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Book Review

'Blood and Steel' Is a Kindle Unlimited Must-Read for Fantasy Romance Fans

In Helen Scheuerer’s new fantasy world, men and women fought side-by-side for centuries to protect their Kingdoms, until a young girl with a steel blade brought an ancient prophecy to new light. On the night the prophecy was triggered, the women of the Guild were forced to hand over their weapons and accept new roles within the Kingdom, as alchemists, maids or cooks. And years later, a young orphan named Thea wants to make something of herself - but not as an alchemist, like her gifted twin sister, Wren. She wants to be a Warsword - one of the most powerful and elite warriors in the Kingdom. Before the Fates come for her on her 27th birthday, she needs to convince the Guild members to let her fight alongside them. Times are changing; more and more monsters are making it through the Veil. If there was ever a time or a person to change their laws for, the time is now…and that person is Thea. 

What I Liked about “Blood and Steel”

I had a blast reading this book. There is action, romance, adventure, and friendship. Here are a few things I really liked. 

Thea’s Femininity is not overlooked. 

The FMC was fierce and courageous, but the author does not skim over her limitations. She creates believable struggles and solutions, and I liked watching her find her place in a group of men without glossing over certain struggles that all women face. While we may not have the strength that men have, we can still defend ourselves. We can still fight for what we believe in. And we do not have to take no for an answer. 

Fans of Divergent will love Wilder Hawthorne.

Thea and Hawthorne’s dynamic throughout the book is interesting. At times, I did not understand what was holding them back - firm in their own ways. It reminded me of the relationship between Tris and Four in Divergent, where he was forced to train her fiercely to protect her, not able to give into his feelings for fear that it would put her in danger. In Blood and Steel, Thea and Hawthorne have a very similar dynamic. I love fantasy romance relationships where each character is strong in their own right, and they fight together for what they believe in. The relationship between Thea and Hawthorne is built on respect, and though he is her superior, he allows her to fight her own battles and stands beside her as she makes a name for herself within the Guild. One of my favorite quotes from the book highlights this, coming from Thea’s sister, Wren:

“A true man won’t cut you down as you fight your battles, nor will he fight them for you. A true man will sharpen your sword, guard you back and fight at your side, in the face of whatever darkness comes” (pg 25).

Friendship is often more important than love. 

In the beginning of the book, Thea was ultimately focused on herself. She wanted to make a name for herself; she wanted to become a Warsword before the Fates came for her at 27; she wanted to fight; she did not want to be an alchemist. But as she trains with the Shieldbarers, Hawthorne gives her a piece of advice that helps change her mentality. 

“You will need friends in this fortress, you will need a team. You need to learn to tend to wounds. You’ll have plenty of them. As will your friends. So if not for your own sake, learn for theirs" (pg 291).

Thea takes a step back and realizes that, while her sister and her Alchemist friends are not fighting on the front lines, they have skills and information that can help keep her and the other Guild members safe on the front lines. And even within the Guild, she learns that she can’t make it through alone. She needs to work together with her peers as a team, leaning on each other to stay alive and reach the finish line - whatever that may be. 

Throughout the book, we see Thea putting her friends before herself and her relationship with Hawthorne. Though he is extremely powerful, her Alchemist friends, the other Shieldbarers and sister save her time and time again, showing that friendship is often more important than love - or reaching your own goals. 

What I Would Have Done Differently

Though I really enjoyed the book, there were some aspects that felt overlooked and underdeveloped. Here’s what I would have done differently, and hope to see changed in book 2. 

Frustrating and underdeveloped worldbuilding.

I know that this is the first book in the series, but I think we were left to infer too much about the monsters and the Kingdom’s involvement. We were thrown into Thea’s story, passionate about joining the Guild and fighting for her Kingdom, without really understanding what the Guild is fighting in the first place. I was expecting to get more background information throughout the book, but even during one of the most emotional and cinematic scenes during the book when Thea and the other Guild members rush to stop the monsters closing in on Thezmarr, we’re thrown into the thick of battle without understanding why people were so willing to put their lives on the line for their Kingdom in the first place. That scene would have been so much more powerful if we understood the history of the Kingdom’s pain before witnessing the sacrifice of its warriors. 

Too many cliched romantic plot devices.

Especially on #booktok, readers love to reminisce on their favorite scenes where the hero looks at the heroine and mutters those five famous words: “Who. Did. This. To. You?” But after reading countless romance and fantasy books that use the exact same plot device, it becomes a bit tiring. 

Throughout Blood and Steel, Helen Helen Scheuerer focuses a little too much on giving the readers what they want instead of creating a romance that stands on its own. Some scenes between Thea and Hawthorne feel like a cheap copy and paste, such as the scenes where they are forced to sleep close to conserve warmth. Or when he miraculously finds her beaten and bruised in a coat closet. 

It became hard to imagine Thea and Hawthrones relationship individually instead of comparing it to the hundred of characters we’ve read in other stories. Especially when I couldn’t understand why they were making the choices they were. Some of their conversations left me confused; it almost seemed like there were conversations or emotions the author and characters knew, of which I (the reader) was deprived. It created a frustration that took away from the experience of the novel as you dissected the romantic timeline and motivations instead of enjoying the scene. 

Keep in mind, this may not bother you as much as me. I read this book looking for something fun, adventurous and captivating, and there are so many great aspects of the story that the romantic cliches and gaps aren’t enough to stop me from recommending this to you all. 

I needed something more at the end.

I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but here’s what I will say. The revelation at the end was somewhat anticlimactic. Did we even get any backstory on it? I felt like it was supposed to be more of a shocking revelation, but instead, I just said…”okay?” I’m sure we’ll get more in book two, but I’m worried that early readers will feel enough of a pull to come back for the second installment. When you’re writing a fantasy series, the debut novel needs to end with a bang, not with a whispered revelation. 

And I have to say it. When Hawthorn said “irrevocably” in the last line, I was immediately thrown into the Twilight zone. That’s a pun, because I mean it was essentially a Stephanie Meyers rip-off, and I know that Scheuerer can do better than that. 

Final Thoughts

I have to say, Blood and Steel got me out of a minor fantasy romance reading slump. The genre can become tired and drab if you try to read back-to-back titles, but this story just felt different. There are no damsels in distress, no jealous and possessive dark princes, and the side characters provide a breath of fresh air in a genre that focuses so heavily on romantic relationships. The concept is feminist at its core, and I appreciate Scheuerer’s angle on what it means to have women in power. I look forward to continuing the series with book two, Vows & Ruins, which comes out September 21, 2023. If you haven’t started the series, I think it’s worth a try. 


Ready to read? Get the book today!

Blood & Steel

Helen Scheuerer

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