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Book Review: Royal Blood by Aimée Carter

Book Review: Royal Blood by Aimée Carter

With the King’s Coronation this weekend, it’s a fitting time to be delving into stories of reluctant royals, insider squabbling and privileged power plays. Aimée Carter’s Royal Blood invites readers into the regal, high-society world of The Firm, as the illegitimate, secret love child of the King of England is sent to live with her estranged father and is subsequently embroiled in a suspicious death.

Kicked out of yet another American boarding school, Evangeline ‘Evan’ Bright is hurriedly whisked across the pond to finally meet the monarch father she’s never met. Arriving at Windsor Castle to a surprised reaction from King Alexander and a frosty reception from her stepmother the Queen and her half-sister Princess Maisie, Evan just wants to go home where she can fall back into obscurity. But when someone leaks her identity to the press, Evan finds herself the focus of a thousand lurid, unkind and categorically untrue headlines.

Just when Evan is about to be properly introduced to society, the son of a powerful media mogul is found dead at a party and Evan becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. As the so-called last person to see Jasper Cunningham alive, Evan must figure out what really happened that hazy night. It’s not easy to know who to trust in the palace, but with a little help from the Queen’s gentle and sympathetic nephew Kit, as well as a few other hesitant but burgeoning allies, Evan sets out to clear her name and reveal the real culprit.

I didn’t kill Jasper. How could I? I could barely walk. But as I close my eyes, I remember the crunch of bone as my elbow connected with Jasper’s nose and the distant sound of shattering glass. And I begin to doubt.”

An entertaining and scandalous reimagining of the British royal family, Royal Blood is The Princess Diaries meets What A Girl Wants meets Gossip Girl. Fans of the aforementioned coming-of-age royal comedies will enjoy the nostalgia of a story centred on a down-to-earth American teen dumped into a stuffy institution full of rigid rules and formal etiquette. Evan has a lot in common with Mia Thermopolis and Daphne Reynolds, but she’s much more unenthusiastic about being a princess and she has regular, real world struggles too. Not only is she grappling with an estranged father, a difficult extended family and possible murder charges, she’s also struggling to maintain a relationship with her mother, whose serious mental illness has kept Evan at a distance for most of her life.

With a Gossip Girl-esque blogger called The Regal Record fuelling speculation by posting about the royal secrets and scandals, this is a YA story that taps into our collective fascination with royalty, whilst at the same time offering up a tangled mystery to unravel. Who really killed Jasper? And, more importantly, who has the most to gain from burning Evan’s reputation to ashes? Anyone who reads a lot of YA thrillers will likely guess the real antagonist early on but what makes this a book to invest in isn’t actually the murder mystery or the identity of Evan’s tormentor. It’s the familial struggles going on in the background – Evan’s challenging relationship with her parents, which extends to her stepsister Maisie too – and her difficulties fitting in. When you’ve spent your life moving from one boarding school to the next, you don’t make lasting friendships, which is why Evan’s relationship with Kit feels like the lifeline she so desperately needs.

Royal Blood has mystery, scandal, romance and royal glamour in spades, but it’s the more subtle parts of the story – the sweet bond that develops between Evan and Kit, and Evan’s empathy towards her mum – that readers can relate to. We might not be able to identify with the royal family – fictional or real – but we can all understand complicated family dynamics, mental health struggles and the typical angst that every teen, regardless of the family they’re born into, goes through. If it’s the promise of secrets and scandal that draws you to this book, then it’s the emotional heart that will keep you reading and looking forward to the next one in the series.


Royal Blood was published by Usborne Publishing on 13 April 2023

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