Full disclosure upfront: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It will be a largely spoiler free review, and I hope you enjoy! You can find the corresponding YouTube video here.
BloodBound, book 1 in the Ace Assassin series, by Kaija Rayne, who also goes by Kaelan Rhywiol, is a Welsh lore focused adult paranormal and urban fantasy romance featuring an asexual/demisexual and polyamorous protagonist with steamy romance and otherworldly mystique. The main character, Rhian, is a shapeshifter known as a pwca, who is given a job by her god to go from their magical realm to Earth where she’s charged with being his ambassador and solving a murderer. She has to do this while struggling with the feelings she has for her husband, whom she had been avoiding for three hundred years.
Some wording in the writing style could be fine-tuned to make the meaning clearer, especially in the beginning. The voice felt a little disjointed, then gets into a better rhythm further on. Yet, I think the disjointedness and distinct voice is part of the charm. It felt real, authentic, a little different from cookie cutter voices in many books. There were also times when it was lyrical and beautiful, like poetry in prose form in a way that makes you really feel the fantasy of the world. I feel like the voice will be a hit-or-miss style with most readers. For me, it was mostly a hit after I got past the start of the book.
The worldbuilding was beautiful, fantastical. I love the pixies, the pwca, the fresh take on vampires as a part of Welsh mythology. Love the Welsh lore. I love that the author doesn’t shy away from using Welsh language, which is a difficult language to newcomers. It’s absolutely beautiful. Xie does a fantastic job of incorporating it into xyr worldbuilding and making me want to know all about the fantasy and paranormal side of the story.
I like the shapeshifting and the confidence the main character Rhian has… but the inner voice did start to get to me about halfway through the book. She has a very ‘woe is me, why must I be so hot’ attitude towards herself in regards to people finding her attractive when she’s on the asexual spectrum and not interested in the people looking at her. Which I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t brought up so often. A few times is fine. But it got to a point where it felt like it was every other page, and all the other characters were always talking about how hot she is too. I get it, Rhian, you’re hot. Just appreciate the aesthetic beauty of your own butt and move on instead of moaning about what a burden it is to be so hot. It made me think of when rich people complain they don’t have anything they want to spend their fortunes on. The rest of us with rent or mortgages just kinda glare and say, “Gee, what a problem to have. If only I had such a problem.” The same goes with her repetitiveness about how she’s just not that into casual sex, or how she wishes she could be because her best friend Meg is so hot. I don’t mind hearing it a few times to drive home the point, as I understand that to many people the asexual spectrum is a new concept, but it’s practically a mantra. I like attractive characters. I like exploring sexuality. There just needs to be more than that mattering to a character’s personality and interactions. While there is more to Rhian, I felt like the rest of her personality didn’t matter as much in comparison and was overshadowed by her hotness and asexuality, for better or for worse.
The main plot of this book is the romance between the main character Rhian and the husband she’s avoided for three hundred years out of fear that him becoming a vampire would change him too much, in which it did a good job of gripping me. I absolutely wanted to know everything about their romance, their history, and their chemistry. But there’s also a murder that Rhian is supposed to be solving which I didn’t feel the need to care about. The murder didn’t seem to be more than a nuisance to Rhian, and I would have liked if the murder victim had been someone close to her to give it more stakes. Honestly, you could take out the murder plot and the story wouldn’t lose anything, and I think that would make it easier to focus on what matters.
And that brings me to the romance – oh goodness, yes. Yes, yes, yes please. There’s a sweetness and a roughness to the romance between Rhian and her husband, Kai, that’s a lovely representation of healthy kink and I just ate it up. There’s rough sex, there’s some kink, there’s vampire bites with teeth, blood exchanging. There’s also BDSM elements built into the world, with details like the collar Rhian wears in honor of her god, and the protocol position of submission sitting with her palms up as she kneels, that I appreciated a lot. It was all right up my alley and if any of that sounds fun to you, I would recommend you get this book.
I like a lot about the relationships overall in this book. There’s polyamory portrayed very nicely, and I like the progression of Rhian and Kai’s relationship as they try to find what they had while also learning what’s new about each other. Overall, the relationships are healthy, with that little lapse in communication leading to a three-hundred-year dry spell, but that’s easy enough to overlook given the circumstances that led to it. There is a point dealing with some jealousy that happens in some polyamorous relationships, but I feel like there was good Twilight Pineapple use to call it out as unhealthy in the characters’ reaction to it (can’t give too many details here to avoid spoilers) and it didn’t make me like any of the characters less while also fitting the plot well.
I would rate Bloodbound the following, with 5 being the max:
⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style: 3/5 The disjointedness I felt at the beginning was a little off putting, if unique. The prose was beautiful in a lot of places and drew me into the fantasy world.
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the characters. I like the love interest Kai a lot, and I like the history between the main character Rhian and Kai, but I just didn’t like Rhian due to her constant complaining of how beautiful she is.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the worldbuilding. The author created a beautiful world, full of amazing creatures and beings, and all I want is to know more and more. The descriptions are lovely, the mythology is amazing. No notes. Chef’s kiss.
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the plot. Positive points because the romance being the plot was very good, and I was absolutely engaged in anything to do with that, wanting to read the next page. But I feel the need to take off a few points because the murder mystery was almost annoying and felt like an after-thought. The overall plot could have done without it completely and not suffered.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the romance. Loved it. The romance is what pulled me through this book, and I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted more of the romance.
🩺🩺🩺🩺🩺 5/5 for the health of the relationships. Overall, the relationships and presentation of polyamory and kink were very healthy, with anything unhealthy getting acknowledged as such so that the author isn’t advocating for something negative. There’s consent and there’s pleasure. Excellently done.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ In total, I would rate Bloodbound a 4 out of 5. I would heavily recommend it to anyone looking for a different take on vampires, an exploration of Welsh mythology, and a gripping romance with very sexy elements. It’s featuring of asexuality and polyamory is also a great draw!
🔥🔥🔥🔥 For the heat level, which I do not factor into the grade, I would give this a 3/5 bordering on a 4/5. It’s not full blown erotica. However it is very far from fade to black, and more than just some light descriptions. Sex scenes last a few pages, and I would say they’re very heavily influenced by what can be described in film terms as the “female gaze”, focusing on the pleasure of the characters. It was honestly a really great balance and enjoyable to read.
Thanks for reading!
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