Greythorne, the sequel to Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith, is a series of puzzling decisions that at once improve the series and wildly shift its previous intent. In this second novel, Aurelia’s world is suffocating from political and socioeconomic strife, and understanding her magic might be the only way to save it.
Smith’s writing style is very clear and persuasive and kept me reading even when uninterested in the characters. I enjoyed some of her turns of phrase, such as when she described the names of the Canary girls as “glittering jewels dripping through your fingers” or something to that effect.
The plot is hazy in the beginning, to say the least, which we’ll get to, but it gets interesting by the end. There were many twists and new insights that fleshed out the world a little more each time. In the last half or so of the story, I’d definitely say this is Greythorne’s strongest attribute. The magic is blood-based, which is cool because blood, and it was nice that it played a large role in the plot.
Compared to Bloodleaf, some side characters got more time in the limelight and turned out to be very interesting characters on their own. I actually ended up liking plenty of the characters, such as Onal and Kellan. Aurelia herself is a very believable character, and a decent, if basic protagonist. I appreciated her screw-ups, considering she’s a teenager, and we do dumb shit sometimes. That being said, there were a bunch of characters that I couldn’t have cared less about, such as the yawn-inducing Arceneaux, so I wouldn’t consider this the strongest point of the novel.
I also appreciate the bits about the Achlevan refugees, and the treatment they received from the townspeople. Nothing about this is groundbreaking, but I must give credit where credit is due.
The amount of character death/resurrection in this entire series is hard to take seriously.
There are no stakes because if someone dies there’s probably a way to get them back and it’s difficult to care much about most of the side characters in general, so there’s no reason to mourn their deaths. I leave it in “meh” because the magic system, which I don’t dislike, plays a role in why and how some folks’ deaths aren’t permanent.
A personal pet peeve that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading the book is that the “feminism” in this book was so painfully surface-level and obvious. Not that obvious feminism isn’t great, but the writing of this aspect of the novel itself felt like a marketing ploy. Also, there’s a disconnect between that message and the actual content of the story, though to be fair this was more prevalent in Bloodleaf than in Greythorne. While I understand that the Ye Olde Times are basically peak patriarchy, it’s a very easy trope to subvert, and this was not done; at least not to the level I expected.
Throughout the first third of the book, I was left utterly confused and wondering if I’d really forgotten the last quarter of Bloodleaf. The time jump is massive and unnecessary, as we moved slowly enough through Greythorne that it could have been shortened so we could actually experience some of those events rather than see the aftermath and be expected to feel something. So much happened during the skip that had a massive effect on the characters and changed their relationships drastically, which can leave readers feeling off-kilter. It absolutely killed this book for me.
While I thought Zan and Aurelia’s relationship dynamics were actually pretty believable in this book, we didn’t get to see the trials they went through together in the prior months, so I once again didn’t care about their relationship at all. There was no reason to root for them or think they were a good match or anything of the sort, and we barely get to see them on the page together anyways. If any part of this book was meant to make the reader more invested in their relationship, I can’t say that it worked.
It causes me to recall how it’s been said that queer relationships (or minorities, in general, to be fair) on TV are only added in for diversity points, and thus invalid. I’m pleased to reveal that this is absolute unadulterated peak heteronormative bullshit considering that there are a gazillion (creative license) cishet relationships out in the entertainment-verse that are just like our friends Zan and Aurelia. Couples who are fine separately, but utterly uncompelling in their unholy matrimony. And they’re the main characters! On that note, as far as I can tell, the only gay character in this book is eventually buried, which we love to see.
I get it; everyone’s fair game, but am I tripping, or did she lowkey come out to Aurelia right before her death? Do we truly deserve this in the trash-inside-the-defunct-trash-compactor-that’s-on-fire year that is 2020?
In conclusion, I was not a fan, but I did enjoy Greythorne more so than Bloodleaf, so if you were disappointed by the first but wanted to give the sequel a try, I’d say go for it. Please note, however, that if you don’t remember all the events of Bloodleaf, you’re going to need to reread it first.