REVIEW: The Blood Curse by Jessica A. McMinn

Jessica A. McMinn is completely on fire in the explosive second volume of her epic Gardens of War and Wasteland quartet. Darker, grander, richer, and filled with even more delicious emotional turmoil, The Blood Curse is simply everything you could ever wish for in a sequel, and then so much more.

The Blood CurseWith most of the groundwork having been laid in The Ruptured Sky, this sequel just hits the ground running and keeps up a relentlessly captivating pacing the entire way through. McMinn masterfully eases the reader back into the story, immediately reminding us of just how dire the situation has become after all the thrilling events and revelations at the end of book 1. Second book syndrome? We don’t know her; The Blood Curse is a dangerously addictive page turner from start to finish.

Whereas The Ruptured Sky mostly felt like Amika’s story to me, I really enjoyed how this sequel smoothly broadened the scope and struck a more even balance between all these wonderfully compelling POV characters. Not only did I get even more emotionally invested in all my favourite broken babes from book 1, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find some new intriguing side characters to adore in this second instalment. Especially the pirate Emanais stole the show for me, and I now demand a prequel (or maybe an entire spin-off series) about her, thank you very much!

Similarly to Krystle Matar’s Tainted Dominion series, this dark epic fantasy series is just filled with all kinds of deeply flawed, broken, and painfully realistic characters who you simply can’t help but root for. Their morally questionable actions might make you want to strangle them at times (especially looking at you, Kriah), but gosh… if they aren’t just beautifully and tragically human.

And it was not only the individual character growth that made this sequel shine for me, but also the development of all the beautifully complex interpersonal relationships. There were some brutally tragic backstory revelations and heartachingly touching reunions, which made this sequel just an unexpectedly wild emotional rollercoaster. Moreover, The Blood Curse is even more gloriously gay than its predecessor, and we finally got some long overdue and smoking hot steamy action between certain characters that both they and I had been desperately yearning for; and it was even more delicious than I could have hoped for.

Now, I will admit that the plot set-up in The Ruptured Sky wasn’t anything that particularly wowed me, but The Blood Curse really surprised me with some of the dark doors it opened. McMinn cleverly plays around with familiar tropes, such as prophecy, chosen ones, and a rising ancient evil force, and then puts some deviously dark twists on it. Amika’s struggle with the cost of her khe’thorla powers and Rei-Hai’s fight against his dark nature had me especially glued to the page and made this story much more nuanced than I had initially given it credit for.

As in The Ruptured Sky, there were still some plot beats that felt a bit rushed or convenient to me, but nothing to the point that it broke my immersion. McMinn just absolutely nails her vision, delivering a brilliant dark epic fantasy story that is somehow both comfortably familiar and refreshingly unpredictable. Broken chosen ones, enigmatic meddling gods, thrilling demon hunting action, brutally raw mental health representation, exciting seafaring adventure, and bittersweet emotional gut punches, The Blood Curse simply has it all.

If you haven’t yet started the Gardens of War and Wastelands series, I highly recommend getting a taste of all the exquisite beauty and heartbreak this series has to offer with either of the two prequel novellas that McMinn offers for free to her newsletter subscribers; I promise you won’t regret it.

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Blood Curse is scheduled for release on March 30, 2024.

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Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay Rosalyne is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.