Warrior of Blade and Dusk review

A review of Warrior of Blade and Dusk

(The Zheninghai Chronicles #2)

Other books in this series:
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (#0)
Guardian of Talons and Snares (#1)

romantic fantasy, Eastern-inspired fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

If your favorite parts of Guardian of Talons and Snares were the pursuit on the road and the developing, complicated romance between Aranya and Kai, you will love book two, Warrior of Blade and Dusk, as much as I did.

This was such a fun, exciting and satisfying conclusion. Truly action-packed, it takes the best parts of book one and amplifies them. Kai, for one, has softened a lot, without losing too much of his sparky edge. (Though we do see him requesting snuggles!)

The romance also kicks into high gear on this one. Araya also stays her plucky self, but continues to strengthen mentally. I love that an action and romance-forward story focuses so much on its character’s psychological development.

Though the series continues with the story of Princess Meiling, there were some scenes suggesting interesting storylines to come. I’m really looking forward to it!

My rating:

11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

With her new book, Guardian of Talons and Snares, debuting just yesterday, prolific Kindle Vella author and romantic fantasy novelist Anastasis Blythe was the perfect person to interview. Known for her romantic stories, her East Asian-inspired fantasy world Zheningai and the rambunctious cats that punctuate her videos on social media, Anastasis has earned the notice of romantasy queen Sylvia Mercedes as well as her many readers. I sent the questions about her new book, her process and what’s next off via email, and Anastasis replied with her usual cheerful and accessible demeanor.

To learn more about this author, visit anastasisblythe.com and read on below!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background
Guardian of Talons and Snares (The Zheninghai Chronicles #1), by Anastasis Blythe, began life as a Kindle Vella serial

Guardian of Talons and Snares is your latest release, but you’ve set multiple stories in Zheninghai now. When did you first develop the idea for this setting?

Yes! Originally, almost two years ago now, I was brainstorming a Sleeping Beauty retelling where the main character could leave her body while she slept. That story wound up being the three books that follow Princess Meiling in the middle of the Zheninghai Chronicles (that has almost nothing to do with Sleeping Beauty at this point!) I spent quite a lot of time setting up the world before I wrote a single word of the story, and in the process of trying to understand a prominent character, I ended up with the story of Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses. Then, the more I worked to fill in my understanding of the world, Guardian of Talons and Snares was born. 

Which came first, the characters or the world-building?

In terms of the whole series, the characters of Meiling and Shang (who will be introduced vaguely in this book, and featured as main characters later in the series). But by the time I wrote Guardian, I already had much of the world developed, so for that book, the world came before the characters.

Important question I’ve long wondered about: Is it pronounced Zhe-ning-hai, or Zhe-nin-ghai?

LOL, the most important question! It’s actually pronounced Jen-ing-hai. The “zh” makes a “j” sound. 

You recently announced that you are now a full-time author! First of all, congrats! Second, how has writing becoming your day job changed your process?

Thank you so much!! It’s a dream come true for sure. Writing full time has honestly been wonderful. Most days fly by and it’s hard to tear myself away from my computer to go make dinner (though not every day, mind you! Sometimes I’m dying to be done!). The main thing that it’s changed about my process is that I can keep up with admin things better now and I’m able to make faster progress on manuscripts.

The amount of sleuthing in Guardian of Talons and Snares had my British detective drama-loving senses all a-tingle! How did you handle writing the mystery portions of of the story?

LOL! I’m glad to hear that! It definitely helped that I’d already written a trilogy around the overarching plot featured in Guardian, so I already knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes. The challenge was finding ways for them to discover “clues,” as it were, without revealing everything at once or without it being too easy. I won’t lie: the sections involving the mystery were the ones I rewrote and banged my head against the wall the most over. 

Cover of Blade of Dusk
The recently revealed cover of the forthcoming book in The Zheninghai Chronicles

This book was originally one of your many titles on Kindle Vella. What’s your favorite part of writing in an episodic format?

What’s funny is that I actually don’t love writing in an episodic format! I prefer to fly through a first draft, and writing week by week isn’t as exciting to me. With that said, it’s really nice for difficult drafts because you HAVE to finish that week’s episode or else your readers will be unhappy and you won’t get paid! If I hadn’t been writing in an episodic format, I’m not sure I would have ever finished Guardian. So even though I don’t love writing week by week, I do love releasing stories that way. It’s exciting when you have a particularly juicy episode up your sleeve that you cannot wait to share! I think the episodic format makes every chapter more exciting since you have to wait between them. I love the way it makes me look forward to certain days of the week like, “Ahh! Tomorrow is Monday, which means a new episode of that webtoon or Vella is releasing!”

When I read Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses, I was sure you had martial arts training! How did you write your fight scenes so accurately?

You are too kind! I’d get so beat up if I wandered into any kind of martial arts . . . anything. LOL! Since I have no training, I just watched a LOT of YouTube videos. Both training videos and choreographed fighting scenes. Seriously, we’re talking like over an hour of videos per fight scene. Sometimes I’d watch two hours worth of videos, pausing and rewinding and slowing down, just to write a few paragraphs. Now my husband will randomly send me videos like, “Here’s a good fight scene as inspiration for your novels!” (He’s the best!)

One of my goals is to take jujitsu lessons, though. So maybe someday I’ll have some training!

The romance in GoTaS falls firmly in the enemies to lovers trope—much like the setup of The Assassin Bride. Is this your favorite trope to write?

Actually, not necessarily. I do love writing enemies to lovers, but sometimes I get frustrated when my characters are so SET on being enemies and REFUSE to become lovers. Every time I write an enemies to lovers, I inevitably hit a point where I begin to doubt if they’ll EVER become lovers. I definitely hit that point with Kai and Aranya from Guardian multiple times, and it’s been even worse with Assassin Bride! But I think we’re getting there. 😉

Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses Cover With Background
The author's debut: Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (Click the image to read my review.)

What other tropes would you love to tackle?

I’m excited to have a few projects ahead of me with “insta-click.” This is DIFFERENT from insta-love, ha! But I just love it when the characters immediately hit it off and are so obviously perfect for each other, even if it takes them time to fall in love.

Ok, this is the part where you finally tell me everything about Bride of the Fae Prince! Is this a new serial coming to Vella?

This might be a new serial, yes. 👀👀👀 I don’t have a release date yet, but I DO have the cover and it is STUNNING. My prettiest cover yet, I think! Here’s a little teaser:

A shy, dutiful human princess. A cunning, vengeful Fae prince.

Will their arranged marriage cost them their hearts . . . or their lives?

Thank you so much for joining me for this interview! I always like to end with a challenge: Tell us a story in 10 words or less!

Whyyyy do you do this to me.

Fine. Here it goes.

I wanted ice cream, so I got some. The end.

Thanks so much for having me, Caitlin! <3

Guardian of Talons and Snares

A review of Guardian of Talons and Snares, by Anastasis Blythe

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

Enemies to lovers romance meets a (mostly) cozy mystery in this East Asian-inspired fantasy novel by Anastasis Blythe (Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses). Full of action and a comrade/enemy best described as considerate Loki, the budding romance feels legitimate and the mysteries are thrilling.

Like much of Blythe’s work, Guardian of Talons and Snares began as a Kindle Vella serial. There’s more to come, so don’t expect a tidy ending—and better still, the dance between ultimate morning person Aranya and trickster Kai will keep you guessing throughout the book. From the very first prank Kai plays on her, it’s clear these two have a long way to go. Their developing (and then collapsing) romance is so well done, I can’t wait to read what comes next for them!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background

The villains are very villainous, the mysteries are well-plotted and there is political intrigue tied throughout the story. Better still, it’s also the story of a young woman caring for her grandfather, who would do anything to protect him and return to him. The story (and the stakes) really heightens as Aranya and Kai set out on assignments together. I’m really looking forward to see where their multi-layered journey will take them.

My rating:

To learn more about this author, visit anastasisblythe.com.