Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.
Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.
Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.
But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.
Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever. (via Goodreads)
I had been trying to decide what to read and finally settled on this. Bound by Blood and Sand was a good pick because it’s fun and reads quickly without compromising on the storytelling or character development.
Bound by Blood and Sand is the debut novel by Becky Allen and normally I’m very wary of debuts but decided to give this one a chance because I found the blurb very interesting. I really enjoyed it and was actually disappointed when it ended. Granted it’s the first book in a yet-untitled series but still. Having said that, the book does end well.
The writing was simple and yet effective. The world and setting were described in vivid detail, so much so that often one could feel the oppressive heat of the desert, the hot and dry winds. The narrative itself, is split between the two main characters, Jae and Elan although, I think Jae had more screentime.
What I really liked about the book was the way Jae was written. She and her twin brother had been slaves and abused their entire lives by those in power. But she and her brother were very different. While her brother, Tal, was still someone who could the silver-lining on the horizon, she had become hardened and jaded. And once she gained her powers, it was easy to why she would use them the way she did. She felt no sympathy for those in power. If she showed any restraint, it was because of her brother. But she wasn’t especially likeable and that was ok. I was happy to see her make the choices she did. And I liked that it was a conscious choice on her part to help her oppressors and there was real inner conflict there. I liked she didn’t suddenly turn into an all-forgiving saint.
The bond between Jae and Tal was one of the best things in the book. They truly loved and cared about each other. While Jae was the hard one, Tal was the one who was tender. He cared for her and brought her small things when he could manage it. While reading the book, you really felt that they were two halves of a whole while still being completely realised individual characters. They always supported each other and that never changed.
Then there was Elan, the other protagonist and he was likeable from the start. He was one of the oppressors but unlike the others, he didn’t abuse the Closest. He was on the quest for something that would save the lives of everyone, not just the ones in power. Once he realised that everything that he had been told and taught was a lie, he was quick to support and help Jae even going so far as to lose everything he had known all his life, his position, his power, his family.
Another thing liked about Bound by Blood and Sand was that there was no romance here. They came together because they didn’t have any alternative but Jae didn’t trust Elan in the slightest. It took her time to come around. Elan also for his part, takes time to come to terms with everything that happened. The only thing that kept them together was Tal, if not for him, Jae and Elan would not have been able to work together. By the end of the book, Jae and Elan had become friends who trusted each other.
There were a bunch of other characters who are worth mentioning like Lady Shirrad. She started off as entitled and shallow. But as the narrative progressed, you started to see the steel in her backbone. She didn’t have a great track record when it came to the way she treated the Closest but she didn’t want see them abandoned and left to die. She didn’t abandon her home, and she stayed behind and stayed with her ‘slaves’. Her character went through an 180 degree change.
Bound By Blood and Sand was an engrossing and fast-paced read and one that I really enjoyed…