Fantasy Young Adult

Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao

I loved Blood Heir and was very, very surprised to be granted access to a copy of its sequel, Red Tigress by NetGalley and the publisher, so a big, huge thanks to them for letting me read it!

Anyway, Morganya has taken over Cyrilia and things have changed up for Affinites – now they are protected by Morganya’s regime, but unfortunately, are still exploited by both Morganya and others.

Rumors start to swirl that Morganya is after an artifact that can bestow Affinities on ordinary people. Ana looks for her friend Yuri, who has started an organization against Morganya called the Red Cloaks, because she needs allies if she’s going to take the throne back from Morganya. Unfortunately, Yuri and his organization is strictly against monarchies of any sort, and his envoy not only turns her down flat, but ends up stabbing her and leaving her for dead.

Meanwhile, Ramson wants to settle an old score, and has also heard that the trafficking of Affinites has not ended. He and Ana do end up reuniting and eventually travel to his home country of Bregon, where the vast majority of the story takes place.

We meet some new characters – Kais, the yaeger responsible for May’s fate, happens to be the son of Samaira, the Affinite who can see the future. He is a very interesting, and conflicted character who Ana is resistant to at first, for obvious and understandable reasons. But she comes around, and he helps her master her affinity. Before, like many Cyrliians, her use of her Affinity was wild and unrefined (unlike the Kemeirans, Linn’s people, who learn to wield their Affinities in childhood).

Then there’s Ramson’s half-sister Sorsha, the “legitimate” sibling, and has been used in experiments by her father, of which has basically driven her mad with vengeance.  You feel a tinge of sympathy for her, given what she’s been put through by her father who never showed her any actual love, but not too much…after all, she could have chosen a different path, and didn’t.

That’s an important part of the second half of the novel – even when it seems that you do not have choices, (Ana even goes so far as to believe that choices are a luxury), you do.  Kais, the yaeger, is faced with a choice.  So does Ramson, so does Linn, so did the head scholar that offered Ana some valuable information after initially hesitating to do so.  But Sorsha chooses wrong, sadly.

I also must make a brief mention of the King of Bregon, a young boy who finds himself surrounded by people, including Ramson’s father the admiral, who will do anything for power. He’s actually a pretty smart kid, though.

There are some twists and turns and betrayals that while won’t be terribly surprising, are interesting anyway. We also see the departure of two antagonists we originally met in the first novel, neatly wrapping up those storylines, but of course, there’s still the threat in the form of crazy Sorsha and her alliance with Morganya.

I have to mention this next bit, and I consider it to be a big spoiler, so here’s a fair warning.

Anyway, in the final battle, long after Ana and her crew discover what the artifact is and what it does and who created it, Sorsha uses it to drain Ana of her affinity. The artifact, created by Alaric Kerlan, is a bracelet made of searock. It robs the Affinite of their power and bestows it upon the wielder of the artifact. Sorsha has been driven mad by her father’s experiments on her, of which were to help him use the artifact for his own gains, so Sorsha herself is basically chock-full of random Affinities. She’s the only one to survive being bestowed an Affinity.

Sadly, the story ends with Ana still lacking her affinity, but of course, she realizes that she is not defined by it, just as she was not defined by her royal title.

Once Ana secures an alliance with Bregon, everybody splits up for various reasons and at least one alliance is shattered, leaving us waiting for the final chapter. This alliance, of course, is the one with Yuri and his Red Cloaks, who, in the end, decide that even Ana has to go, because the people ought to rule themselves. This is actually brought up near the beginning of the story, but, unfortunately, is kind of dropped once Ana and the others travel to Bregon to find the artifact and win an alliance with the kingdom. I hope it will become a significant part of the third and final installment, Crimson Reign. Will Ana get her Affinity back? Will she regain the throne? Will she even want to in the end? We won’t know until spring of 2022.

It’s no surprise that I liked this one too, and spring of next year feels a long way away, especially since this book hasn’t been released yet. It is due to be released on March 2, 2021.

Once again, I’d like to thank Delacorte Press and NetGalley for letting me read this novel. I cannot wait to read the final installment.

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