Friday, December 17, 2021

Book Review: "A Broken Blade" by Melissa Blair

Title: A Broken Blade
Author: Melissa Blair
Series: "The Halfling Saga" #1
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Page Length: 446 pages
Publication Date: November 24, 2021
Rating: 5 // 5 stars

As I'm sure is the case with most people who've read this book recently, I was first introduced to this book because of the mystery surrounding who the author was. It was published anonymously, with a series of clues and hints being given to lead readers on BookTok to the name of the author. While I didn't figure out the clues, I did pick up a copy of the book. 

It did take me a little bit to get into this book because I have been in somewhat of a reading slump for a while. However, it picked up quite quickly and I was sucked in. After that, I couldn't put this book down even though it was two in the morning. I finished it that evening and basically fell in love.

This book is like a love letter to all the things BookTok loves and I could definitely see that in these pages. But it's also an engaging story with well-developed characters, an intriguing world and magic system, and dealt with heavy topics in a respectful manner. I annotated this book the entire way through and can safely say there's at least one highlight or scribble on almost every single page. This book was quotable and powerful and just amazing in every way. 

I'll start with the characters, which were my favorite part of this book. I'm a character-driven reader. A plot can be mediocre to me and I'll still rate it five stars if I love the characters. On the flip side, the plot could be amazing with mediocre characters and I wouldn't rate is as highly. This book had both: amazing characters and an exciting plot. But, to be honest, I did love the characters the most out of everything in this book. 

Of course I love our main character, Keera. She's been through a lot, she's in a difficult position, but she's also a badass. She's a Halfling, aka both mortal and Elvish, and is considered one of the lower-class citizens in this world. Halflings are kept in slavery under the King and Keera was taken to train as a spy and assassin when she was young. Now, she's become the King's right-hand assassin and has to undertake missions against her own kind. This is obviously a very difficult position to be in as she ends up having to interrogate, expose, and murder her own kind at the order of the King. 

Keera struggles with all of this. The moral and ethical situations that she struggles with in this book are placed at a forefront. Seeing not only how she navigates her situation but also her character growth throughout the story was amazing. I just want to give her a big ole hug. 

The side characters were also amazing (both the love interest and everyone else). I think Nikolai is my favorite side character, just based on his witty banter with our main character and overall entire personality. However, I loved the others, too. And even if I didn't love some characters (because they were written to be disliked), I still thought they were written well. 

The representation was also great. Basically all the characters are assumed queer or BIPOC unless otherwise stated and this is backed up by character descriptions, backstories around previous lovers, etc. It was such a diverse cast of characters and I really enjoyed getting to read about all of them. I even watched the live Q&A when the author was revealed and she was discussing fancasts she had in her head for the different characters and I thought they fit perfectly. 

I do have to say, I didn't feel the romance as much as I expected. However, I'm perfectly okay with that as there are multiple books to come and plenty of time for it to develop. I'm glad it didn't become as intense as fast as some romances in fantasy books because I just don't think that would match either of the characters. But it will definitely be interesting to see how the romance progresses in the next books. 

The world itself was intriguing and I'm so glad we got a map as well. The characters do a lot of traveling across this little continent and I rather enjoyed that we got to visit the different cities. I would love to explore past the continent in future books or even just get more information as a bonus outside of the book (not because the story necessarily needs it, but just because I am really interested in knowing). 

I think that the history and background we got surrounding the government and class systems also aided in the world building. There's a lot of history there as most of the characters age slowly or are some form of immortal. This means a lot of the issues go back dozens, if not hundreds, of years. I found it fascinating to hear this history, discover different characters' backstories, and learn how the history was changed depending on who was telling it. 

Now, this book does deal with themes such as colonialism and systemic violence. While it's not graphically mentioned or dealt with, it's still something that is thought about and challenged. I found this to be one of the parts of the book that stuck with me the most as it was clear there was no easy answer to a lot of the situations these characters and country are in. These themes seem to have been dealt with in a very respectful and meaningful way and I was able to appreciate the book a lot more because of that. 

All in all, I could continue on for many more paragraphs. This book was just that good. I feel as if I was even closer to the story because of annotating it and I'll forever be glad that I did that. A Broken Blade was everything I needed right now and I loved every moment of it. I cannot wait for the next book to come out, though I may find myself rereading it sooner than that. I only wish I'd read it before posting my most anticipated releases for 2022 because this book's sequel would have definitely made the list. 

Either way, I highly recommend this book. It is classed as 18+, so firmly in New Adult Fantasy territory I'd say. If you like fantasy, enemies-to-lovers, badass female characters, diverse characters, moral dilemmas, the one-bed trope, the scar-reveal trope, and stories focused on taking down unjust systems, then this book is for you. 

There are content warnings listed at the beginning of the book, but I want to list them here if people want them before purchasing a copy. While the vast majority happen off-page, they are mentioned and discussed. Please read responsibly.

CW: themes of addiction, alcoholism, colonialism, depression, suicidal ideation, assault, and systemic violence

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