A Fantasy with Poignant Conversations | Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood

Friday, March 10, 2023

 Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood

Wednesday Books
Publication Date: 2/7/23
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley/ from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (thank you, Wednesday Books!)
Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters. When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle. Thorn is everything Victoria isn't - confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide - is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?
I have been highly anticipating this release since I read Lauren Blackwood's gorgeous debut, Within These Wicked Walls! Her debut was unexpected, absolutely incredible, and well-written. I was expecting something similar with Wildblood.

Wildblood is a fantasy that follows Victoria in the employ of the Exotic Lands Touring Company. When she is tasked to accompany her slimy ex-boyfriend, Dean, into the jungle with Thorn and his tour group, she is less than excited about the journey. Especially when the jungle itself begins to warn them against traveling farther. Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood is a slow trek of a book. With its weak romance plot, repetitive scenes, and my wildly high expectations, Wildblood just wasn't the book for me.

This book, unfortunately, did not meet my expectations. Initially reading the synopsis, I was expecting a bit more adventure in the jungle with a defined magic system. The magic or the science of the Wildbloods left me with more questions than answers. I suppose I wanted more background to these powers and, instead, readers were thrown into the world without much explanation.

The setting of the book takes place primarily in the jungle. I don't think I've read too many books with the jungle as a backdrop--a fantastical jungle, at that. While I wished to know more about the Wildbloods and what they could do, I found that knowing little of the jungle heightened the reading experience as I didn't know what to expect next. The jungle was filled with unknown creatures that even the tour leader had never come across. The setting was as much a character as Victoria or Dean was.

While I didn't connect with Victoria as well as I could, especially when it came to the romance of the book, Wildblood still was able to rise a reaction from me. If you are looking for a fantasy romance set in the jungle, this is not that book. The lack of chemistry between the two characters coupled with the overused trope of insta-love makes the romance disappointing. Despite the romance, the various themes explored throughout the novel were important. The discussions ranged from gender roles in the workplace, racism, human trafficking, and colonialism. The poignant conversations of Wildblood were done really well.

The best way to consume this book, I must say, is via its audiobook. When I was reading, I switched back and forth between print and audio. There are certain moments of Victoria's journey where the tour group sing and the audiobook makes these moments come to life. The book truly immerses the reader into the story, and it feels like the reader is a part of the tour group too.

Overall, Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood is filled with poignant conversations and a backdrop that is as much a character as Victoria. Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit too high going into this one. However, I fully intend to pick up more from Lauren Blackwood in the future.

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