- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager (3 October 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062459198
- ISBN-13: 978-0062459190
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.6 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 259 g
- Customer Reviews: 29 customer ratings
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The Bloodprint: Book One of the Khorasan Archives Paperback – 3 October 2017
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"Khan's latest is a tale that will grip readers from the start. With beautiful, vibrant storytelling...Khan's first installment in her new fantasy series is truly remarkable."--RT Book Reviews
"For fans of complex fantasy series with a girl-power theme."--Booklist
"The Bloodprint is extraordinary. The book is wonderfully written; its poetic prose and mix of history, faith, and adventure reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic Odyssey...this time with a pair of women warriors at the helm."--S.A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass
"The Bloodprint is somewhere between N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin. You're going to love it."--Saladin Ahmed, author of Throne of the Crescent Moon
From the Back Cover
A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination--a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.
But there are those who fight the Talisman's spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim--the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her fellow warrior, Sinnia, skilled fighters who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy's oppressive ways. Now they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: the Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.
Finding the Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies--a loyal boy they freed from slavery and a man that used to be both Arian's confidant and sword master--Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.
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Top international reviews
The novel has very strong feminist themes which are hammered home with a lack of subtlety. And yet much is made of the beauty of female lead character Arian - so much so that all the men in it fall in love with her. This seemed to undermine the message that women had more to offer or rely upon than just their looks. Why couldn't she have been average looking, or her looks simply never referred to?
The characters in the book do have potential, but I never really felt close to them. I struggled to 'get into' the book and understand it's underlying fantasy concepts, which were not well explained. It felt like too much of a whirlwind with one set of characters/objects/concepts introduced and dispatched too quickly before the questors had moved on to the next set. The effect was a story that felt rushed and that I lacked investment in. I grew fed up of feeling confused and in the dark.
In terms of plot, it's pretty standard fantasy stuff. An evil force rules the land. A small band of magic wielding heroes from a secret order tries to resist. A band of companions sets out to find a mysterious object, first crossing all manner of dangerous terrain inhabited by strange and/or dangerous peoples. Of course, the object is hidden in the most dangerous and well guarded place possible. I saw the twist at the end coming a mile off.
It's not terrible - I did find it quite gripping towards the end and I did feel some affinity for the characters and the central love story. But it could have been a lot better and I probably won't bother with the rest of the books in the series.
‘The Bloodprint’ is a complicated read as it refers to numerous peoples and places in complex language using unfamiliar names and titles. A degree of help is provided via a ‘Glossary’ and a ‘Cast of Characters’, but author Ausma Zehanat Khan is aware of difficulties as hinted in ‘Acknowledgements’ with reference to conflicts over which realities are possible and which are only imaginary. With a PhD in International Human Rights Law Khan displayed her advocacy talents and received awards for ‘The Unquiet Dead’ which is procedural and well-reasoned. Her ethnic background and career with magazine ‘Muslim Girl’ is reflected in ‘The Bloodprint’ but narrative is fantasy based which allows it to be less logical and leads to episodic treatment.
The resultant somewhat disjointed approach makes for an uneven and staccato read with characters blundering from one escapade to another and getting away with reliance on supernatural powers, or intriguing debates over controlling powers and who was friend and who was foe, with searching for clues and solving puzzles. However swashbuckling and gripping this may be for each adventurous episode, or for exposing conflict, the need for actuality is undermined and ‘The Bloodprint’ separates into a series of stories – and it sets up a sequel.
There is little point in continuing this review with a synopsis as so much is piecemeal – sufficient to state ‘The Bloodprint’ is average at best – hence 3-star rating.
The tale is set in a rebadged Mesopotamia/Persia where the Osama bin Laden leads the Taliban (oops sorry, I mean "One-eyed preacher" leads the Talisman) on a destructive rampage across the region: burning books, enslaving women, ... you get the picture. A couple of bastions of sanity remain, the city of Hira whence our heroine Arian comes, from a sort of Bene Gesserit society of power wielding women, and a group of, oddly, expert horse-riders from a high mountainous region.
There are basically two types of character in this story: the unerringly virtuous and the unrepentantly evil, which also, suspiciously has a near one to one correspondence with women and men respectively.
This is the first in a trilogy, but it's not self-contained and ends abruptly; however I can't muster sufficient interest to care.
Despite the efforts of the Companions of Hira and Daniyar (a man known as the Silver Mage who protects a book called the Candour and who has a history with Arian), the Talisman are taking more and more territory so that even the Companions’ Citadel is at risk. Ilea, the High Companion (leader) has entered into a dangerous alliance with Rukh, the Black Khan who offers the Companion hope: proof of the existence of a legendary document called the Bloodprint, which contains a fragment of the Claim that none have previously seen and which they think can help rally the people against Talisman oppression.
Arian and Sinnia accept a quest to recover the Bloodprint, accompanied by Wafa (a young boy rescued by Arian from the slave gangs) and Daniyar but doing so means heading both into the Talisman heartlands and into the Plague Lands, from where no one returns …
Ausma Zehanat Khan’s fantasy novel (the first in a series) has a lot of potential with its parallels to the rise of Daesh/the Taliban but degenerates into a frustrating and disappointing affair with shallow world building that often lacks explanation and context and although the main characters are female, they are shallowly drawn, hopelessly gullible and prone to being captured purely so that they can be rescued by male characters.
I’d really wanted to like this book because it’s specifically structured around the notion of a patriarchy specifically dedicated to oppressing women with the two main female characters being part of a group that’s trying to resist it and there’s an interesting hint at the tension and power tug going on between Arian and Ilea. I also liked the religious ideas in play here (especially as there are allusions to Islam and the power of literacy and the written word) and the central Asian/middle eastern setting, which offers some intriguing world building possibilities – especially Khan’s reference to tribes and tribal loyalties.
The main problem is that Arian is such a flat, dull and gullible character that I found it very difficult to empathise with her or her plight. To begin with, she’s taken 10 years trying to discover where women are being sold to only to come up with nothing (and she ends up being told by a man, which indicates she’s failed to look for people sufficiently high enough in the Talisman to ask, which is pretty basic), she runs headlong into bad situations without thinking through the consequences and is breathtakingly gullible around men. By the end of the book I had little idea of what being the First Oralist meant, how the Claim works or what the Companions of Hira are set up to do and how they operate and while I don’t need everything spelled out in small words, Khan’s choice here not to be more explicit about certain elements made it difficult for me to fully engage with the world she’s created.
There’s a tedious will-they-won’t-they romance between Arian and Daniyar that I really didn’t care about (in part because Daniyar is also thinly characterised). I wanted to know more about Daniyar’s role as Silver Mage and what the Candour meant but that doesn’t come and while there are hints at his having trained Arian in fighting techniques it’s not clear why or whether this is normal or not and there definitely isn’t enough there to explain their supposed epic love for each other. Khan’s melodramatic writing style doesn’t help here with Arian constantly fighting her feelings and the tide of emotion in a way that made me roll my eyes (although that’s very much a personal thing).
The biggest disappointment though comes with Sinnia, Arian’s companion who again has a lot of potential given that she’s the only black character in the book (something that’s commented on frequently) and who has been deliberately placed with Arian by Ilea. Unfortunately, Sinnia has nothing to do other than stand loyally by Arian for reasons that Khan never goes into and the only conflict that arises between the two is when Sinnia gets jealous of Arian for getting the attention of a man Sinnia fancies (this is one of those books where all the male characters fancy Arian). This reduces Sinnia to little more than a token black sidekick, which made me uncomfortable – as did Sinnia’s eventual fate in the book, which was a little too on the nose for me.
Ultimately there just wasn’t enough here for me to care about enough to want to read the sequel and I’m in two minds about whether I’d check out Khan’s other work.
rumoured further part of The Claim, which could win the fight with The Talisman forever ...
So far so good, but unfortunately I found the story really hard going. It's usual for this sort of story, which will consist of more than one book, to introduce a lot of characters, but I don't think I've ever seen so many characters introduced so quickly at the start of a book. I read a lot, and am used to complicated stories with lots of characters, but this one just left me dry, and spending so much time trying to remember who was who that I found it very difficult to enjoy the story. This is especially difficult as there are many similar characters, often not likeable, and it's fair to say that I have struggled.
I have now finished the book (after a couple of weeks -- which is a very long time for me to take to read a book), and if anything I feel relief more than anything else. Whilst the story is enjoyable to some extent, I'm really not a fan of the execution, and I find myself not particularly interested in what might come next. I've tried to like it, I really have, but it's just not for me. With apologies to the author, two stars.
It runs for four hundred and twenty five pages and is divided into fifty five chapters.
There are maps of the settings at the start. A cast of characters and a glossary at the back.
It does contain some mild adult moments and violence.
In the world of this story, a dark power called the Talisman has arisen. Led by a one eyed preacher, they are a patriarchy with a terrible attitude to women. And they are spreading.
Among those who resist are Arian and her friend Sinnia. They've spent a long time rescuing women from slavery. But now they might really be able to make a difference. They have a chance to find an ancient text that can change things. A text called the Bloodprint...
This is one of those books that takes a while to settle down and get into. It throws you right into the action and the setting from the off, without introducing anything or anyone. So there's a lot to get used to very quickly.
What helps is the almost total focus on Arian, who is the viewpoint character for nearly all of it. And the fact that there is something interesting about the setting from the off. It's a middle eastern style world with a few Asian elements. So this is a pretty original setting. And the magic system is rather unique as well.
The prose initially intrigues, but it then becomes clear that its a book that you do need to take your time with to really get the most from, and skimming might means you will miss out.
The narrative does send them off on the aforementioned quest in due course, and it's around page one hundred when this does settle down and really click. From then on things do move along well. Although the prose style, as mentioned, does mean there are moments when you could find your attention wandering.
And it does have some obvious real world parallels. But even if they are obvious, it does make them no less thought provoking and interesting. Which they are.
Arian is a likeable enough lead, although perhaps a bit clichéd in some ways. Ultimately though this becomes one of those books that is set up for a series start, because the events of the last thirty or so pages do take it to another level entirely. But these are good developments, which do grab and do show that it has known where it is going all along. And it does end on such a big cliffhanger that it did make me want to know what happens next.
Not a book that will be for all fantasy fans, but for anyone looking for a new series that is a bit different and original, and who are prepared to make an effort, this is worth a go.
The ways that you can see how education can change your life is a good way to express and write the story and a very important point in this moment of our lives, good sociology study. Love the way that they speak about oppression and women in different ways of living. But at some point was so hard for me to keep riding, I don't know maybe the story.
Good size of the letter not difficult to read and understand. Good paper, nice cover.
The book is very readable, and you are swept along with the story. There is an inevitable love interest; which was very romanticised. The political issues between the tribes and peoples of the world created was very well done, as Arian moved between areas controlled by different groups.
Well worth a read
There were just a few things that didn't work for me. First of all we were introduced to a LOT of people from the get go and that is necessary for a big series, but this was a bit overwhelming from the outset. Secondly I was disappointed with our heroines who were not as exciting and gutsy as I would have expected. Thirdly the romance part did not work for me.
There are lots of interesting themes in the book and we get some glimpses of the author's background work within human rights and, I'm guessing, feminism, but it didn't really excite me and too quite a while to get through. I don't think I'll pick up the second in series.
Filled with the ideas and myths of the Middle East, this is brave and original in so many ways. At times, though, the complications of what she is trying to do escape Khan, and the 8-page character-list and glossary at the back is a testament to the work required of the reader.
As the first book of a projected quartet, there is the usual world-building which can slow things down, and the book ends on a cliff-hanger. An uneven, flawed book, but its ambition and conceptional boldness won me over.
But there are so many characters introduced in a short space of time it felt like speed dating in a crowded and noisy train station at rush hour. It got a bit confusing for a while who was was who.
A good book, just not for me.