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Title: Bloody Spade (#1 The Cardplay Duology)

Author: Brittany M. Willows

Published: 15th September 2021

Format: Digital – 358 pages


Hello Hello! How are you?

I have fallen off the blogging and reading wagon a little bit in the last weeks, work is kicking my butt slightly ahaha. But today I am bringing you an exciting post!

Are you a fantasy fan and looking for something unique that you’ve never read before? A fun and new magic system that will take your breath away? Keep on reading to get all my thoughts about Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows, a fantastic LGBT fantasy story!

Thank you so much to Brittany for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


A girl full of heart

A thief touched by darkness

A boy with a fiery temper

An unwitting servant of evil

The era of magic was once thought to be a myth, but after the Reemergence ushered forces both dark and light into the mundane world, it has since become a harsh reality. Now those affected by this strange power—a specialized group of Empowered called Jokers, known collectively as Cardplay—must protect their world from the darkness that threatens to consume it, all the while fighting for equality in a society clinging to normalcy.

But the Reemergence was only the beginning.

When another influx occurs on the seventh anniversary of that fateful event, an unfortunate encounter at ground zero lands Iori Ryone, a teenage boy in possession of a corrupt and legendary magic, in the care of recent Joker graduate Ellen Amelia Jane. From him, she learns the Reemergence may not have been the inevitable natural disaster it first seemed.

Someone is trying to tear down the barrier that separates the magical realms from the mundane. The question is, can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?


Trigger warnings (provided by the author): Coarse language, blood and violence, some gore, moments of graphic violence/torture, parent death (discussed, recalled in flashbacks), emesis, body horror, anxiety/panic attacks, trauma related to kidnapping/physical abuse, one instance of a forced kiss (not intended to be romantic/sexual).

Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows is the first instalment in The Cardplay Duology, an LGBT urban fantasy series. As soon as I started reading this book, I had a smile on my face because THIS is the kind of fantasy that I love. I don’t often get the chance to read these kind of stories, but I just love them, they are very comforting, very unique, and I usually get so immersed in them. This was definitely the case here.


This book is set in an imaginary world where magic has appeared and has changed everything about life. The Reemergence caused magic to appear out of nowhere basically, and this magic from myths was accompanied by a dark force from the Void. I can’t explain this world in too much detail because the way that Brittany has written it is so immersive, you’ll not have to worry about being lost.

I really enjoyed the world-building. It was seamless and I never felt like there was an info-dumping going on. This is a world built up from nothing, but it feels very real and I never questioned any of the author’s choices because they all fit together really well. I’m so glad that this is a duology because I can’t wait to come back to this world.


Ellen: Ellen is one of the main characters of this book and a very interesting one. I felt for both her and Alex, who lost their parents a few years previously. Ellen has just become a Joker, and she has such a unique form of magic. I liked getting to know her, as she grew and evolved through tough times and obstacles, but through all, she was strong-willed, independent and resilient.

Iori: I have to say, Iori was my favourite character from the minute I met him. He suffered so much since he got his “form” of magic, and I really don’t want to spoil you, but it truly broke my heart to read about him and what he went through. I was rooting for him from page one, and he went through so much, he was such a complex character, and I really liked finding out more about him. I particularly liked his development, which I thought was very well done.

Alexander: I have to say, I was not a fan of Alex for most of the book and in the end, I still had a tough time liking him. He has also gone through a lot of things, but I don’t think that’s a valid excuse for some of his behaviour – he admits this himself at the end, so at least there’s that. He just came across as an unlikeable character, even though his relationship with Ellen was mostly heart-warming. I love sibling relationships, I would have liked this one more if Alex was less of an idiot – to put it mildly.

Ellen’s friends: I really loved Ellen’s friends! They are so caring and I just loved them from the minute I met them. I liked Tatiana the most because I think I would get along with her better, but Soren was also a great character. They had a really strong friendship with Ellen and later accepted Iori quickly, which was nice to read. I can’t wait to see more of all of these characters!

Hiraku and Elisabeth: They are kind of the directors of the school/institute where Ellen, Alexander and their friends are since they are in Cardplay, a magical defence regiment – it’s kind of hard to explain, even though I’ve read it, so I highly recommend you do read it because my explanations are kind of bad ahah. I loved both of these too, they are very caring, thoughtful, kind and some of my favourites, although I have a soft spot for Hiraku, and Elisabeth is totally a bad-ass character!  


A new and unique magic system: This magic system is like nothing I have ever read before, and I loved it from literally the first page. I am a total fantasy/magic story junky, and this satisfied me completely. I would have liked a bit more information behind the magic and how it appeared, how life was like before, but I think it will be explained a bit more in the second book. The only thing that I can think of to compare the awakening of magics is Winx, but in a much, much better way (sorry for the crap comparison ahaha). It was just great, and I can’t wait to read more about it all.

A dark atmosphere and dark plot: You know me, I love me some dark atmosphere and plot, and this book delivered. It felt dark throughout, like the world itself feels dark, which is mainly due to the Void and the awakening of magic that happened some years before the events of this story. Darkness is woven into the magic, and it was interesting to see how characters like Iori had to battle the darkness, but also learn to accept it and work with it. It was definitely atmospheric, so really recommend it on that front if it’s something you look for in books.

Lots of rep!! The author mentioned the rep in her email to me, and I was really impressed by it because there are loads of characters with different identities, genders and sexes, which I really appreciated reading about. It was also all written in a way that felt totally natural – as it should (something it can feel a bit clunky in my opinion, but not here at all). Some of the rep off the top of my head includes ace characters, a transgender character, a nonbinary character, but there are loads more!

My kind of fantasy book: As soon as I started reading it, I felt comfortable, which is a really weird word for a dark and violent fantasy. What I mean by that is that this is the kind of book that I can lose myself in, and come out feeling like a piece of me stayed in the book. I hate to use this reference but needs must – you know when people say that reading Harry Potter is like “coming home”? This kind of felt like that. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you love dark fantasy with unique magic and complex characters, you’ll want to try this book!


Overall, this was an amazing first instalment in what I’m sure is going to become a favourite duology for me. I’m so glad I bit the bullet and replied to Brittany’ email, because the blurb completely won me over, and the book was just great.

I found that the pace was good, a tad fast at times but that’s not a problem really, and the writing style was very fluid. I read this one really quite quickly (it just took me ages to write the review) and I really enjoyed it. It had a good pace and rhythm, it was really well executed and made me want to pick up the second book immediately – it will be so hard to wait for it to be published!

I gave this book 4.5 stars (full ASPECTS rating below) and I had a great time reading it. I lost myself in this story, I was totally rooting for all the characters – except Alex for the first part of this book – and I found it so unique, new and engaging. I loved the broadness and scope of it, it seems like there is still so much to learn and I hope book 2 is a chonker because I don’t want to leave this world anytime soon!

If you love your fantasies dark and unique, you enjoy reading about unique magic systems that captivate you, and you love reading about complex, relatable and endearing characters, then this is the book for you, I highly recommend it.

Once again, thank you so much to Brittany for reaching out to me (sorry it took me so long to review it!) and for letting me read this book, it was a great experience and I can’t wait to read more of your books!

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post, see you soon, stay safe,

Ellie xx


Brittany M. Willows is a bisexual/asexual author and digital artist living in rural Ontario, Canada. Inspired initially by video games and the stories they told, she began building her own fictional universes and has no plans of stopping any time soon. When she’s not writing about post-apocalyptic lands, wild magic, or people gallivanting through the stars, she can be found hunched over a tablet drawing the very same things.


Brittany’s Links: Website/BlogGoodreadsInstagramTwitterFacebookKo-FiAmazon



Atmosphere – 7.5

Start – 7

Pacing – 7

Ending – 8

Characters – 7

Theme – 7.5

Style – 8

Total = 52

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If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UKAmazon FRAmazon USAbeBooksThe Book DepositoryBarnes and NobleBlackwell’s

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