Join me today for a book review about TO BLEED A CRYSTAL BLOOM by Sarah A. Parker. This is a dark fantasy romance that takes inspiration from Rapunzel. It’s full of tension, nuanced characters, world-building teasers, and lyrical writing.
Author: Sarah A. Parker
Series: Crystal Bloom #1
Age Category: New Adult/Adult
Publish Date: July 24, 2021
Print Length: 486
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“What a pretty flower to keep locked in a big, rocky tower.”
Nineteen years ago, I was plucked from the heart of a bloody massacre that spared nobody else.
Now ward to a powerful High Master who knows too much and says too little, I lead a simple life, never straying from the confines of an imaginary line I’ve drawn around the castle grounds.
Stay within. Never leave.
Out there, the monsters lurk. Inside, I’m safe … though at a cost far greater than the blood I drip into a goblet daily.
Toxic, unreciprocated love for a man who’s utterly unavailable.
My savior. My protector.
My almost executioner.
I can’t help but be enamored with the arcane man who holds the power to pull my roots from the ground.
When voracious beasts spill across the land and threaten to fray the fabric of my tailored existence, the petals of reality will peel back to reveal an ugly truth. But in a castle puddled with secrets, none are greater than the one I’ve kept from myself.
No tower is tall enough to protect me from the horror that tore my life to shreds.
To Bleed a Crystal Bloom is a dark Rapunzel reimagining full of immersive imagery and breathtaking angst. A unique new fantasy series perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Jennifer L. Armentrout, guaranteed to grip you from the very first page.
This book was so difficult for me to put down. In fact, I binge read the last 50% for the better part of a day. I’m not an expert reader of adult dark fantasy, but this is the darkest fantasy I’ve read so far.
Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder is a frontrunner theme in this book. Orlaith, rescued when she was two years old, hides from herself, hides from the outside world, and uses all sorts of distractions to cope. Even more dominant is the power struggle between Orlaith and Rhordyn, the man who made a promise to keep her safe.
We quickly find out that Orlaith essentially knows very little about the world outside of her dark, stone tower. This is essentially where the comparison to Rapunzel ends. She roams freely in the castle and on the grounds, but limits herself to a Safe Line. She paints, she gardens, she trains (begrudgingly), but she wants nothing to do with tribunals, politics, or people. Her routine thrill is bleeding one drop of blood into a goblet of water for her guardian to collect every night. But none of these distractions can numb her excruciating headaches, tamper her reoccurring nightmares, or divert her increasing attraction to Rhordyn.
As we learn more about Orlaith and her knowledge of her surroundings, Parker only throws the reader tantalizing bread crumbs about Rhordryn and the beasts and worlds beyond his castle. I have a feeling that the next book(s) in the series will offer more political intrigue and world-building. There are tidbits of these components in this book. However, for the most part TO BLEED A CRYSTAL BLOOM defines Orlaith’s psychology and view of the world and her increasingly toxic relationship with Rhordyn.
Admittedly, I struggled mentally with their power dynamic. I have a love/hate reaction to whatever is between them. For 19 years Rhordyn was physically and emotionally unavailable as a guardian. He provided shelter, food, and space for Orlaith’s pastimes, but he was neglectful with emotional support and information. But this line between them blurs and the tension between them becomes undeniable. Throw in growing unrest and the need for alliances and the volatility of their relationship reaches a breaking point.
If this sounds toxic, that’s because it is. However, there is a lot that isn’t explained in this book, including Rhordyn’s perspective and a whole host of other things I can’t mention without a spoiler warning. I strongly believe there’s a reason for his actions and I’m not ready to condemn his behavior quite yet. I have a growing dislike for the misinformation/lack of information trope, but this is done so well I can’t hate it here.
Though the dynamic between Orlaith and Rhordyn is front and center, the writing and world-building don’t disappoint. I loved Parker’s semi-lyrical and descriptive writing style: just enough detail to bridge the reader to the next point. There’s not a ton of world-building in this book, but the glimpses we do see are intriguing. Parker describes new creatures, beasts, and cultures, and teases us with some myth and world creation lore.
Overall, I really have nothing significant to critique. If I want to get nitpicky, I’d raise my eyebrows at some of the questions Orlaith asks Rhordyn when seeking information. That is, maybe ask better questions, Orlaith?
I hope the second book, TO SNAP A SILVER STEM, comes out later this year because I have so many questions. Until then, TO BLEED A CRYSTAL BLOOM is a well-written, dark, toxic adult fantasy that leaves the reader begging for answers. I highly recommend it for readers of dark fantasy romance who appreciate nuanced characters and the promise of political and emotional complications.
Content warnings: gore, blood, drug use, self-mutilation (finger pricks), sexy scenes
Reading format: Kindle e-book