Cosmos – Solar Flare

Unwatermarked Image available on Patreon

“In the quiet abyss, the golden egg cracks and she rises. Her fearful motion ripples out in the beat of wings, ending worlds with not a scream but a sigh of inevitability.”

The first in the 6 piece Print Series “Cosmos”. Thank you guys for hanging around. Let this be the start of something beautiful!!! 

-Harli V. Park-


((Join the Patreon for Unwatermarked))

Connecting Worlds – Blood in the Water w/ Amelie Wen Zhao

Welcome my Squidlies!!!

Connecting Worlds is back and sparkling more than ever!

This time we have the extremely talented and far too powerful Amelie Wen Zhao, author of the titular Blood Heir which was one of my absolute FAVORITE books last year. Best of all, we’re just in time for the release of its sequel, Red Tigress on March 2nd!!!

So come, experience the world of Amelie Wen Zhao and the deeply personal connectin she has to her world. Connect with us on life experience, career woes, and navigating strange new worlds!

Thank you for your patience as always! Let’s make her sophmore release a great one.

I hope you come, I hope you stay, and I hope you connect with us!

((Close Captioning Coming Soon!))

I hope you enjoy! Follow Amelie Wen Zhao on Instagram! If you haven’t already enjoyed Blood Heir, get on it! If you have, there’s still time to preorder Red Tigress! Do it!

To those who have yet to join our shared universe, here are the ways you can support The Cerebral Hedonist:

PATREON! – Where you will recieve all sort of gifts, behind the scenes contents, free Prints, and secret Galleries. Tiers start at $2 so give us a click!

PAYPAL.ME! – Where you can make a one time donation to The Cerebral Hedonist and help us continue to do what we do!

COMMISSION! – And of course, who can forget the Ink Spills! If you’re feeling highly generous and want to own some unique, personalized art from yours truly and stamped with the TCH Seal, then by all means check out our commission sheet and contact us! We’re willing to do the work for your support and we’ll do it in bright vivid hues and lines!!! Check our Ink Spills Gallery if you’d like to see our past work.

Thank you so much guys! Let’s make Black Success Month real and vibrant. Let’s show the world that we are willing to band together and support each other with this community The Cerebral Hedonist has been currating for us and for you! Join us!

Stay Well-Read!

Harli V. Park

The Scholarly Squid

Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Facebook ~ Squid’s Instagram ~ Discord ~

Content | Upload Schedule

With 2021 being a period of growth and focus for the Cerebral Hedonist, we’ve reached a point where our Scholarly Squid can’t afford to just sporadically spew out content and hope it lands where it needs to! Therefore, after much kicking and screaming, we have finally drafted, prepped and polished a complete and comprehensive content schedule! This is both for your convenience and the sanity of our stubborn creator as we’re seeking to create a very interactive community. Especially since we’re giving something we all have needed: Structure!

Beginning of February 8, 2021, The Cerebral Hedonist will be keeping to a very specific posting and upload schedule. Of course it will correlate to the limitations of our Scholarly Squid as needed. This will include the Cerebral Hedonist Website, YouTube Channel, and Patreon!

It will be structured as follows:

Mondays

~ Commissions | Art ~

Website: The Story So Far | Updates | Announcements

YouTube: Spill Ink with Me (Live) @ 2pm – 6pm CT

Patreon: Updates | Art Progress

Tuesdays

~ Writing | Worldbuilding ~

Website: Tentacle Files

YouTube: Create with Me (Live) @ 1pm – 5pm CT

Patreon: Personal Blog

Wednesday

~ Writing | Worldbuilding ~

Website: Lore Teasers | Secret Project (June 2021)

YouTube: Create with Me (Live) @ 4pm – 8pm CT

Patreon: Lore Notes | Epic Character Histories

Friday

~ Books | Movie | Games ~

Website: Reviews

YouTube: Read with Me (Live) @ 12pm – 2pm CT & 6pm – 8pm CT

Patreon: Secret Project (June 2021)

YouTube Upload Schedule

Starting March 1, 2021, The Cerebral Hedonist will be posting finished videos with a few things we know you’ve been waiting to have back!

1st Sunday – Vlogs | Discussions

2nd Sunday – Indigo Inc

3rd Sunday – Connecting Worlds

4th Sunday – Curating Quiet

Each video as they are is finished will be scheduled for Sunday. If any Sundays are missed, do not fret, they will return the following month. I hope this gets you geared up for the coming year because we sure are!

In the meantime, take the time to explore previous content to get a feel for everything! Also show us some support by sharing and following all out social media! Join our Discord Community as well!!!

Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Facebook ~ Squid’s Instagram ~ Discord ~

The Story So Far: Black Success Month!

January was a beautiful, encouraging success. We are feeling something along the lines of positive, hopeful, and affirmed! Quarantine/Lockdown does some interesting things to the psyche. Havin that turn out to be something successful, or at the very least on its way to be, is a self-fulfilled blessing. Keeping the attitude of “not my culture” has allowed us to keep our heads down, mouths shut, and fingers working. This particular method was very conducive for the Squid’s creative needs and finally you will begin to see the results yourself!

So we’re making Black History Month mean something a little different this go around. It’s all about Black Success this month! The content on The Cerebral Hedonist all through February will reflect the Will, the Power, and the Success of Blackness through our creations in the best way possible. So here’s what to expect!

Black Success Special!

In honor of Black History, Black Present, and Black Future, The Cerebral Hedonist and your favorite artistic Squid are running a two-week special to celebrate Black Success! We want to give everyone a fair chance to put their money where their mouth is and support a black creator and business!

Starting February 1st – 14th, all Commissions from the Cerebral Hedonist will be 20% off! That’s right! 20% off but 100% Black!

Celebrate Black Success and Progress with us by supporting this little endeavor to create and elevate! But you have to act quickly. February only has 10 Commission Slots available! So get in while you can!

Commission Options and Details can be found here:

Tentacle Files – The Peace and the Power

An upcoming rumination on progress in the wake of 2020 from the Squid as a black creator! In the meantime, check out our past Tentacle Files by clicking the banner above and hype yourself up with some food for thought!

We Were Gods – A Review of Wings of Ebony

A Review and Reflection on Wings of Ebony, the wonderful and unapologetic debut by J. Elle whom will be featured in a future Connecting World Interview! Click the Banner and Check out our other reviews and thoughts in the meantime!

Curating Quiet – The Phantom Pain

Many of you have been awaiting the return of the “Curating Quiet Series” and we’re proud to say that it is BACK! At the end of the month, we will return to our safe quiet place to reflect on all that was lost, all that was gained, and all that will be obtained. An offer to center yourself with The Cerebral Hedonist community so that your year — no matter how late you started — will lead you somewhere beautiful! If you’ve never found your quiet with us before, now’s your chance! Click the Above Image to become acquainted with us.

Upcoming Curiosities!

On Sunday, February 7th, we will be posting a new, cohesive content schedule for the Cerebral Hedonist Platforms! Yes, that includes a YOUTUBE posting schedule. There’s going to be posts, reviews, Lives, ART!!!, and so much more at regular intervals on the site. So stay tuned and BE PREPARED!!!

SUPPORT US AND HELP US SUCCEED

We have worked hard and done so much to give you all of what’s coming your way this year and I am a proud Squid Papa! I appreciate each and every donation, patron, like, share, follow, subcribe, ALL OF IT! You have kept our motivation and carried it pridefully on your shoulders since June 2020 and I’m so humbled by that devotion. Remember, we could not have done this without you!

Now, to those who have yet to join our shared universe, here are the ways you can support The Cerebral Hedonist:

PATREON! – Where you will recieve all sort of gifts, behind the scenes contents, free Prints, and secret Galleries. Tiers start at $2 so give us a click!

PAYPAL.ME! – Where you can make a one time donation to The Cerebral Hedonist and help us continue to do what we do!

COMMISSION! – And of course, who can forget the Ink Spills! If you’re feeling highly generous and want to own some unique, personalized art from yours truly and stamped with the TCH Seal, then by all means check out our commission sheet and contact us! We’re willing to do the work for your support and we’ll do it in bright vivid hues and lines!!! Check our Ink Spills Gallery if you’d like to see our past work.

Thank you so much guys! Let’s make Black Success Month real and vibrant. Let’s show the world that we are willing to band together and support each other with this community The Cerebral Hedonist has been currating for us and for you! Join us!

Stay Well-Read!

Harli V. Park

The Scholarly Squid

~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Facebook ~ Squid’s Instagram ~ Discord ~

The Face of 2020 Staring at the Back of 2021

As I stare at the back of 2021, ready to follow it into something new — whether that be good or bad, I can’t help but look back at a year that everyone labels as the worst year of their lives. I look back, right into its face with the privilege and blessing of hindsight, and I realize that 2020 was a very special year.

Now, I won’t pretend 2020 wasn’t the most traumatizing year for some of us. I won’t pretend my experience is universal or much different from the average person. However, my beloved Shoal, you’re all here and therefore you must be morbidly curious about where this is going. Still, in this, I won’t be so delusional as to focus on the positives only. Oh no. I need the negativity. I need all those catastrophes and disasters to be right here where everyone can confront them. That way, I can be clear and truly tell you the value of it all.

All around us, we have been forced to face harsh truths. Some we’ve never seen. Some we tried to pretend weren’t real, and some we already knew and shouted so loudly about from the beginning of our lives all the way to this crossroad. it was only when the truth spilled over into our homes, into our jobs, and into our families that suddenly we couldn’t pretend to be deaf, dumb, and blind. The schism those truths caused ran so deep that many of us fell in and can’t seem to climb back out. Meanwhile, others fight on either side of the gap over whether or not it’s their responsibility to do something at all, much less help. We’ve watched our leadership fail, our heroes fall, and our most treasured creators/influencers come out as only human and thus subject to selfishness, greed, and apathy. These are things that were backbreaking to some, and just dishearteningly expected to others. Yet, no matter what — new or old hat — it is still a suffering we have all witnessed and undertook. The disruption of our preciously currated normalcy in such a grandoise fashion is nothing to laugh at, even if it damn near feels satirical. Most of all, we’ve learned a hard lesson. We can no longer be solely individualistic. We’ve learned that in order to survive and to live, we have to take care of each other.

And that, my Squidlies, is where the truth of 2020 flooded my part of our shared universe with so much light! So much energy and so much power that it may as well been the abrupt eruption of a gama ray blast.

The sheer uncanniness of 2020 gave us something more valuable than we could ever know and probably never will fully appreciate. It gave us Quiet. In the aftermath of the blast, there was a pause. A pause in which people — for bette or worse — began to take deliberate action to cause change. Words caught fire in the homes, schools, and streets in a way we haven’t seen in a long while. There was a re-evaluation on what was and wasn’t valuable to us anymore. What made sense and what didn’t. The dissatisfaction. The upheaval. And then, the willingness to move forward, proving once again that when given the opportunity, we will not devolve into savagery. We will choose to make something happen. We will help. In the end, despite our stubborn and our detractors, we chose empathy.

I saw so many movements in kindness that it made much of the negativity, the lack of accountability, and the aggression in which people approach nearly everything seem like a few drops of rain in a tempest of forward motion. GoFundMes. Donations. Signal Boosting. This network of positivity. This beautiful display of what many will do, despite the few who won’t. This is the Face of 2020 that I am looking back at as I take tentative steps towards 2021.

This face was so often distorted by the widespread myth that if society breaks down, we become evil. Lost in the sea of disaster after disaster and the complancency of our leaders. But that face never went anywhere. It never changed or diminished. The true face of 2020 as a year, in its solidarity and empathy, can only be described in one word: Community.

Like all gatherings, there is hatred, lack of self-awareness, and sheer ignorance that can make things seem impossible and absolutley not worth it. It can’t be helped when so many different people occupy a space. Yet, here at the Cerebral Hedonist, in our small but growing shared universe, the sense of community has been strong. It formed, it spoke, and it bonded. It solidified itself by allowing for other stars, planets, and galaxies to become a massive collective with a mutual desire for more and better.

That is what The Cerebral Hedonist – the pursuit of intellectual pleasures — is meant to embody. That is what all of you who have given, participated, and shared have created for us. I thank you for showing us that in this most trying time, you are willing to be a solution and a quiet refuge. You all have given true value to what we are trying to do and what we are now starting to acheive. Doing our best and sticking to our purpose is truly what is most value and I’m happy to see you believe in it as much as I do.

So, I look into the battered, but kind face of 2020 and tip my chin as I turn my back with the memory of its smile imprinted on our universe. I keep it as I look to the back of 2021 and follow it into the next stage.

Join us.

Join the discussions. Join the creations.

Be what makes storytelling so wonderful and so very integral to our success and evolution. Be with us and be a quiet sanctuary for any and everyone who needs it.

Be a part of the story.

Welcome to the Cerebral Hedonist… Let’s grow this universe together!

-Harli V. Park-

JOIN US:

Discord

YouTube

Twitter

Instagram

Patreon

The Story Continues! 2021!

WELCOME TO 2021!!!

We hope that your New Year will be quiet and bright and successful! Make sure this year you’re working towards making things work out! We have a lot coming down the pipeline so 2021 is shaping up to be exciting! But let’s start with the big one!!!!

Click to see Details, Pricing, and Terms & Conditions

That’s right. The Cerebral Hedonist is opening Commissions to EVERYONE today!

If you get in between Jan 1st and Jan 7th, you get the NEW YEAR; NEW SQUID DISCOUNT! Patreon Patrons get payment plan options as well! So, its a new year, let us create a new YOU! Check it out below!!!

Beautiful Character Designs!

Have them conceptualized, fleshed out, and fully realized how you’ve always envisioned them.

Favorite FanArt!

Have your best girl, best boy, husbando, waifus, and more all rendered uniquely just for you!

Custom Avatars

Imprint yourself and your platform with a beautiful render of yourself that reflects who you are and what you love!

You like what you see? Then what are you waiting for? Get in while we’re open and available!!!

Click the Banner Below!

Thank you guys for supporting us thus far! There will be more updates for January as things get rolling and we hope you stick it out with us for another year!!!!

Look forward to more Tentacle Files, more Reviews ( NOT JUST BOOKS!!!! YEAH!)) and more hearfelt creations from the very heart. We’re here to build a community, so let’s do it!

If you’d like to help us build the Shoal, join our discord! THE SHOAL – Official Cerebral Hedonist Discord

If you’d like to support us in any way, but can’t commission currently, come on through:

Patreon

Support us month to month and get wonderful rewards directly from the Squid and become integral in building our shared universe. There will be major updates to the tiers to further give back to the community that gives to us!

Kofi

Drop a one time donation and help us create this universe, one world and star at a time!!!

Also show us some love by following this website and following all our platforms and sharing your favorite aspects of the Cerebral Hedonist!

Twitter

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Thank you for coming through for us during the one of the hardest years of all our lives! So now lets work together and get through the next!!!

Connecting Worlds – Across the Universe w/ Alechia Dow

Welcome my Squidlies!

I present to you the debut of Connecting Worlds!

Today we reach out and make our first step in building a brand new universe with the woman that inspired it all, Alechia Dow.

With each question, we’ll come together through life, mental health, and FOOD as we lay a foundation for a new world and a new home.

Thank you for joining us.

I hope you come. I hope you stay, and I hope you connect with us…

((Close Captioning and Full Transcription Coming Soon!!!!))

I hope you enjoy! Follow Alechia on Twitter and Check out Her book “The Sound of Stars”!


#ENDSARS: Please support and help our people in Nigeria.

Ways to support: https://endsars.carrd.co/

Information: https://twitter.com/feminist_co

Relevant Articles: https://twitter.com/MontPPierce/status/1317107028939202560?s=20


If you enjoyed this and want to help us continue to do what we do, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us in one of these avenues:

Merchandise: Where you can purchase artwork and merch

Patreon: Where you can get exclusive access to all sorts of goodies starting at only $2 per month! That includes Bonust Content for Indigo Inc!

Ko-Fi: where you can buy us a coffee to help us get through the next piece

All forms of support are welcome and remember to check out the Cerebral Hedonist YouTube Channel for more content and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest news.

We’ll see you in the next one!

Nothing’s Gonna Change My World (The Sound of Stars)

I read a lot of heavy things, mostly in research. For a while, doing so placed me in quite a slump that I’ve had a hard time getting out of. It’s mostly just academic texts and folklore for writing research and inspiration, so leisurely reading has been difficult to get into. And yet, while I was still working at the bookstore in receiving, I stumbled across a beautiful color of skyscrapers and stars, and a premise that began and ended with music.

Welcome to the Cerebral Hedonist! I’m your Scholarly Squid and here comes a stellar thought on:

Synopsis

The Sound of Stars is a sweet and fun little story of Janelle “Ellie” Baker, a young girl living in the aftermath of a massive alien invasion. All humans have been pushed into interment installations and all of our creative media have been confiscated and destroyed. Art in any form is illegal and anyone discovered with it face death by hanging as a demonstration. Having to navigate this dark new world, Janelle chose to become a rebel in her own way as her building’s secret librarian. She loans her personal collection of books in order to offer relief to others in these dark times and knows that if caught, her life would end. However, Janelle could just do nothing, living by the moto of “they can control how we die, but now how we live!”

Enter M0Rr1S, a manufactured version of the invaders meant to look and feel like the subjugated race in order to better conquer it. He discovered Janelle’s secret library and falls in love with a book of hers. Thus, he feels a meaningful connection with her spirited, yet subtle rebellion and enlists her to help him in obtaining his secret love: Music.

Through unfortunate mishaps, Janelle and M0Rr1S embark on a cross-country road trip to save humanity, never realizing that saving the earth doesn’t lie at the end of their journey, but in the connection, they form with stories and catchy tunes!

Author

Alechia Dow is literally too pure for this world and so are her ideas. While originally from America where she worked as a librarian and has a detailed background in culinary, Alechia currently resides in Germany with her adorable daughter and husband. You can catch her tweeting and instagraming her delicious creations, participating as a mentor in #pitchwars, and writing a sequel as well as delving into Food Fantasy! She’s a big nerd and the sweetest little cosmonaut I’ve ever had the pleasure to interview. Not to mention her daughter is adorable. She hopes to bring happiness and some fun to the world she writes, keeping things lighthearted for those in dark times! It’s good goal to have when you’re competing with all the things wrong in the world and I believe she can do it!

Personal Thoughts

I didn’t realize this was something I needed until I read it. The right type of simple, the right type of sweet, and the right type of hopeful! The Sound of Stars provided a kind, light hearted journey of discovery between Janelle and M0Rr1S as they learned each other and I learned them. While it did show some racial and social justice issues, they were delivered in a way that showed why Janelle became the young woman she is. It did well to show how even in the most dire of circumstances, the nature and inner prejudices of others are not guaranteed to suddenly change. Janelle feels true-to-life as a girl growing up in Brooklyn suddenly thrust into upperclass high-society area. The prejudice she and her family faced and the affect it had on them before the invasion. It embittered Janelle and makes her question if she truly wants the old earth and old humanity back.

On the other side M0Rr1S’s perspective – cleverly written in 3rd person – grants a voyeuristic quality to his narrative. He has no privacy due to his connection to what is essentially a hivemind. Showing emotion is dangerous for him, to the extinct that he could be “terminated” should he say or do the wrong thing under all those eyes. Often, he is not allowed a choice as other can simply press into his mind and thoughts at any time they please without his permission. His only solace is the music he has collected illegally from earth. He only solace is his love of the music of earth he managed to secretly collect. He allows himself to fall in love with the sound of earth and nurtures his desire to save the planet in any way that he can. His character is refreshing as many times the male protagonist is designed to be stoic, aloof, and often standoffish. M0Rr1S is the most happy-go-lucky guy I’ve ever read. He wears his heart on his sleeve where all can see. It actually can be a bit overwhelming, especially for poor Janelle who is trying to reconcile her vision of the alien overlords and… well this ball of sunshine and sparkles in front of her. However, M0Rr1S is very determined and carries a heavy burden to the end of the world. He is happy to have someone to share it with and help strength his resolve to do what he must.

Janelle and M0Rr1S are the products of their environments and share a resistance in letting it control them. Each of their perspectives are beautifully unique and cutely written. Everything about this story is very character-driven and positive foot forward. It’s easy to tell that the focus was never on the horrible future Janelle and M0Rr1s may face at the end, but on the connections and empathy that can be shared between two people even if they’re literally from different worlds! It pts pleasurable read that can be cleared in a couple days (one if you’re like the wife) and it leaves you with a fluffy, floating feeling like perfectly whipped meringue.

Writing

Honestly, I don’t have many complaints. It is very much a teen novel in its purest form and reading level. Fast paced read as the focus is on the story than trying to impress with metaphor. Dow’s crème puff personality shows vividly in through her word choices, descriptors, and references. You can tell which scenes are very important or loved by how much more goes into them. My only wish was that the novel had actually been a bit slower in its pacing. As it is a quick read, the event go by a bit faster and would’ve loved a bit more of a slow down and vibe in some scenes as well just tiny bit more introspection in others. Surprisingly, I would’ve wanted more screen time for 0rsa and Br1xton and wished I’d gotten more scenes or at least a bit more to them – perhaps I will in the next book! Overall, character development, romance, and structure are good. I feel Dow will get better and improve with each word and book she’s allowed to write, and I want more than anything for that woman to be allowed to write. The positivity in her writing is something we need.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book. I think there will be some who find it not to their taste because of the strange notion that Scifi requires a lot of science and action – especially in alien invasion type stories. In reality, it gave me the nice chill down I needed from all that academia reading as well as instilling me with a very new light and warm sense of hopefulness. To describe it, this book is fucking adorable! It brought me back to appreciating the Young Adult category and gave me just what I needed among all the serious fiction and allegories about blackness and suffering. Dow gave me a black girl who wasn’t in a state of constant suffering. Where her skin color, her experience, her traumas made her who she was, but did not define her and did not take away her happiness and will to do good for her world. Having black characters in sweet, hopeful narratives, having them be happy are so, so important and it hurts that these are not the stories that publishers want? That they want more of the Hate U Give. That they want more COBABs, that they want more Dear Martins, etc, etc. That they want more of our anger and our hurt.

That’s why I will hype the living hell out of this book as well as its sequel and any others that for once just let a black protagonist have an adventure that doesn’t end and begin with a metaphor about their skin color. I want to see more stories like this where even if things aren’t quite okay, the love and happiness are not just bittersweet interludes between pain on pain on pain and taking on the world. But rather just something that we can escape into that doesn’t look so much like our reality already. I think anyone who reads The Sound of Stars will be filled with the same warmth and sweetness that Dow poured into it. I hope the sequel gives that and much more.

So! I’m asking from the bottom of my heart to check it The Sound of Stars (( LINK )) and give it a chance. She deserves some attention as the debut of this gem was buried by COVID. It’s been out less than a year, so let’s turn it around. Make it so we can show that happy black adventures sell too!

Stay Well-Read

-Harli-


I do have a Connecting Worlds interview coming up with Alechia on October 25th! So mark your calendars so you can enjoy this wonderful person as much as I did!!!

For More Reviews: The Well Read Squid

If you enjoyed this and want to help us continue to do what we do, please consider becoming a patron or supporting us in one of these avenues:

Merchandise: Where you can purchase artwork and merch

Patreon: Where you can get exclusive access to all sorts of goodies starting at only $2 per month! That includes Bonust Content for Indigo Inc!

Ko-Fi: where you can buy us a coffee to help us get through the next piece

All forms of support are welcome and remember to check out the Cerebral Hedonist YouTube Channel for more content and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest news.

We’ll see you in the next one!

The Story So Far – A Squidly Announcement!

Welcome back!

It’s been such a wild ride with hurricanes, blackouts, and bad mental and physical health all around! BUT, we did it! I am happy to announced two projects that have taken months of blood, sweat, and tears with sprinkles of what’s left of my sanity on top!

My Squidlies!

I am pleased to announce that Connecting Worlds and Indigo Inc finally have RELEASE DATES!!!

That’s right! On October 25th and October 26th all of you get to see what’ve been pouring all my energy and hopes into! I’ve been gushing about and finally RESULTS!!!! I’m so proud to have gotten this far and actually pushed through to the completion of a project (much less TWO!) and I truly can’t wait to share them with y’all and hear what you think. Do keep an eye out! Mark your calendars!

But most importantly!

Make sure you FOLLOW this website for updates and
SUBSCRIBE to My Channel!!!

Stay tuned and I’ll see you soon.

Stay Well-Read!!!!

-Harli-

Blood in the Water (A Review of Blood Heir)

I have a confession to make. I have a severe problem with most YA Fantasy that begins and ends with Bad Writing, Weak World Building, and Boring Characters. I’ve read more YA in the past two years than I care to admit and out of all of them, only two of them have managed not to disappoint me. Unfortunately, they were both contemporary YA. YA Fantasy tends to fail often with me, especially of those of the self-proclaimed high-fantasy variety. Whether it’s the lack of cohesive worldbuilding, the hyper-focus on flimsy fast-paced romance, or drudging plots. So, when something comes along that not only subverts my expectations, but exceeds them…

Well, I just might want some sugar with my coffee!

Welcome to the Cerebral Hedonist, I’m your Scholarly Squid and I’m about to gush all over this review of,

((Warning: I’m about Hype cause this book snatched all my braids out!))

Synopis

Blood Heir is a Young Adult High Fantasy set in the Cyrillion Empire – a Russian inspired country/empire. It tells the story of a lost princess, a corrupt monarchy and government, and an oppressive class struggle. It sets itself as a reimagining of the historical figured Anastacia Nikolaevna Romanov and while you will find some things similar to the more romanticized aspects of the lost Duchess, that is where any connection ends. Blood Heir follows Anastacya Mikhailov, a disgraced princess and fugitive thought to be dead by her empire. She seeks to find the man who framed her for murder with the help of the dastardly dashing disaster that is Ransom Quicktongue — a criminal in his own right and a conman who is on a revenge path against those who betrayed him.

However, it is not so easy as simply capturing their target, because you see, Anastacya has something thing uncontrollable working against her — her affinity. Affinites are people born with supernatural abilities and subjugated by empire Anastacya is an heir to. She happens to have one of the rarest and most dangerous affinities in existence, a blood affinity. Charged with the murder of her father, the Emperor himself, by way of hemorrhaging, Anastacya is forced to become acquainted with the true face of her empire and the pain brought by the trafficking and oppression of Affinites while warring with the monster inside of her. She and Ransom function as two morally gray protagonists who flirt with good and evil both outside and within!

Author

Amelie (Pronounced Ah-May-Lee) Wen Zhao is a Chinese Author who has, like many of us, been making up stuff since she was able to hold a pen. Though she was born in Paris, she was raised in Beijing within a diverse, multicultural community where she later attended an international school. This, I believe, is where she was able to emersed herself into other worlds and cultures and languages thus becoming such an incredibly unique storyteller. As I have interviewed her, I can honestly say she is a LITERAL fucking ray of sunshine! She has such a positive outlook that its almost a fault, but it makes it easy to see why she writes such intricate and complex characters. Now that she is writing full time, she will be delving more into fantasy and continue to push the limits of her imagination.

Personal Thoughts

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room. This book had a rough start prepublication. People swarming over something foolish that someone said and feeling the need to prevent its publishing and honestly, I’m glad they failed. Once I finally got a hold of this book and read the first chapter my whole world stopped. Not because I was blown away by some holier-than-thou prose, but rather that it was written so tightly and the imagery gave me something to grasp on to. I was placed into a small piece of the world Zhao had created, given an instance and an event that led into the opening of the larger world. THAT was something I hardly get to experience so smoothly in YA fantasy and it wrapped me around Ana and Ransom’s fingers easily. Their perspectives on the world they inhabited were vasty different. Ana realizing how dark and sickening the empire she and her brother were meant to rule was and Ransom discovering there are parts of it worth fighting for even as he tries his hardest to remain aloof and apathetic.

Cyrillia is a solidly built world steeped heavily in Russian culture and while some may find the names for things a bit jarring if they only lightly step into fantasy, but an avid fantasy reader you’ll have no issue with acclimating to the world and its words. The intrigue is slow – not sluggish, only slow. It’s the type of burn that isn’t meant to explode into a super massive climax, but rather show the ups and downs and turmoil the characters have to face. Much if it involves playing the parts of people that Ana hates and being at war with the violence and trauma inside of her and Ransom playing a careful game in which he must balance Ana’s trust with his desire to return to his former life. The conflict within them is absolutely enrapturing and Zhao is not afraid to allow her characters to do evil things in order to achieve their goal. She’s also not afraid to allow them to feel the damage of their actions and how it affects them as well as the people they’re meant to help.

The romance itself is certainly done very well. There is no insta-love. There’s more of an enemies-to-lovers feel as neither of them trust each other and Ransom spend a good chunk of the book intentionally playing Ana for his own means. This was perfect because they knew nothing about each other. Absolutely nothing. It gave time for them to learn, grow, and figure out that there’s some parts of each other and themselves that they can’t fix or change without a healthier path. This could’ve easily been a toxic dynamic, but instead they came out to be the greatest power couple I’ve read in a while and SPOILER: they don’t even kiss or get together in the end!

Instead you’re treated to a new level of trust between them that is healthy and important to show between younger people. That they don’t always have to start off as absolutely crazy about each other. That you both can be flawed and down right broken in a way in which you can’t help but use against each other. That in the end, its okay to take it slow and let it simmer. Zhao does some good relationship building.

Honestly, trying not to spoil it is extremely difficult because there’s so much I want to talk about but lets get to my favorite part!

The Writing

Amelie Wen Zhao put her damn foot in this book.

Young Adult often has a writing (and often editing issue) where you’re often talked down to by the writing and its issues are presented in the shallowest of levels. You can often spot many, many errors and issues that remain blatantly present in the final product. With the rush of YA series debuts to be pushed out in two years or less (not to mention having a new book damn near every nine months to a year) often follows a diminishment of quality. Considering YA is a well-fed market, it often doesn’t matter.

Then we have Zhao!

Firstly, this woman is talented. She has a great command of how and what she wants you to see and what she doesn’t. The execution of her plot threads is impressive for a debut writer and near immaculate for her chosen category. Even though this is very much a Young Adult story, it doesn’t sacrifice complexity, in-depth character development, and a slow burn in favor of surface level tropes. Her prose is surprisingly smooth and the events and intrigue of the plot flow into each other almost seamlessly rather than the choppy “and then and then and then” I normally encounter in YA fantasy. It reads as a completed story in that everything she shows you has its due payoff that does not disappoint nor comes off as arbitrary. What isn’t paid off leaves you wonderful hints for the coming sequel, Red Tigress (available pre-order, click here). Honestly her command of her own narrative and her characters creates such an immersive experience that I — who is often disappointed in the quality and flimsiness of many YA Fantasy world building and execution — am enthusiastic to embrace more YA fantasy in the same way Mary HK Choi has brought me to embrace YA Contemporary

NOW that being said. This is by no means a flawless work.

There are some points in which I wished there was more introspection for Ana and Ransom — more insight into their heads for each other their chapters at certain points. I do wish there was more presented of Ana’s trauma response to a character’s death — though I appreciate that it was not simply brushed off and moved on. The ending might grate just a little NOT because it’s BAD, but because it feels rushed. It felt like there is something missing towards the end (perhaps cut in editing) that felt important for the build up to the ending. It also felt a bit sporadic as though there was a need to finish. The court scene at the end was very hasty but even with these complaints, I will say it did not lower its rating for me. Zhao took me on a ride that I enjoyed from start to finish and even in the bumpy parts I was never pulled out of the struggle and romance of Ana and Ransom which is one of the most satisfying slow burns I’ve been allowed in a long time.

Needless to say, any flaws I’ve found are things that can (and I have a grand feeling they WILL) improve as Amelie Wen Zhao continues her career in fantasy writing.

Final Thought

Blood Heir deserved none of the egregious drama it garnered from the mob and, unfortunately, other YA authors. This is a wonderful book! One I’m so happy Zhao decided to release despite it all. Knowing that I could’ve been denied this makes something in me act because I truly, genuinely enjoyed this piece of storytelling and now, having spoken to the author herself, I love it even more. The writing, the world, the romance, and most importantly, the characters all fit together well and while it may not be the title on everyone’s lips, I feel that the people who read and enjoy my blog will find that this is a fantasy that is just for them, as much as it was just for me. I think the best description I have for it is that its SOLID.

Show some love to Amelie Wen Zhao and buy Blood Heir and pre-order it’s sequel Red Tigress! Support her because she about to do some amazing things both with this series and in fantasy and absolutely CANNOT WAIT!

Stay Well-Read, My Squidlies!

-Harli-

For More Reviews: A Well-Read Squid

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