Hierarchy of Blood
Independently Published (2023)
ISBN Number: 979-8842437535
Reviewed by Terri Stepek for Reader Views (01/2023)
There should be a warning label on the cover of this book. Something like “CAUTION: Readers should clear their calendars before opening this book.” Trust me. Within a few pages, you’ll be carelessly ditching class, ignoring social media, pretending the mountain of laundry doesn’t exist, calling into work, and screening your phone calls. Once you fall into this rabbit hole, you’re on a journey that can’t be ignored for such mundane tasks as eating or sleeping.
Meet Marishel. She’s a bright and happy 16-year-old living with her family in the frozen depths of a mining colony on a dwarf planet. She and the others in their strange world are remnants of the colonists who left Earth because it was no longer able to sustain life. Living here isn’t easy, as they actually live a subterranean existence. The surface isn’t habitable. Marishel and the other colonists of Haumea have never seen the sun or the stars.
But all of those little differences are minor compared to the social aspects of living in Haumea. They have a royal family, and now that the eldest son is of marrying age, it’s time for the Blood Match. This bizarre ritual contains elements of “The Hunger Games” except all the contestants are female, and the winner marries the eldest royal son, titled the Ambassador.
As you can imagine, Marishel is “chosen” to take part in this ritual she wants no part of. She’s not interested in getting married yet, doesn’t like the Ambassador based on the little she’s seen of him, and hates the idea that a wife/future queen would be chosen based on her ability to kill all the other contestants. This is when we begin to realize Marishel may not be an average teenage girl. Her family, especially her grandmother, has given her uncommon wisdom and a determination to make the best of life. She’s not the type to simply accept a tough situation as though she has no choice. She believes she always has a choice as well as the ability to change things.
The characters in this work are more than 2-dimensional props for the story. They’re complex, engaging, diverse, and genuine. The plot is well-paced, driven by greed, deceit, jealousy, hope, and sometimes even love. Marishel is a lone voice crying out against the wind when she arrives at the royal estate to prepare for the Blood Match. But she keeps voicing her hopes and dreams, and slowly she discovers others who want to make a change. They just can’t imagine how.
This story is a virtual storm of emotions, as nearly all good YA reads are. It’s beautiful, exciting, gritty, suspenseful, and maddeningly addictive. The contestants are a mixed bag of young women from different parts of the colony who share very different views on what is right, good, and fair. Therefore, their reactions to their situation are equally diverse.
This book is highly recommended for fans of fantasy/dystopian stories featuring royalty and romance. This is “The Hunger Games” meets “The Selection.” Although the target audience is young adults, I admit I left that age many decades ago and still found this book not only entertaining, but intense, provocative, and even profound.