Title: Bound by Blood and Sand
Author: Becky Allen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Publishing Information: October 11th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: ARC for Review
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.
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 realm’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.
Usually, the first thing that grabs me about a book is the cover but in the case of Bound by Blood and Sand, even though the cover is stunning, I was definitely pulled in by the title. I love love books that are set in a more Arabian/desert setting so the “sand” part of the title really drew me in. Also, you guys know how I feel about dark books (love) so of course, as morbid as it sounds, as soon as I saw the words “bound” and “blood,” I knew that I was going to read this book. I ended up really enjoying this book — it was a quick fantasy read that is a promising start to a new series.
Bound by Blood and Sand follows the story of Jae, a cursed slave who lives on the estate of Aredann. Her and her twin brother, Tal, have been slaves (known as The Closest) for their whole lives and as part of their curse, they are obligated to follow any order given to them by the Highest. Jae wants nothing more than to free herself and other slaves from the curse. The Highest are supposed to be in charge of the magical Well, which is the source of water for the country. However, droughts have been taking over the land. Lord Elan’s family rules the land and he comes to Aredann to try to find the magical Well and learn why the water supply is drying up. Soon, Jae and Elan find their lives intertwined and have to work together to break the curse and find the Well.
One of the strengths of this book is definitely the character development. Jae is, understandably, a very rough character who is filled with anger. She has to follow some absolutely horrifying commands,View Spoiler »slight spoiler about an order she receives: she is raped multiple times « Hide Spoiler, and all she has known her entire life is a lack of self-control. I really liked that Becky Allen created a type of Jessica Jones character — she is flawed, strong, and set on revenge. Her only real soft side comes out when she is interacting with her brother Tal (absolutely loved him!). Throughout the book, Jae really develops as a character. She has to learn to set aside her personal goals for the greater good of her people.
This book alternates between the POV of Jae and Elan. As a prince who is not the heir, Elan really has to fight for his father’s recognition/trust. He believes that by finding the Well, his people will be saved and his father will finally see him as a worthy son. For Elan to team up with Jae, he really does have to turn his back on everything and everyone he has every known. Elan, like Jae, definitely developed by the end of the book and he became a stronger character who wasn’t doing things just for the sake of his father.
In a way, this book reminded me of a mixture of Ella Enchanted and An Ember in the Ashes. The entire time that I was reading about the magic that forced Jae and the other slaves to follow every order, I couldn’t help but think about Ella Enchanted. The desert setting and the slaved people definitely gave me An Ember in the Ashes vibes. If you’re a fan of either one (or both) of those books, I recommend giving this one a try. It’s well written, has a unique premise, and a fantastic cast of characters.