3 reasons Tricia Levenseller’s Blade of Secrets stands out from the spring fantasy pack

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller. Image courtesy Macmillan Publishers
Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller. Image courtesy Macmillan Publishers /

Author Tricia Levenseller is truly a gift to the world of YA fantasy. Her books can always be counted upon for something completely different than what every other author in the space is doing when it comes to the stories they tell, and few writers can equal her ability to craft complicated, extremely original heroines.

Her latest novel, Blade of Secrets, is no different. The first half of what is being titled the “Bladesmith” duology, it follows the story of a skilled young woman who happens to be one of the best blacksmiths of her age, gifted with a rare ability to bestow magic upon the weapons she creates. But her struggle with a severe anxiety disorder has shaped her life in many ways, making her special abilities an escape and a refuge. rather than something she might seek to use for her own glory.

Full of great female characters, an adorable found family, and a love interest that’s kind, understanding, and fully willing to learn about and accommodate the ways that Ziva’s anxiety impacts her comfort level with basic aspects of life – things like personal space, touch, and a need for quiet time. In short, this is a novel that’s not only a blast to read – its adventurous feel will keep you turning the pages and wondering what happens next – but feels like a breath of fresh air at the same time.

Here are three reasons Blade of Secrets belongs on your spring to-read list.

Blade of Secrets boasts a truly original heroine

One of the hallmarks of Levenseller’s books is her ability to craft original and unexpected heroines like The Shadows Between Us’s Alessandra, a manipulative murderer who unapologetically goes after what she wants. Blade of Secrets’ Ziva isn’t nearly so dark a character, but she certainly stands out in multiple other ways from the sort of heroine that normally stars in stories like this.

Ziva is a talented bladesmith who imbues her creations with magic, crafting weapons like a mace that can suck all the air from those around it or a longsword that reveals the secrets of those it cuts. But she also suffers from severe social anxiety, so much so that it impacts her daily life and how much she’s able to interact with the world around her.

She has problems talking to strangers. She avoids crowds. She sleeps poorly. Occasionally, she has panic attacks and often she assumes everyone around her is judging or criticizing her in some way. As someone who often suffers from anxiety myself, Ziva is truly one of the most original protagonists I’ve encountered in fantasy – relatable, understandable and so very, very human.

Blade of Secrets has an exciting, unexpected premise

As an author, Levenseller excels at crafting the kinds of stories that we don’t usually see in this particular genre space. It’s rare enough that Ziva is a heroine openly struggling with anxiety and mental illness, but the adventure she finds herself in has nothing to do with claiming a throne, entering the realm of faerie, or the other sort of typical themes and tropes that tend to dominate YA fantasy today.

Instead, Ziva turns out to just be good – really too good – at her job. Her ability as a blacksmith is unmatched – a cool fact in and of itself when this isn’t exactly a profession that welcomes female magic – and that’s doubly true when you factor in the magic she adds to her blades.

Blade of Secrets is about Ziva’s decision to take a commission from a powerful warlord, and the weapon she creates – a sword that can not only decimate armies but steal its victim’s secrets. But when the sword tells Zima that the warlord for whom it’s destined plans to use it to enslave their kingdom, she and her sister must take the weapon and flee.

The story follows Ziva and her sister Temra – joined by a mercenary and a scholar who may or may not be potential love interests – as they trek through the kingdom, seeking a safe place to hide both themselves and this sword that Ziva has created.

Blade of Secrets is grounded in a fantastic sister bond

Though handsome mercenary Kellyn certainly has a significant role to play in the story of Blade of Secrets – and we all hope that he and Ziva can turn their adorably awkward attraction into something more lasting. (Note to fantasy writers: More men need to be this careful and patient with love interests!) But what really sets this story apart is the fantastic sister bond at the center of the story.

Ziva and Temra have survived the worst the world has thrown at them, together. Temra recognizes her sister’s struggle with anxiety and social awkwardness and doesn’t judge her for it. Ziva – though she is certainly guilty of the overprotectiveness common to all older sisters – understands that Temra doesn’t want the life that’s expected of her as a pretty, vivacious girl. (She actually wants to learn to fight, and has been training in secret.) She sees all the ways that Temra is not like her – her friendliness, her ease in social situations, her ability to talk to strangers about nothing at all – and rather than becoming jealous over it, she simply celebrates these things as part of what makes her sister special.

At several key points in the story, Ziva and Temra butt heads, and are occasionally quite cruel to one another. But they always realize their wrongs, apologize, and make up – because, at the end of the day, they’re more important to one another than anything else. And Blade of Secrets never lets us forget that fact.

Next. A series based on Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses is coming to Hulu. dark

Blade of Secrets is available now. Let us know if you plan to give it a look!