YA story, but when all the other action stops for chapters full of it, the rest of the readers feel left out.

Unfortunately, it turns out in the end that these social manipulations are far more important than they seemed on the surface. The writer’s problem becomes to keep the attention of a larger segment of readers, many of whom will be turned away by the superficiality of the earlier conflict. I suggest the solution would be to give those manipulations a darker twist earlier on, giving us a hint that all is not as it seems.

My main problem with the writing is the use of first person, which switches now and then. Trying to get inside the head of a new first-person narrator is very difficult to do, and in this case, it just gets in the way. Having more than one first-person character in any book is a task for expert writers only.

I also have a problem with the lack of editing. Sometimes I had to read a paragraph twice to figure out what actually happened to whom. I only offer one example: “Like second nature, my hand gravitated towards his waiting on his shoulder to take mine.”

And a final warning. This is the first book in a series, and the ending is about as abrupt a cliff-hanger as I have ever seen. You will HAVE to read the next book.

A good YA fantasy that, with a little tuning up, could appeal to a wider audience.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)





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