Indie Advent Day 13: Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire
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The story was a fresh enough take on bloodsuckers to keep my interest, and I became completely invested in Asagi’s journey.
Asagi identifies neither as male nor female but treads a “sliding scale between masculine and feminine” (Chapter 20, “Arrangements”). A household slave and someone with male anatomy, who presents as female, Asagi has been the victim of assault and abuse. When she and a child named Tsukito are sold to a new, monstrous master with an eye for young boys, Asagi throws herself between the man and the child she has come to love like a son, taking the abuse to spare the child. This is noticed by one of her master’s guests, who ‘rescues’ her from the brutal position by purchasing her service after she is badly injured.
The new household is nothing like the old one—the servants are happy, well-fed, and devoted to their master. Mahiro is kind and generous and expects nothing from Asagi but her company. Too good to be true, she thinks, and she is right: Mahiro is a Youkai, a supernatural being who feeds on blood. There is a fine line between human and monster—so delicate that Asagi finds herself coming to care for Mahiro, but misunderstandings, jealousy, and an act of desperation soon drag Asagi across that line. Her life will never be the same.
This story was completely enjoyable, and each character is painted in fine detail. It employs many well-used vampire tropes, but the imperial Japanese setting and the wonderful characters make them seem new. It was a quick read and there are more books in the Youkai Bloodlines vein (pun intended) to sink your teeth into.