Bound By Blood and Sand

Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

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Content warnings: Violence, sexual assault, PTSD.

Reviews:

Kirkus:

Debut author Allen has crafted a gripping narrative that explores complex questions of agency, the impossibility of remaining innocent in an unjust system, and how manipulating history enables the domination of the present. … Most of the characters’ motivations avoid simplistic moral binaries, and wrathful, ruthless Jae, who uses her newfound power to punish and even kill without regret, is a particularly courageous choice for a heroine.

Ferocious and intelligent.

Publisher’s Weekly:

Allen’s lush debut mixes current, pressing questions with fantasy while exploring systematic injustice and historical oppression. … Allen unflinchingly portrays the abuse Jae has suffered, as well as her struggle to navigate her newfound power. Characters and stakes are clearly drawn, and fascinating touches in the worldbuilding deepen the story and show the thought the author has put into the setting. The balance between the harsh reality of Jae’s world and the beauty that could be is sharply defined, and readers will clamor for the sequel.

Booklist Online:

This debut novel features a strong female protagonist filled with ire over the discrimination levied upon her people through unjust governance. Jae’s need to avenge this wrong bestows the worthy title of heroine upon her. Allen fearlessly illustrates long-term abuse—including sexual and mental—and effects of slavery across all castes, and takes the admirable risk of incorporating them into the story. In the end, this is a tale of sacrifice, restoration, community, and magic that begs for a sequel. Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce.