Reviews

Bloody Spade, by Brittany M. Willows

rainbow_kitten_five's review

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This book is just, really boring. I love the idea but I know exactly what is going to happen and I don't truly care about any of the characters.

readtoramble's review against another edition

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4.5 STARS

I was provided with a free copy of this book to read and review by the author, so thank you so much to Brittany for reaching out to me and sending me the book.

Trigger warnings (provided by the author): Coarse language, blood and violence, some gore, moments of graphic violence/torture, parent death (discussed, recalled in flashbacks), emesis, body horror, anxiety/panic attacks, trauma related to kidnapping/physical abuse, one instance of a forced kiss (not intended to be romantic/sexual).

Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows is the first instalment in The Cardplay Duology, an LGBT urban fantasy series. As soon as I started reading this book, I had a smile on my face because THIS is the kind of fantasy that I love. I don’t often get the chance to read these kind of stories, but I just love them, they are very comforting, very unique, and I usually get so immersed in them. This was definitely the case here.

I really enjoyed the world-building. It was seamless and I never felt like there was an info-dumping going on. This is a world built up from nothing, but it feels very real and I never questioned any of the author’s choices because they all fit together really well. I’m so glad that this is a duology because I can’t wait to come back to this world.

This magic system is like nothing I have ever read before, and I loved it from literally the first page. I am a total fantasy/magic story junky, and this satisfied me completely. I would have liked a bit more information behind the magic and how it appeared, how life was like before, but I think it will be explained a bit more in the second book.

You know me, I love me some dark atmosphere and plot, and this book delivered. It felt dark throughout, like the world itself feels dark, which is mainly due to the Void and the awakening of magic that happened some years before the events of this story. Darkness is woven into the magic, and it was interesting to see how characters like Iori had to battle the darkness, but also learn to accept it and work with it. It was definitely atmospheric, so really recommend it on that front if it’s something you look for in books.

Overall, this was an amazing first instalment in what I’m sure is going to become a favourite duology for me. I found that the pace was good, a tad fast at times but that’s not a problem really, and the writing style was very fluid. I read this one really quite quickly (it just took me ages to write the review) and I really enjoyed it. It had a good pace and rhythm, it was really well executed and made me want to pick up the second book immediately – it will be so hard to wait for it to be published!

I gave this book 4.5 stars and I had a great time reading it. I lost myself in this story, I was totally rooting for all the characters – except Alex for the first part of this book – and I found it so unique, new and engaging. I loved the broadness and scope of it, it seems like there is still so much to learn and I hope book 2 is a chonker because I don’t want to leave this world anytime soon!

If you love your fantasies dark and unique, you enjoy reading about unique magic systems that captivate you, and you love reading about complex, relatable and endearing characters, then this is the book for you, I highly recommend it.

mousereads's review against another edition

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5.0

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Thank you to the author for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Bloody Spade was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. When someone says a book embodies anime aspects, it’s hard to know just what they mean by that. However, this book really does encompass that experience. You have magical girl-esque transformation scenes, card game-based magic, and a fantastical world. Willows did a fantastic job with world-building within this environment.
Iori and Ellen are incredibly lovable. On the other hand, her brother Alexander frustrated me to no end. While I am thankful he developed as a character, he is the reason that this review loses a half star from me. His protectiveness of Ellen bordered on toxic and unhealthy, and I didn’t love that. Iori has notable PTSD, and Willows wrote this well. It was interesting to read about this in a fantasy aspect, especially when so often this goes disregarded.
Overall, this is an exciting new series that I can’t wait to read more of.

My full review will be posted on my blog on September 13th, 2021!

rattletheshelves's review against another edition

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adventurous lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
The blurb gets it right - it definitely has a strong anime feel to it and I'd love to see it on screen!

It's a fun and very queer fantasy book with lots of aspec characters and just for that it's worth picking up (one of MCs is allo aro!). I'll be definitely on the lookout for the sequel!

bobarisu's review

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2.0

2.5 stars.

I really wanted to like Bloody Spade, but the writing was just not there for me. However, I'm always here for an edgy cat boy and those two stars are both for Iori because he's the best character hands down.

The main reason I couldn't vibe with this book is because there are no distinct character voices in the writing. In the narration, we are told everything in a pretty matter of fact manner and it all sounds the same regardless of which character we are learning about. I wish the book took time for us to get to know Ellen and Alexander more intimately, but I feel like the book sped through their introductions instead of showing us the intricacies of each character. From what I got, Ellen is nice and Cares TM and Alexander is a golden boy on the outside and an angsty boy on the inside. It's fine as a starting point, but what else is there? Additionally, the dialogue was very trite and everyone sounds the same there too. Hikaru and Elizabeth's dialogues were just so basic, it's just like you could replace anything they said with (peanuts wah wah wah sound) insert authority figure's words of affirmation here. Don't get me wrong, I thought Elizabeth was a BAMF, it's just the dialogue didn't do her many favors. The same can be said of most characters, though.

I thought the topics the characters discussed (therapy, grief, role of adults/authority figures in their lives) were important and it was nice they were covered. On the other hand I was in disbelief that everyone spoke so frankly about everything (except Iori, but he's getting there??). I can understand this might be an idealized version of how these convos would/could go, so I'm not mad about it. Iori's storyline the most well done and I actually related to it a lot despite my issues with the writing style. Alex's storyline though... I felt was resolved too quickly on top of the fact that his introduction wasn't the strongest in establishing his character. He had a lot of potential since he's the opposite side of the coin from Iori in many respects (look at that "vaguely homoerotic anime rivalry" Iori and Alex have going on there).

Ellen was fine, but I think her character introduction was bogged down by all the Joker exposition. I liked her most when she had family drama with Alex, but the Iori romance didn't hit for me. I don't really know the reason why other than YMMV I thought it was bland. I'm glad we got some allo x aspec pairings up in here tho even if I don't care for the ship.

There are too many villains and I don't care for any of them. Their goal is too vague and no one in the villain crew is that distinct (except for Kyani, since she's a POV character). I can tell this villainous team may have some inspiration from RWBY because I totally got those vibes. I know Blackjack is part of Iori's backstory, but having Blackjack and Alexander's arc come in at around the same time really lessened the impact of Alex's character for me. Lastly, I thought Kyani was the weakest link out of the entire main cast. I promptly place her in the category "Cool motive, still torture" because... that's literally it. She was very boring to read about and that made the Blackjack chapters unbearable to get through.

Formatting issues:
In the paperback there are some paragraphs that are duplicated. I found this occured three times. There are also some parts of the book where the font size is either larger or smaller than the rest of the text. I didn't factor any of these formatting issues into my rating, but just something to note if the book is reprinted in the future.

More to come?

nikereadsbooks's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional funny medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.75

monicabeewrites's review against another edition

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5.0

Enter a world where magic has recently reappeared: dark, light, and transformative. Follow the most delightful, sassy, teenage boy as he struggles to control his powers and find his place in a world that’s never been easy on him. Meet the members of Cardplay, a specialized police force of magic-users who protect a world that isn’t quite sure it accepts magic. These include the Janes: fiery Alexander – Cardplay’s star – and his teen sister Ellen, whose heart is big enough to swallow the world and her powers just might help save it. With queer rep (including ace, trans, and aro), strong friendships, siblings, found family, and a heart-melting budding romance between two beloved characters, this story hit a lot of notes for me. I loved both main characters as well as the underlain themes of hope, healing, and striving for a better world.

A four-chapter teaser is posted on Wattpad (link in the author's own review) – go read it now and I dare you not to fall in love with this story!

ghxstking's review

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4.5

very nostalgic, brought back memories of being 13 and creating my own wolfgirl OC, being 14 and talking through plot ideas with my best friend, being 15 and suddenly having a group of my own characters who felt like family. i could feel the love the author holds for these characters while i was reading. it felt familiar. there are some technical problems, like some paragraphs having different font sizes and some sentences being written twice in a row, but i don't mind. it adds to the personal feel, the handwritten-in-a-spiral-notebook-during-class nostalgia. i really really love the magic in this book as well, it's interesting to learn about! excited for book two next year!

sunlit_music's review

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adventurous dark emotional funny hopeful reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

This book is action packed, and I finished it in just three days! I loved the main characters, especially Ellen and Iori! Really loved how Iori learnt to trust people, make friends and was given a second chance in life. Also loved how Ellen was willing to fight for the people she loves and how she has so much faith in them. 

The world building in this book is top notch and creative, and so well thought out! I loved how the book discusses the different powers of the Keepers, and how people used magic to help or hinder others. 

Really loved the character growth in Iori and Alexander, and I liked Kyani too. Also thought Tatiana was hilarious!

This book is a great mix of plotting and characterisation - I could almost never predict what was going to happen, although I did manage to predict who the Keeper of the Heart Suit would be. :) 

Also loved the insightful discussions on mental health and trauma, and how trauma affected the characters in different ways. 

I look forward to reading anything else the author will write. 

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spacebetweenpages's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75


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