Title: Bloodlaced (Youkai Bloodlines #1) // Author: Courtney Maguire
Date of publication: September 29th, 2020 // Print length: ebook, 314 pages
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Kanjin hardly view their servants as human. Even less so when they are different.
Asagi is different. Both a man and a woman.
In the wake of his failure to protect a boy he saw as a son from their abusive master, Asagi is sold into the house of a young nobleman, Mahiro, who is the opposite of everything Asagi has ever known—gentle, kind, and generous.
Mahiro bonds with Asagi and their friendship blooms into a deep and profound love. But when Asagi is poisoned out of jealousy, Mahiro reveals himself to be youkai, a demon who feeds on blood, and he has no choice but to turn Asagi to save their life.
Asagi awakes reborn, strong, and eternally youthful. But the price for Asagi’s new life is high.
The blood of the innocent. Just as Asagi’s trust in Mahiro falters, the boy he failed to protect, now a man, reappears.
New master, same threat.
With both a literal and proverbial monster at the door, Asagi must decide what it means to be human to protect what they love most.
Writing Quality 6/5, Character Development 6/5, ‘Couldn’t put it down’ – ness 6/5, Intellectual Depth 6/5, Diversity 6/5, Originality 6/5, Overall 6/5.
Content Warnings: physical abuse, sexual abuse (off-page), self-harm, blood, graphic violence
When I chose to read this book, I had no idea what was coming for me. I was intrigued by the premise that the main character, Asagi, was both a male and a female, and decided to give it a try. By the time I reached the end, this novel had wrapped itself around my heart and did not let go. I was devastated, and I do not lie when I say I cried for days after finishing the novel!
I was young, so much younger than him, when I learned to stop fighting.
Please, I silently pleaded, don’t let him be like me. Let he remain a child a little longer.
The novel itself started as grabbing. The first chapter was entitled ‘A Boy or A Girl?’, and this is when Asagi and Tsukito were introduced. These two were newly bought by a master, and at that moment, Asagi and Tsukito created a bond that was about to last forever. Tsukito was a little boy, and Asagi took the responsibility to look after him. They called themselves the mother of the child. In that house, things got dark, and no matter how much Asagi tried to protect his youth, they had no power against Kanjin.
He’d tried to weaken me, but instead, he’d created something androgynous and otherworldly. Something he couldn’t touch.’
When they were working for Kanjin, Asagi was often beaten and abused. Yutaka was the man who used to do the dirty work, and even if the violent scenes were quite graphic, they weren’t as bad as what came after. Yutaka had no desire to hurt Asagi, so when he came to apologise, something broke into my heart. You could see how broken both of these people were, and by reading, I could feel their pain in my chest. I can’t explain into words how emotional this book made me! Eventually, Asagi is bought by a new master named Mahiro. Tsukito is left behind, and Asagi suffers greatly after him. Despite the pain he feels, a new era starts for Asagi.
Are you a man or a woman?’ She asked, her nose millimeters away from mine. The same question I’d be asked a million times before. I only ever had one answer.
‘I am Asagi.’
Mahiro was nothing like Kanjin; instead of being cruel, mean and overall an evil person, Mahiro was everything Asagi ever wanted. He took care of them, despite they being a servant. He treated Asagi with kindness, but Mahiro couldn’t understand the trauma they experienced. That created a wall between them, and it was painful to watch it form. As Bob/Sally said in their review: This is often a very dark tale, but that darkness comes from humanity, not the supernatural. At that point, the supernatural wasn’t yet introduced, so the story becomes even more tragic when you think about it. Unlike the first part, here we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope Asagi would have a better life. Mahiro gifted Asagi two new kimono, one being constructed for a female, and the other for a man.
To me, they were so much more than kimono. They were a symbol of understanding and acceptance.
Mahiro and Asagi clicked, and soon, they became lovers. Even if I was fond of their relationship, there was something that never sat right with me. Mahiro still owned Asagi, and whatever could happen, he was able to throw that into Asagi’s face. Even if the tension between the two couldn’t be felt in the beginning, it would become a significative plot point later into the book. That makes their relationship complicated and layered. Mahiro never understood Asagi’s love for Tsukito, and it creates a barrier. That, and still being a slave in fancy clothes, would make them rebel.
I’d always viewed women as the stronger sex, and I wore my femininity like a shield, but she put me to shame. I wanted the woman in me to be like her.
The book becomes more tragic as the pages turn, and by the time you reach the end, you would be devastated. Courtney knows how to write a grabbing story, and you won’t forget her, nor Asagi, for some time
In so many ways, […] has succeeded in killing me that day, and even though my heart glowed at the sight of him, it was yet another reminder of what he had stolen from me.
The enchanted feel of the book was reinforced by the Japanese elements. There was quite a lot of research put into the book, and while reading, you could imagine yourself in Japan 1600. There was a glossary at the end of the book with all the foreign words. All of the chapters had names and heading images. They were dragons! I loved that!
I had no choice. The choice had been made for me, and while I didn’t want to die, living suddenly felt like a terrible, irreversible mistake.
Overall, Bloodlaced was one of the few novels, which made me feel so much while reading. It was like I was watching the most tragic movie, playing an action-packed game, while every image and scene was playing in my head. I loved this book with all my heart, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It has diversity, it is well-written, and the cover is beautiful. Be mindful; the book is violent and sad. If you experienced traumatic incidents in the past, this might trigger the painful memory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.