Blood Debts by Terry Benton-Walker: Powerful and Emotional

Thirty years ago, a young woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and New Orleans saw the greatest magical massacre in its history. In the days that followed, a throne was stolen from a queen.

On the anniversary of these brutal events, Clement and Cristina Trudeau―the sixteen-year-old twin heirs to the powerful, magical, dethroned family―are mourning their father and caring for their sick mother. Until, by chance, they discover their mother isn’t sick―she’s cursed. Cursed by someone on the very magic council their family used to rule. Someone who will come for them next.

Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good. An ancient spell is what killed their father and she was the one who cast it. For Clement, magic is his lifeline. A distraction from his anger and pain. Even better than the random guys he hooks up with.

Cristina and Clement used to be each other’s most trusted confidant and friend, now they barely speak. But if they have any hope of discovering who is coming after their family, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other and their family’s magic, all while solving the decades-old murder that sparked the still-rising tensions between the city’s magical and non-magical communities. And if they don’t succeed, New Orleans may see another massacre. Or worse.

In Blood Debts, Terry Benton-Walker has created a novel that is powerful and emotional, the debut of a contemporary fantasy series. Both Cristina and Clement are emotionally engaging, powerful voices, and take you on a thrilling ride of drama, magic and intergenerational pain and curses. The other characters in the novel are well developed and equally intriguing, three dimensional and layered with complexity. The novel engages the reader in an exploration of power, history, and justice and whether justice can ever truly satisfy, especially if there is blood at the end of it. It also asks the question of when one must stand up and fight for one’s family. Terry Benton-Walker raises these questions, deftly answers them in different ways and voices but leaves the reader to decide for oneself the response that speaks to them. 

One of the aspects that I loved the most is the different point of view that we get in the novel. Not only do we get both Clement and Cristina’s point of view but also Valentina, a rival of Cristina. Despite being at odds, the viewpoint gives a realistic picture of Valentina’s thoughts, never painting her as black and white, letting the reader see both her flaws and her struggles. No one is completely innocent and this is well explored in this novel. I also love how different Clement and Cristina are from each other. They do not agree on what justice is and what it entails. While they come together at the end to protect their mother and family, some of these thoughts and considerations clearly are set up to address in future books. And I love that we see how powerful and emotional the situation is for both Clement and Cristina, how each struggles to resolve. The ending is impactful and while there are notes of hope, there are also questions left unanswered. 

If you love contemporary fantasy, you will love this novel. It is diverse, full of vibrancy, power and emotions. The characters are full of depth and the novel explores ideas that any person should ask, whatever their circumstances. I found the characters easy to connect with, even though my background is vastly different and it gave me insight into the generational trauma people of color experience. The ending leaves questions and yet the novel provides hope to readers. It is powerful and emotional. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 gen spells. 

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