Sunday, June 20, 2021

Review: BLADE OF SECRETS by Tricia Levenseller

Rating: 3/5 stars

Ziva is a bladesmith with social anxiety. One day she makes a magical blade on commission, but when it turns out to be the most powerful blade in the world and unbeatable, she does whatever she can to make sure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

I enjoyed this story, right from the beginning. I picked this up on a whim at 1 a.m. one night and was hooked. This wasn’t in my TBR plans but it looked so dang good and my best friend loved it, and therefore I couldn’t resist.

The magic is pretty cool. It’s kind of a force of its own. Ziva can give magical properties to her weapons, but sometimes a weapon will accidentally become imbued with magic on its own and Ziva then has to figure out what its powers are. In the first chapter she ends up making a mace that can make her opponent stop breathing when held a certain way, and this happened by chance when Ziva was having a panic attack and struggling to breathe herself, so that leads me to believe the weapons’ abilities are tied to Ziva’s emotions at that moment, which is pretty neat.

I loved the anxiety representation in this book. I have both generalized anxiety and social anxiety, sometimes so bad it feels unbearable, so I found Ziva to be very relatable. She doesn’t like to talk to anyone aside from her sister, she doesn’t like to leave the house, and she has occasional panic attacks. I felt very seen in Ziva. Although I will say that at times, the fact that she has anxiety felt like it was forced down our throats. It’s mentioned on nearly every page and thought about during every interaction she has, and that seemed a little over the top to me.

“I hate feeling as though I don’t fit right in my own skin. As though the anxiety takes up too much space, pushing me aside.”

I also loved the relationship between Ziva and her sister, Temra. While Ziva is the bladesmith and makes all the weapons, Temra is the one who commissions them and sells them so Ziva doesn’t have to interact with others. Temra always has Ziva’s back and helps her come down from her anxiety highs, and I loved to see that. It makes me badly wish I had a sister too.

“It’s not that I don’t want to connect with people. I desperately do, but even more than that, I want to feel safe. No one but Temra has ever felt safe.”

The writing in this story felt on the younger side to me. Ziva and Temra are 20 and 18, respectively, but the writing style felt like it was written for the younger side of young adult, like for 12-year-olds. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s just an observation I had while reading that kind of pulled me out of the story. 

For example, the world-building was very surface level, as were the character relationships. I have noticed that, generally, the older the intended audience is for a book, the more time spent will be spent on crafting a rich world with fully fleshed-out characters. Now, this could be because adult books tend to be longer and have more pages to devote to those details, but this is not always the case. More and more these days I am feeling disappointed with young adult fantasy, and unfortunately, this book disappointed me a little bit too. It was exactly fifty percent of the way through the book that my feelings started to change and I started wishing for the book to be over. 

The pacing was too fast, but in a how-much-time-is-actually-passing sort of way. Ziva was supposed to take three months to craft a weapon, and that was on a “tight” schedule, yet when we see her actually making it, it is written as if she crafts the entire thing in one day. Then we’re told that it’s been almost three months, and I just couldn’t believe that. Then when Ziva and her crew are on a journey, it is said to take a month, but it felt like they were on the road for a few days at most. It was very hard for me to gauge the passage of time in this novel because the story was written in a way that felt as if hardly any time was passing at all.

Also while they were on the road, Ziva is said to have developed a close relationship with Kellyn, but their interactions didn’t lead me to believe as much. The romance was very flat to me as Ziva’s attraction to Kellyn is based entirely on his luscious orange hair and not on any real reasons. Whenever they talked, I couldn’t feel her falling for him more and more; it just felt very bland to me. And then it flip-flops between him doing something good and her thinking he’s hot, and him doing something dumb and her instantly thinking he’s ugly instead. (Again why I say this reads really young.)

This is my first Tricia Levenseller book so I can’t compare the writing here to the writing in any of her other books, but I will say that I don’t really have any interest in reading any of her other books, aside from the sequel to Blade of Secrets.

Fun fact: Tricia Levenseller majored in the same degree I did at the same university I went to, so I feel like we have some sort of connection because of that. When I found that out I was very excited and it made me want to read some of her books. I am glad I gave Blade of Secrets a chance because I think it was a fun story and worth the read, but it didn’t stand out to me as much as I hoped it would. 

Overall, I really liked the idea behind Blade of Secrets and I appreciated the anxiety representation, but the story itself was written as mostly telling instead of showing, which led to weird pacing, surface-level world-building, and an unbelievable romance. I intend to read the sequel, Master of Iron, when it comes out next year because I want to know how the story ends (even though the ending of this book makes it pretty clear what the next book will be about and how it will end). Ultimately I think this story was fine but it wasn’t my favorite as it honestly feels rather forgettable and like your typical young adult fantasy narrative. 

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