Cover Image: The Blood Trials

The Blood Trials

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Member Reviews

Action-packed, nuanced, smart, heartbreaking, vengeful, ambitious

The Blood Trials caught my eye initially because of the strong cover but I was drawn in instantly by the strong female main character, Ikenna, and her struggles trying to survive in a difficult world. The world that Davenport creates is full of politics, history, betrayal, magic, and action. It will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time and keep you guessing until the very end. The Blood Trials is a stunning debut from a wonderful new author. I can't wait for book two!

Ikenna has one person in her life that keeps everything stable, her grandfather. He raised her and trained her in secret to be an expert martial artist and, even more secretly, to harness her blood gift. After her grandfather is murdered, Ikenna is bent on revenge and discovering the truth of what happened, so she pledges herself to a deadly initiation test that only a quarter of aspirants survive, The Praetorian Trials, where she is positive she will find answers. Is it worth risking it all to find out who murdered her grandfather? What buried secrets will Ikenna discover on her mission for revenge?

While reading The Blood Trials, I found my heart aching for Ikenna. I related so much to the constant pressure and deep desire to live up to her grandfather's expectations to break the chains of generational poverty but constantly feeling like she is failing to do so. The weight on her shoulders, as a recent graduate, to follow in her grandfather's footsteps for the chance to become a legacy line, so it will be easier for the next generation, broke my heart. So many people from underrepresented groups feel this weight every single day and it can be absolutely crushing. There is a real tension between what you want to do with your life and what will be best for generations to come and Davenport takes this deep pain and pressure and replicates it so well in an entirely different world. The deep burden, expectation, and legacy that Ikenna carries will resonate deeply with so many readers, myself included. It made me connect instantly with Ikenna. 

The most important piece from this book that resonated with me so deeply was how much of a discussion there was on the challenges of attempting to fix systematic failures from the inside. Davenport perfectly tackles this issue from so many sides, but I loved the deep look into how it affects someone personally. Readers are able to see the personal challenges that come with working alongside people who have betrayed you and people who do not support you. There is a constant internal battle between knowing you are in the best place to make a difference, the pain of working with people who could be your enemies, and struggling to know if you are even going in the right direction. Davenport wonderfully portrays an incredibly nuanced society and characterization in this stunning debut novel.

The Blood Trials is an ambitious debut by N.E. Davenport that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time and constantly guessing. This story beautifully tackles some difficult themes that resonated with me deeply and imagined a main character that I fell in love with.
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This book is riveting. I didn’t want to put the book down at all. It is well written, and a fresh breath of air.
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Yass Queen!!! This was such a great read that I am going to go and read it all over again! I need the next book now!!
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It’s all about blood.

The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.

The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.

For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.

Who trained her to keep that a secret.

But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.

Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials—a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that—if found out—would subject her to execution…or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather…and then she needs to kill them.

Mareen has been at peace for a long time…

Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.

Magic and technology converge in the first part of this stunning debut duology, where loyalty to oneself—and one’s blood—is more important than anything. - Goodreads

Although this book is considered adult, it was very tame. Do not get me wrong, there are adult scenes in this novel but it was tame compared to some of the adult fantasy books I've read. 

There is something I want to note about this book if you are not interested in reading about blunt racism (and when I say blunt, I mean it is mentioned on every page) then this book is not for you. I got frustrated reading this book because of the above. By the 5th chapter, I got it. Ikenna has to deal with constant racism, mistreatment because she is a woman and assumptions based on her family status. Like I get it. But nothing in me felt that it needed to be repeated every page. It was like beating a dead horse. There was no need. 

Beyond this, I loved this book. The magic system, the characters, the fighting. . . I thought this book was well written and complicated without making me feel like there was too much information. The pace of the novel was great. At no point did I feel the author was dragging the story along. My hang-up with the romance. 

It was not necessary. The sex? Yup, necessary but the enemies to lovers trope could have been way better. The chemistry was missing throughout the entire book. It just fell short, 

As mentioned this book felt very YA, maybe more toward NA. Maybe it was the lack of over-complication in the fantasy world. I'm really looking forward to book two as I am sure it is going to pack a punch and just be completely rich in history, character development and more adult themes. 

Overall, great start. 

3.5 Pickles
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I really enjoyed this book. You have mystery and fantasy in this book. The storytelling is great. Hooks you from page one. I cannot wait to read book 2.
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As someone who doesn't have to worry about racial discrimination, I'm truly happy I read this. Ikenna is such a strong woman who deserves so much better but her ability to survive, overcome, and conquer is awe inspiring. The Blood Trials is now one of my top shelf favorites!
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What an interesting and cool premise. I enjoyed the world-building, to an extent, and having a strong female main character. It was an interesting read, but difficult to get through. There was great world-building at the beginning, but then it essentially disappeared halfway through the book. 

Also, although I understand the obsession of the main character at the beginning, I felt the repetition could have been handled differently. It was almost like it was written as though we were supposed to be watching rather than reading. At times it felt like the reader was left behind a little, or trying to play catch up when the main character's mood swung wildly. And then there was a huge swing in the story from what it felt like the book was going to be to what it ended up being. It felt like a whiplash to the reader.

I will wait to post my review elsewhere until a month before the release.
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I just want to thank Avon and Harper Voyager, and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really loved Ikenna as a main character in this novel. Her gritty and unabashed worldview really made this book an enjoyable read. Ikenna goes through multiple trials throughout the book both mental and physically while enduring the rampant racism and misogyny of her peers. All while trying to find out who her grandfather's murders is. The problems I had with this book. The plot was strung along at some points and, at worst, was easily predictable. Worldbuilding could have been written better. I wanted to see a clear view of the world N.E Davenport had written by instead I got this fogy view. 
I still enjoyed The blood trials and after editing I'm really looking forward to the finished copy!
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Ikenna is still grieving the loss of her grandfather, and considers taking a reprieve from their shared dream of her joining the elite Praetorian ranks, when she learns the life-altering news. Her grandfather, the former Legatus Commander and highest ranking official in the Republic of Mareen, didn't just die of a heart attack. He was assassinated. Most likely by his own Tribunal.

This information changes the trajectory of Ikenna's life, convincing her to pledge herself as a Praetorian aspirant to get close enough to those responsible for her grandfather's death. Though to become a full-fledged Praetorian, she'll have to face the deadliest trials in the Republic—all while hiding the deadly secret she's been harboring. 


I LOVED THIS BOOK. I could not put it down. This is the perfect book for adults who grew up loving the Hunger Games and Divergent. Davenport brilliantly weaves together fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian themes in her debut novel. And boy are we blessed. 

The Blood Trials offers a compelling look at grief, war, race and ethnicity, the patriarchy, and classism in a book that is action-packed, gritty, and fun to read. Ikenna is a heroine who contains multitudes. She's loyal to a fault, fiercely empathetic, stubborn, deadly, and she's on a path for justice. 

The cast of side characters are also equally compelling. I love seeing many of the other Praetorians and aspirants grapple with what it means to be a soldier of the Republic. Does a good soldier blindly follow orders, or consider what's best for their nation?

I can already see this being one of the most talked-about books of 2022. Give it all the hype and love it deserves! 

I might say more when it gets closer to release, because omg. So good you guys.
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Ikenna is one of only a few women and the sole Black pledge to the elite Praetorian Guard, the most revered soldiers who serve the Republic of Mareen. It had always been her dream to become a Praetorian so she could follow in the footsteps of her famed warrior grandfather. But after her grandfather is murdered -- most likely at the hands of a Praetorian assassian -- when Ikenna finally has the chance to join the squad it isn’t to serve the Republic; she’s there to take them down from the inside. But in order to join their ranks and maintain the access she needs for her investigation into her grandfather's murder, Ikenna must first survive a series of deadly trials to determine which of the pledges are worthy of the Praetorian mantle.

One of the best parts of The Blood Trials is its refusal to shy away from the brutality of this world and the trials. Davenport holds no punches when it comes to violence, trauma, and killing off characters, but each of these horrors and hardships is well-earned and the book does a good job of exploring their long-lasting impact on Ikenna. However, while Ikenna is largely a compelling character, she spends far too large a portion of the story stubbornly clinging to one theory when it’s blatantly obvious to readers that she’s on the wrong track, making for a rather frustrating read. Once Ikenna finally changes tactics, the depth and intrigue of the story immediately increases, and the climax of the novel goes to several unexpected places and concludes with a game-changing cliffhanger.
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The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport is an adult imperial war fantasy , the beginning of a series and the debut novel for Davenport. Taking the view of the lead character Kenna, we follow the first year 'Praetorians', an elite Warrior class gain their rank through Trials while Kenna investigates a crime committed against her family.

The book can start off a bit sluggishly or hard to follow, but Davenport shoves us right into the middle of the action and chooses to insert the background using exposition, not allowing the enormity of her world to be swallowed up. Any pacing issues or info dummps tend to be resolved around 1/3rd of the book, around which time her environment is much better set up and we can move through any awkward bits.

The main character is unapologetically flawed, which I adore. There is definitely character growth with room for more. I didn't feel as if this was too large of a divide between plot *or* character driven , I felt it was a very good balance of both to fit many readers. This is a fictional , earth-like world in which magic, race, technology and class all play an integral part. While the fictional races of this world lack the historical content of an urban-fantasy based Earth world, many of the parallels faced by black characters and real-life racism and corporatism, and nepotism all play a big part in this society.  I feel as if this was done seamlessly.

For those who want to avoid a book wherein real-life analogues for oppression take place, they may want to read the trigger warnings, though they are all clearly stated and the synopsis should by no scare anyone off who was already interested. This is a fantastic book and my only criticisms relate to pacing and have already been stated. There is sex, violence and adult themes that would personally make this book closer to adult fantasy or new adult, for those who may see younger characters and think of it as a cleaner young adult fantasy. I would definitely recommend this book.
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First of all, I must note that this is a review of the unedited arc of The Blood Trials by N. E. Davenport. Thank you to Avon and Harper Voyager, and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This debut from N. E. Davenport follows a young black woman, Ikenna, who is reeling from the sudden loss of her last family member, her Grandfather. When she discovers he was murdered by members of the Mareenean Tribunal, she vows revenge. To seek the truth, Ikenna joins the deadly trials to become a Praetorian, an elite guild of warriors with lethal skills and enhancing biochips. Along the way, she is faced with horrible displays of racism and sexism. I really wanted to love this book because I was excited by the idea, but I felt that the character development, plot, and world-building fell flat. 

The character development for Ikenna and other side characters such as Reed and Zayne feels two-dimensional. I wish I felt more of an emotional connection with the characters, but I never really understood them. Something I think could improve this is by adding flashbacks to important memories for Ikenna with her grandfather and other characters. One thing that did bother me was Ikenna referring to herself as a bi**h in a negative way. I think there are other ways to express how she is feeling without deeming her. 

If I’m being honest I think the plot was a bit predictable. I never questioned what the outcome would be. The very nature of the trials makes me expect most people to die (except for those with political power). There was never any suspense or big reveal. There was the one scene towards the end that did shock me, but the aftermath was subdued when it could have held greater emotion. 

Something else I think could be improved is world-building. I think Ikenna’s surroundings and the settings she visits could be described in greater detail. I want to know about the types of food they eat, what their clothing looks like, what animals live there, what the climate is like, are there specific traditions important in Mareen, etc. 

I know this story has great potential, it just needs some more edits to make it sparkle. I look forward to reading the finished copy when it comes out.
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I really, really enjoyed this book. I was at about chapter 6 when I felt it could be a gunner for my favorite of the year. Ikenna Amari is a fierce character and I loved everything about her. The side characters were also really great and likable - even Caiman, who was at first an a**hole. This book felt like a mesh of THE HUNGER GAMES, the DIVERGENT series, and sprinkled with some STAR WARS themes. But my favorite themes were the conversations about racism, sexism, and privilege which is a lot of what those other series glossed over, The author centers on a character who has darker skin than her comrades, who deals with not only racism but the sexism and misogynoir comments made towards her. Some complaints I've seen online were that the pace was too fast but I thought it was perfect. I wasn't ever confused or lost with the world-building either. I have already pre-ordered this book and can't wait to read the second one. Fantastic book.
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This was truly amazing I cannot believe this is Davenport's first book. I found a few minor grammar errors but this plot was done so well. I loved how each character got fully developed (specifically the friendships in the book). Additionally, as a Black individual this story had the right amount of racial struggle. Sometimes I read books that overdue it, but I think readers will both love and learn from this story. Excited for it's release and the next book! I plan to promote in April!
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The copy of The Blood Trials I received for review was an un-edited ARC, which feels particularly worth emphasizing. The overall summary of my feelings about The Blood Trials can be distilled into the following -- the premise is super cool but the book itself felt like a work-in-progress.

The Blood Trials is part murder mystery, political intrigue, and violent tournament. The story follows Ikenna who signs up to endure the contest to become a Praetorian, the most elite soldiers, as a means of investigating the murder of her grandfather. The prominence of the various elements of The Blood Trials ebbs and flows over the course of the story. There would be periods where I would wonder if Ikenna forget about her search for answers as there hadn't been so much of a mention of the mystery for huge chunks of the story.

Ikenna is a tough-as-nails, loyal protagonist. Watching her grow through her interpersonal relationships with her friends and Praetorian competitors was really satisfying. She is a protagonist who makes mistakes but isn’t afraid to grapple with them in an attempt to do better next time. Ikenna endures a lot of racism and sexism over the course of the story but never wavers in her conviction that she deserves to be a Praetorian. Through her character development, we see how predominantly white institutions impact people of color, which added a powerful emotional component to Ikenna's quest for belonging and answers about her grandfather.

That said, Ikenna felt all over the place as the narrative voice of this story. Her internal dialogue often swung from logical to filled with rage in ways that could be hard to follow. These mood swings were conveyed through telling, rather than showing, which made them seem almost performative on Ikenna's part in a way that didn't make sense. There’s also a lot of internal narrating, which often popped up in the middle of a scene that otherwise had a lot of action going on. Ikenna’s musings usually restated information that the reader had already been told numerous times while completely ignoring obvious questions or further areas of investigation.

The Blood Trials felt like 2 books smushed together rather than one cohesive whole. The first portion of The Blood Trials focused heavily on Ikenna’s time competing for a place among the Praetorians and a bit of her investigation into the murder of her grandfather. The last 30% of the story was a big shift from the remainder of the book and also seemed a lot less polished.

I found the world-building really frustrating. The world of Iludu sounds beyond intriguing. Some people have gifts that are legacies of special talents bestowed by the gods before the gods were banished. This is a world with a long history of war that it seemed like the reader was supposed to be familiar with but was never explained in a comprehensive way. The first portion of the book swung from huge passages filled with info-dumping to situations where explanation would’ve been helpful but was notably absent. The synopsis of The Blood Trials explains the situation in Mareen better than the book itself, which about sums up my frustration with how world-building is handled in the book.

The Blood Trials has an interesting concept and a lot of potential. I think some of my issues with the book are probably due to the fact that this ARC seemed more on the un-edited side.
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Ikenna is the daughter of  the Legatus of Mareen, and she has just found out that her grandfather was killed. And Ikenna has a secret, she has the blood gift of  Mareen’s enemies that she must keep secret. Ikenna wants revenge and joins the trails for the Praetorians, so she can find out who killed her grandfather. 

This is a really captivating read. Ikenna combats both racism and misogyny and this book tackles these topics matter-of-factly, emphasizing the importance of the families that you find and build in friendships.  There’s the built-in suspense because the trials are the central aspect of the book, and there is also some steamy romance.
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Wow. This was... actually good.

From my past experiences with books about race, their perspectives were very one-sided. So I came into this one with low expectations and let it sit in my tbr list until I finally decided to give it a chance. And, oh, what an experience it was. I loved how it didn't make the same mistakes other similar books did in that it showed the complex issue of race not as one-sided, but as the multi-layered shades of gray it is.
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The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport
   “Blood is my gift. And blood is what they’ll get if anyone gets in my godsdamned way.” 
I would first like to thank N. E. Davenport, NetGalley, and HarperCollins Publishers for allowing me access to this eARC. 

I will admit this book had a slow start and it did take some time to grab my attention, but once I really started getting into the main character; I refused to put this book down! The thrills and adrenaline rushes really come for a person in this book full blast!
There are topics (violence, blood, war, racism,etc) in the book that may be graphic to some readers so please use caution if they upset or trigger you. The topics are extremely well done. Davenport’s topics are eye opening and correlate with what many POC/BIPOC are experiencing in today’s culture. 
A POC female who’s blood-gifted and she’s seeking revenge for her murdered war-hero grandfather, while facing off an entire republic and dealing with assholes every step of the way.  I loved it, absolutely couldn’t get enough of it. 
This doulogy from N. E. Davenport is one you absolutely truly DO NOT want to sleep on. Pre Order this book today, do not wait! Go! NOW!
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I really enjoyed this book…the characters were well described and portrayed really well. The plot kept me reading..and very invested..this will definitely be a story I will be telling people about:
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Gosh, this book is phenomenal! The Blood Trials is an intense fantasy melding political machinations and magic with a side of a murder mystery. It also touches on misogyny, racism, and other ways the patriarchy and patriarchal communities perpetrate harm.

Ikenna is nineteen and her grandfather, who was her father figure, died suddenly three months ago. In that time she has been getting drunk, getting into fights, and shirking her education in her grief. The night before commencement she learns that her grandfather was murdered and is told the main suspect is Reed, who will be one of the Praetorians overseeing her class’s attempt to become Praetorians. She had originally intended to not pledge Praetorian after the death of her grandfather, but at that news she realizes becoming Praetorian is the only way she’ll have the protection and political backing to seek her vengeance. What follows is intense trials where she and her classmates consistently face death in order to become elite soldiers of the Republic.

This was such a phenomenal read and I couldn’t stand putting it down for long stretches of time because I needed to know who killed Verne and see who would survive the trials. I loved the way politics and magic and history of the world were so intricately woven into the story, and the ways history was revealed in context of story rather than dumping information (not that I’m adverse to info-dumping, but do want to note that that is not how information is relayed in The Blood Trials). I also loved how Ikenna challenged the misogyny and racism of the Republic while trying to get to a place where she could bring about changes.

This book was all around a fantastic read that I got absolutely sucked into and recommend wholeheartedly for those who love fantasies with plenty of political maneuvering and intense fights and attempts of survival.
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