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Saturday, February 6, 2021

'Blood Heir' by Ilona Andrews


From the BLURB: 


Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.

Okay, so - thoughts on 'Blood Heir' ...

First of all, I am SO HAPPY we got Julie's continued story at all. I remember not too long ago (2019) Ilona Andrews wrote a blog-post answering the question of whether or not they'd ever expand the 'Kate Daniels' universe to tell Julie's story (and by extension, Derek's - since it was understood that they were, or would be, HEA end-goals). Well. Their answer kinda broke my heart, because they went on to detail the fact that they get Julie hate-mail. No joke, the post is still up: 

And I quote: "Long story short, we get Julie hatemail. Half want bad things to happen to Julie. They literally hate her and want her to die. The other variation of the hatemail is, “I am just not interested in Julie as a character and I don’t think she could carry a book.” Right, because despite writing 12 books set in this world, all of which succeeded in being entertaining, we will lose all of ability to tell a compelling story just because Julie is the main character."

So first of all - Julie and Derek (and yeah, Ascanio) are three of my *favourite* characters. I am actually overall very partial to any and all spin-offs within the Kate Daniels universe (I loved Andrea and Raphael in Gunmetal Magic and also loved Jim and Dali in Magic Dreams and OMG, I hope we get to see the four of them in future spin-off minor appearances). I do not understand people who are morally opposed to more spin-offs, let alone one that focuses on one of THE MOST FASCINATING female characters within a multi-layered and wonderful universe. Which Julie *is*. We've seen her at her most frightened, saved and beloved by Kate, I am already a total trope-fiend for anything unrequited love AND enemies-to-lovers so the *slight* triangle we get between Julie, Derek and Ascanio has always delighted me (even as I am Team Derek, all the way and especially because he has tortured hero coming out his ears.) But basically, I thought a Julie spin-off would be a slam-dunk guarantee after the end of KD. 

Not so. 

And actually - there's a beautiful note in the acknowledgements of 'Blood Heir' where Ilona Andrews basically says they decided to write this story (originally presented in installments on the blog, before they fully committed to an indie-print run) where they explain that they wrote it for a reader of theirs who is an ICU-nurse, and said reading them during her breaks at the height of the pandemic was the one thing bringing her a semblance of sanity. *tears* 

In many ways we only got Julie's story when we did, because of the absolute trash-fire year 2020 turned into. And no, that's not a worthwhile bargain ... but it has become a small delight that I am certainly holding close to my chest and am thankful for, as a fan. 

And 'Blood Heir' is bloody delightful. 

I don't want to overly spoil anything for anyone - save to say, Ilona Andrews have come up with an ingenious work-around that keeps Julie away from her family core for the most part (Kate and Curran mainly), raises the stakes, and lets us see the young woman she has become while away from Atlanta. 

There's lots of reward to this work-around, high-stakes plotting that has Julie needing to sneak into Atlanta with a new face, body, and persona as Aurelia Ryder ... interact with beloved characters who don't know she's Julie Olsen, and yes - eventually - she does interact with Ascanio and Derek too. 

The Derek interactions have a bittersweetness to them. Part of it is Julie's childhood longing and full-fledged romantic love for him that was never returned, the mystery of where he disappeared to not long after she left Atlanta. And the mystery of who they've both become while away from each other. 

I will say, part of the plot about Julie changing her entire appearance bugged me when it comes to Derek .... because Julie is, by all measurements, royally beautiful now. She's taken from Kate's blood-line so looks as otherworldly stunning as Kate and her family. And that's sad, to me. But to Ilona Andrew's credit, it's sad for Julie too. Derek and Ascanio both definitely seem to respond to her new radiance, and that gives her a twinge of sadness - for who she was as pixie-faced and sweet Julie, and there's but a *hint* of the inadequacy she felt as that orphan girl who Kate adopted and Roland mentored, despite for a time - not being blood. I like that Ilona Andrews didn't just make Julie magically stunning and have all these bros falling at her feet and she's delighted. She's actually quite hurt by Derek's seeming interest in this face - and the Julie she was is jealous that he's so moved by a new body and look. I am keen for Ilona Andrews to keep feeling this issue out, because it adds layers to Derek and Julie's past - and also their future. 

And there will be a future. 'Blood Heir' ends on about 3 cliffhangers, I'd say - and they're *good ones* too. It's evident that maybe 2 of them will be short-term goals reached, but there's an over-arching 'Big Bad' that will - it has been confirmed - take up the topic of at least two more books in the series (confirmed after Ilona Andrews revealed they've landed on Bestseller lists for ebooks and paperback; which is extraordinary considering 'Blood Heir' is a self-published title). 

Ilona Andrews is one of my favourite author/s - hands down - their books make me happy, and 'Kate Daniels' was a phenomenal favourite series I was happy-sad to read come to a satisfying finale. But, I wanted Julie and Derek's story *so badly* and by no means is it a worthwhile trade-off (Julie spin-off and all we had to endure was a wee pandemic ... NO.) but after 2020 I am grateful for what Ilona Andrews gave to fans during a spectacularly awful time. Maybe, just maybe, those who so despised Julie can better understand the hardening of a young woman during trying times ... and come to 'Blood Heir' and the 'Aurelia Ryder' series with slightly more opened hearts and minds. But even if they're still morally opposed to Julie being a complex character (egads! The horror!) I know they'll be happy to strap in for what is a truly compelling ride anyway!


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