The Last Bloodcarver

Roaring Brook. (The Last Bloodcarver Duology: Bk. 1). Mar. 2024. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250881526.
Gr 7 Up–As the last practitioner of the Yarongese art of heartsoothing, Nhika is an outcast because of this medicine-based magic and her Yarongese ancestry. A patient visit gone awry ends with the wealthy Congmi family buying Nhika’s services on the black market, tumbling her into the secret investigation of their patriarch’s recent, suspicious death. Throughout, the lies and political machinations surrounding the investigation are complex enough to be intriguing but not overwhelming. The intricate magic system is exceptional, unique, and clearly conveyed. Yet the starring plotline is Nhika’s journey to reconcile her connection to her Yarongese heritage with the narrative of the Yarongese people that Theumas perpetuates—a journey subtly marked by whether the more nuanced “heartsoothing” or the semi-perjorative “bloodcarving” is used to describe Nhika’s skill. This reconciliation is aided by her relationship with sometime rival, sometime ally Ven Kochin. The romance that develops between the two is underdeveloped given the role it plays in the finale; ironically, the lack of romantic focus is likely to increase the appeal for some teens. Characters are largely coded as East or Southeast Asian; significant side characters are queer.
VERDICT All collections will benefit from this unequivocal first purchase that will resonate especially deeply with immigrant and diasporic teens struggling to see themselves in media.

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