A year ago I recommended Exquisite Captive. Earlier this month, the sequel, Blood Passage, was released, and I positively devoured it. It picks up where Exquisite Captive left off. Nalia is now free of Malek’s enslavement, but still bound by his third wish – which just so happens to conflict with Raif’s, and Nalia’s, goals.
Malek receives more character development in this book, even getting his own POV scenes. I was a little trepidatious about this, as it seemed to be setting him up as a more sympathetic character and potential love interest for Nalia. However, though there are aspects of his character development that make him seem more sympathetic, for instance his realisation that Nalia could never love him because of how he’s treated her, these are balanced out by aspects that make him even less sympathetic than he was in Exquisite Captive, like his determination to win her love by any means necessary regardless. The fact that Nalia does not wholly hate him says far more about her compassion and capacity for forgiveness, two traits not shared by her predecessors amongst the Ghan Aisouri. Nalia may forgive her former master, but the narrative does not.
In fact, one of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the main characters’ relationships. There’s a fair bit of angst, but the good, page-turning, heart-wrenching kind, not the bad, eye-rolling, irritating kind. The characters’ feelings all make sense given their personalities, and force them to make choices, sometimes difficult ones.
The scale of this book is much vaster than Exquisite Captive, which, while it provided some background on the djinn and the rebellion in Arjinna, was mostly focussed on Nalia’s personal crisis. The core of the novel was about her struggle to free herself from Malek. Due to the wish she is bound to at the end of Exquisite Captive, Malek remains a major figure in Blood Passage, and as a result the conflict between them remains a significant part of the story. However, it’s tied into a much wider storyline that has repercussions for all of Arjinnia, and we get our first present-day look at the Ifrit and their empress who now reign over Arjinnia. It is, in this sense, the dreaded ‘middle book’ done right, providing the perfect bridge between the small-scale intimacy of the first book and the wide-scale political reform and revolution that I imagine will form the core of the third (and, I believe, final) installment.
Blood Passage forms the perfect sequel to Exquisite Captive, continuing on the storylines and character development begun in the first book while driving up the stakes and widening the world building. I can’t wait for book 3!
Nicola could quite happily spend an entire day reading – provided there was plenty of tea, of course.