Blood Debts

Tor Teen. (Blood Debts: Bk. 1). Apr. 2023. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250825926.
Gr 9 Up–Benton-Walker’s fantasy debut offers up political intrigue and drama set against the backdrop of a New Orleans steeped in magic. Clem and Cris Trudeau are 16-year-old twin scions to a Black generational magic family, conjurers who channel power through their ancestors and the moon. They live with the consequences of the brutal lynching that killed their grandparents 30 years ago—and led to another family taking their grandmother’s throne. Tragedy continues to befall the Trudeau household: their family has scattered, their father died suddenly, and their mother’s health continues to decline mysteriously. But when they discover that their mother isn’t sick but cursed, they begin unravelling a plot that could tear their family, and New Orleans’s magical and nonmagical populations, apart. Benton-Walker creates a fantastical thriller and deftly weaves in historical and current-day social issues, including racism, cultural appropriation, sex work, mental health, and homophobia. Readers will find Clem and Cris relatable, as both deal with grief and pressure in different ways. Secondary characters are mostly well-fleshed out, though some point-of-view characters, especially those we only see briefly, feel extraneous.
VERDICT A complex and intriguing fantasy that is sure to be popular with teens.

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